At this point someone might say, "Ah, but if you were an atheist you would realize how divisive and delusional Christianity really is and you would not want anyone to waste their life learning about it." I hope you can see how that misses the point I am making. I am not saying that if I were an atheist I would encourage everyone to study the Bible and Christian theology. I am simply saying that I would want anyone who calls him or herself a Christian to be as informed about the God they claim to believe in and what the Bible says as possible. I would want them to see Christianity, not in some sort of well-meaning, wishful thinking, Jesus is my homeboy form, but as it truly is. No spin; nothing fake; just bare, naked Christianity.
Why do I say this? Because I believe that the truth matters and that all truth is ultimately God's truth. I am convinced that atheism, properly understood, is clearly false. Thus, I want people to see it for what it really is and you won't get that by listening to the talking heads on T.V. And I have to imagine that my atheist friends feel precisely the same way about Christianity--that, properly understood, it is obviously nonsense. I have even heard atheists say as much on numerous occasions. Just search the internet. There are more atheist memes that function to "inform" Christians of supposed faults with the Bible and Christianity than anything else. I have heard it said that "The best way to break a person of his/her faith in Christianity is just to get them to read the Bible." If I were an atheist I would look to the great herores of atheism, a great number of whom grew up in Christian homes, but upon applying themselves to studying the Bible and thinking about Christian theology simply found it to be incredulous. I think of someone like Bart Ehrman, the famous New Testament scholar. He followed his Christian beliefs all the way to the highest level and there he found them lacking. There it is! The answer isn't to discourage people from reading the Bible and learning about God but precisely the opposite. Intelligent, open-minded people don't generally respond to criticism that says "You are stupid and what you believe is stupid!" And you won't have much success persuading stubborn, unintelligent people to just abandon what they believe. In both cases, if what they believe is clearly false, then you simply need to encourage them to look more closely at the matter. In that regard, I am convinced that atheists and Christians ought to be on the same page. What we don't need more of are biblically and theologically illiterate Christians. And that is what I mean when I say "If I were an atheist, I would want Christians to study the Bible and theology."
Is this some kind of trick? Am I trying to play mind games here--trying to get atheists to become better atheists so that they will, in some subversive way, become Christians --and all the while using them to unwittingly promote Christian education? No. I am not even remotely smart enough to pull that off anyway. I am just speaking openly about something that I have thought about for a long time. What is more, if you are familiar with my blog, you will know that a primary goal of mine is to foster better conversations between Christians and non-Christians. I want to see people seek the truth, and we will be much more efficient in that pursuit if we can communicate effectively with those who disagree with us.
*I also believe that it is important for atheists to study Christianity (among other worldviews/religions) and Christians to study atheism (among other worldviews/religions) so that all sides can avoid attacking a misrepresentation of the other. In my line of study, I take that for granted, and was trying to make an alternate point here, but it needs to be said. Thanks to my friend E.J. for reminding me!