I just read a news story about an atheistic group in Washington state that has placed a sign in the state capital building promoting atheism. The sign is located adjacent to a nativity scene also paid for by a private organizations, and both organizations obtained permits for their displays. You can read more about the story here.
I am not opposed to either display – we live in a nation that celebrates the freedom of speech as well as the freedom of worship, so either of these groups should be well within their rights to express their views in a public setting, especially seeing that they’ve gone through the appropriate measures to do so. I do, however, think that the action raises an issue about atheism that has to be dealt with by anyone who is wavering between theism (belief in a god) and atheism (belief in no god), and that is that atheism is a religion.
Interestingly, the group that sponsored the atheistic display is called the Freedom From Religion Foundation. What catches my attention, however, is what is written on the display…
At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth that and superstition that hardens our hearts and enslaves minds.
First, isn’t it interesting that there is the desire to display an anti-religious sign next to a religious display? To me, and I think to much of the public, it becomes obvious that ahteism is a religion in and of itself. The statement above conveys quite a doctrinal statement: no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven, no hell. Those are statements about what someone believes does not exist. Then, there is only the natural world. That’s a statement of what one does believe. So the message competes with other religious messages and affirms an alternative system of beliefs… sounds like a religion.
What baffles me the most is the last line. I get what is being said. Yes, religion can be a very bad thing. anytime religion has been tied together with the state, tyrannical oppression has occurred. Coersion isn’t God’s plan for evangelism and political empericalism is one of the worst excuses in all the world for what the Christian faith is all about – and for all other religions for that matter.
But to say that belief hardens our hearts and enslaves our minds seems blatantly contradictory to the personal experience of millions of people. I’m not arguing on intellectual grounds here that belief accomplishes otherwise – I’m instead pleading from the heart – if only you would trust your Creator. If only you would allow your heart to be softened to the immeasurable love and mercy of God, you would find that Christianity is a religion of freedom, not enslavement.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1 NKJV
Just think of yourself for a moment standing between these two signs. One portrays a baby in a manger that Scripture tells us grew up to die as an atonement for our sins and to rise again from the grave. The other argues that there is no supreme deity, no supernatural realm, and that belief in such results in slavery. But you, like every other human on the planet know the reality of your own sinfulness and helplessness. You can’t deny it. And deep inside, you long and yearn for a restored relationship with your Creator. Which sign requires more faith to believe?
If you should embrace the religion of atheism, you’ll need to acknowledge that all that you know deep down is just an evolutionary flaw, that your subconscious that continually reminds you of the darkness within is simply the result of millions of years of sequential accidents (albeit accidents so precise that the present order is so arranged that life is sustainable and even thrives on this one planet). But there is a Creator, isn’t there? And there is a heaven and a hell. There is life beyond the grave. There is a soul within and you know that there is a Holy Spirit wooing and calling you to a restored relationship with the One who personally crafted you.