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Summary: Though the trend towards "evangelistic atheism" in our culture is disturbing, followers of Christ should be concerned about the "practical atheism" that may be at work in our lives.

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Practical Atheism

The Cosmic Authority Problem

TCF Sermon Text

July 15, 2007

Did you ever notice that children sometimes have misconceptions or misunderstandings, about the Bible, about church, and about God?

There’s the Sunday school class that was studying the Ten Commandments. They were ready to discuss the last one. The teacher asked if anyone could tell her what it was. One girl raised her hand, stood tall, and quoted, "Thou shall not take the covers off the neighbor’s wife."

There’s the man who had been teaching his three-year-old daughter the Lord’s Prayer. For several evenings at bedtime, she would repeat the lines from the prayer. Finally, she decided to go solo. The dad listened as she carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer: "Lead us not into temptation," she prayed, "but deliver us some E-mail. Amen."

One particular four-year old prayed, "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."

A Sunday school teacher asked her little children, as they were on the way to church service, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?" One bright little girl replied, "Because people are sleeping."

Six-year-old Angie and her four-year old brother Joel were sitting together in church. Joel giggled, sang and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had had enough. "You’re not supposed to talk out loud in church." "Why? Who’s going to stop me?" Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, "See those two men standing by the door? They’re hushers."

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say ’Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’ Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!"

After the church service a little boy told the pastor, "When I grow up, I’m going to give you some money." "Well, thank you!," the pastor replied, "but why?" "Because my daddy says you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had."

A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn’t know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

A little boy was overheard praying: "Lord, if you can’t make me a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a real good time like I am."

Out of the mouths of children. But this last one illustrates something important I want to address this morning. Children grow into adults, and many adults still have misconceptions or misunderstandings about God.

Sometimes these misconceptions, if you dig deeper, are more intentional – and they’re for the same reason this little boy prayed that if God couldn’t make him a better boy, that’s fine, because he was enjoying being just like he was, which was apparently not so good.

One look at the national best-seller lists of books, reveals something very important about our culture today. On the one hand, this may seem like a new development, but on further reflection, we realize this growing trend is nothing new at all.

Names like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett are found among the non-fiction best-sellers, with book titles like God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and The God Delusion, and The End of Faith.

This trend cannot be explained away fully as a reaction to the conservative Christianity of our president. This also cannot be explained away as a passing phenomenon, nor, can it be explained away as the diatribe or ravings of a fringe element. It’s obviously becoming more mainstream thinking, as evidenced in part by the fact that these are best-selling books.

Now, of course, polls still show America is an inherently religious nation, and that the vast majority of Americans believe in God. Statistically, believers in God far outnumber nonbelievers in America. In an 2005 AP poll on religion, only 2 percent of those surveyed said they did not believe in God. Other surveys concluded that 14 percent of Americans consider themselves secular, a term that can include believers who say they have no religion.

A common theme in these books we’ve mentioned, and we’ve only highlighted the best-sellers among these, is that atheism is inherently rational and religion is absolutely irrational. We could, and we have from this pulpit, tried to illustrate that our faith is not irrational, so we won’t address that this morning.

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