When I pulled
into the parking lot this morning, I saw a car covered with
sacrilegious bumper stickers. It seemed obvious to me
that the owner was craving attention. I'm sure he was
also seeking to elicit anger from people of faith.
The anger helps the atheist to justify his atheism.
And, all too often, the atheist gets exactly what he is
In fact, just
the other day, I heard a Christian refer to
as an "attention-craving SOB". It reminded me of the time I
heard someone refer to
Annie Laurie Gaylor as a "b**ch". I
don't have the same reaction towards atheists, even when I
see them attacking my basic religious freedoms. When
I look into their eyes I see an emptiness that evokes pity.
Maybe that's because I was once one of them.
remember the night I publicly declared my atheism. It
was April 3rd, 1992. I was a long-haired musician,
playing guitar at a bar called "The Gin" in Oxford,
Mississippi. The subject of religion came up in a
conversation during one of my breaks. An Ole Miss Law
student, who had been an undergraduate with me at
Mississippi State years before, asked me whether I was
still dating my girlfriend, Sally. Then he asked why
I had broken up with my previous girlfriend two years
explained that my former girlfriend was too much of a
fundamentalist while I was an atheist, his jaw nearly hit
the ground. "Are you really an atheist?" he asked.
He assured me he didn't mean to pry and that he was merely
concerned. He didn't have to tell me that. His
reaction gave him away. It was a reaction he could
not have possibly faked.
student, whose name I have forgotten, made no effort to
convert me on the spot. But he did plead with me to
pick up a copy of
Mere Christianity. "I've heard it all
before", I said. He told me I was wrong. He
C.S. Lewis was the best apologist of the
20th century, but he didn't push the matter. The
conversation ended abruptly. I never saw him again.
Years later, I
Mere Christianity and it did have a great effect
upon me. But, recently, I was thinking about what
really drove me to read the book. How could I have
remembered the title of a book I heard only once?
After all, it was many years before at the end of a long
night of drinking in a bar in Mississippi.
The answer is
simple. The advice was given to me by someone who
sincerely considered the matter to be urgent. And
that sense of urgency was conveyed without a trace of
anger. It was just a matter of one human being
communicating his concern for another without being pushy
If a Christian
really believes the things he professes to believe, he will
go to great lengths to share it with others. He would
even crawl on his belly across a desert of broken glass if
he thought he could reach an atheist. He would
certainly do more than utter profanity and show contempt
for the atheist.
relationship with my atheist girlfriend ended on April 4th,
1992, I thought it was the end of the world. I didn't
know I had just taken my first step on the road to freedom.
I certainly didn't believe in divine intervention.
But I do now.
I don't think
about those days as often as I should. But the next
time I see Michael Newdow on TV, I will try to remember.
And when I feel some sadness, I will try to keep the faith
that there is always hope.
and hope and something, the greatest of these things is
something. As long as there are atheists among us, we
cannot forget that greatest thing. I am glad that law
student remembered. I plan to thank him when I see