Atheist Billboard Campaign and FRC Shooting
There has been a lot of things in the news this past week that one could comment on so one has to be selective. But one that caught my eye that was very interesting I thought was the new billboard campaign that the American Atheists are putting up. The American Atheists is the organization that produced Frank Zindler with whom I had a debate years ago at Willow Creek Community Church. They are the ones who sponsored this Reason Rally recently at Washington D.C. with Richard Dawkins. Now they have got a new billboard campaign and according to the news release I read it says that,
American Atheists President David Silverman announced at a press conference yesterday, that two new billboards will be going up Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, the site of the Democratic National Convention.
That is not a coincidence that it is there. These billboards are criticizing the religious faith of the presidential candidates. They have one targeting Mitt Romney and they were going to have this at the site of the Republican Convention but nobody in the area would sell them billboard space for these defamatory billboards that I will say something about in a moment. So, they are going to be confined to the Democratic National Convention.
Silverman says this,
“Every presidential campaign including this one has been laced with religion, the single most divisive and least relevant issue on the planet. . . . religion is inherently divisive,” he added. “There is no place for any of that in the political system.”
I thought, wait a minute. Who is making this a divisive issue? It is the American Atheists, right? They are the ones who are being divisive! I am not aware of anyone else making religion a divisive issue in this campaign except for the American Atheists. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.
When you look at these billboards – talk about divisive! The one attacking Christianity shows a picture of Jesus on a piece of toast and then it says, “CHRISTIANITY: Sadistic God; Useless Savior.” This is apparently their warped perception of the doctrine of Christ’s voluntary substitutionary atonement for our sins whereby he voluntarily gives up his life for our salvation. Of course it is useless only if Christianity is false. If it is true, then this is the salvation of the world or of anyone who chooses to place his faith in Christ.
The second line of the billboard says, “30,000+ Versions of ‘Truth’.” I take this to be some sort of a reference or criticism to the multitude of Christian denominations that there are in the world. I suppose that is what this is about. Of course, to get 30,000 different Christian denominations you are going to have to do a lot of hair splitting to get that many different groups. The fact is, that testifies to the fact that Christians are united on the fundamental doctrines of Christianity that come to expression in the great ecumenical creeds. Whether you are Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, or Protestant, Christians are united on the central doctrines of the great creeds like Nicaea and Chalcedon. These other proliferations are on fine points of doctrine that nobody thinks are of any cardinal importance.
The third line of the billboard under Christianity says “Promotes Hate, Calls it ‘Love’.” And again I thought to myself, who is promoting the hate here? Who is putting up these billboards mocking religious faith and making it a divisive issue? It is the American Atheists themselves.
Finally, the sign says “Atheism: Simply Reasonable.” And as the head of an organization called Reasonable Faith, I thought that was especially interesting because it seems to me that theism and Christianity is eminently reasonable, at least as well, and that atheism has no exclusive claim here.
Finally, then, it gives this invitation: “Join American Atheists.” And I thought after a billboard like that – so defamatory and nasty and negative – who in the world would want to join American Atheists? It seems to me that the PR firm that advised these folks must have shot himself in the foot here because this would be the last group I think people would want to join after seeing the divisive, inflammatory, and negative stance that they take. But that is the American Atheists for you.
On a more serious note, I think, was the shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council in Washington D.C. this week which was just unconscionable. Here is some reports that I’ve cobbled together from various news services.
One says that the Human Rights Campaign, which is the nation’s largest gay-rights organization, posted an alert on its blog last Tuesday. The blog post said, “Paul Ryan speaking at hate group’s annual conference.”
Now, what was this hate group at which the Republican vice-presidential candidate was speaking? Well, it was the Family Research Council, which is a conservative group founded by James Dobson from Focus on the Family. The very day after that headline was posted, 28-year old Floyd Corkins walked into the Family Research Council’s headquarters in Washington and according to an FBI affidavit proclaimed words to the effect of “I don’t like your politics” and he shot the security guard that was on duty there before he was wrestled to the ground and disarmed. The security guard, Leo Johnson, managed to gain control of Corkins’ weapon and others helped to hold Corkins to the ground until the police arrived and he was prevented, thank goodness, from any further shooting. But Corkins himself had been volunteering, apparently, over the last six months at the Washington D.C. center of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community. David Mariner who is the executive director of that community center in Northwest Washington said that he has been volunteering and manning the desk on Saturdays over the last six months and seemed like a nice fellow. But authorities said that Corkins was carrying a handgun, two additional loaded ammunition clips, and a box of fifty more rounds. So this could have been a horrible catastrophe had it not been for the bravery of Leo Johnson in stopping him.
It said also in the backpack were 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches which is evidently symbolic. The Family Research Council president Tony Perkins has been an outspoken supporter of Chick-fil-A which, as you know, has been embroiled in a recent controversy because of Dan Cathy’s support of traditional marriage and opposition to same-sex marriage. So this was clearly a politically motivated attempt at mass murder.
This Leo Johnson is really a hero for what he did. What I learned in reading some of these stories is that, in fact, Leo Johnson is not a security guard who is uniformed or carries a weapon. He was unarmed in plain clothes. He is just the group’s building manager but wears neither a uniform nor carries a gun. He was shot by this Corkins but nevertheless still managed to overcome him, wrestle away the gun, and then with the help of others subdue him. Tremendous bravery on the part of this Leo Johnson and he is to be commended to that. The Washington D.C. police chief, Cathy Lanier, said “the security guard is a hero as far as I am concerned. He did his job. The person never made it past the front.” We can thank God for that.
 This debate took place in 1993. A video of this debate, titled “Atheism vs. Christianity: Which Way Does the Evidence Point?,” can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuCA4rIX4cE (accessed September 25, 2013).
 Total Running Time: 9:31 (Copyright © 2012 William Lane Craig)