It’s a relatively frequent refrain on atheist blogs; either railing against Christians who see atheists as globally evil or standing in wonder at how Christians can think they’d be out raping and pillaging if it wasn’t for the presence of Jesus in their lives.
I must confess that I too once thought (wrongly I’m glad to admit), that atheists would naturally be worse behaving individuals than Christians. After all, once we’re saved doesn’t Jesus sanctify us, make us whole, make us Holy? And if Jesus ISN’T doing that for us then wouldn’t we be, um, un Holy, even evil? I was absolutely evil in my pre Christian days and I’ve met thousands of people who can say the same about themselves. Once, when I told a person I’d gone to high school with that I was working as a counsellor she involuntarily gasped, “You! But you were the worst one!” To literally millions and millions of people, “Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me,” is not just some nice sounding chorus. We see it as the absolute truth and we are tremendously grateful for that salvation and the character transformation that was the result. Obviously that’s not the case for atheists. They see no need for saving grace. I currently have an atheist at my blog ranting about "Jesus ejaculating into your mouth," and he thinks he's a really good person. That seems to be true for the vast majority of atheists. They actually see themselves as good people. As another atheist recently told me, “I’m a nice person when I want to be.” While I think THAT guy is foolishly deluded, like I said, I was wrong. Some atheists are pretty decent individuals. So why the confusion on BOTH sides?
Well, first of all it’s just natural to see our enemies as bad, wrong, even evil. The evil that’s in us causes us to dehumanise those who we believe are making our lives more difficult. This in turn allows us to retaliate with less harassment from our conscience. No doubt a growing percentage of atheists see Christianity as their enemy and so too for Christians and their view of atheism. Yet, in a weird twist we find atheists lamenting to Christians, “Why can’t you see what a good person I am?” While Christians demand, “Why can’t you see how evil we all are?” Both sides judge the other from their own perspective with atheists chastising Christians for adopting a worm theology and Christians postulating that atheists must be as evil as the we Christians once were.
Actually, I think this dichotomy is one of the proofs of Jesus’ existence. Here’s why. Jesus tells us that He did not come to seek those who see themselves as healthy. Rather He came to heal those who know they are sick. And how do we know that we’re sick? Well, we don’t unless God opens our eyes to see the evidence for what it is (John 6:44). Without this revelation regarding our sin-sickness we just go merrily along to the end of our lives, not realising that we’re dead men walking. We are all born with the propensity for evil, but due to many and varied circumstances, we are not all equally overtly evil.
For example, we may find two individuals seemingly equal in their degree of DEMONSTRATED evil; one of them is a Christian and one of them is an atheist. Both of them are upstanding members of their community. Both of them are “good” husbands and dads. Neither have been in trouble with the law and both respect their fellow man. Yes they both tell “little” lies from time to time. Yes, both of them have spoken harshly to their children from time to time. Only one of them however, has had Jesus open his eyes to the POTENTIAL for evil that lives in him while the other is allowed by God to believe that there really is nothing wrong in his character. Only one of them has had Jesus open his eyes to the immensity of the actual wrong that he has done in the past. The other is allowed to believe that his past indiscretions are no big deal. Both are equally sick but only the former can see his desperate need for help and forgiveness. The latter cannot. Neither have visible symptoms of spiritual trouble but God has given one an early and convincing warning that something needs to be done and done now. Only one knows that his thought life contains within it the stench of spiritual death.
Those who God knows will respond positively to His call home are given eyes that can see and ears that can hear. Those who God knows will not respond positively to His call hear nothing from God at all. God gives atheists exactly what they want, the confidence that it's all good.
. Just as only the sick seek the help of a physician, only those who recognise the sin (either actual or potential) that is in them seek help from their Creator.
. Just as it never occurs to those who are healthy to go see a doctor, so too with atheists.
Atheists have no clue that they are in dire need of help. The disease of sin lies undetected beneath the surface of the atheist’s awareness. Appeals from Christians to the atheist of, “You should go have a check up,” are barely tolerated or brusquely turned away with, “You’re too judgmental.
I’ve told before the story of a concentration camp survivor who sat in on a war crimes trial in Nuremberg. During a break a reporter noticed tears streaming down the cheeks of the survivor. Guessing wrongly, the reporter asked, “Are those tears of rage at the evil that man has perpetrated upon you and your relatives?” The survivor replied, “No. These tears are because I recognise the evil that is in that criminal is the same evil that resides in me.”
No one goes to a doctor until they feel ill. Atheists feel very healthy indeed.