Intolerance sounds like an accusation, and it sounds harsh. It is actually more of a clinical, academic, matter-of-fact term. In the US, we’re intolerant of infectious diseases and that is a good thing… I’m glad we don’t tolerate Ebola. In terms of religion, most don’t agree with syncretism, so they don’t tolerate another deity and they set themselves up with some level of exclusivity in customs and culture. All religions are intolerant to some degree. Secular Humanism (SH) asserts no possibility of tolerating or even coexisting with any other worldview. For the Atheist SH, all religions, other than theirs, are bad and must be eradicated. It is by this standard that they are rightly named the most intolerant religion. Let’s look at the root of the conflict to help us interact with SH’s as we conduct life, and attempt to let our lives speak where words cannot.
Christians assert that a God of supernatural substance created all of the cosmos, from the greatest black hole to the smallest subatomic particle. Atheist Secular Humanists assert that a random cosmic explosion created everything, from the greatest black hole to the smallest subatomic particle. These two concepts exist in opposition. The Christian, however, has the ability to tolerate the idea that if a cosmic explosion did create everything, it can harmonize with biblical teaching to some degree. SH’s must disavow any and every possibility that any and every supernatural god exists.
As we apply faith to our lives, we inevitably run into resistance. Christians are biblically required to be welcoming of others, tolerant of differences, forgiving, and loving – even toward enemies. Still, in any endeavor, if your worldview conflicts with another worldview, the two worldviews will naturally clash on points of disagreement.
From an evangelistic standpoint, we should expect that any reference to your faith will be considered by the SH to be an affront to their faith. Intolerance of all other worldviews is a non-negotiable requirement of the culture and worldview of atheism. Christianity is only intolerant of faith views that conflict with the God of the Bible, but biblical adherents get along in most tolerant cultures. Intolerant cultures will thwart and punish evangelism with adverse laws (SH) and even beheading (Islam).
Many Secular Humanists can’t even to allow a conversation that refers to faith. They often drone the redundant demand “Don’t shove your religion down my throat”, even though it is factually inaccurate, so be prepared to hear it. If you are so accused, you may have said or done something that the SH can find fault in. Remember that biblically it is impossible to successfully shove your faith down anyone’s throat.
Expect the moral-high-ground fallacy. The SH will also claim Christians are responsible for the Crusades, a defensive war in Europe and the Middle East where Muslim invaders tried to overtake Europe. Of course, that has absolutely nothing to do with today, but you’ll likely be fed this red herring. Along this line, they will assert that all religion must be eradicated because of all of the evil done in the name of someone’s god. It is false, as the argument speaks to the use by malicious actors, but says nothing of the doctrine and dogma “all faiths”.
The Bible requires that the adherent have no other gods except the Triune Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But Yahweh’s Word also requires that the adherent not be forced or coerced. The decision to believe must be made in faith, and in love, or neither could be genuinely present. Conversely, Atheism cares nothing about the beliefs of the adherent. It exists absent love, but demands that adherents take questionable pseudo-scientific findings on faith. Secular Humanists are even intolerant of their own faith being called what it is; a religion.
It’s worth taking time to look at a comparison chart of the two religious worldviews.
Understanding Denial: Christians should accept that the faith of Secular Humanists requires them to deny God, much the way Islam denies the authority of Christian Scriptures. In terms of reaching out to Secular Humanists, they are trapped in their own circular argument, so it is usually unfruitful to argue. Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, SH, – We all have our “apologetics” and many are well-versed in them. Getting beyond denial requires a meeting of humanity, not ideology. It is here that Christians will often find that relationship can overpower denial.
Knowing how to evangelize is critical to effectively apply our faith. Christians have the greatest advantage in evangelism; the power of the Holy Spirit reflected in our lives. Here are some helpful ideas that will aid you in evangelizing the Secular Humanist:
- Be real. You really cannot fake your faith and then expect to apply the counterfeit product – untruth. Don’t let peer pressure or social expediency convict you to evangelize anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can convict your heart.
- Know your own testimony. How did you come to faith? This second step is a great time to examine your own faith and gain confidence in the choice you made to follow Christ. I had a progression and growth that confirmed my faith to me, but before I wrote down my testimony I really hadn’t pinned down the moment. In writing my testimony, I took my personal experience with the evidence that convinced me of Christ’s Lordship, and the “when” become abundantly obvious.
- Know your Bible. You should immediately begin living your testimony when you are saved. While there is biblical evidence of God giving the apostles the right words, a developed faith and Spirit-lead study of the Word will position you to be more effective when asked. Share, but don’t judge – Only the Holy Spirit can convict the heart.
- Be invited. The guy on the corner with a bullhorn and a handful of Jesus flyers is probably not serving God like he thinks he is. We’re all human, and we all want social acceptance, even when someone might not agree with us. If you love people and treat them with respect, you are more likely to be invited. Invite back! Share your community with people. They will come, the Spirit will convict the ones who are called, and then you’re in a position to share your faith. Just be honest, and you’ll do fine.
- Live your faith. There is an old pastoral saying “I’d rather see a good sermon, rather than hear one”. God’s hand in your life will make a positive change in your life. He will free you from worldly entanglements and evil desires. He will challenge you to grow your faith and your love. You will grow to love others more as you experience God through spiritual discipline. I invite you to read “Eating the Elephant of Godliness” found on the main page of this blog for methods to grow closer to God.
Secular Humanists often put up a cold or aggressive false front as a defense mechanism. Christians are human, and we often bristle back at people who are cold or aggressive. Jesus did not bristle back, except when challenged by a Pharisee, or Sadducee, or religious official. An SH who is a modern-day religious official is a little harder to spot, but their speech and attitude will identify them.
SH’s have a priesthood, and very often their priests work in academia or government service. If you challenge an SH priest, be prepared to experience the consequences. They will often injure your career or engineer your firing so your faith doesn’t spread to their congregation. Your presence in their congregation may be worth putting up with the priest so your witness can affect others for the good of the Body of Christ. Antagonize the SH priest only if you have a genuine calling from the Spirit. Get the advice and counsel of other Christian friends and pastors.
Finally, check your own heart. Realize that you are only called to share the Good News. God convicts the hearts of those called, and He convicts Secular Humanists, too. The Spirit convicts and the seeker, and you have no way of knowing what the Spirit is doing in a seeker’s heart. The seeker accepts the invitation to follow Christ. We are doing our job when our heart is aligned with His. I’ll close with perhaps my favorite passage on knowing the Mind of Christ:
Philippians 2:1-11 (NLT)
1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?
2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.