Yes, that takes a lot of study and when you do that, you will quickly discover that some points adhered to by Christians and critics of the Christian faith are interpretations that make no sense to anybody who takes the trouble to study.
Psalm 41:1 is one of the most abused verses in Scripture and it always quoted incompletely: "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." The implication is clear. All atheists are fools.
Only one tiny problem.
In the ancient Near East, the words foolishness and wisdom have nothing to do with intelligence. They have everything to do with morality. I can also say, I have known many atheists in my life. I can honestly say that very, very few of them are fools. The majority of them are actually quite moral and, though I may disagree with the particulars, they have a personal moral code that they follow for what they believe are very good reasons.
The fool in the 41st Psalm (and repeated again in the 51st) is an atheist, but a very specific type for a very specific reason. The fool mentioned here is a person with no morals at all. That is what the word means.
The fool referred to here is a nihilistic psychopath so when Christians talk to an atheist and quote this verse, they offend the atheist who thinks it is their intelligence being referred to, but in reality, you are claiming the atheist is a person of such low character they have no concept of right or wrong and are, in fact, aggressively following active evil. Not a good idea, but I will illuminate that in a moment.
Now by definition, a nihilistic psychopath follows no moral code. They are true solipsists who cannot even fathom the concept of "other." And in the cultural context of the Psalms, a solipsistic,
nihilistic psychopath would be, by strict definition, an atheist.
But as I said, I know atheists who aren't. Therefore...
All solipsistic, nihilistic psychopaths are atheists, but not all atheists are solipsistic, nihilistic psychopaths.
Now I've explained this to dozens of Christians and I've met the occasional one that doesn't want to have anything to do with "book larnin'" (an exact quote). Okay. Try this one on for size:
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, ' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:22)Why such a strict command? Because to call somebody a solipsistic, nihilistic psychopath is an act of judgement on that person's character and that is not our role as followers of Christ. I can discuss actions. I can even condemn an action, but you and I and everybody else tread dangerous ground when we cast judgement on the person's value and worth.
And since "God so loved the world," that is not our job. Everyone has value in the eyes of God. Everyone is welcome to the table of Divine Grace. Even solipsistic, nihilistic psychopaths.
Be careful what you say.