Evengelical Atheists

An atheist ad campaign hits New York. Man, I hope they don’t use the same ad agency as the Mormons, ’cause those people are good:

The United Coalition of Reason says the New York ad campaign is intended to reach out to nontheists and let them know that they are not alone. At the same time, the organisation wants to break stereotypes and let the public know that atheists are good people too.
“We want everyone to know that people can be good without religious beliefs,” said John Rafferty, a spokesperson for Big Apple Coalition of Reason, which is affiliated with the United coalition.

Wellll, maybe you can be good without religion, but you can’t be good without God, a point made later in the article and by little ol’ me in this post:

Let’s stipulate, just for the sake of argument, that the world was created by a Creator. And let’s assume that this Creator was God, just because that’s the first creator I could think of. It would be safe to assume, I think, that anything created by God would carry his fingerprints. Just like you can tell the difference between a Picasso and a Monet by the style of the painting, if God is a distinct, independent intelligence, you should be able to see His style in His creation.

Style isn’t something that you have to think about; it’s a revelation of your personality. When I write something, I don’t wonder, “What would Jason say about this?” I just write what comes to mind. When I buy clothes or furniture, I don’t have to stop and think, “What would Jason like?” I just prefer some things over others. I think that those things are “good.” But they’re not good in an absolute sense; they’re just good to me. Since other people might have different preferences, they wouldn’t necessarily say my style is good, but they would say that it is indicative of my unique personality. Or, to say the same thing in a shorthand way, they’d say it’s “very Jason.”

If I created a universe, I would create one that was “very Jason.” The things that I liked would be the things that were considered “good,” and the beings that I created in my image would rejoice in those things like I do. And it would be that way not because I thought about it, but because it was a reflection of my nature as the creator. In my universe, 1 Corinthians 13 would say, “And now these three remain: peanut M&M’s, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Star Wars. But the greatest of these is Star Wars.” Come to think of it, this universe is probably better than mine would be. But the point remains: The stuff that we see as good is the stuff God likes; the reason we see it as good is because He likes it. This universe is indicative of His preferences; it’s “very God.” It all boils down to this, my one-liner Philosophy of Goodness:

When we say “God is good,” we’re not describing what God is, we’re describing what good is–good is God.

The atheist ad says, “A million New Yorkers are good without God.” But that’s not true. To the extent that they are good (and by “good” I don’t just mean “slightly better than the shmuck next to them riding the subway with mirrors on his shoes”; I mean genuinely good), they’re good because God is working through them, whether they know it or not. That’s the only way they could be good.

Christians are going to have to deal with this and many other atheist misconceptions more and more frequently, I’m afraid.  The evangelical strain of atheism is growing aggressively.  For some tips on approaching atheists, check out the series on that subject I did with the extremely great Jen from the Conversion Diary blog.

5 thoughts on “Evengelical Atheists”

  1. Accepting your premise then (and presuming that we are talking about the Christian God), human sacrifice as a means of atonement/reconciliation is good (it is not appropriate to just forgive people without first requiring an atonement). Condemning an entire species because of a first-offense by the first two members of that species is good. Hardening the heart of the king so that you can plague him and his people is good. And sending your people on a series of holy wars, commanding genocide, and then hauling your people off into exile when they stop paying attention to you is also good.

    Somehow, I think you have it wrong. When we think of something as being “good” we do not first think “What is God like” and then draw our definitions. If we did, we’d be tribal warriors who kill our enemies, offer up animal and human sacrifices so that God will forgive us for being innately bad as a result of the curse that God placed us under and we would emulate God by cursing our own children when they break our rules.

  2. I’ll pick the same fight with you that I picked over at The Anchoress over the title of this blog:

    It’s bad enough when the mainstream press don’t know the difference between evangelical and evangelistic, but a Christian blogger of any stripe should know the difference between these words.

    Evangelical describes a Christian belief system, and therefore by definition cannot be applied to atheists.

    Evangelistic, on the other hand, describes someone whe propagates the Evangel or Gospel, and thus by extension, anyone who propagates a religion or ideology.

    Thus, what you describe could be labelled “evangelistic atheists”, but certainly not “evangelical atheists”.

  3. they’re good because God is working through them, whether they know it or not. That’s the only way they could be good.

    That’s quite a tall claim. As any good rationalist I have to ask, where is your evidence?

    E.g. If a god is zapping good thoughts into our brains, why has neuroscience utterly failed to detect this interference?

    Also, isn’t this statement incompatible with the concept of free will?
    Why does God take credit for all the good humans do and none of the bad?

    If God likes to do good deeds through those who completely reject his existence (which would at least prove she has a sense of humor) then you might want to consider that not everything we say should be rejected out of hand – the value of science and the separation of church and state are ideas that anyone can get behind. The Catholic church, for instance, was a big proponent of the separation of church and state back when it was persecuted by the protestant majority in America.

  4. JCS said:
    “Somehow, I think you have it wrong. When we think of something as being “good” we do not first think “What is God like” and then draw our definitions. If we did, we’d be tribal warriors who kill our enemies”

    I think your jumping to conclusions here, goodness itself is defined by so many societies, and ideologies who have their own view of what an ideal society is like, for JCS its a society where religionists are scoffed at, mocked and alienated even though they are just as human as he is, in believing, thinking, and experiencing. for the Marxist, its when people of a lower class than JCS taking over the world and overthrowing JCS to establish their own economy thus achieve independence , For the Hedonist, its ignoring JCS, live life to the fullest, be selfish, be selfless for the sake of more selfishness.

    It really depends on the group of individuals who plan to use what they can do with their definition and established notion of what goodness means, Atheism and humanism is no exception (e.g. the usual Stalin, Mao, Pol pot, Reign of Terror, Armenian genocide under the ultra-secular nationalistic Young turks, Reign of Terror in France, Mussolini etc.) you got so many people representing the non-theistic worldview fighting amongst themselves over what they see as their legitimate place to rule over other people groups.

    At least as far as Christianity is concerned, the NT does not explicitly approve of violence against people who do not believe in JC, but they express scorn, contempt and pity for them, it DOes not mean it immediately translates into beating them or burning them into submission, Romans do that! So you have control and regulations for Christians to follow, but for non-theism you don’t see any prescriptions of such, just descriptions of fact and phenomena and left in the hands of demented people, they can be very dangerous to abuse such a knowledge


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