I would like to promote a new atheism.
I agree with many atheist, as I too reject the god that they reject. I too reject the god that some famous fools reject.
I had a conversation with a friend who claims to be an atheist. At first he wanted to dismiss belief in God. As I listened to him speak I heard him speak of a god as he imagined it, but which I did not recognise. He seemed surprised when I did not defend the god that he described.
I spoke about the first cause of all things. I explained that nothing happens without something causing it. I said I believe in that which was at the beginning, that which has no cause outside of itself. I said I call that God. God is the first cause. That is what we mean when we speak of this God as being the creator.
My friend seemed surprised when I said that the ‘first cause’ is God. At first I was surprised that he was surprised, but then I remembered that most atheists are rejecting a small god of their own imaginings, not the Christian God.
It reminded me of when I first learned about Polycarp. Polycarp was trained by John the apostle, and became leader of the Christian church in ancient Smyrna (now known as Izmir in Turkey). He is thought to have been martyred on 23 February 155/156 AD for being an atheist, one that did not believe in the state gods such as Caesar.
They “…led him into the city, on a “great Sabbath day.” And the police captain Herod and his father Niketas met him and removed him into their carriage, and sat by his side trying to persuade him and saying: “But what harm is it to say, `Lord Caesar,’ and to offer sacrifice, and so forth, and to be saved?” But he at first did not answer them, but when they continued he said: “I am not going to do what you counsel me.”
[He was then taken into the arena.]
Now when Polycarp entered into the arena there came a voice from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” And no one saw the speaker, but our friends who were there heard the voice. And next he was brought forward, and there was a great uproar of those who heard that Polycarp had been arrested. Therefore when he was brought forward the Pro-Consul asked him if he were Polycarp, and when he admitted it he tried to persuade him to deny, saying: “Respect your age,” and so forth, as they are accustomed to say: “Swear by the genius of Caesar, repent, say: `Away with the Atheists'”; but Polycarp, with a stern countenance looked on all the crowd of lawless heathen in the arena, and waving his hand at them, he groaned and looked up to heaven and said: “Away with the Atheists.” But when the Pro-Consul pressed him and said: “Take the oath and I let you go, revile Christ,” Polycarp said: “For eighty and six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
From Apostolic Fathers
Sometimes I find myself saying with Polycarp, “Away with the atheists!” At other times I want to identify with the modern atheists. I too do not believe in the puny god many so-called atheist claim they are rejecting.
But what do I believe in? This Christmas season I am going to pray for a new insight, a new revelation, of this God who is the real God. The God who is greater than anything we can imagine.