It must have been Providence or the Divine Sense of Humor that brought me to Washington, D.C., the same weekend as the atheists’ convention, dubbed "The Reason Rally," sort of a Super Bowl of nonbelievers, who are committed to setting the rest of us straight, proving that religion is the cause of all the world’s ills and just generally blowing a lot of hot air.
The rally attracted 20,000 people to the National Mall, and it wasn’t a pleasant sight.
Of course, they looked like ordinary people, only angrier. But scratch the surface and the differences become immediately apparent. I’ve known my share of atheists and agnostics over the years, and what I’ve always found so troubling is that most of them don’t want to find the Truth because they think they already have all the answers.
What’s particularly troubling is they’ve becoming more aggressive in their attacks on religion, and because of several highly visible nonbelievers, it has become socially acceptable for them to be in-your-face in their attacks on God.
Richard Dawkins, a British scientist and prolific author who fancies himself the George Clooney of the godless, encouraged an outright assault on believers: "Mock them, ridicule them in public!" he exhorted his acolytes. Then, he spewed out a diatribe against the Catholic teaching on the True Presence in the Eucharist.
Fortunately, none of them saw my brown scapular or the prayer book in my satchel as I crept down the sidewalk. Pretty soon, they’ll want to check our bags and baptismal records.
People at the rally attacked every believer from Tim Tebow and the Pope to the Dalai Lama. Of course, evangelical quarterback Tebow has become an easy target, particularly for New York sports writers, who are another bastion of enlightenment.
The organizer of the event, David Silverman, who is president of American Atheists, said that he wants more nonbelievers to come out of the closet. Their time is now, he insists, because according to recent polling, "no religion" is the fastest-growing category in America, which includes atheists, agnostics and secularists. He also delights in suggesting that in Europe and Canada, religion is facing "extinction."
The most highly vocal militant atheists include Dawkins – accompanied by his bodyguard and idolized by thousands of followers – Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens, who have been called the "Four Horsemen." Such a tremendous amount of brain power gone to waste.
And while the New Age atheists insist they are happy, caring individuals with a sense of humor, the reality seems to be much different. They’re too smart for God. They blame the world’s problems on religion. They sneer at matters of faith, and they want to turn America into a godless society that not only separates church and state but pushes church off the radar completely.
Of course, none of the atrocities that are committed in the name of religion – and there are many – are an indicator of God’s existence or nonexistence; rather, they’re an indicator of the extent to which we have misunderstood and distorted God throughout history.
So there I was, surrounded by thousands of atheists – sort of like being an AA member at a beer distributors’ convention – and I realized that even though they looked and acted like normal people from a distance, up close they were different because they were creatures, not demigods, who denied the existence of their Creator.
Atheism, despite all its highfalutin jargon and intellectual reasoning, is nothing more than a protest of pride or anger and often both.
The curious thing is that while atheists are prepared to launch an all-out assault on religious belief, they don’t have as many adherents as they claim. The good news, research shows, is that more than nine out of 10 people believe in God or a universal spirit – including 20 percent of self-professed atheists. Figure that one out.
All I could do was pray for them. (Fortunately, I had my rosary beads, which are not illegal yet.) I certainly couldn’t reason with them because to their thinking, they have a monopoly on reason.
And the tragic irony is that despite their professed love of reason, they know nothing about reason. Great minds like Plato and Aristotle were led to a belief in a Supreme Being through their reason. And while the atheist rabble claim they are pursuing Truth, they are actually running from the Truth, which is Christ.
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.