Engaging Increasingly Vocal Atheists

We’ve all driven down the road and glanced at adopt-a-highway signs. Seeing churches or church groups mentioned on such signs is common. Reaching out to meet community needs is a well-established form of Christian service.

Yet in South Carolina, a state where a court battle looms over an “I Believe” license plate with a cross on it, churches are sharing those signs and an increasing space in the public arena with atheists.

A piece in The New York Times illustrates how even in one of the most socially conservative states atheists are gaining greater social and political footholds. When advertising their beliefs on a Charleston-area billboard stating, “Don’t Believe in God? You Are Not Alone,” the group reported getting more encouraging phone calls and e-mails as opposed to the flurry of hateful messages they feared.

Atheists in the article further say they felt empowered by the environmental and gay rights movements by their organization and vocalization to become a larger part of the national debate. It’s a debate that may become more relevant in nearby Florida, too, where legislators are contemplating license plates similar to South Carolina’s, including one which would have Jesus’ image.

A serious question to consider is whether Christians on the whole should view this as a threat or a call to articulate beliefs to an undeniably more diverse audience than even 10 or 15 years ago. Particularly with the ever-expanding menu of options for service and worship, it’s a question that needs to be answered first and foremost in the mind and in the heart before moving forward.


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