When I was seventeen, I met an avowed atheist. He had more luck talking to me than I had with him. He challenged me to read Atlas Shrugged and I did. I challenged him to read the New Testament, and he didn’t. I learned something about the way atheists think about life in time and space. He chose not to learn about life with an eternal frame of reference.
The problem is that I live in both the time/space universe where the atheist lives and the eternity/infinity universe where God lives and reigns. I acknowledge the existence of the atheist’s universe, but he does not acknowledge the existence of the eternal/infinite realm. He interacts with the spirit world he denies just as often as I do, but he denies all the evidence of that interaction.
We who live at the intersection of time and eternity in relationship with Christ are flummoxed by people who reject the whole idea of a spirit world. We feel shut down, because we are not sure how to start talking with someone who simply rejects everything that shapes our daily lives. It isn’t an imaginary problem, but even though we must face and deal with the problem, we need to remember that God is not hindered by the same issues that stop us in our tracks. Whether or not atheists allow us to talk with them we always must remember that God is not daunted by anyone’s unbelief. Who knows how many times Nicodemus scoffed at the whole idea that God could have come to earth in the flesh before he sneaked out one evening to talk with Jesus?
The culture of the USA is growing increasingly secular, which means that more and more people in our world consider any form of religion to be useless twaddle. Secular thinkers consider that at best religion is the same kind of comfort we might derive if someone drew a smiley face on a post-it and stuck it on our computer display at work. At worst, they look at September 11 and at the escalating violence that seems to be overwhelming the Arab spring and conclude that it would be better for the whole idea of religion disappear.
If we take our Christian faith seriously, we are disturbed by these developments. We feel some fear that government policies shaped by secular thinking might attempt to shut religion out of our culture altogether. We worry that the protections we assume were intended by our Founders in the First Amendment may be redefined to restrict our freedom to exercise our faith. If we truly believe that Jesus has commanded us to make disciples by teaching other people what Jesus taught us as we go about our daily lives, then we worry that our freedom to engage in that task will be diminished in a secular culture. Further we worry that even though we may be free to speak about our faith, people will generally dismiss us as slightly batty rather than consider what we have to say. If we are honest, we would prefer an acerbic engaged conversation to a condescending or indifferent shrug.
The biblical guidance for living faithful lives in a secular culture is not so different from that for living faithful lives in a culture dominated by a religion. The nature of our stresses is different if our testimony is challenged by somebody else’s god than if it is challenged by the denial of all gods. No matter the challenge, our response is always the same. Christ told us exactly what to do.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 
Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Mt 5:43–44). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Re 2:10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.