Photo: Reuters/Colin Braley)
For an atheist, Jeffrey Timmons seems to talk about God more than some of the Christians at his office in downtown Mobile, Ala. Timmons, a businessman, is not shy about announcing he does not believe in God when talking with co-workers.
It may be an unusual venue for theological debate, but during breaks at work, Timmons frequently steers the conversation toward God, Jesus Christ, politics, religion and church while sitting around talking over coffee and doughnuts.
“I like to talk about the difference between an agnostic, which is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves there is a God, and an atheist who believes there is no God,” Timmons told The Christian Post.
“I am kind of a religious historian for the streets even though I stopped believing in God. I want people to know the difference about skeptics."
Timmons says there was a time when he believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.
“I just don’t think I am weak, and politically speaking, people usually use God when they hit rock bottom," he said.
Atheists have become more vocal and visible in recent years as men and women eagerly proclaim their belief that God does not exist. The Internet has helped unite nonbelievers as groups continue to sell angry, in-your-face atheist manifestos.
While religious leaders discuss signs of the times in biblical terms, atheism in America seems to be getting louder, with public campaigns, rallies, billboards, TV appearances and aerial banners, all aimed at gaining attention and drowning out the Christian message. Atheist summer camps now even exist for children.
However, although the stigma associated with nonbelievers is disappearing, recent Harris polls show that most Americans say they would not vote for an atheist for president.
Retired Reverend Howard Stevenson, now residing in New Orleans, La., told The Christian Post those who do not believe in God are getting publicity because our nation was built on the belief in God, making the atheistic message more about "shock value."
"If atheists today are using fresh material to garner support and draw in more Americans, why are Christians today not battling this issue and defending the faith with the Bible, louder voices and rallies along with publicized personal testimony?" he said.
Stevenson says there are many fellow brothers in Christ that would agree that this strange spell of atheism in the publishing world will continue to cash in on the anti-God message if Christians do not step up and defend their beliefs.
"The proof is in the biblical pudding. Christians today need not analyze atheism with politics, surveys, cynical behavior and long dissertations. Live for Christ and allow him to work through you by creating a culture of belief in America that is strong. Our godly character is our weapon, the Bible is our shield and our testimony is the battle field of faith."
Robert D. Putnam, a professor of policy at Harvard University, said Timmons is like many Americans today who are increasingly opting out of religion.
Putnam, who has authored many studies on the topic of atheism and religion, says in one study that Americans are changing religions or belief systems that more closely fit their politics.
Mainstream media is also chiming in, publishing op-ed pieces about the rise of atheism in America. Greg Paul wrote in the Washington Post this week that despite its flaws, democratic atheism is "proving superior to faith-based mythical doctrines in practical societal and moral terms."
Moreover, nine out of 10 Americans believe that there is no God and one fifth of the American population is more or less atheistic, according to the most recent Harris poll.
Another survey on atheism in America, conducted by the Pew Forum of Religious and Public Life, showed major changes in the religious make up of America.
More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion, or no religion at all, the Pew Landscape Survey released this week found.
However, as discussions of widespread turmoil, increasingly turbulent weather events and wars increase, so do the number of Americans who say they believe Christ’s reappearance is close at hand. A poll conducted last year by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 41 percent of Americans expected Jesus would return before 2040.
Christians have stepped up to defend the faith in high-profile ways. As the non-believing community began to widen its reach in America in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI strongly criticized modern-day atheism in a major document in hopes of drawing attention to its evils.
"A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope," he wrote in the letter. In his second encyclical, Benedict also critically questioned modern Christianity, saying its focus on individual salvation had ignored Jesus' message that true Christian hope involves salvation for all.
The document, titled "Saved by Hope," is referred to by most Christians today as a theological exploration of Christian hope: that in the suffering and misery of daily life, Christianity provides the faithful with a "journey of hope" to the Kingdom of God.
Christian apologist Josh McDowell defends the Christian faith in his lectures and through his books such as Evidence That Demands a Verdict, The Resurrection Factor, and He Walked Among Us. He has arranged Christian arguments against skeptics, atheists and agnostics by laying out proof that God is alive on this earth, Jesus is the Son of God and the Bible is the true word of God.
He fires back at nonbelievers by using archaeological discoveries, the extant manuscripts of biblical texts, fulfilled prophecies and the miracle of the resurrection.
And Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, often comments on the issue of atheism in America.
Mohler agrees with most religious leaders that “America is engaged in a great battle for ideas that Christians understand to be a battle for hearts, minds and souls.”
But perhaps one of the best ways Christians can equip themselves to be a witness for Christ in America today is through the words of the Bible, faith in God's promises and encouraging words spoken by Christian leaders.
American evangelist Dr. Billy Graham defended the Christian faith by saying he believes people today often misunderstand atheism, thus finding it appealing.
“Many atheists, I find, reject God for one reason: They want to run their own lives,” Graham said in a popular sermon on atheism. “Atheism says we are here by chance, and life has no meaning or destiny. Taken to its conclusion, atheism ends in despair.”