Atheist Bus Campaigns

A little PR never hurt anybody…at least that’s what some atheist groups are thinking.  But, it could come back to haunt them (more on that later).

Back in the summer, a kerfuffle arose in several places around the country.  Atheist groups advanced an advertisement campaign, in some cases going so far as to sue for the ability to put their advertisements on buses and park benches.

Though it’s been a while since the controversy erupted, it is still instructive for Christians:

Can I take exception with everyone in the video?  Can I do that?  I’m not a big fan of *any* of the answers Taylor or Binder gave, and I’m definitely scratching my head at some of the questions Doocy asked.

Where to start.  How about with Taylor?  Let’s start with a little in-house critique.  I think I know what Taylor was getting at, but rather than making a cogent point about the atheist belief system, he instead came off as reactionary and defensive.  For example, why in the world would he be offended at the atheists attempting to engage in a little PR in the public square?  That is the exact same freedom he no doubt would clamor for his own church goers, so I’m bewildered as to why he took umbrage with Binder’s group doing the same thing.  So what if it turns out to be an attack on Christianity?  That’s the nature of the public square: somebody throws down a gauntlet, another picks it up, and both sides duke it out to see which idea can take the heat.  He could have taken time to refute the idea, but instead he made a psychological point about the motivation behind the idea (an “attack from the left”), and it’s not even clear that it was a good one.

He almost approached making a good point when he talked about the atheist group using the inalienable rights spoken of in our founding documents to “make a mockery about God,” but it was jumbled and confusing.  I take it that he was making a point about atheists “borrowing capital” from a theistic worldview.  In other words, anything like a “right” to “freedom of speech” is based upon the intrinsic dignity of human beings.  Sacks of meat that behave in complicated ways aren’t bearers of rights.  Where do we get that intrinsic value from?  Not from the particles, natural selection, or random mutation.  Not from the cosmos that atheists insists is all there is, was, or ever will be.  Not from convention or a social contract or the herd morality.  We get it from God.  For atheists to use that right to argue against God is for them to bite the hand that feeds.

That is a perfectly good point, but I’m giving the most charitable interpretation of Taylor I can, and his red herring about an “attack from the left” distracts from the point considerably.

On to Doocy, the Fox News man.  His first question was to Binder: “you don’t believe in God, yet you sued to put God in your ad.  Why?”  What a silly question.  He wasted an opportunity.  Rather than asking a good question, like, “if God really doesn’t exist like you believe, what is ‘good’?” or some variant, he coyly suggests that it’s strange for the atheists to talk about or make advertisements about a being they don’t believe in.

It’s not strange at all, especially given the goals that Binder mentioned.  If their goal is to suggest that you don’t need belief in God to be good, fine.  Nothing incoherent about that.  It’s ultimate soundness is another question I’ll touch upon later, but there is nothing strange about mentioning, in an ad, a being the atheists don’t believe in.

By harping so much upon how “offended” some Christians are by the campaign, Doocy and Taylor unwittingly play into the faux tolerance trick, thus hamstringing Christianity.  Key to the gospel is sin, an offensive concept if there ever was one.  If human beings aren’t guilty of sin, then the gospel becomes a mere private taste, and church a social club.   If saying someone is wrong (the atheist bus campaign suggests Christians are wrong in some of their key beliefs) makes the atheists intolerant, where does that leave Christians?

Bible friends, rather than focusing on being offended, when instances like this arise, view them as opportunities.  The atheist groups responsible for such advertisements might think they are making good PR for their cause, but they are actually giving Christians a wide open door to engage both them and others on truth.

First, read up a little on the Christian worldview.  Listen to a few podcasts on apologetics.  Take a class or two at a reputable conservative seminary in theology.  Then, when you see the advertisement out in public, enter into discussions with those around you.   Is it really true that “you can be good without God?” ***  What does good even mean in the absence of God to ground the good?

The resulting conversations will result in fruit for the Christian worldview, but not so much for the atheistic worldview.

Christians have no reason to fear these open doors for the same reason we have no reason to fear attending a debate on such topics as God’s existence or the resurrection of Christ.  The Christian worldview, when presented against others, stands tall.

You see, if Christians take that attitude rather than an attitude of offense, this bus campaign could turn out to backfire on atheists.

***you need an ID and password to access the article.  Use these: ID–pugnacious  PW–Irishman

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18 responses to “Atheist Bus Campaigns

  1. What about the many primitive cultures in the world who have never heard of Christianity or have heard it but it doesn’t make any cultural sense to them? Are you suggesting that without the Christian God none of these people can be good?

    If so, that’s a rather arrogant position to take, don’t ya think?

  2. They can be good in a human sense, as God wrote the law on their hearts (Romans 1-3). But on God’s terms none of us are truly good. That isn’t arrogance, just the truth.

  3. “But on God’s terms none of us are truly good.”

    It’s in this way that the evangelical is strikingly similar to the homeopathic practitioner.

    Convince the public they have a disease. Sell them a cure that has no good evidence of doing anything. Repeat.

  4. OK Neil,
    Let’s follow your argument all the way out. If “on God’s terms none of us are truly good,” then what difference does it make whether a person believes in your God or not or accepts Jesus as their savior?
    If none of us are truly good, then doing either of those things won’t change anything.

  5. Pingback: Roundup « 4Simpsons Blog – Eternity Matters

  6. @ Morsecode — question begging. That illustration only works if you don’t really have a disease. You do: It is called sin.

    @ RT — None of use are truly good. We will get the punishment commensurate with that. A pardon is available, namely salvation in the name of Jesus who died for your sins. Everyone will die and face God to give an account for his life. You can try to convince God what a swell person you were or you can trust in what Jesus did for you.

    So there is a big difference in whether or not you trust in Jesus: Eternal punishment in Hell for your countless sins against a perfect and holy God, or eternal life in Heaven with your Lord and Savior.

  7. “question begging. ”

    It’s actually demanding evidence. Which is slow in coming.

  8. Neal,
    If that’s what YOU want to believe, then go for it. There is no one stopping you from such beliefs. I think such beliefs are downright silly and self-defeating, but that’s just me.

    I don’t believe in God and neither do I believe in the concept of hell. In my estimation as well as looking at the historical record, all religions are human-created to help explain what humans can’t explain.

    If you turn out to right, then I will most likely burn in hell for all eternity. If I’m right, then all this means is that you will have wasted your one life focusing on something that will never come to pass.

    Of course, my bet is that we’re both wrong because, if anything happens after this life, we won’t know about it until we’re dead. Anything any live person says or thinks about it is purely speculative fantasy.

  9. Anything any live person says or thinks about it is purely speculative fantasy.

    Hi RT,

    You seem to be all over the place. To claim that it is pure speculative fantasty assumes that there could be a God but that He chose not to reveal himself at all. I think that if you carefully examine the evidence you’ll find that the physical resurrection of Jesus is the most likely explanation for many historical facts.

    I appreciate that you do concede that eternity is on the line.

    Oh, and I am not wasting my life. The more I’ve known about Jesus and lived biblically the more joy I have. And it isn’t grit-your-teeth-and-pretend joy, it is real, live joy. That isn’t my reason for why you should believe it. You should believe Christianity because it is true. But under no circumstance can anyone claim that I’m wasting my time.

    All the best,
    Neil

  10. Your first paragraph made no sense to me whatsoever.

    In the second paragraph, you wrote, “I appreciate that you do concede that eternity is on the line. ”

    I conceded no such thing. All I wrote was that IF you are right about the topic in question, eternity would come into play because that is part of YOUR belief.

    For my part, time is another human construct and means nothing beyond human society. So, “eternity” means nothing beyond this life.

    Finally, you wrote, “Oh, and I am not wasting my life.” The problem is that you don’t know that. You may believe with every fiber of your being that this is true, but it’s just a belief. You can’t prove it in the here and now.

    The ONLY way you could prove it would be AFTER you die and that’s assuming your consciousness will continue to exist once the body ceases to live. Of course, even if your consciousness does continue to exist, it can’t communicate with the people still alive, so you still can’t prove it to anyone breathing.

    Your biggest problem is that you are confusing faith with knowledge. If you know that everything you believe is true, there’s no need for faith because faith is having confidence in something you don’t know for certain. If your religious beliefs are based on faith, then you need to admit that you don’t know if your beliefs are correct or not. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  11. Your biggest problem is that you are confusing faith with knowledge.

    Not at all. I have faith based on knowledge, just like in the dictionary and the Bible.

    You are confusing the false definition of faith with the real one: “confidence or trust in a person or thing.” It is a very common error, so don’t feel bad. Sadly, un-thinking Christians often perpetuate the “blind faith” myth because they are too ignorant or too lazy to be better educated on how to defend the faith.

    My faith is grounded in knowledge of Jesus and how the evidence points to his life, death and resurrection. Just because you can’t know something to 100.00000% confidence doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold the view.

    If you think about it carefully you’ll realize that you have “faith” in all sorts of things that don’t meet that standard. You have faith that people will drive on the correct side of the road tomorrow. Otherwise, you’d be foolish to get on the road. If you are a diabetic you have faith that taking insulin will keep you alive. And so on.

    I encourage you to study the Bible and note what Biblical faith is about. Read the Book of Acts, a history of the early church, and note how in all 13 presentations of the Gospel that evidence and reason are used over and over, with zero (0) appeals to “blind faith” or faith in spite of conflicting evidence.

  12. P.S. You never demonstrated how I am wasting my life. I love my life. Even if you are right (yeah, as if nothing created everything and just evolved to me converting from atheism to Christianity) then my life was no more “wasted” than yours.

    Here’s a fact to remember whether you become a Christian or not: Sin is not fun. Oh, it seems fun for a time, but the Bible writers got “lucky” in noting how we reap what we sow. So following a biblical model and sinning less leads to a much happier life. That is, unless you don’t mind your spouse committing adultery, your neighbor stealing from you, etc.

  13. Actually, you just proved my point!! All “knowledge” is based on faith. You & I may believe the sun will rise tomorrow — we have faith that it will — but we have no way of knowing that it will. It is wholly immaterial that it has risen in the morning of every day of your or my life — this in no ways “proves” it will rise tomorrow.

    As to wasting your life, it’s not up to me to prove or disprove.

    Also, I don’t believe in the concepts of sin or evil. I neither believe in a supernatural good nor bad being. I think both are cop outs for people who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions.

  14. You proved my point. You rely on all sorts of things without 100.00000% confidence. You do it all day, every day. But you play the game that if you can’t prove God to that extreme then you won’t believe in him. He’s not buying it.

    Romans 1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    Oh, the irrational pride of atheists. You think you are better because you sort of follow your own made up code some of the time. And you claim no sin or evil, but then say we should take responsibility for our actions. But if we all came from random chemical reactions, as ridiculous and far-fetched as that is, then you have no will to take responsibility or not.

  15. Actually, let’s look at the words faith and belief.

    faith n.
    1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
    2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.
    3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one’s supporters.
    4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.
    5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
    6. A set of principles or beliefs.

    be·lief n.
    1. The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another: My belief in you is as strong as ever.
    2. Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explanation of what happened defies belief.
    3. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.

    Faith is thus based on a belief or beliefs — something that is strongly held to be true, but not necessarily known to be true. I can have a devout faith in the existence of Santa Claus, but my faith alone doesn’t mean Santa Claus is a real person.

    You can have an unequivocal faith that God exists, but that doesn’t mean he does. It also doesn’t matter that millions of people believe as you do because millions more don’t believe it.

  16. First off, I’m not an atheist. I’m a philosophical Taoist. You might want to do a little research before spouting off.

    Secondly, you wrote “He’s not buying it.” There is no He, so I’m not worried whether “He” buys it or not.

    Lastly, I rightly don’t know how life began or if it ever did. I’m not as arrogant and prideful as you are. I have no qualms whatsoever in saying that, “I don’t know”. I have no qualms in admitting that such information is far too expansive for a feeble human to understand.

    Unlike you, I live my life in the here and now. I focus on those aspects of life that we can best understand, if only a little bit. I don’t spend this precious life trying to understand things beyond the hope of the human intellect. I don’t pompously pretend to know anything about beginnings and endings or even if there are beginnings and endings.

    I suppose that’s my number one critique of Christians. By and large, you are the most self-righteous, self-important, prideful, pompous and arrogant creatures on the entire planet.

  17. I can have a devout faith in the existence of Santa Claus, but my faith alone doesn’t mean Santa Claus is a real person.

    Agreed. But people who equate the evidence for Santa with the evidence for God are kidding themselves. We have cosmological, teleological, moral, historical, archeological, and more evidence for the existence of God and the veracity of the Bible. And you’ve got . . . .?

    It also doesn’t matter that millions of people believe as you do because millions more don’t believe it.

    Agreed, but it is more productive if you address claims I make instead of straw men.

    You might want to do a little research before spouting off.

    I wasn’t spouting off and meant no offense. You claim there is no God. It is a fair inference that you would be an atheist.

    Secondly, you wrote “He’s not buying it.” There is no He, so I’m not worried whether “He” buys it or not.

    Hmmmm . . . so where is your 100.00000% evidence for the claim that there is no God?

    Unlike you, I live my life in the here and now.

    More straw.

    I don’t spend this precious life trying to understand things beyond the hope of the human intellect.

    Actually, it appears that you do. And why would it be arrogant, prideful or pompous to make truth claims about the evidence once has observed? Why would it be wrong to consider eternity? That seems like a petty ad hominem attack on your part, especially considering that you just insisted there is no God.

    I suppose that’s my number one critique of Christians. By and large, you are the most self-righteous, self-important, prideful, pompous and arrogant creatures on the entire planet

    That’s odd, because my #1 critique of atheists / Taoists is how they make so many judgmental statements about others even though they have absolutely no logical grounding to do so. If there is no God then everything is permissible. If the universe came from nothing and molecules randomly evolved to what we are today, any thing such as “morality” is just an illusion, which includes, pride, arrogance, etc.

    What is your standard to say pride is wrong?

    Do you not see that you are the self-righteous ones? Think about it: Authentic Christians are the first to concede that they aren’t righteous on their own. They are sinners in need of a Savior. They can’t get to God on their own.

    But atheists / Taoists claim they are righteous enough themselves, by whatever arbitrary standards they set up. That is the ultimate and literal “self righteousness.” That once again brings up the lack of grounding problem as well.

    Call me whatever you like, but it is a lie to say I’m self-righteous. I’m the first to say that I’m a sinner in need of a Savior every day of my life, and am eternally grateful for what Jesus did for me.

    Go check out the historical facts: Just for the record, the vast, vast majority of historical scholars, including skeptics, agree that a person named Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross, that his followers believed he rose from the dead and that a man named Paul went from persecuting the faith to spreading it, and that he wrote most of the letters attributed to him in the Bible. Based on that and other evidence, I think the best evidence is that Jesus rose from the dead and was God in flesh.

    This is getting stale and it is pearl holding / dust shaking time for me. The last word is all yours.

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