8/8/2012— Dave Niose is an attorney and president of the Washington-based American Humanist Association. His book, Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans, has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan. The premise of the book is that Secularists are now an important force in American politics and they are beginning to resist religious, especially conservative religious, power in society. In full disclosure, PM sent me a free copy of the book to review and blog about, which I will do in the future.
As part of the book’s release, Niose wrote an op-ed published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Below is a letter to the editor published in response:
I read the Forum article by David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association ("Rise of the Secularists: They're Fighting Back Against the Overbearing Influence of Religious Conservatives," July 15).
It's very simple. Some members of society are focusing on evil rather than on God. Jesus said to Simon the Apostle, "and I say to thee: that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). We can trust in Jesus and not in people like David Niose.
We see every type of evil being done in the world today, including the recent mass murder at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.
Society should seek out God, who is all loving and good, and reject those who look to squelch the profession of God our creator.
Conservatives and all believers in God should stand up against atheism and secularism at every turn. Believers need to show nonbelievers the way to the Lord if we are to change this world for the better. God created all human beings to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him.
Let's give back to God and glorify Him forever.
This letter to the editor demonstrates two points. First, when God becomes an object of support and opposition, very much like a political candidate, bad things happen both politically and theologically. Politically, if elections turn on pro-God and anti-God, pro-God will win every time for a very long time into the future. Plus, the sides in such politics will have to despise each other on very deep levels, rather than just disagree on certain issues. Niose invites just that kind of politics: divisive and unhealthy.
Second, what does it mean to stand up to atheism? Atheism is often a theological critique of a corrupted conception of God. This was true of Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) who wrote in Essence of Christianity that Christianity “while lowering God into man, made man into God."
Believers should ask whether the recent surge in atheism has something to do with a simplistic presentation of divinity and the sacred. There is an old saying that the God you don’t believe in, I don’t believe in either.
Finally, the writer of the letter wants to campaign against atheism. But as Ross Douthat recognizes in Bad Religion, that is not how Christianity can renew itself. The early Church came to prominence in the Roman Empire by the quality of its counter-culture. Christians were admired. They were known by their fruits. Christians in America have to do the same thing. Christians testify to the power of God by how they live.
Of course Christians have as much right to participate in politics as anyone else. But when religion becomes politics, it is no longer religion.