Learning from atheists
Who would have imagined we would see atheists outing fellow atheists for the supposed good of the country? Well, that is the thinking behind the new Richard Dawkins “OUT Campaign.” Dawkins, one of the foremost atheists of our day and author of the best-selling book The God Delusion, recently published a provocative piece on his website. InThe Out Campaign, he challenges atheists everywhere to throw off passivity and move into assertive mode.
Dawkins is convinced that the religiosity of America is greatly exaggerated and that great numbers of unbelieving skeptics are out there who must be found and then empowered to speak their unbelief. He believes that the unbelieving “choir is large, but much of it remains in the closet.” He is convinced that atheists “are mouthing the words sotto voce, with head bowed and eyes lowered.”
The campaign encourages coming out by publicly confessing unbelief; reaching out to others who are contemplating such action; speaking out by organizing conferences, writing letters, lobbying politicians etc.; standing out by organizing or joining atheist associations, deploying bumper stickers on cars and even wearing T-shirts with an atheistic message. The crusade pushes breaking out where one might celebrate the “coming out” of many and honour their courage in breaking habits of a lifetime, breaking with tradition and breaking with religious conformity.
Richard Dawkins is nobody’s fool. He knows that social movements (including religions) from time immemorial have become hugely successful by employing precisely the types of strategies he is suggesting. He is surely aware that in the late 1790s, infidel clubs abounded in cities across America, to such an extent that some thought the national existence was in danger. To be sure, he doesn’t like the idea that the community he seeks to build will be described as a quasi-religious movement, but he is willing to take the flak for the sake of having an impact on society.
I doubt that in the short term, there is anything to fear from organized atheism. But there is certainly something here for Christians to learn. Dawkins, in brief, wants to out atheists from their closets, have them live open, confessionally unbelieving lives and get them actively pushing their values on the culture at large. We’ve already seen homosexuals come out of the closet and prompt a sea change in Canadian society through their demands for same-sex “marriage,” etc. Occultic beliefs exploded out of the closet in the hippie movement of the 70s and, in the 90s, the whole New Age panoply of falsehoods erupted from its hiding place and won over a goodly portion of our culture. Wiccans are no longer closeted; indeed, it has become chic for some women to openly proclaim that they are witches.
It’s ironic, is it not, that now the only people left in secretive closets are Christians? Ironic, because unbelievers like Dawkins are now openly aping what Christians have always been called to do. Jesus described his followers as “the light of the world” and compared them to a city set on a hill that could not be hidden. He gave the clear mandate, “Let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Jesus never intended that his followers would be secreted, secluded and silent.
I would just love to see this wake-up call for atheists become, instead, a wake-up call for Christians. But, should believers ever stoop to learn from the infidels? Well, in this case, the atheists have simply stolen biblical truth and applied it to their own purposes. Those in disbelief have become wiser than the children of light. But it’s long past time for children of light to heed the simple call of Jesus.
I call for believers in Jesus Christ to unashamedly out themselves before friends, neighbours and, yes even enemies. I call for Christians to pro-actively stand out by taking open stands on issues like abortion and homosexuality. I call for Christians to speak out by voicing their outrage with immoral sexual teaching infiltrating the curriculum in our public schools.
Yes, it’s time we learned. Who would have thought that outed, committed infidels would be the teachers?