Atheists are not evil

Published 11:14 pm Friday, February 8, 2013

By Chris Surber

I despise Christian bumper stickers.

I always wonder whether the people driving cars with Christian bumper stickers have ever read or even held a Bible. The sheer weight of a Bible tells us that God takes the time to explain Himself more amply. So should we.

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In the sea of ridiculousness that is the Christian bumper sticker market, my least favorite of all is the one — apparently produced by a profound Christian philosopher — that reads “God doesn’t believe in atheists.”

It’s memorable. I’ll give the author that much. It is also demeaning, rude, disrespectful, logically incoherent and absurd.

Is it really the best plan for we who espouse faith in God to campaign on His behalf with ridiculous quips and sarcastic puns? Does that adequately represent God’s message or accurately exhibit God’s heart for people?

Atheists are not evil boogeymen. They are imperfect people, just like every person on the earth.

There are, of course, some intensely unlikable atheists. Well known atheist Richard Dawkins is widely considered a condescending know-it-all, even to some of those who agree with him. Prior to his death, Christopher Hitchens was prone to use his incredible intellect and grasp of the English language to verbally mug intellectually inferior opponents in public and academic debates.

But to be honest, I know a number of unlikable know-it-all Christians. The most vitriolic verbal confrontations I have witnessed in my life thus far have been in church, not during my nearly a decade of service in the military. Being unlikable and obnoxious are, sadly, traits common to a lot of people, regardless of their faith or lack of it.

If we are going to claim Christ, we’ve got to be careful that we accurately represent Him in our lives and in the public square.

Atheists are not evil. They are people struggling to make sense of a world that doesn’t make sense. They are simply not inclined or not willing to look for hope in the same place Christians have found it.

Atheists are a lot like my 4-year-old son. They can’t find God for the same reason he can’t find his toothbrush: He doesn’t want to look.

They don’t see the miraculous nature of this life for similar reasons to those people Jesus spoke of in Matthew 13:58. “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (NIV84)

I read a blog recently in which a young man described the pain of having abandoned the faith he grew up with as the child of Christian missionaries. He wrote about how much he loved his parents and enjoyed being raised multiculturally, living in many foreign lands as a child. He loves his parents but can’t embrace their faith for various reasons, and it hurts him.

If we are going to share Christ with this generation, we should consider doing so in ways that are consistent with the way Jesus shared Himself with the world. I’ve read the Bible many times and I have yet to read of Jesus slapping a “God doesn’t believe in atheists” bumper sticker on the back of a camel riding along the streets of Nazareth.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He showered compassion, not criticism, on the people whose hearts were far from God. So should we. Biblically speaking, every Christian is merely a former atheist, lost sheep that God showered with grace.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV84)

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at