Owen Strachan needs to get out more

There are no atheists out there—not even one, he says. He’s pretty insistent about it, too, and seems to think it’s a profound insight.

Guy, the only reason I have clearly perceived the existence of the concept of a god is that you goofballs won’t shut up about it. As a child I went to church and Sunday School every week, and listened as the pastor and my teachers confidently asserted that a god existed, while never offering any good reason I should believe. I never did believe even as I was memorizing Bible verses and singing hymns and learning the catechism, and once I was old enough and confident enough to shed the cant, I did. Never looked back. I’ve had a few close scrapes where I was pretty sure I was going to die, and nope, I didn’t say any prayers, didn’t call out to any god, didn’t imagine the actions of a higher power saving me or damning me. It’s just not in my brain, get used to it.

It’s also the case that, while I find it incredible that anyone is stupid or gullible enough to believe in that cheesy trash called the Christian Bible, I do believe that many people do. If someone says they’re a Bible-believing Christian, well, I accept that they are, and proceed under that assumption. It helps that their claim to sincerity is backed by a statement that is so foolish, since the only way anyone could find that at all credible is if they actually held it as a deeply irrational belief.

So do me a favor, and trust that I also am sincere when I say I’m an atheist. I have no reason to lie about it. It’s not as if it gets me fabulous prizes and admission to a community of people who will fawn over me.

Probably like you, I had never heard of Owen Strachan before, so I had to look him up.

Dr. Owen Strachan is Provost and Research Professor of Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. Before coming to GBTS he served as Associate Professor of Christian Theology and Director of the Residency Ph.D Program at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned his Ph.D from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, his M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his AB from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He is married and the father of three children. Strachan has authored numerous books, including Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (with Kevin Vanhoozer) and the forthcoming Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop it (Salem Books, July 2021). Strachan is the former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, the former director of The Center for Public Theology at MBTS and is the President of Reformanda Ministries.

Ouch. That’s one insular little biography. A theologian and seminarian who has spent his life in seminary, talking with theologians, sitting in his office inventing theologies, never even imagining godless nature. OK, you really need to get out more, Owen. For your own good.

Also, whining about social justice and wokeness…when you do go out, stay away from me, you smug little tinpot authoritarian. We won’t get along.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Maybe he thinks all real atheists must be cannibals or rapists, because he has bought into the idea of religion as the only source for morals and ethics.
    Since we are not living in a Mad Max hellscape, he takes this as evidence there are no atheists around.
    .Maybe the mormon requirement of prozelyting among the unsaved has the positive result of exposing (male) mormons to people outside their theological bubble?
    Or the Amish ‘rumspringa’ custom…
    Strachan would probably not have been such a tedious donkey’s ass if he had done a bit of rumspringa in his youth.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    John Morales @ 2
    Your explanation is certainly the most straightforward. Myself, I have not been much exposed to the worst aspects of social media so I tend to be a bit naive.
    There is also the issue that so many people are mind-shatteringly ignorant (and some even believe the world is flat), but Strachan has been part of what passes for academia, so he does not have that excuse.
    – If you want to locate the nadir of thought expressed by nominally well-educated people, there are some USA -based muslim scholars that go all-in for a literal interpretation of scripture.
    This is even worse than the evangelical numbnuts, because their set of literal belief includes defence of slavery.
    And I mean present-day slavery, not a defence of the antebellum southerners. That is some seriously toxic shit.

  3. mathman85 says

    I generally assume that invocations of this part of Romans (and at least some others, but that’s off-topic) are in bad faith, and that the actual intent of the person citing it isn’t to try to convince me that I’m wrong about what’s going on in my head. Rather, I assume that anyone actually citing this is attempting to buoy the (potentially foundering) faith of (some of) their fellow Χians. It’s surprising that anyone could actually think that Saul of Tarsus, who died roughly 2,000 years before I was born, could legitimately claim to know anything about what 21st-century people think and believe.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    What if people have “clearly perceived” the existence of the demiurge instead of the original creator? That should open a whole new can of theological worms for Strachan et al.
    Maybe the bloke that handles day-to-day god stuff is Melek Taus?

  5. raven says

    There are no atheists out there—not even one.

    All babies are born atheists.
    Xians are made not born.
    Without early and life long indoctrination, there would be no xians.

    The proof of this is obvious.
    The main and almost the only determinant of what religion you are is what your parent’s and culture’s religion is. How many xians are there in Muslim and Hindu countries that were born to Muslim or Hindu families? Very few.

  6. raven says

    Strachan is the former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood…

    You can tell this guy is just your routine garden variety fundie hater. Fundie xianity is almost always just an excuse to be a horrible person and almost never a reason to do anything good.

  7. raven says


    The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is an evangelical Christian organization promoting a complementarian view of gender issues.[1][2][3] According to its website, the “mission of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is to set forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church.

    The usual fundie xian babbling on. It’s nothing important or worthwhile.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    “Obedience to the scripture ”
    …but which version of the scripture?
    Papyri with Jewish religious texts left by Jewish mercenaries at Elephantine did not include some crucial books that claimed to describe much earlier times, so we know those books are later retcons.
    And the new testament in full of later insertions. The fourth gospel does not fit into the narratives of the previous three, and was written much later by someone making stuff up to support a particular theology.
    And if you want to compare Genesis with the Ugarit clay tables the parallells are so clear it shows the Jewish religion started as polyteistic; “the host” originally meant servant gods, not angels in the Jewish or Christian sense.

  9. pgator says

    The idea that atheists don’t really exist is a Christian defense mechanism to the concept of “hell.”

    Anyone with an ounce of compassion (yeah, yeah, I know) can see that torturing people for sincere non-belief would be completely unfair and monstrous. The idea of handing eternal torment out as a punishment for ANY finite transgression is totally unreasonable.

    So, they need a way to reconcile it. They can’t have their god, who is supposed to be all about “love” be the fall guy, “sending” people to hell. So, they need to think that people outside their tribe actually know the “truth” but we’re actively CHOOSING hell for ourselves. That way their god isn’t to blame, they can even spin it that he’s all heartbroken about it too, but that we’re just so stubborn we are marching off to a fate we actively chose.

    Otherwise, they would need to critically examine the true repercussions of their rules, their god, and their view … and they can’t have that.

  10. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    As a pantheist, I not only believe he’s firmly wrong (many Christians don’t actually care much to really find God, they look for the good feels but never are willing to accept difficult challenges to get there) but also that he’s just assuming it’s his God he’s seeing. It’s a deeply myopic perspective. Unsurprisingly, he wrote a book about how “social justice” is coopting his agenda. Man, apparently lots of people who believe in God disagree with you, boy.

    This claim is going to get less and less useful even for their own evangelism and their own internal defense as it becomes clearer and clearer more people were born in radically different spiritual contexts than they were.

  11. leerudolph says

    I read “Reenchanting Humanity” as “Recanting Humanity” and thought, yeah, I could go for that sometimes.

  12. Mark Smith says

    People like this serve as reminders that their bible is not evidence, it’s the claim that requires evidence.

  13. James Fehlinger says

    There are no atheists out there—not even one.

    Didn’t Jordan Peterson make the same claim?

  14. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @14: Yeah, the fact that their Bible makes that claim and it’s trivially obvious to prove that it’s false (and even many Christians recognize that it’s false in that many recognize the injustice of judging those people who never had a chance to hear the Gospel) is itself self-refuting.

    It’s just like my favorite rebuttal to the ontological argument: Because I can easily imagine universes that do not have a maximally great being in it, a maximally great being cannot exist, and so cannot exist anywhere.

  15. Nemo says

    If everyone secretly believes in God — even those who deny it — then, by the doctrine of sola fide, isn’t everyone saved? Is everyone who makes this argument really a universalist? I say yes.

  16. Alan G. Humphrey says

    From what I’ve seen of human behavior only a vanishingly small number of people live their lives in a religious way most of the time. Almost everyone lives as if gods do not exist and do not influence their minute to minute actions. They live as their life’s experiences have taught them to live. No one prays for and gets the traffic light to go from yellow back to green, they step on the brake pedal or the accelerator, whichever one they have learned to do in the circumstances present at that particular intersection. Look at Strachan’s picture and imagine him not having several professionals to groom his hair, beard and nails, tailor his suits, design his workout sessions, see to his investments, clean his house, mow his lawn…