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 looking for.
In fact, just the other day, I heard a Christian refer to Michael Newdow 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.
I still 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 before.
After I 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.
That law 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 said that 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 read 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 and holier-than-thou.
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.
When my 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 Endow 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.
Between faith 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 him again.
Mike S. Adams will speak at Wabash College (Crawfordsville, IN) on January 27th at 7:15 p.m. The speech, to be held in Hays Hall, will be open to the public.