I remember in my Baptist, Pentecostal and Vineyard days being taught that atheists were bad people going to hell. Then I met some.
Later in life I became acquainted with my own inner atheist. He's a fast grower. And he's a really nice guy.
In the early days though, if we Christians met, say, the unsaved husband of a saved woman and he was really gifted or something, we were taught that deep down he was a Christian in the making, that God had his hand on him and was preparing to save him, that he would be a real asset to the kingdom, that it was just a matter of time before he'd turn.
I read a blogpost yesterday "Yes, Atheists Still Face Censorship"
which brought all this flooding back. It's a good read pointing out the inequalities atheists still experience.
Atheists can be good people. They have a right to exist. They have a right to have a share in the "marketplace of ideas" (Adam Lee). I not only say this on behalf of atheists "out there" and my atheist friends. I say this for myself. Why? Because there is a large part of what I believe, think and draw which is perceived by others as atheist, and I definitely demand the right to express that part of myself. My cartoons yesterday, "Has Your Jesus Disappeared"
and "The Progressive Development of My Boxes for God"
, both can be interpreted as expressing atheistic ideas. I receive messages all the time from people who wish I would shut up, that people would not see my work, and that I should be removed as a threat. They're allowed to think that way, but they should not be allowed to have their wishes granted.
I know some nice atheists. I know some not so nice atheists. I know some nice Christians. I know some not so nice Christians. But, in my opinion and experience, the worst not so nice people are the Christian ones because they use their religion to veil and even justify their not so niceness.
There's nothing uglier than that.