Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Frightened of Atheists
I've heard a lot of Christians who seem terrified of atheists. I've never understood this, but some of them seem to think there is no bigger threat to faith than atheists. It's as though the fact of some not believing is contagious. I'm a little suspicious that the mere fact of atheists opens a window they would rather not acknowledge, poses a question that they are afraid to consider for themselves.
There certainly are many things that work against a meaningful and deep Christian faith, but I'm not sure atheists are a significant one. I could perhaps understand feeling sorry for an atheist, hoping he might come to realize what he's missing out on, but even the more obnoxious and militant sort, those who try to convert others to their view and belittle people of faith, pose little threat to faith that has any substance.
I've heard Psalm 53 quoted as proof that God is as repulsed by atheists as some Christians are, but the psalm doesn't seem to speak of atheists at all. The fools of this psalm say there is no God "in their hearts." Nothing here about public professions of non-faith. The psalm's ire is directed at those whose actions betray an inner disposition that doesn't acknowledges God. It does not address the sort of atheists some Christians seem to fear so much. Rather it addresses the sort who belong to churches and perhaps even attend them with some regularity but whose lives produce little evidence of being shaped by God's priorities.
The prophets and Jesus, not to mention a few psalms, regularly chastise religious folks, and almost never for failing to do worship correctly or for believing the wrong doctrines. They save their ire for those who faithfully maintain worship and religious observance but do not live in ways that demonstrate God's concern for the lost and least, the vulnerable and oppressed, the outsider and the lowly.
Most of us have likely known some atheists or agnostics whose lives seemed to reveal hearts that are canted toward God, or at least toward the desires of God. I wonder what the psalmist would say about such folks. If they are not fools, are they in some ways wise?
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