Mike Ovey, Principal of Oak Hall College, gave a talk a little while back on the history, convictions and impact of atheism, also offering some hints on how Christians might interact with atheists today.
Of particular interest was his division of atheism into four types:-
1. Protest Atheism. Someone might say, in the face of personal tragedy or global disaster, “An all-powerful and all-loving God would never allow that to happen, and therefore such a God cannot exist.”
2. Practical Atheism. Some people live as if there were no God. Whatever creed they may or may not assent to, they give God no thought from one day to the next.
3. Secularist Atheism. The secular atheism believes that all that exists is matter, and that religion obstructs clear thinking and right behaviour. We must live for this world and this life alone, for there is no other.
4. Intellectual Atheism. David Hume and others formulated philosophical arguments against the existence of God. Darwinism has seemed to many to have shown that the notion of ‘God’ is redundant as any explanation for anything.
To be able to distinguish between various forms of atheism (and various combinations of these forms) will serve the Christian apologist well both in his pastoral and his intellectual dealings with his unbelieving friends.