Virtual Voices
Dan Barker
Associated Press/Photo by Ted S. Warren
Dan Barker

Compassion for the atheist

Religion

CNN’s religion blog reported on atheists, living mostly in the South, who say they have to hide their unbelief for fear of stigma and work-related retaliation. According to the article, more than 220 recently attended a convention called Freedom from Religion in the Bible Belt, where they reportedly sang songs and shared “coming out” stories.

Speaking at the convention, Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said, “Isn’t it great to be in a room where you can say whatever you want to whomever you want without fear of anyone criticizing you for being unorthodox?”

I suppressed the urge to dismiss the article and the atheists and instead felt something I’m certain they’d reject: pity. I understand the desire to be around like-minded people and in a place where you can express similar opinions and receive the validation that’s in our nature to crave. But I’m so convinced Christ paid for my sins on the cross that I’m compelled to oppose atheist groups that want to push religion, i.e., Christianity, out of the public square.

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Barker’s group, for example, is the same one that recently demanded that the state of Iowa rescind taxpayer money for a Christian-themed park, claiming the grant violates the First Amendment. Those responsible for the project said the money is for planting trees and flowers, not religious content. But that doesn’t matter to the unbelievers. Any hint of a government connection to Christianity is enough to send the legal papers flying. The First Amendment doesn’t bar government involvement with religion. It keeps the government from establishing a national religion or interfering with religious expression.

But the atheist lobby forges ahead. American Atheists, a group that seeks to have religious symbols removed from government property, filed a suit accusing the Internal Revenue Service of discriminating against non-religious non-profit groups in favor of religious ones. The atheist group claims the standards for determining tax-exempt status are different. A federal court recently dismissed the suit for lack of standing.

The Bible doesn’t command us to litigate with unbelievers to preserve tax exemptions or government funding for Christian events, facilities, or symbols. Our hope lies in Christ, not in a “moral” government or even a godly culture. So what should we do, if anything, when unbelievers push their agenda and lobby the government to confine us to private religious expression? Can we make the case that our efforts are a form of sharing the gospel?

The Bible teaches that God’s Word is veiled to those who are perishing. Satan, whether we call him the devil or the evil one, has blinded the unbeliever. Though defeated from the beginning, he’s allowed to wander to and fro in this fallen world. Unbelievers say they don’t worship him, but he’s “the god of this world,” and his influence is obvious. Let’s pray that our primary emotion when hearing about atheists painting themselves as oppressed victims or suing to remove all vestiges of faith from the public square is compassion.

La Shawn Barber
La Shawn Barber

La Shawn writes about culture, faith, and politics. Her work has appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Christianity Today, the Washington Examiner, and other publications

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