Atheism is sold as a modern, up-to-date way of thinking, free from the superstitious baggage of religion. Instead of following the rules of an imaginary creature, you get to do whatever you please, for reason and science do not put a bunch of restrictions on what you’re allowed to do. To the atheist, anyone who clings to rules laid down by some magical man in the sky is insane; human beings have the intelligence and foresight to manage their own affairs.
There’s only one problem: a rigorous atheism denies liberty altogether.
Atheism holds that the material universe is all there is. Everything from the birth of the universe, to the formation of Earth, to the emergence of life is a cosmic accident with no special meaning or purpose. Supernatural forces do not and cannot exist; everything must obey the laws of physics. Additionally, all events have a prior cause rooted in nature, and no event can cause itself.
Humans are a part of this material universe; they are not some special creation, but mere matter like everything else. Since humans are matter, they follow the rules that all matter does: events must have a prior cause, and nothing can cause itself.
This means that every human act has a prior physical cause, therefore humans do not choose their actions at all. An atheist worldview considers “choice” a unscientific myth brought on by magical thinking, every bit as fictitious as God.
Liberty, the main selling point of atheism, turns out to be false by its own reasoning!
In light of this, how is an atheist going to sell his philosophy to religious folks? God may have a bunch of rules, but at least He lets you choose your actions. Atheist materialism doesn’t even let you do that; you’re just a machine that follows a bunch of signals. You don’t matter, because you’re just matter. Better to stick with the magical man, for the brave new way of thinking leaves you an empty shell.
If atheism is to make any sense at all, it must resolve this paradox. If atheism is all about evidence, it mustn’t use something it rejects as the bait.