Atheists in the Lowcountry

From a story published today in the NYT:

“It’s not about carrying banners or protesting,” said Herb Silverman, a math professor at the College of Charleston who founded the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, which has about 150 members on the coast of the Carolinas. “The most important thing is coming out of the closet.”

Purportedly, the number of atheists is rising:

“Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.

Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.”

There’s a challenge here for the Christian church.  Weneed to equip ourselves to meet the challenges of atheists in coming days more than we used to.  Atheism is not a boutique worldview.  It’s increasingly growing in cultural prominence, and our churches need to equip their members to meet the objections of atheists. 

This is not to say that we don’t still work to understand what Catholics, Jews, and Muslims believe.  We should.  But there is a definite trend toward atheism in our day, and it calls us to be prepared.

  • Jane

    Owen,

    Thanks for the post. It took me on an interesting journey. I read the article you referenced, and from there jumped to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster website to take a look at the Pastafarians. The “hate mail” they publish–much of it from people calling themselves Christians–is illustrative of the scope of the task you seminarians are facing. Ignorance, bigotry, foul language and a total absence of humor seem to be the hallmarks of many younger “Christians” – who would then top off their remarks by stating that they were praying for the creator of the website!

    You are right to call future Christian leaders to action. I can’t even begin to imagine how you’re going to tackle the problems that this culture has created for you. But it seems clear to me that the problem begins right in the heart of the Christian community, which is where many new atheist recruits come from. My advice–to all seminarians, not just those at your school–is to take a good look at your own campus, church, and community, and start from there.


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