The two images above are billboards recently released by American Atheists. Should these billboards be considered persecution? I believe that they should. Denigrating one’s beliefs – especially in the callow, sensationalistic, straw-man manner shown on these billboards – counts as persecution, in my book. Granted, these billboards are not the equivalent of beating somebody and sending them prison, but are they not just a lower rung on the same ladder? It is promoting an environment where Mormons and Christians are ridiculed for their “unreasonable” beliefs. What would happen if these billboards really caught on, and the majority of society started treating Mormons and Christians with the same petulant contempt?
Hence a series of ironies: American Atheists are against people being persecuted for their beliefs (e.g., “Action Alert” at the bottom of their home page), yet they persecute people for their beliefs. The billboards decry Christianity for promoting hate, yet they promote hate. The billboards violate American Atheists own aims and principles.
It seems that even atheists have their share of people who break with their own by-laws. Christians have their share of people who advocate hatred, despite the fact that the book they purport to follow supports no such agenda. One of American Atheists self-stated aims is to “collect and disseminate information, data, and literature on all religions and promote a more thorough understanding of them,” a task at which these billboards miserably fail.
I believe (hope?) that these billboards do not represent the majority of atheists in America. I’m hoping this type of rhetoric will be increasingly marginalized. From the responses I’ve read thus far on these billboards, it seems that most people are dismissing them, as they should. Conversely, I hope that atheists understand that churches like Westboro Baptist Church do not represent Christianity.
Once again, it’s not organized religion that is the enemy, nor is it organized non-religion, nor theism, nor atheism. It’s people. We’re all hypocrites. We’re all inconsistent. We’re all hateful at some level. We are the great problem with the world, and we need a great savior. I maintain that reason is not this great savior, and I believe that history abundantly supports my claim. We cannot save ourselves. Only God can save us from ourselves, each other, and the mess we’ve made of this world. Through Christ and His Spirit, that’s exactly what He has done, is doing, and will do.