I don’t disagree with this argument, but while considering what to write as a comment to the post, I realized that my own thoughts were distinct enough to merit their own post. Where Scriptulicious’s concern was the accuracy of the statement, I would question why Zacharias would make such a statement to begin with.
As to Christians having a hope an afterlife, Scriptulicious makes the very valid criticism to this belief by saying “the Bible does not give a uniform voice about life beyond the grave”. But what of the accuracy of Zacharias’s claim that atheists have no hope beyond the grave? Well... duh! This is almost a tautology; if any atheist did believe in life after death, I would question if she were truly atheist.
So, why does Zacharias even bother pointing it out? Does he think atheists don’t realize this? Of course, Zacharias knows fully well that atheists don’t hope for a life beyond the grave; so, it seems unlikely that he is writing to convert atheists. I suspect that he is preaching to the choir who already hangs their collective hats on the belief that this life’s meaning is derived from a hope of an afterlife.
Bearing in mind that, for Zacharias’s intended readers, life’s meaning is derived from the afterlife, consider the claim that atheists have no reason for being (and I would equate this to the claim that atheists have no meaning to life, unless someone can show me how the two ideas are anything more than semantically different). On the one hand, we could question the accuracy of the statement. I feel, as an atheist, that with only one life to live, I appreciate life a little more and try to make this one life of mine count for something. But, again, I am more interested in why Zacharias claims that atheists have no reason for being.
Zacharias, who had attempted suicide at age 17, must have felt what it’s like to live a purposeless life (though it should be noted that he was Hindu at the time, not atheist). Shortly after the suicide attempt, he converted to Christianity. Could it be that Zacharias is so filled with love of his fellow man, a love instilled in him by the God of the Bible (of all things!), that he wants to save us from the purposelessness that he himself felt and then share with us the uplifting meaning he gleans from the Bible?
Good on him, if that’s his motive. But, as I mentioned before, it doesn’t seem like atheists are his intended audience. The criticisms I’ve read of Zacharias’s book (such as the reader reviews on Amazon.com) indicate that he doesn’t so much as try to understand or accurately reflect the atheistic viewpoint, even going so far as to distort it. I’ve even found similar criticisms of him by other religions.
So, if these criticisms are true, and Zacharias deliberately distorts atheistic viewpoints (dare I say, lies about them?), we should now consider his last remaining point: that atheists espouse no morality. Once again, the accuracy of this statement could be questioned when we see how secular values (human rights, for example) have been adopted (sometimes begrudgingly) by Christian sects, or even completely ignored (as seems often the case with Islam). So, why would Zacharias say this?
Call me cynical, but when I hear a theist say that “if there were no God, then men would have license to commit whatever heinous atrocities he desired”, what I interpret that to mean is “if there were no God, the theist himself would feel he had license to commit whatever heinous atrocities he desired.” In other words, the only thing holding Zacharias back from rape, pillage, and murder is his belief in God.
Never mind that Zacharias’s viewpoints are an appeal to emotion, and don’t actually prove that God exists; never mind that doing the right thing only upon fear of punishment is not exactly what we’d call moral behavior; never mind that Zacharias might, in actuality, be moral, even if his God didn't exist (which, by the way, He doesn't). Consider only this: if the people who read and listen to evangelists and apologists like Zacharias -- a people who, if not for a belief in the reward of an afterlife, would find no meaning in this life -- if those people actually believe that atheists espouse no morality, what a monstrous gang of demons we must seem to them.
Apologist is a bit of a misnomer because the word connotes that Zacharias is defending his faith. Quite the inverse of the NFL, where the best offense is a good defense, apologetic rhetoric like his appears to me to be a rallying cry: A) to instill an “us vs. them” mentality among the faithful, B) to instill a fear of the demonic “them” in the faithful, and C) to exhort the fearful faithful into taking the offensive. Now, being a peaceful man I wonder: what is the objective of this offensive?