Lately I came across What are Christian responses to the atheistic argument that God is an unnecessary and overly complicated extra step? and posted an answer to it. Although I wrote my post in response to the question, it was a bit out of place as it didn't exactly answer the question. So I rewrote things (quite) a bit and now post my own question.

I think we can say that nowadays the main challenge for apologetics is justifying faith in the face of atheism. In fact, there are two challenges. One is justifying faith for ourselves. The other is justifying faith for others.

The goal of justifying faith for ourselves is to protect our own faith. We can't avoid being confronted with arguments against God's existence. But we want to keep our faith plausible. So for each of those arguments, we must find a satisfying counterargument. Finding satisfying counterarguments may be hard, but we only need to satisfy our own intellect.

The goal of justifying faith for others is to help them overcome their objections and accept faith. Then it often won't do to just take certain arguments against God's existence and counter those. One must engage in dialogue, listen carefully, try sincerely to understand their objections, and try to see where those objections come from, what's behind them, and what's driving them. Only then one can address their objections in a helpful way.

Allow me to explain. I think many atheists would claim their view is based on objective facts and rational arguments. Now facts in themselves may be objective, but how we search for them and how we filter, interpret, and explain them is very subjective, as that depends on certain deeper convictions in ourselves. In the same way, our rational arguments also depend on our deeper convictions. This counts for atheists and believers alike.

We all live with such deeper convictions. They feel so familiar though that we're hardly aware of them until perhaps confronted with incompatible convictions. We have many deeper convictions based on character, culture, upbringing, experiences, or whatever. These convictions also determine how we look at God. For some people, a deeper conviction might be a strong longing for autonomy. They would be less inclined to submit to some god dictating to them what (not) to do. Other people may long for security. They would be more inclined to hope for some god protecting them.

With that in mind, I'd not be surprised if large parts of atheism are rooted in (perhaps valid) resentment against church and religion and religious upbringing. Some atheist arguments could just be rational expressions of the underlying resentment. Or perhaps more precisely, some atheist arguments may serve to rationally dissociate oneself from the underlying resentment. The strongest way to dissociate oneself from resentment against religion is by denying God himself.

Now if we'd only bothered countering rational atheist arguments, then we'd satisfied our own intellects but failed to see what's behind those arguments. Once we see the deeper convictions driving atheism, however, it becomes clear that it doesn't help so much to carry a debate by scientific or philosophical arguments, unless you first check your own deeper convictions as well as the convictions of your atheist opponents.

So here's the question: should apologetics focus on rational arguments only, or should it take into account deeper convictions behind rational arguments as well?

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    You can't really assign deeper convictions/predispositions to somebody else when it's so difficult to even pinpoint one's own deeper convictions/predispositions. I think what you're describing is the difference between apologetic debate and conversation. Commented Apr 5 at 21:33
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    I don't have time to Answer now, but a lot of apologists I follow argue that mere logic can't bring one to God, because rejection of God is ultimately based on spiritual factors. Which is to say, the answer isn't only "it should", but "it must".
    – Matthew
    Commented Apr 5 at 22:01
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    I do not understand the obsession with arguing with atheists. The fool hath said in his heart, God is not' saith the Psalmist. Best not argue with a fool or one becomes like them.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 5 at 22:16
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    @NigelJ I see it as "engagement" not obsession. Engagement implies willingness to listen and to see the world from someone's eyes until the atheist can say to you: "you can now see my difficulties", at which point you score one point toward leading the (hopefully not hardened) atheist to reciprocate and see the world from your own eyes, which is the eyes of faith. I do this with someone and was successful. Have you done much listening to their difficulties? Try it, and be compassionate; it can change you for the better. True faith is not afraid, darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5). Commented Apr 6 at 0:59
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    @NigelJ Jesus does more than preaching. Also, seeing with the eyes of others doesn't imply agreeing, but does imply understanding & compassion, which lies behind a everyday expression "I see your point". In this lecture about co-knowing citing 1 Cor 9:19-23 ("... I have become all things to all people, so that I may be every possible means save some ..." ) in minute 35, it's implied that St. Paul practiced compassion w/ the blind Jews, but obviously wouldn't sin. Commented Apr 6 at 13:16


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