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An Atheist Speaks

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The American Atheists organization says President Bush should stop urging prayer for Hurricane Katrina victims because it violates the Constitution. Ellen Johnson, president of the group, said Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Bush “should not be violating the Constitution by telling people to pray for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It’s unconstitutional for government officials to be promoting religion; and besides, judging from the speed of some relief efforts, officials should be busy working instead of preaching.” Of course, this is nonsense. National days of prayer and thanksgiving have been a part of our nation’s history before its founding, during its founding, and since its founding. They have never been declared to be unconstitutional. President Bush declared a national day of prayer and remembrance for September 16, 2005.

 In urging her fellow atheists to support disaster relief efforts, Johnson said: “Contrary to some, charity and mutual aid are not the monopoly of religious organizations.” This is true, but I haven’t seen an atheist organization in the forefront of relief efforts. If you go to the American Atheists website, you will notice that the American National Red Cross is one of the charitable agencies recommended by Johnson and her group. The site adds the following about the organization: “Founded by Deist-Unitarian Clara Barton.” For the uninformed, deists and Unitarians are not atheists. The International Red Cross was founded by Jean Henri Dunant (1828–1910), “the son of a wealthy Geneva banking family”[1] and the first Nobel Prize Winner, while “at times critical of the organized church, he did not allow his criticisms to mitigate his desire to heed Christ’s words in the regard to caring for the sick and ailing. . . . What seemed to matter most to him was his faith in Jesus Christ. This is apparent in the words he spoke on his deathbed: ‘I am a disciple of Christ as in the first century, and nothing more.’”[2] I’m surprised that an atheist like Johnson would support an organization that uses a cross as its logo. Now let’s see how well the Christian community is doing in relief efforts to help victims of Hurricane Katrina[3]:

  • Local churches across the nation quietly are emerging as heroes of hurricane relief as the needs of an estimated 3 million people left hungry, homeless and jobless by Hurricane Katrina strain government resources as never before.
  • Evangelist Franklin Graham, who heads the evangelical relief agency Samaritan's Purse, is calling on church leaders to adopt 10 refugee families and offer not only shelter but complete assistance, including job opportunities and help in relocation.
  • In Hendersonville, Tenn., a family of 16, who just arrived from New Orleans, showed gratitude to St. John Baptist Church, one of many in the city collecting clothing, diapers and shoes for the evacuees as they feed them and provide shelter. “They're very heartwarming, loving people, always stretching out their arms. They have done so much for me and my family,” said hurricane victim Griselda Wilson.
  • In Houston, the largest center of refugee activity outside the disaster area, Second Baptist Church is spearheading a city-wide faith-based effort that includes matching families with the overflow that cannot be housed in local facilities such as the Astrodome.
  • The North American Mission Board's fund for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief says 100 percent of donations are used to aid hurricane victims in the largest effort in the agency's history.
  • In Keller, Texas, near Fort Worth, area churches mobilized volunteers last weekend with just hours notice to come to First Baptist Church and assist 200 refugees arriving from the Gulf Coast.

This is the Christian religion in action. Where’s the atheist religion in action? Why should atheists even bother? There was no tragedy attached to Katrina given the operating assumptions of atheism. “All we are is dust in the wind,” the atheist believes and teaches. Meat and bones ceased to function as the flood waters squeezed the air out of the lungs of mammals that had not evolved the ability to breathe under water. Then there’s the damage to property. Possessions, as John Lennon told us in his ode to atheism, are a hindrance. Why does any of this matter to those who hold a materialistic worldview that can’t account for purpose, design, love, compassion, or morality?

Atheists have borrowed the moral worldview of Christianity and claim that it can be sustained by the underlying assumptions of a godless existence. If there was no Christianity, atheists could not sustain themselves.

Endnotes:

[1] Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 165. This book has been republished as How Christianity Changed the World (2004).
[2] Schmidt, Under the Influence, 165–166.
[3] The bulleted material can be found at Art Moore, “Churches rise to answer South’s call,” WorldNetDaily (September 7, 2005): www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=4618

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