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Atheists 'Evangelizing' in America; How Christians Can Respond

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By Nathan Black, Christian Post Reporter
October 9, 2007|5:23 pm

Atheism seems to be proliferating in literature, the media, and the Internet as more atheists challenge the dominance of religion and spread their worldview, urging other nonbelievers to "come out of the closet."

Just recently, one of the nation's largest associations of atheists and agnostics launched their first ever national radio broadcast over the weekend greeting listeners with a weekly program that presents "the secular point of view."

"Hello all you godless infidels, out-of-the-closet atheists and happy heathens!" says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., on a one-hour weekly radio show that began broadcasting over Air America Radio on Saturday. The Freethought Radio program invited outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of the bestselling book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, as its first guest on the air.

"You can turn on the radio or TV 24/7 to be preached at. This is one hour a week of the public airwaves that offers an alternative," says Laurie Gaylor, who describes the program as "an antidote to the domination of public airwaves by the religious right."

Atheists are still a minority in the country with only 9 percent of the American population describing themselves as having no faith which includes atheists and agnostics. And only around 2 percent staunchly reject the existence of God and call themselves "atheist," according to The Barna Group.

But with atheists finding themselves more comfortable with openly expressing their views, Christians are being asked to think about how they're representing Jesus as they live and share their faith.

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"Believers should continually be asking themselves questions such as: Am I loving and caring toward nonbelievers? Am I living out the relationship I say I have with Christ? Are there any discrepancies between what I say I believe and how I live my life?" says Earl Creps, who is working with the Northern California-Nevada District of the Assemblies of God to plant a church in Berkeley, Calif., according to "Today's Pentecostal Evangel."

Furthermore, S. Michael Craven, president of the Center for Christ & Culture, wonders if it is the actions of Christians that are causing nonbelievers and seekers to doubt the existence of God. The Center for Christ & Culture is a ministry of discipleship and Church renewal that works to equip Christians with a Christian and missional approach to culture.

"Has Christianity become so politically defined that true faith and the person of Jesus Christ is obscured in the minds of many?" he asks in his latest weekly commentary. "Is it possible that Christians are conducting themselves in such a way that the spiritually seeking are looking anywhere but to Christ?"

At a time when more Americans view Christianity as judgmental and hypocritical, Christians are being cautioned to live lives that do not contradict the message of Christ.

"In our culture, which is one that is hugely exposed to Christian images and verbiage, the credibility of the messenger is paramount," says Randy Hurst, commissioner on evangelism for the Assemblies of God.

Leading British atheist Richard Dawkins, author of the bestselling The God Delusion, is currently spearheading a campaign around the world, including the United States, to challenge the dominance of religion in everyday life and in politics and to get more atheists to speak out.

Dawkins believes atheists in the United States account for about 10 percent of the population, but that many are closeted.

"As with a lot of social groups, atheists have become defensive and have started to 'evangelize,'" says Creps of the Assemblies of God.

"Christians need to be well informed about atheism and able to give a defense of their faith," he notes. "But Christians shouldn't treat atheists as a special class of people. Like all humans, atheists need a radical solution – which is Jesus – to a radical problem – which is sin."

And when the Church serves like Jesus, it can make a tremendous impact, says Randy Rich, operations director for Convoy of Hope, a Christian relief agency, according to Today's Pentecostal Evangel.

"For many people – including atheists – such outreach may be the first real demonstration of Christ's love they've ever seen," says Rich. "When an individual feels loved, respected and cared for, that greatly opens up his or her heart and mind to Christ."

 

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