“If God is real,” asks the Atheist to the Apologist, “then why are we having this debate?” The point being that, if an all-powerful, omnipresent being is real, then his existence should be obvious enough to be beyond debate.
Of course the question could be flipped on its head. The Apologist could ask “If God doesn’t exist, then why are we having this debate,” meaning that if there is no God, then where does the idea of God come from, and why is it so prevalent? After all, people are not natural atheists who, through excessive thinking and study, begrudgingly admit that there may be a God. Rather, they are natural theists who, through a series of mental gymnastics, manage to have reality and morality without a God.
While both of these questions have been addressed by the opponents, perhaps the larger question is, if a person is convinced that there is or isn’t a God, why argue about it?
Many Skeptics don’t particularly care for the label of “Atheists.” Among other objections to the name, they will say that they don’t believe in fairies or other mythical creatures, either, but they don’t name themselves after such disbeliefs.
Imagine that you look up to find yourself seated at a desk. In front of you is a math test. In your hand there is a pencil. Looking all around, you see other children seated at desks with math tests in front of them and pencils in hand. At the front of the room is a larger desk in front of a chalk board. The kid sitting next to you leans in and whispers, “I’m not going to do my math. After all, there’s no Math Teacher. Never was one. It’s all just a myth.”
Before you crumble up your math test and chuck it at the girl sitting across from you, flip your desk, and stand howling on your seat while shedding your clothes, it might be wise to take a moment or two, consider the evidence, and decide if there is or is not an actual Math Teacher. The existence or non-existence of the Teacher is going to be decisive when it comes to determining what type of behavior is appropriate for that environment.
In this scenario there are other hypothetical beings that may or may not exist. There may or may not be a school secretary, a janitor, or a bus driver; just as, in real life, there may or may not be angels, demons, dragons, pixies, or unicorns. But such mythical beings don’t bear any real relevance to the questions of origin, purpose, or destiny. The question of God does.
So is the debate between Atheists and Christian Apologists important, and if so, why? There was a time not long ago that Atheists were not nearly so aggressively evangelistic. Atheists would mostly sit in smug silence as they watched the goings on of the world, assured in their mind that they had a dirty little secret about the universe that most did not. Then the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened. In one fell swoop, the world was shown just how dangerous religion could be, and a new kind of atheism was born. Their objective: to entirely eliminate religion and save the world from the evils of blindly believing whatever an invisible god and a holy book tells you and rather use reason and logic to make life decisions. For these New Atheists, the debate is important because religion is a ticking time bomb.
For the Christian Apologist, the debate has several important aspects. The first is, just like the New Atheists, evangelistic in nature. Christians are commanded by Christ to “Go therefore, and teach all nations… to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” This commandment, known as The Great Commission, is the driving philosophy behind Christian evangelism, the idea being that all people will eventually be judged by God, and that those who believed on Christ will be forgiven. In the Christian mindset, the importance of saving others can not be overstated.
The second motive driving Christian Apologists to debate Atheists and Skeptics is defensive in nature. The intellectual assault against Christian beliefs is becoming stronger all the time. While Christianity is necessarily a faith for all people not all people are equipped to intellectually defend their faith. As a result, there is a great deal of intellectual bullying that occurs against average Christians who lack the time and resources to be prepared to defend themselves.
The above represent the purest motives for both sides of the argument. There are, of course, bullies in both camps that simply enjoy arguing and flexing their intellect in order to boost their egos. The validity of an idea, however, should not be judged by that idea’s abuse.