If I were to ask you what the country with the largest population of atheists is, would you answer China? According to a Gallup poll, 47 percent of the population in China are “convinced atheists,” while a whole 77% are not religious people in general.
Toss in the religious philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism and you’ve got a full 87% of the population that you could argue are agnostic, atheistic, or apathestic to some degree or another.
Unfortunately, self-described “Christian apologist” and fundie preacher Phil Vander Ploeg has apparently never heard of China, since he asserted this weekend that the only extant atheists in the world live in “America and Europe.”
East Meets West
There’s this perception among Westerners — including most atheists and irreligious westerners themselves — that atheism is a relatively new thing that arose out of the Enlightenment. While it’s true that atheism gained traction in the Western world during the Enlightenment, it was around a long time before then.
The world’s oldest religion is Hinduism, and Hinduism isn’t one religion: it’s a collection of beliefs, religions, and philosophies lumped under a singer header. One of the world’s first atheistic movements was under the Hinduism label; called Charvaka, it dates back to around 600 BCE. This means philosophical atheism is at least as old as Judaism.
Abul Al-Ma’arri, a blind Arab poet, writer, and philosopher, was an outspoken atheist in Baghdad during the Islamic Golden Age who wrote that humans were “of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains.”
And then there are religions like Jainism, Buddhism, and religious philosophies like Confucianism and Taoism, which don’t innately feature a godhead of any sort.
During the Cold War, irreligiosity was tied to communism — which wasn’t entirely true or a good fit, since Taoism and Confucianism work just fine with communism. As does Christianity.
All told, religion and god are subjective concepts. These are slippery, messy things to get a hold on. This means that atheism, the rejection of gods, is also a messy thing to try an understand; is it possible to be an atheist to some concepts of god but not to others? If someone tells you they believe all life in the universe to be god, do you deny that god exists? Your instinct might be to mock them, but can you logically prove them wrong?
Acknowledging these complexities is often times beyond the abilities of some poor Westerners — as “Christian apologist” Phil Vander Ploeg demonstrated during his Sunday sermon at First Baptist Spartanburg when he claimed that the “only” existing atheists in the world are in “America and Europe.”
Ploeg was answering the question people often ask him: “why doesn’t God make himself more obvious?”
According to Ploeg, it’s simple: God has already revealed himself. Or something.
Why doesn’t God just walk into the room one day and say, ‘Hello, I’m God, I’m real,’ and then leave? God has revealed himself far more than some people want to acknowledge. It’s obvious.
The only atheists in the world live in America and Europe. Everyone else knows there’s a god. But we’ve developed a worldview in the West that justifies our actions. That’s why we don’t believe in God.
I remember once upon a time Christian Apologetics included men like Thomas Aquinas and Blaise Pascal. And while they didn’t offer full-proof arguments, their arguments were at least coherent and contingent on a syllogism.
It’s a field that’s certainly gone down hill, hasn’t it?
Watch the video below:[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDW2my_Hkuk&w=560&h=315]
Features image via video screen capture