American Atheists want religion out of the public square.
Religion, after all, has “no place in politics” for it is “sheer silliness.” So says the group American Atheists.

To advance their agenda at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., American Atheists has purchased billboard space slamming Christianity.

A billboard shows a likeness of Jesus on toast, with the message: “Sadistic God; Useless Savior…Promotes Hate, Calls it ‘Love.'”

The sign adds, “Atheism: Simply Reasonable.”

The American Atheists wanted to slam Mormonism at the Republican National Convention in Tampa – except they couldn’t buy any billboard space.

The planned billboard in Tampa showed a white man in white underwear. It says, “God Is A Space Alien. Baptizes Dead People. Big Money, Big Bigotry.”

Now imagine the outrage in the media had a group said bigoted and hateful things about gays, or women, or Hispanics or African-Americans. The sponsoring group would have been labeled as a hate group.

Religion, on the other hand, is an easy and seemingly acceptable punching bag. Atheists punch away. Some liberals want a secularized public square. Others dismiss traditional morality, finding churches useful only when elections roll around. Secularists find houses of faith irrelevant.

Consider what houses of faith and faith-based organizations do in the public square. Then, consider who would fill the vacuum if the faith community abandoned social services and muted its moral witness.

Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists – not the anti-religionists or the non-religionists – are at the forefront of refugee and immigration resettlement.

Catholic bishops and Protestant leaders are among the strongest advocates for just and compassionate immigration reform, as well as challenging the negative narratives about the undocumented.

The faith community surely played a significant role in Tennessee, a state that has not advanced the kind of draconian anti-immigrant legislation that has appeared in Arizona, Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia.

One of the very few faith events during the Democratic National Convention will be a screening of “Gospel Without Borders” with a panel of bishops at Saint Peter’s Catholic Church, an example of how the faith community will speak to the political community from a moral vantage point about immigration.

Another screening is planned at Park Road Baptist Church. Even one of the state delegations is talking about screening the documentary.

Catholic bishops and progressive evangelicals have spoken forcefully and frequently about the moral imperative to protect the poor from proposed deep cuts in the federal budget.

In fact, it is the atheist agenda of Ayn Rand that provides the philosophical foundation for much of the anti-government individualism behind the radical budget cuts.

In Nashville, it was a Southern Baptist church that birthed the vision and built the foundation for a remarkable program that helps women leaving the Tennessee State Prison for Women to re-enter society successfully.

The Next Door now has widespread ecumenical support. Without The Next Door, the recidivism rate for women would be painfully higher.

Or take Nashville’s dynamic efforts at interfaith dialogue among the Abrahamic faith traditions with events at The Temple, West End United Methodist Church and Lipscomb University, a historic Church of Christ school.

Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, building affordable homes with low-income families, addressing human trafficking, speaking up for religious liberty, distributing mosquito-repellent nets in sub-Saharan Africa, and advocating for U.S. foreign aid are some concrete examples of programs and initiatives rooted in the faith community.

“Sadistic God,” “Useless Savior,” “Big Bigotry” – really?

Are these reasonable charges to make against the faith community?

Next time you hear criticism of houses of faith in the public commons, offer an alternative word about all the common good rooted in the faith community.

Robert Parham is executive editor of and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.

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