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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Evangelizing for Atheism | 12-02-2013
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The Real Side | Commentary by Joe Messina
| Monday, Dec 2, 2013

joemessinamugWe are coming into the “holiday” season. Now I say “holiday” simply to include them all: Hanukkah, Christmas, Festivus, Kwanzaa, winter solstice, etc.

The season of festivities at this time of year would not exist if it weren’t for some religious belief system. Most religions “evangelize” because they want others to know what they believe and why. You tell people about great movies, great restaurants, diets that help you, foods and fads that give you more energy. We light up Twitter and Facebook with all of these things.

Let’s look at the word, “evangelize.” Webster says: “to try to convert (a group or area) to a different religion (especially Christianity) – often used figuratively.” For example, “They were evangelizing about the importance of saving energy” or the dolphins or any other issue near and dear to their hearts.

This year, atheists have launched a concerted campaign, setting up booths at craft fairs and in parks sharing their non-holiday message. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) – whom I lovingly refer to as the Freedom From Religion Freaks – in its fight against religion, is selling a variety of greeting cards for “winter solstice.”

It’s ironic that the FFRF, an organization which is so dead-set against the concept of a God, would be promoting a holiday that is linked with so many gods. Throughout history, cultures around the world have worshiped sun gods and goddesses at the time of solstice. How does a nontheistic group reconcile itself to honoring sun gods with greeting cards that say, “Yes, Virginia! There is no God”? Confused? I think so.

There are now atheist “churches” and meeting houses popping up where they sing songs, hear a “talk” and have some quiet reflection before going home. Sound familiar?

Atheists are also putting up holiday displays alongside religious ones. And in central New Jersey, they are putting up a series of billboards in response to the recent disaster in the Philippines with signs like, “Disaster victims need real help (not prayer)” and “Disaster victims need real help (not bibles).”

There is even an active group of atheists in San Diego who work Balboa Park on weekends with signs that say, “Relax. Hell does not exist, or Heaven either. Enjoy your life,” and saying anything they can to “de-convert” is worth it.

Hello? This sounds like “The Nothing Gospel” to me.

It would appear atheists are out in force, pushing their message of non-belief, putting up billboards, having “meetings,” handing out flyers at public events, putting up religious (or non-religious?) holiday displays.

By definition, atheists are on an evangelical campaign to convert believers to non-believers. Isn’t America wonderful with that whole freedom-of-speech thing? Too bad there wasn’t a “freedom from lies” in the Constitution. I guess when the only truth you base your whole existence on is science, people and Wikipedia, it becomes a fluid and subjective truth.

These people are disingenuous. It’s not that they want equality and freedom to practice their own brand of religion. They want us to abandon our religion and have the same “nothing” they have. They want us to feel ridiculous for believing in an afterlife simply because they don’t believe in it.

The fact that they can’t wrap their minds around a supreme being who made everything must mean it can’t exist. Talk about being full of yourself. And they actively work against “believers,” telling us it’s for our own good.

The fact that they think we can’t have fun because we believe in Heaven and hell shows a level of ignorance that’s staggering.

If you want to sell your wares, be honest about it. If you really have the truth, that there is nothing, then “preach” it. If it’s true, it will stand on its own. If not … well then, make sure you have air conditioning.

 

Joe Messina is host of The Real Side (TheRealSide.com), a nationally syndicated talk show that runs on AM-1220 KHTS radio and SCVTV [here]. He is also the current president of the Hart School Board. His commentary publishes Mondays.

 

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27 Comments

  1. Brian Westley says:

    You don’t understand atheism at all. Atheists have no “problem” wrapping their minds around a supreme being, we just have no reason to think such an entity exists.

    And even without religion, winter solstice is an astronomical event that many cultures celebrate, because that’s when days stop getting shorter and start getting longer again.

  2. Randy says:

    “Freedom from lies?” Which lies are those? To call someone out as a liar without citing their lies and the evidence that demonstrates the claims to be lies is, at best, disingenuous. Is it the claim that atheism is not a religion? If so, you failed at demonstrating that to be a lie. Gathering as a social group to be a community to enjoy camaraderie, communal music, and a thought-provoking talk is not religion, but it has been a part of the human experience for millennia, and some people miss that but not the magic, superstition, and mythology that religions are built upon. Is it the evangelism? No, because you showed that saving dolphins can also be evangelized, and you certainly wouldn’t call that a religion. Is it the displays? Given the tiny proportion of total media devoted to atheism versus that devoted to religion, and the sensibility of the messages carried therein versus the wishful thinking and nonsense of the latter, hardly. But, it WAS nice that you managed to close things up with Pascal’s wager, because we all know that the Christian God is the only possible deity that could exist. What if YOU’RE wrong, and it’s Odin whose wrath you’ve incurred? No battle of Ragnarok for you! What if it’s Osiris, weighing your heart against a feather, or Zeus deciding if you’re headed to Hades or the Elysium Fields? Did you ever stop to think that you could be wrong? Why would you think a threat of punishment from a magical being we don’t believe in would be any more compelling to us than the threat of Hades would be to you who doesn’t believe in Zeus? Did you ever wonder if the arguments you present actually make sense, or do you simply rely on the echo chamber of the like-minded people in your religious community for confirmation of their soundness? Critical thinking skills and rational skepticism are the first steps to atheism. Avoid them at all costs if you want to keep your religious faith intact.

    • Sonya Newlyn says:

      Randy, very well stated. Thank you!

    • Amen to that Randy. Very nicely put. SCV.com should get rid of Joe’s irrational rantings and give you his column.

      Joe, if you read this: you seemed like a pleasant man when I saw you at the Inter-faith discussion, the American Legion breakfast and the senior center TG dinner. But your rants are pure demogoguery. (And you’ll probably zero in on the fact I may have misspelled demogoguery; I’m not even checking the dictionary just to give you some ammunition for another column degrading us atheists.)

  3. Marilyn Boron says:

    I believe in God Almighty with all my heart and soul. If I’m wrong, there will be no consequence, and I will just be “no more”. What will atheists
    face when they find themselves wrong? God is
    merciful. He is also just.

    • Randy says:

      Read the last half of my prior post, then apologize for making the same terrible kindergarten theology argument.

    • Sonya Newlyn says:

      Marilyn, read Randy’s response above to understand the logical fallacy of Pascal’s wager.

    • Bodhi says:

      That’s wrong. If you’re wrong and some other religion is right, you’ll probably be going to some hell you didn’t even know exists (because you only know your own religion, if that, and not the thousands of other religions). Talk about a statement of ignorance. =)

    • fred powell says:

      Do you think God will punish me because he did not make himself evident to me. Which God are we talking about. Zeus, Thor, Hercules? You religious types can,t make up your minds who to pray to.

    • you are an atheist! godchecker.com list 2,500 gods-no-more. We just disbelieve in one more god than you.

    • Pluto Animus says:

      According to your precious Christian bible, the god you worship has repeatedly murdered children.

      Murdering children is neither merciful nor just.

      Atheists are morally enlightened enough to understand this.

      Too bad Christians are so morally retarded.

  4. Rob says:

    Are you telling me that one has to worship a pagan god to recognize the occurrence of shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere?

  5. Erin says:

    Considering I just had a knock at my door ‘evangelizing’ a Christian religion, I can’t imagine why on earth Joe would have an issue with atheists doing the same.

    Once again the white Christian male has to mansplain his way of life to the rest of us who can’t possibly find community in gathering with others WITHOUT a supreme being. Who can’t possibly find morals without the help of supreme being. Who can’t possibly wrap our heads around an astronomical event (not a religious event) during the winter months of which we can celebrate.

    It pains me this man is responsible for overseeing the education of the children of this valley. He wishes everyone to be like him and his kind and can’t seem to tolerate the rest of us. He’ll shake your hand and smile and say he will consider everyone in his decisions but his business and his seat are bought and paid for by the other white male christians in town.

    Thank goodness the demo is changing in town.

  6. “By definition, atheists are on an evangelical campaign to convert believers to non-believers.”

    Joe, you’re misleading your readers again (what’s new?). Unlike religious proslytizers, we atheists are not trying to convert anybody. You are welcome to worship any superstitions you choose (but please keep it out of the public arenas). We are trying to get the message out to other non-believers who live and work among religious fanatics like you that it is all right not to believe in the god superstition. We encourage them to join our ranks – in the millions worldwide if not billions – so as to escape the intimidation from religionists with which they are constantly bombarded. You should pay closer attention when the Inter-faith Council invites an atheist to be on the panel.

  7. Kevin Colquitt says:

    What a load of hypocritical bigotry. Mr.Messina, you’re just another among many Christians who can’t stand it that atheists are speaking out and doing what y’all do constantly.

  8. MG says:

    The booth in San Diego is “Ask an Atheist.” It’s not evangelizing. Evangelizers are the ones down the steet singing and drumming and handing out literature. Evangelizers are the SHOUTERS who drown out normal conversation across the street. The San Diego booth’s quiet presence is to let people know that they are not alone if they are not believers. Atheists, humanists and rationalists need each other in order to protect our right to freedom from religious interference in government and public schools. And don’t knock us for seeking some of the same perks that religious people have: gathering, socializing, celebrating, doing good works, educating. Those things aren’t “church”; they’re the goals and results of normal human interaction.

    • H Keck says:

      —This man who wrote the article is wrong.
      All babies are born atheists. Their parents indoctrinate their innocent children in the religion of their locality. People have claimed over the years that there have been thousands, maybe millions of gods. Which gods are real, and which ones are not? Or are none of them real?
      Atheism is simple: In the history of the world not once has anyone brought forth any evidence whatsoever that any type of god or gods exist. Simple.

  9. H Keck says:

    —This man who wrote the article is wrong.
    All babies are born atheists. Their parents indoctrinate their innocent children in the religion of their locality. People have claimed over the years that there have been thousands, maybe millions of gods. Which gods are real, and which ones are not? Or are none of them real?
    Atheism is simple: In the history of the world not once has anyone brought forth any evidence whatsoever that any type of god or gods exist. Simple.

  10. Bridget says:

    This is a hateful article. FFRF is celebrating the winter solstice and they encourage others to join them, why is that so threatening? It’s no coincidence that Christmas was set for December 25, the exact same time as winter solstice was being celebrated by the Romans.

  11. Gerald Moore says:

    It seems Mr. Messina is on the verge of understanding the grips that non-believers have. I’ll use his words and insert the atheist position.

    The season for festivities at this time of year would not exist if it weren’t for the winter solstice. Most atheists “evangelize” because they want others to realize what they realize and why. This year, Christians have launched a concerted campaign, setting up booths at craft fairs and in parks sharing their holiday message. Christians – whom I lovingly refer to as Religious Freaks – in their fight to impose religion, are selling a variety of greeting cards for “Christmas.” It’s ironic that Christians, so dead-set on the concept of a human God, would be promoting a holiday that is linked to Pagan solstice celebrations.
    Throughout history, cultures around the world have worshiped sun gods and goddesses at the time of solstice. How does a monotheistic group reconcile itself stealing solstice celibrations with greeting cards that say, “Yes, Virginia! Christ was born on the solstice”? Confused? I think so.
    There are now Christian “churches” and meeting houses popping up where they sing songs, hear a “talk” and have some quiet reflection before going home. Sound familiar? Christians are also putting up holiday displays everywhere, even on government property where it should remain neutral on the subject! And in central New Jersey, people are claiming, “Disaster victims don’t need real help, just prayer and Bibles! Sound crazy? I think so.
    There are even hateful Christian activists who put up billboards saying such things as “Why do Atheists hate America,” “Anti-God is Anti- American, Anti-American is Treason, Traitors lead to Civil War,” and threats like “It’s your choice… Heaven or Hell,” and saying that anything they can to “convert” is worth it.
    By their own admission, Christians are on an evangelical campaign to conver non-believers to believers. Isn’t America wonderful with that whole freedom-of-speech thing? Too bad there wasn’t a “freedom from lies” in the Constitution. I guess when the only “truth” you base your whole existence on is a book assembled thousands of years ago from unknown sources which contains so many abserdities, it becomes a fluid and subjective “Truth,” or simply a book of multiple choice to pick and choose things that match our societies morals.
    These people are disingenuous. It’s not that they want equality and freedom to practice their own brand of religion. They want us to abandon logic and have the same “belief” they have. They want us to feel ridiculous for rejecting logic and rejecting the claim of an afterlife simply because they believe in it.
    The fact that they can’t wrap their minds around science and logic doesn’t prove something exists in the absence of evidence. Talk about being full of yourself. And they actively work against “atheists,” telling us it’s for our own good.
    The fact that they think we can’t be fulfilled and have purpose because we don’t believe in Heaven and hell shows a level of ignorance that’s staggering.
    If you want to sell your wares, be honest about it. If you really have the truth, that there is a god, then “prove it.” If it’s true, it will stand on its own. If not … well then, don’t expect people to accept it.

  12. Philip says:

    Hear what Gretta Vosper, Progressive and Atheist Christian Minister and Author, has to say about if belief in a religion makes one happier than being atheist: http://www.vidoyen.com/questions/does-belief-in-one-of-the-established-religions-make-one-happier-than-being-atheist/answers/gretta-vosper

    • It depresses me to see religious people as lackeys , who “BELIEVE!, BELIEVE!” … but don’t question, question. To me, it’s is such a waste … waste … of resources and energy.

  13. I am an atheist who has two goals b4 I get dead(I am a 71 yr old senior): First, isolate religionists – religion is just one of a bunch of subsets of the BIG SET of the supernatural (others are scams like astrology, reading head bumps or palms, alleged telepathic talks with the dead, etc etc.). Second, once isolated, EXTERMINATE! yup. Get rid of the stoopidity that gets $71,000,000,000 in gov’t hand outs (local, state, federal) EACH YR!!! And, this figure is a very very very conservative estimate (see Prof. Cragun at the University of Tampa’s research. I suggest “believers” do just what many of us realists have done – READ THE BIBLE (OR OTHER “HOLY” BOOKS). If you do, they are the GREATEST dose of reality one can discover.

  14. Bryan Davis says:

    I would like to comment on the last four paragraphs directly.

    “These people are disingenuous. It’s not that they want equality and freedom to practice their own brand of religion. They want us to abandon our religion and have the same “nothing” they have. They want us to feel ridiculous for believing in an afterlife simply because they don’t believe in it.”
    – Do I, personally, want people to abandon their religions? Yes. I would prefer to have more rational, reasonable, logical people in this world instead of people who believe in angels. But not by a long shot do I consider abandoning religion equating to having nothing. Abandoning beliefs in things we do not have sufficient evidence for, in exchange for those things that we do have evidence for is just a shift toward a firm focus on reality. Sometimes reality isn’t comforting, and that’s okay. I prefer to put my energy into the tangible rather than the intangible. Do I want the religious to feel ridiculous for believing in an afterlife? No, I don’t want anyone to take a hit to their self esteem. Nor do I want to continue to be threatened with your religion’s hell (as you have alluded to in the last sentence of this article) because I don’t believe in it. It seems to me a Christian version of “If you don’t want to play ball the way I say, then I will take my ball and go home. Plus, I’m totally telling on you!” And the threat remains as empty as a super model’s stomach. Threatening me with hell is like threatening a Christian with spending eternity with Bigfoot.

    “The fact that they can’t wrap their minds around a supreme being who made everything must mean it can’t exist. Talk about being full of yourself. And they actively work against “believers,” telling us it’s for our own good.”
    – It’s not that we atheists can’t wrap our minds around a supreme being creating everything. It’s that the evidence does not support supernatural causes. It points to natural, reliable, predictable causes. I actively work to bring awareness to the evidence. If the evidence works against your beliefs, you may want to reconsider your beliefs.

    “The fact that they think we can’t have fun because we believe in Heaven and hell shows a level of ignorance that’s staggering.”
    – I think you can have a ton of fun! I encourage you to have as much fun as you can pack into your day/week/year/life! Go for it, have a gay old time! ;-)

    “If you want to sell your wares, be honest about it. If you really have the truth, that there is nothing, then “preach” it. If it’s true, it will stand on its own. If not … well then, make sure you have air conditioning.”
    – The sciences do have the truths. The truths are reliable and repeatable, and they not only stand on their own, but upon the shoulders of millions of other scientists and researchers, et al that have duplicated the answers. That’s one of the great things about peer review. You don’t have to try to convince someone else about the great truth you have discovered via experimentation. You hand over the experiment to another person and just say, “see for yourself.”

    In closing I would say that atheists have the same capacity to be disingenuous as the next person, but in my own personal experience I have seen less of it in other atheists than I have in the devoutly religious.

  15. Pluto Animus says:

    Typical Christian, Republican stupidity.

    I’m sure his magical, baby-slaughtering friend is really proud.

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