I sang in three “lock up” dorms in a maximum security prison in northern Florida at the annual “We Care” Prison Ministries Week in January. I set up a small speaker and sang in the hallway between the two rows of solitary confinement-type cells. The cell doors are thick steel with bullet proof glass windows and a small opening to shove the food through to the inmate.
I could hear the applause, but also the banging, kicking and yelling of disapproval coming from within the cells. (Not everybody appreciates country/gospel music.) I could see faces in the windows. My singing echoed and bounced back and forth off the bare concrete walls and steel cell doors.
In each dorm, after I sang for close to an hour, we went cell to cell to hand out little booklets and try to communicate through the crack at the edge of the door. We asked how we could pray for them. I was not supposed to “preach” because since the men did not come to our service voluntarily (we were “invading” their space), federal law prohibits religious “indoctrination.” But I could sing the gospel. Even though most were appreciative, several refused our offer to pray for them.
“I don’t need that…”
“I’m an atheist…”
It got me to thinking about atheists. Maybe this isn’t a foxhole in the war, or a near death experience, but I had a hard time trying to figure out this kind of hard heartedness in what I consider a desparate situation. What will it take to get their attention?
Since I had just read a tract telling the last words of five famous atheists, I’ll print them here:
Thomas Paine, atheist and author of two of the most influencial pamplets (Common Sense and The American Crisis) at the start of the American Revolution – “Stay with me, for God’s sake; I cannot bear to be left alone, O Lord, help me! O God, what have I done to suffer so much? What will become of me hereafter?… O Lord, help me! Christ, help me! For I am on the edge of Hell here alone. If ever the Devil had an agent, I have been that one.”
Sir Thomas Scott, a member of the British House of Lords around 1572-“Until this moment I thought there was neither a God nor Hell. Now I know and feel that there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgment of the Almighty.”
David Hume, Scottish philosopher (1711-1776)- “I am in flames!”
Sir Francis Newport– the first Earl of Bradford (England), 1694- “You need not tell me there is no God for I now know there is one, and that I am in His presence! You need not tell me there is no Hell. I feel myself already slipping… I know I am lost forever! Oh, the fire! Oh, the insufferable pangs of Hell!” A fellow atheist companion tried to dispel his thoughts, but he had nothing to offer.
Anton LeVey, founder of The Church of Satan-“Oh my, oh my, what have I done?! There is something very wrong… there is something very wrong…”
Voltaire, (1694-1778) Anti-Christian French Enlightenment philosopher, famous for his wit and his criticism of Christianity- “…I am abandoned by God and man.” He said to his physician, Dr. Fochin: “I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months of life.” When he was told this was impossible, he said, “Then I shall die and go to hell!” His nurse said: “For all the money in Europe I wouldn’t want to see another unbeliever die! All night long he cried for forgiveness.”
Steve Jobs, (not necessarily an atheist)- “Oh, wow… Oh wow… Oh wow…”
Chuck Wilson, an ex-convict friend who spent 30 years in London (Ohio) prison. Everytime he goes past a graveyard he says, “There is still time.”
Folks, there is still time. Give your heart to Jesus. Don’t end up in a tract about atheists.
Ray Comfort: “God doesn’t believe in atheists.”