A Bishops Responds to Atheists

Earlier in June a group of atheists in Chicago began putting up advertisements encouraging people of various religions (mostly Christianity) to skip church. They were trying to invite them to do the life of secularism by skipping church. It was also their attempt at irony as most Christians invite people to church, whereas the atheists were disinviting people to church.

All in all, it was simply another publicity stunt for the Church of Atheism atheists. Why atheists need a publicity stunt if atheism is the next step in human evolution or if they aren’t a religion is beyond me. But Bishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church decided to respond to the invitations with the following:

This is in response to “Secularists spreading the word to skip church” (Page 1, June 17), by Tribune reporter Manya A. Brachear. There is a certain irony when so-called atheists, agnostics and freethinkers, thinking they are sparking “a public conversation” with adherents of religious tradition, resort to tactics that preclude debate and insult the very people they seek to engage. Indeed those who would claim a priority of rationality are hard-pressed to provide a clear rationale for their efforts to convince those of faith to forego their own traditions and customs.

Are not those who “argue that beliefs should be based on rationality, not on religious tradition or dogma” being themselves dogmatic? In seeking converts to their cause, have they not adopted the very form of religious traditions? A fallacy is not part of rational argument, and it is a fallacy to state that religious faith cannot coexist with reason, or that religion is opposed to scientific endeavor, and so forth. It is also simply untrue that non-religious people have been persecuted or shunned by American society of the past several decades, when court decisions and legislation have continually eroded religious expression in the public sphere. I certainly respect the right of such people to express their views. This nation is founded on the principle of respect for all people, and it is only in the U.S. that there exists such a diverse population, ethnic, religious and non-religious.

Here in Chicago, as the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis and a former president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, I have seen firsthand the wonderful tolerance of our people. True there are always instances of intolerance and the failures of some to uphold the finest principles of diversity and respect in our nation. They are truly imprisoned in their own intolerance. That is certainly anything but “free” thinking, and that is simply sad.

It’s nice to see someone from the Orthodox Church respond to the atheistic plea. In talking with those who are Orthodox, they are almost envious of how evangelicals engage the culture. The Orthodox, though I love much about them, have tended to be a bit lax on reaching out to the culture. Thankfully, that seems to be changing. In studying the Patristics, it is my hope that the Orthodox will begin to emulate these men they revere so much. These men (and women) who had no problem writing to kings, governors, or emperors to tell these high society people that they were wrong and needed Christ. My evaluation of the Orthodox Church also doesn’t come from an outsider’s perspective, but from those who I have spoken with who are Orthodox. Thus, I am not putting down the Church, merely reiterating what I have heard from her adherents.

The world needs more educated and godly Christian leaders who can respond to the rise of atheism.