Les Sharp, lead pastor of Faith Covenant Church in Borger. - Courtesy Photo
I was challenged by J.C. Cortez’s editorial “The Morality of the Godless.” I thought his writing was very thoughtful, insightful, and what I most appreciated; it was from the heart.
He was absolutely correct when he admonished those among us who have a vital faith in God to make an honest attempt to get to know atheists and ask about their beliefs. “Be wise when you engage with those outside the faith community; make the most of every moment and every encounter. When you speak the word, speak it gracefully…” (Colossians 4:5-6 The Voice)
I also want to speak from my heart and say that I have a big place there for young people with doubts about God. I struggled with serious doubts at one point in my life. So, I care very deeply for atheists. Atheism, well, that’s a different story. Atheism as a belief system prevents people from entering into a personal, life-giving relationship with their Creator. Knowing God personally has been the most powerful and profound thing that has ever happened to me and my family. So, I struggle against atheism, because like the apostle Paul, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am…” (Acts 26:29 NKJV)
I want atheists to know that when I disagree with them, I do so in love. It is striking to me that so many of the philosophers whose ideas so many atheists have opted to live by; men like Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud, lived most of their lives filled with pain and despair.
When I speak with you about the differences we have, I may not always be as respectful or as courteous as I should have been, but I would want you to know that my goal is to show you what I sincerely believe is a better Way. “For the Lord watches over the path of the godly.” Psalm 1:6 NLT
I’m sure that adhering to an atheistic belief system in a small, West Texas community, can be painful at times. People with even the best of intentions can say hurtful things. But I hope atheists could understand the reference point most people in America have for atheism. In more mature generations (I’m not old, I’m mature), our first reference point for atheism are world leaders such as Stalin, Pol Pot, and chairman Mao who persecuted and imprisoned untold thousands of people only because of their belief in God.
Yes, it’s true that atheists sometimes have to suffer through some cold shoulders and perhaps a few derogatory comments from Christians, but to my knowledge, no government has ever seized atheists and put them in prison camps. So perhaps there is some fear mongering going on, but I believe younger atheists should try to understand the images atheism conjures up in the minds of those of us old enough to remember when Marxism was alive and well in the world. Right or wrong, it’s the reality of the history of the 20th century.
I also think it’s important for good and civil atheists to be honest enough to admit that often times when Americans encounter atheists, they have not had an encounter with someone who is either good or civil.
Matthew McConaughey, a native Texan, gave a heartfelt thanks to God Sunday night for being awarded an Oscar. The twitterverse lit up with derogatory hate-tweets. When I was reading some of the things people said to him via Twitter I found myself thinking, “Why so much irrational hatred directed at such an innocuous comment”? Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion writes, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction… petty, unjust, unforgiving… vindictive, bloodthirsty… racist, infanticidal… (and) capriciously malevolent…” And Bill Maher, don’t get me started!
God-believers read and hear the things prominent atheists say, and frankly, it leaves us almost dumb-founded. As long as atheism’s most high profile spokespeople direct so much hatred at the 92% of Americans who believe in God, they are going to have struggles with acceptance in the wider culture. “People detest a mocker.” (Proverbs 24:9 NIV)
I also want to help atheists understand that it is unsettling to God-believers that they don’t talk about right and wrong. I believe morality exists because man is inherently moral because he is created in the image of God.
In every culture across history and geography men and women have always made laws. The consistency of these laws across history and culture has been uncanny to say the least (thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, etc.). A near universal sense of right and wrong reflects the reality of a Creator, and His character. “When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong.” (Romans 2:14-15 The Message)
As moral creatures, we know right from wrong and can respond to God with moral obedience as an act of love, desiring to mold our character to His, or as an act of defiance we can respond to God with moral disobedience.
It is when men and women knowingly transgress the righteous law of God that we put ourselves in a desperate place, and we all do. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory (moral perfections) of God. Because we transgress God’s perfect standard of right and wrong, in His grace, He has taken desperate measures to save our eternal soul. And this is the heart of who we are. “In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4.10 Amplified Bible