These billboards will soon be towering over highways all across America. Do you become angry over signs like these? I admit I used to. “It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe – and don’t believe – is the best gift you can give this holiday season” so says David Silverman, president of American Atheists. He goes on to say “More and more Americans are leaving religion, but we still have work to do when it comes to fighting the stigma many atheists face.”
To be fair, Silverman is correct in stating “more and more Americans are leaving religion. “ (That probably includes leaving church). Not to whine too loudly, but it does seem that on our national front at least, embracing Christianity or standing for its precepts also carries a sizable stigma. Have you ever conversed with a person who was drifting from or had left their faith moorings? It makes interesting conversation.
Are people backing off from professing their Christian faith because it is a stigma and it is getting challenging for them to admit their “Christ connection?” Jesus did say following Him was not going to be a “cake walk” (though He said it more eloquently). (“Take up your cross” Luke 9:23; “Suffer for what is right” 1Ptr. 3:14; “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you” Luke 6:26; “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you” Matt. 5:11.) Yikes! Who wants in?
People basically leave “religion” because of their nominal basic theology and loose “people with faith” connections, their unmet expectations (including hurts) and a lack of mature understanding of what faith and faith promises really mean. “Flannel graph” answers we sometimes give to people who struggle with adult questions, issues, doubts and hurts don’t satisfy, they irritate and confuse. Bible platitudes which we may understand have a deeper meaning can really frustrate people who need grown up facts. In a nutshell, most drift because they haven’t been taught or comprehended well the God of the Bible and haven’t built connections with the people or churches that do.
Our ignorance and our isolation make us easy prey for the enemy to pick off. We need the power and perpetual filling of the Holy Spirit to pull off this faith walk with Jesus. Being His follower is definitely not for the faint-hearted. I’m still pondering Silverman’s assertion about what makes or doesn’t make a “good person” and that the “best gift” we can give is being open about what we believe or don’t believe. I’m still in “time out” tact therapy for being too “open.” I think tolerance towards me is insufficient at times. But what he says about being a “good person” is worth mention. The Bible doesn’t provide a checklist for what “good” means except to say that God alone is good. Sadly but accurately it says that our natural condition is not good. As people who follow the teachings of the “good” God Jesus and attempt to align their lives with His teachings, character and example, there really ought to be a little “shine” about us that reflects His “goodness.” After all, His Spirit lives in us. In truth my “religion,” my secure relationship with God, motivates me to pursue “goodness” like His and pursue kindness, compassion, integrity and good works. So there can be something to the effect of “religion” on some of us Mr. Silverman. Think About It.