The American Atheists are at it again. This time, they've purchased a billboard in Times Square in New York proclaiming "Keep the Merry, Drop the Myth." (I guess someone forgot to tell them there isn't a war on Christmas anymore.) ((Tongue now removed from cheek.))
Am I offended by this display?
No. Not hardly. Not only do the American Atheists have every right to put these thoughts out there, and not only do the American Atheists have every right to seek converts to their way of thinking, but I think we as Christians ought to welcome their challenge.
For too long, American Christianity has had it easy. We were the dominant religious group by far--and we still are. Everything in the culture revolved around our calendar, and for the most part, it still does. Schools still have Christmas break, and many have Easter break; although the Christian influence is certainly waning. Some schools have gone away from having a couple of days off at Easter. Many sporting groups are unhesitating about scheduling events on Sunday mornings. Such things would not have happened 40 years ago, but they do now.
And what has been the Christian response?
Sometimes anger, but it is an anger rooted in an "I'm offended that you do this, but I'm still going to brink my kids to play sports instead of taking them to church." The folks who schedule the games win.
Other times, it's an anger of, "Those people shouldn't schedule events on Sunday morning." Why? "Because people go to church." And if people choose to take their kids to sports instead of church? "Those parents ought to be tarred and feathered." But it is their choice, isn't it? They are free to do it? "But it isn't right?" Then perhaps you should go talk to those parents who are taking their kids to the ballgames and let them know. "I'm not going to do that. You go do it. I've got other things to do."
This is called shirking responsibility and trying to pawn it off on someone else.
Other Christians have almost gleefully embraced the move away from what is called Christendom with a kind of now-we-can-get-away-from-the-cultural-trappings-and-return-to-first-century-Christianity attitude. Yet, such embrasure has led to church attendance decline, decline of revenues, and a further irrelevance of the faith to today's culture.
Others have intellectually embraced relativism and universalism essentially saying, "It really doesn't matter what you believe. Just try to be a good person." (This is actually the utmost in laziness in my estimation.)
A very few, have taken the challenges of atheism and science seriously. A very few have taken the intellectual step to engage atheists and others who seek to convert Christians to the atheistic world view. They have chosen to look at the athiests' arguments, wrestle with them, dissect them, find their weaknesses, see how Christian arguments stack up against atheist arguments, and then put all the stuff on the table to let people decide. I've enjoyed reading the works of these Christians.
One of the first things each of these Christian authors will articulate is the need for Christians to embrace doubt--to realize that our faith cannot be proved by reason or science. And the dirty little secret is the very basis of atheistic arguments are based in faith--unprovable assumptions as well. Sometimes this is a very discomforting thought both to atheists and Christians, but it is the truth, none-the-less. And it is from this point that atheists and Christians can both come to the table, engage one another, and take a serious look at the questions we both face and see who might answer the deep questions of life better.
If we can actually reach this level of conversation, I am quite confident in Christianity's ability to not only defend itself, but bring people to faith. It's got a 2000 year track record of being pretty successful at it and helping people find meaning, purpose, and sustenance.
Christians are called to make disciples.
Atheists are trying to do likewise.
Let's put the chips on the table without shame, offense, or anger. Let's put our world views out there for all to see, and let's see who ultimately can bring hope to the world.