It stands to reason that if there are a number of different "kinds" of Christians in the world, there are also a number of different "kinds" of atheists. Mike Adams has written a great piece that illustrates the huge distinction between two major groups of these nonbelievers: the unbelieving atheist and the evangelistic atheist.
I've encountered both. Prior to my radio show and public writing and speaking career, the majority of atheists I came across fell into the first group. Once I started sharing my thoughts and opinions in public, all that changed. Whether in emails or phone calls, web postings or blogs, I am bombarded far more frequently today by the evangelistic atheist. And there's an enormous difference.
Adams explains the unbelieving atheist this way:
There are a number of reasons why a person might identify himself as an unbelieving atheist. I believe very firmly that one can be reasonably mistaken in one's unbelief. While I think atheists are uniformly wrong, I do not consider them to be uniformly unreasonable.
It may well be the case that the unbeliever was raised by atheist parents in a home without religious instruction. I know of atheists who were raised in homes without a copy of the Bible. Each had to rely upon second hand accounts of what the Bible says on a variety of issues. Most of them never got around to reading it firsthand.
Those who lack religious influence in the home and religious instruction at an early age are at a disadvantage in 21st century America. Long before President Obama declared that we are no longer a Christian nation, our courts and schools began to lay the foundation for post-Christian America.
There is no mistaking the fact that our public school system has become secularized to the point of relinquishing any claims of neutrality. Most schools have reached the point of being overtly anti-religious. Kids who have no firm foundation in Judeo-Christian ethics are likely to become highly resistant to conversion at a later age. You can thank our public schools for that. We all pay for public education in more ways than one.
In contrast, the evangelistic atheist is far more abrasive, rude and egotistical, as Adams accurately describes:
But the evangelistic atheist is a different breed altogether. One atheist evangelist sits in his office with piles of anti-religious books as he prepares his next lecture for his Sociology of Religion class. He curses more than he uses words like "a" and "the." And he posts the headlines of the latest church scandal on his office door. He takes more pride in the failure of others than in his own personal achievements.
Another evangelistic atheist writes books distorting the history of Christianity and the life and words of Jesus - all the while calling it scholarship. He develops courses on "Atheism and Unbelief." He even posts "Godless!" (Compete with the exclamation point!) in the "religious views" portion of his Facebook profile. Yet he claims emotional detachment on issues of faith and religion.
In short, the evangelistic atheist is characterized less by the absence of belief than by a zeal for destroying the beliefs of others.
I wrote a column following the birth of my first daughter about the amazing testimony the miracle of human life is to the existence of God. That column was widely circulated in the online atheist community. I received more feedback from it than any other column I have ever written. It was some of the nastiest vitriol I have ever encountered. Some of it would literally make you sick to your stomach to read.
It would be unfair and untrue to suggest that this is indicative of all atheists. The simple nonbeliever (or seeker, as they would be better defined) is not the kind to behave this way. That's why I appreciate this piece by Mike Adams so much. It helps us differentiate between those who are sincerely misled, but are still reasonable people...and those who give them a terrible name.
Both must be confronted. Recognizing their different approaches makes us more effective in doing so.