(Photo: Nicole Byrd)
Dr. William Lane Craig, research professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, Calif., has dismissed the American Atheists' 50 year anniversary convention as "nothing but posturing," arguing that their intellectual arguments against theism do not hold up.
"Their motto '50 years of reason' is nothing but posturing. It's an attempt to present themselves as intellectual and that their atheism is based in reason, when in fact that is far from the truth," Craig, who has written over thirty books on theology and philosophy and frequently debates atheist scholars, said on Monday in a phone interview with The Christian Post.
American Atheists, the largest secular group in America, which supports civil rights for atheists, will kick off their 2013 National Convention on Thursday, featuring three days of speakers.
"The 2013 National Convention will host hundreds of fellow atheists, plus vendors, speakers, comedians, entertainers, an art show and silent auction, and much more," the convention website says as it promises that attendees will hear from prominent atheist figures, such as professor & philosopher A.C. Grayling, Congressman Pete Stark, musician Jay Jay French, and others.
A talking point at the convention will likely be the "rise of the nones" in America, or people who do not have a religious affiliation. An October 2012 Pew Forum study showed that one in five, or 20 percent of Americans are not part of a religion. Secular groups have used the poll to claim that America is losing its religion – but a significant distinction that is sometimes not made is that only 3 percent of those people actually identify as atheists.
"These people who say that they are non-religious, are not necessarily atheistic," Craig told CP.
"Only around two to three percent of people claim to be atheistic. In many cases, people who say that they are non-religious, it simply means they are not affiliated with any particular denomination. These people might still have spiritual lives, believe in God, engage in prayer, and so forth."
The Christian professor explained that Asian Americans make up some of the largest non-religious proportions in America, concentrated largely in the Pacific Northwest, and said that American churches can still welcome and reach out to them.
"This suggests that a lot of these folks may come from non-Christian cultures, in China, Japan and elsewhere. In this case, it is not so much that they have left the Christian faith, but they never had it."
He added that the polls might also be failing to reflect that more and more people today are comfortable in saying that they are non-Christians, as opposed to actively leaving the faith.
"It is not so unwelcome that people who formerly identified as nominal Christians, but really weren't biblically orthodox, should now recognize that they are non-Christians and non-religious. In one sense, that is a positive thing," the author pointed out.
As for statistics suggesting that younger, college-educated people are more likely to be non-religious than any other demographic, he argued that the trend is more reflective of the secular nature of the college environment as a whole.
"In terms of the educational level, I think this has more to do with the sort of secular culture that is characteristic of the university environment and tends to be self-perpetuating. But it would be a very poor argument that because a view is held by a great number of certain people, that therefore the view is true," he noted.
American Atheists actively produces billboard campaigns which promote secularism around the country. Their latest efforts have targeted a number of conservative political leaders who have spoken of their faith in public.
"His solution to school shootings? Prayer," one AA billboard in Texas reads, concerning Texas Governor Rick Perry.
"Amend the Constitution to (what I say are) God's Standards," reads another, targeting former Arkansas governor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
Craig believes those billboards will hardly have a significant effect on many people. The ads also show that the secular group is very political in nature, he noted.
"They tend to be ad-hominem in their attacks on politicians who are candid about their religious faith," the theologian said.
As for the three-day American Atheists convention, Craig revealed that he has already publicly debated a number of their speakers, including A.C. Grayling, and said that he hasn't found "that they are able to sustain a credible argument for the truth of their worldview." He added that the group is primarily political and cultural rather than an intellectual force.
Craig offered that for people interested in the new atheism movement, the most effective thing to do would be "to engage them in dialogue and debate on the question of God's existence, and see whether the arguments for theism are better that the arguments for atheism."