Evangelical Atheists – The Citizen

Rthe religious are part of a large majority. Statistically, 93% of the world’s population believes in some kind of religious reality. Only 7% of people in the world are atheists, or people who don’t believe in any god, gods, or divine entity.

In the United States, the figure is higher with 10% of the population describing themselves as an atheist. An atheist has every right to be such.

Among atheists, there is a particular subculture that I would call “evangelical atheists”. An evangelist is someone who is committed to making their beliefs known and, in many cases, tries to win people over to their way of thinking and acting.

In 2 Timothy 4:5, the apostle Paul instructed young Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist,” that is, to spread the news of his reconciliation with God through Christ and to establish gatherings of like-minded believers. There is purpose and purpose to Christian evangelism.

I’m still trying to figure out why an atheist would care what I do or don’t believe. And most of the atheists I’ve hired over the years don’t care. They’re perfectly happy for me to believe (or disbelieve) whatever I want as long as I show them the same courtesy if they’re left alone.

But there is this other type of atheist – the evangelical atheist who is on a mission to convince religious people that there is no higher being than humanity, that no one listens to prayers and that there is no life beyond the present life. Why do they care what I think and believe, especially if I’m not trying to win them over to my way of thinking?

I understand why communists are historically evangelical atheists. They insist that the state is what should govern a person’s life and thoughts, so no competing ideologies are allowed. Nazism came to a similar conclusion and God and religion were put aside and Hitler and Nazism had to take their place. In North Korea, the current “Dear Leader”, his father and grandfather, are held as close to godhood as possible. No place for religion either.

But in a free society it is not so. In a free society, people are free to believe or disbelieve in any religion or none. In my encounters with evangelical atheists, which mostly occur on social media, I have seen an almost total intolerance for religious beliefs and for those who hold them. And while most atheists I know are nice people who think I’m wrong in my personal beliefs, evangelical atheists are rude, intolerant, mocking, and often very disparaging.

These people remind me of the kid at school who, not believing in Santa Claus, took pleasure in telling other children that Santa Claus didn’t exist. It was as if they couldn’t stand the excitement and hope that children believing in Santa Claus showed off during the Christmas season.

I kinda understand this kid who chooses to be cruel to others about their beliefs – he’s a kid, after all – but why do evangelical atheists even care what other people believe? If anyone thinks I’m tricked, cheated, confused, or just plain stupid, what does that matter to them?

Christians believe they have a mandate to share the “good news”, the “gospel”. Evangelical Christians (and I’m not talking about political beliefs or political party affiliations) believe that when Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life — no one comes to the Father but through me,” he literally meant this.

So, other religions are false and lead people astray. So the motivation is to help, not to harm, to bring hope and peace – it’s to save, if you will. And, yes, some people can be pushy and disagreeable.

But then again, why does an evangelical atheist give an iota to the religions people believe in? If atheists are right and there is no God, no heaven, no hell, no reunion with lost loved ones – if they are right that when you are dead you are dead and we simply cease to exist, so why try to cajole me or shame me into becoming “more enlightened?”

If they’re right, then when I die, then it doesn’t matter. But I have always lived a life of faith, of hope, of community with other believers, and I have hopefully been a better person because of those beliefs and those relationships. I have lived a life where wrongdoings, mistakes and sins can be forgiven and even redeemed for good, and I have lived a life believing that a caring and loving Father never left me out of his sight and declared me to be in good standing with him. And if all the answers to prayer I’ve seen and experienced in my life are just “coincidences,” then it has enriched, not robbed, me of a life well lived. I haven’t lost anything and I’ve gained a lot by being a person of faith.

On the other hand, if I’m not mistaken – if I’m not deceived, deceived, deranged, or mute – if God is real, if Jesus is who He claimed to be, then my life has ultimate meaning, everything worked together for good, and life does not end at the grave but, in truth, it is the beginning of a future beyond my comprehension. And, if I’m not mistaken, then the evangelical atheist is in for a big surprise.

I was lucky to have always believed in God. I didn’t have to struggle to find out if God is or isn’t. Oh, I had arguments with God, I complained to him about how he allowed some unfortunate events to happen – but even when my faith was at rock bottom and my actions were less than honorable, I have always believed.

When I arrived at a place where I no longer believed in Santa Claus, I chose not to deprive my brother, who is nine years younger, of this childhood pleasure. In addition, there really is a Saint Nicholas. He was the Christian bishop of Myra during the time of the Roman Empire. He died at the age of 73 in 343 AD. Because of the many answers to his intercessory prayers, he was also known as Nicholas the Wonderful.

So believe or disbelieve what you want. A passage from the Bible says, “I have set before you life and death…choose life and live.” My choice is made. I choose life.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). Worship services are at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but the church is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may contacted at [email protected]]

Barry F. Howard