In light of the coming hubbub that will inevitably be ignited by random Nativity displays, not to mention fearful store employees wishing you a very PC “Happy Holidays” this month, one thing is clear (at least, to me)…
Many people want a world without God.I know that’s rather blunt, but shouldn’t we cut to the chase? It’s not just “freedom of religion” or “freedom from religion” they want. Many wish for a world where they’ll never be bothered to witness another person’s religiosity in public.
They say they’re tolerant of all religions, but that’s not true. In the town where I lived, the ACLU stopped a high school choir from performing in a local church. Because of the great acoustics, the choir had sung there for years, but somehow just letting those kids breathe the “rarified holy air” of the church stepped over the line of “separation of church and state.”
True tolerance wouldn’t keep kids from walking into a church, synagogue or mosque of another faith. Most parents have no problem with a respectful chaperoned visit to someone else’s place of worship. But what many want now is complete “religious quarantine” in public places—absolutely no exposure to God. Especially the Judeo-Christian God.
To the religiously intolerant today, church houses are the new “houses of ill-repute” from which they must hide their children’s eyes. “Faith” is their new four-letter word (yes, I know it’s not a literal four letter word!). Their end game is to ban God completely from the public square, using intimidation and a boat-load of lawyers.
For them, religion is the new Ebola.
Come to think of it, they seem pretty scared of religious types like me. I’m amazed at the angry responses to my little blogs on a local news site and on Twitter. I suppose it’s a back-handed compliment—I’m pretty dangerous, it turns out. Who knew an overweight minister could strike such fear into the hearts of the unconverted?
If you’re one of these people, may I ask you one question?
Do you really want religion out of public life—and have you really thought this thing through? Well, George Bailey, be careful what you ask for. If that angel Clarence really allowed you to see a world where religion never existed this holiday season, not even Scrooge would like the results.
In addition to those Nativity scenes with baby Jesus going away, you’ll witness a ton of “good” done in his name in coming months. This week, homeless shelters nationwide will ladle out rivers of gravy on mountains of mashed potatoes, and millions of martyred turkeys will be consumed.
By the way, this food will be donated and served mostly by people of faith.
Atheists counter that for Thanksgiving dinner, they’d pass on the religion, and focus on meeting people’s “real world needs,” instead. Pop intellectuals like Neil deGrasse Tyson promote the preferred philosophy of “lessening the suffering of others.” They say you don’t have to be religious to do good deeds.
That all sounds very nice…until you look at the facts.
Religious people don’t just talk about helping others, they are the vast majority who are doing it.
In 2006, the average church-going adult contributed $1500 to charity, as compared to $200 by people of no faith (Barna Group research study). Even if you subtracted church-based giving, church folks would still give twice as much as atheists and agnostics combined.
Both ABC News and Harvard professor Robert Putnam’s research reflects similar findings. Putnam adds that 40% of church attenders volunteer to help the poor and elderly as compared to 15% of those who never go. That also goes for volunteering at non-religious schools, youth programs, civic groups, and health care providers.
My irreligious friends would no doubt counter that their giving is more noble, because religious people give out of “fear of hell-fire.” But a pollster from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada found religious people twice as likely to respond that “forgiveness, patience, generosity and a concern for others are ‘very important’” to them, than atheists did. So the real motive for giving by the religious seems to be quite simple: they see a need, feel compassion, and respond.
Sorry, but “hell fire” isn’t even part of the equation.
Can you imagine how the national cost of serving the poor would skyrocket if all the money from religious people went away tomorrow, not to mention the innumerable church service programs they fund as well? Imagine a society where “love your neighbor as yourself” and “do unto others” are no longer believed by the majority. Imagine the crime, the suffering, and quite possibly the anarchy that would result.
Really, Old Man Potter, that’s just a bunch of stuffing.
Photo credit: By National Telefilm Associates – Screenshot of the movie, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17631672
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.