There are a couple of recurring characters in fundamentalist illustrations:Â the errant teenager, the king who makes employment decisions based on fantastical tests involving driving a coach near the edge of a cliff, and the ever-present God-hating atheist.
The atheist is a great character for a story because he’s a polarizing figure. Like the man in the black hat in a an old western, it’s obvious who’s side he’s on. It’s no accident that there are very few sermon illustrations involving Unitarians, the Amish, or others who just generally get along with everybody. Also, in a country where over ninety percent of people claim to believe in some kind of God, it’s easy enough to claim whatever you’d like about atheists; chances are there won’t be one in attendance to contradict you.
Whether the atheist is standing in a park challenging God to strike him dead, verbally fencing with a surprisingly astute freshman at a university, or being converted on his deathbed by an evangelist, the story is sure to be equal parts gripping and appalling. It’s even better if you name a famous atheist in your story — whether or not you can actually document that it’s true. Fundamentalists never let a lack of source material get in the way of a good story. Voltaire would hardly recognize himself.
The fool hath said in his heart there is no God. But at least while he’s at it he provides a lot of good illustration material. fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt.