On March 24th, Richard Dawkins and other atheists plan to host a “Reason Rally” in Washington, D.C. As their website explains, “The Reason Rally is an event sponsored by many of the country’s largest and most influential secular organizations.” The list of speakers includes P.Z. Myers, Dan Barker, Lawrence Krauss, David Silverman, and U.S. House Representative Pete Stark.
As “the largest secular event in world history”, they hope to deliver a unique message of “good news,” namely, “We’re huge, we’re everywhere, and we’re growing.” As part of this theme, they’ve promised to keep the experience positive, celebrate secular values, and avoid trashing religion.
As the event itself unfolds, we will see how well the organizers and participants keep to these promises.
How to respond?
First, at Reasons For God, we are convinced that the atheistic worldview is unable to sustain the conceptual framework necessary for the existence and use of reason. When you start to view people as “neuronal weather patterns,” as a strictly naturalistic worldview does, the idea of rational and moral deliberation becomes quite belabored.
To make this case at length, the first and major component of our response to the Reason Rally will be a book-length project. This ebook brings together thoughtful contributors from around the world to clearly explain that Christianity, not atheism, is the appropriate framework for the celebration of reason. Update: The ebook is called True Reason and has become a bestseller at Amazon.com.
Second, we are partnering with other thoughtful Christians to establish an intelligent and loving presence at the Reason Rally itself. You can find information on this person-to-person initiative at True Reason. The purpose of this gathering is to provide clarity for participants at the Reason Rally, and for interested media, that the secular claims to rationality are unwarranted and unsustainable.
Together, we hope that the book and person-to-person dialogue will be useful in providing thoughtful and intelligent reasons for open-minded people to reject the secular thesis and adopt the Christian worldview.
How not to respond
We do invite all interested Christians to consider taking part of the outreach being organized at True Reason, but we recognize that some will not hear about this response or not be interested in participating in it. We wish to be supportive and affirming of a diverse range of Christian responses to the Reason Rally. We are not representing, nor do we claim to be speaking for, all Christians through this initiative!
However, some responses are simply unchristian, and deserve to be fully repudiated in advance, whether or not they are hosted by churches or “Christian” organizations. For instance, we believe it is unchristian to:
- Attempt to disrupt or hinder the Reason Rally in any way.
- Bring signs or wear clothing that belittles, attacks, or insults atheists and other secularists in any way, shape or form.
- Dehumanize atheists and other secular people in any way.
- Deny the importance of reason.
- Be crazy.
Examples of bad behavior could be multiplied, but I don’t want to give out any new ideas!
The point is, a Christian response will incorporate both “loving your neighbor” and loving God “with all your mind” (Mark 12:29-31). Actions and attitudes which are hostile to our neighbors, or deny the importance of our minds, are simply not consistent with the two Great Commandments of the Christian way and worldview.
When I was involved in campus ministry at my alma mater, Rhodes College, in Memphis, TN, I served as an advisor for Rhodes Christian Fellowship. As this fellowship grew from a handful of students to around fifty regulars, we attracted increasing amounts of attention from other students.
In response to our rather small but growing influence on campus, some secular students decided to get organized. They began a student club called Rhodes Atheist Fellowship, which was a place for “atheists, agnostics, deists, anything against blind faith.”
I don’t always pick up on subtle allusions, but on this particular occasion, I was able to notice the similarity of names between our groups, and realize that they intended to offer a direct challenge to our community.
The Christian community at Rhodes had a wide range of opinions about the launch of Rhodes Atheist Fellowship, but I was simply delighted. It was so much easier to find the atheists when they were already organized into a coherent group. Furthermore, because they had self-consciously taken a stand for their beliefs, we knew they wanted to have conversations and defend what they believed. After all, they were “against blind faith” (ironically, we were too).
So we got to know their leaders and eventually challenged them to a public debate. To keep it from becoming too personal, we set it up with three panelists from each group, and focused on the question, “Can man be good without God?” It was a very interesting discussion. At one point, an RAF panelist actually defended the morality of Nazi Germany because that was their cultural preference!
Debates can obviously go either way, depending on the preparation of those involved. Nevertheless, one of the key lessons I took from the overall experience of friendly dialogue, in public and in private, with members of the Rhodes Atheist Fellowship, is that the Christian faith can sustain rational scrutiny. In fact, there are substantial reasons for accepting the truth of the Christian worldview, and irresolvable logical and evidential challenges for the contradictory alternatives.
So this March, as a group of atheists, agnostics, secularists and others gather for the Reason Rally, my hope and prayer is that the careful reasoning of True Reason, and the loving approach of Christians on the ground, will be properly persuasive to those with an open mind.