My city is in an uproar this week over an advertising campaign launched by an atheist group called Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason. Splashed across the sides of city buses will be the message: “Millions of Americans are Good without God.” In its wake the advertisement has stirred up a firestorm of both positive and negative reactions from all quarters.
So what are we, as Christ-following citizens of Fort Worth, to think and do about this? Let’s start first with what we ought to think about this.
Interestingly, my systematic devotional reading this morning fell in Psalms 11-15. The Fourteenth Psalm begins with the words, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt; their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good” (Psalm 14:1). Our first mental response to a statement that millions of Americans are good without God is that it doesn’t square with Scripture. Fred Edwords, National Director of the United Coalition of Reason, says about the ad campaign, “It is designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god.” Well, the Bible states emphatically that one is foolish for thinking that there is no God.
In the backlash against the atheist ad campaign, the transportation authority which owns the buses where the ads will be posted is reconsidering their practice of permitting “religious” advertising. Interesting! After all, the core of atheistic philosophy is anti-religious. The last thing atheism wants to be called is a “religious” viewpoint. But even a secular transportation authority recognizes this is, at the core, a religious discussion. We’ve known it all along … atheism is a religion that does have a god, and that god is human reason.
I am intrigued by the name of this atheist organization … Coalition of Reason. They imply by that that anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint is not reasonable or rational. Are we dummies for believing that God exists? Absolutely not! The Christian faith is completely reasonable. In fact, the only truly reasonable explanation for human origins, existence and meaning is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A genuinely rational person must acknowledge the reasonableness of the Christian faith, even if they do not accept it.
Our thinking goes deeper. The Bible says that you cannot separate God and good. The fool says in his heart there is no God, and the verdict of Scripture is that “there is no one who does good.” So the concept of goodness comes from the Person of God. And when God is absent from a person’s life, goodness is absent.
Not that irreligious or non-believing people cannot occasionally do something good; unquestionably many atheists are moral people. But one has to ask, “How do you know what is good and what isn’t?” The very idea that there is something that is “good,” presumes that someone (Someone) has determined what is good and what isn’t. After all, how do you explain the fact that some things are universally considered good? Most every nation in the world has laws against murder, stealing and lying. Cultures throughout the world acknowledge that it is good to respect humanity, property and honesty. How does one explain this universal appreciation of good? It is the revelation of God. God has imbedded in the human conscious a basic knowledge of what is right and wrong. So truth asserts that it is impossible to separate good from God. While an atheist would not accept these words as true, our Savior Jesus taught, “No one is good—except God alone” (Luke 18:19).
The Bible and our own experience tell us that we really aren’t “good” in the real sense of the word. We have fallen short of the glory and goodness of God. Even our best efforts at doing something good are tainted by selfish sinfulness. So we are to never think that by trying our best to be good we can save ourselves. Righteousness, a similar concept to goodness, is imparted as a gift to us only through faith in Jesus Christ. So then our deeds of goodness become fruit that grow from the roots of God’s gift of righteousness.
When we as believers are confronted with an atheistic worldview either emblazoned on the side of a city bus or on the pages of a novel or on the screen of a theater, we must be prepared to think biblically about it.
Part Two of this blog to follow.