I was born into a first-world, secular, Western country. I don’t say that pridefully; rather, just as a fact of what I was born into that I had no control over. In this context, I spent the first 13-14 years of my life as a non-Christian.
Naturally, I have met many Atheists in the course of my life in first-world, secular, Western countries. That being said, I have never met an Atheist missionary. After I became a Christian, I met many people who have sought to convince me that secular Atheism is the best, most compelling worldview out there. They think that the world would be much better off without religion.
A few various definitions of the word “religion” include: “A particular system of faith and worship,” and “A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.” Under these Oxford dictionary definitions, Atheism is essentially a religion which has a particular set of beliefs of how they see the world. Don’t be fooled, Atheists do worship and devote their lives to something, in fact everyone does. There’s even an Atheist church.
The Good News of Atheism?
If the world would be so much better off without religion, why are there not more Atheists going to spread their hopeful message around the world? Why is the majority of the world still holding onto belief in God of some sort deity? Is it simply that the first-world, secular, Western countries are more enlightened and have found that there is no need for God? Then that’s offensive to the majority of the worlds population that has come to a different conclusion.
One could scarcely begin to think of someone actually risking their life to bring the message of secular Atheism to remote countries. What would they say when they arrive to those people? “We’re here to tell you the good news that there is no God, when you die nothing happens, and the suffering that you now face is pointless and without hope”? Would they bring a message of materialism and tell them that their real hope lies in scientific discoveries and technological advancement? How would that message go over?
If we concede that people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens are the modern missionaries of Atheism, then why is it that they are only preaching their message to first-world, secular, Western countries? If they truly have the real hope of the world & good news for humanity in their worldview, why are they not going on mission trips into the Middle East, Africa, or even South America to proclaim such good news? Wouldn’t they want to liberate third-world countries from the oppression of the religion that is the centre of their traditions & society?
Would Atheists risk their life to bring the message of Atheism to countries the same way that Christian missionaries have risked (and lost) their lives in the past? Is it that good news that it is worth risking their life to share with others who don’t yet know of it? It’s one thing to stand up in front of a non-hostile crowd in Western society, but it is completely different when there is more at stake.
The Difference Between Social Action & Missions
“But!” Atheists might respond, “There are plenty of non-religious organisations that do go into other countries to bring aid to them.” They would be correct in saying that. There are plenty of good organisations that are doing good work in other countries and are not affiliated with any major world religion.
However, that is not merely what missions is about. For example, a Christian missionary might bring food, water, clothes, or medical-care to another country but they are doing so out of their Christian conviction & wouldn’t be opposed to sharing those convictions with others or praying with them in the midst of their suffering. Typically, Christian missionaries are not just concerned with social action; rather, they also have a message of hope that they wish to bring and that is the Gospel.
They may bring Bibles or other Christian materials with them so as to tell people about the faith which is so important to them. There must be a difference between mere social action & missions. The non-religious organisations mentioned above are not seeking to share a secular Atheistic message with those they encounter. They are not bringing aid and copies of Charles Darwins “Origin of the Species” or Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” to give away.
One might even say that the reason they are only focusing on social action is because they do not have a secular Atheist message of hope to match the practical needs being met. Imagine the irony of saying “I’m going to make your life as comfortable as possible for now so that you can die and have no eternity to look forward to.”
Perhaps the reason that there are not Atheist missionaries spreading the good news of Atheism the same way that there are other religious missionaries, is because they subconsciously know that the message they would bring would not be any better hope than the one that those countries already believe in.
Is the message of Atheism not worth sharing with third-world, religious, non-Western countries? Is it a message not worth dying for? Do they really believe that the world would be much better without religion?
If so, where are the Atheist missionaries?
– Tyson Bradley