Setting the record straight
First, I am a devoted Christian. I used to be an atheist, and I was pretty hostile toward religion. About ten years ago I came to believe in a rational, loving God. Three years ago, I converted to Christianity. I believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God whose sacrifice opened the door to our salvation. I am also an astrophysicist with a Ph.D. from a respected institution, and have no difficulty whatsoever reconciling my religious beliefs with my work as a scientist. I believe that the universe is 14 billion years old, give or take a billion. And for the record, I believe that life forms have gradually changed from the less complex to the more complex over the history of the Earth, which is approximately 4.6-billion years old. I believe these things, because the evidence overwhelmingly supports them.
Second, I know a lot of atheists, and a few anti-theists. Most of them are exceptional people: intelligent, moral, decent, and just generally all-around good people. Of course, I would like them to convert, but that's between them and God.
Now, here's the sticking point. I strongly believe, based on the evidence, that there can be no such thing as a moral atheistic society. It has never happened. It isn't happening now. The USSR, China, North Korea, Cuba, Cambodia -- all obscenely horrifying places. There has never been a moral, prosperous, progressive nation that is atheistic. A rational person has to look at this and accept that it means something. Of course, logically, it doesn't rule out the possibility that there could someday in the future be a moral, prosperous, progressive society that's atheistic, but then again, socialism might work and Obama might end up being a terrific president. Are you going to count on it?
Pointing this out in a debate is risky, because someone inevitably makes the leap that because I acknowledge the obvious -- that there are no moral atheistic societies -- I must think all atheists are immoral, and that anyone who doesn't live in a Christian society is immoral and backwards. I've never said that, I've never believed it, and I never will. You can most certainly have atheists who are moral individuals. I know several. But I stand by the conviction that it doesn't work on a societal level.
I am not a bigot. I know that moral, intelligent, talented people are born everywhere, not just in Christian societies -- and, sadly, I have to admit that there are some really nasty, backwards so-called Christians out there. But in non-Christian societies, moral, intelligent, talented people are like seeds dropped on pavement, their goodness doesn't take root and grow. Of all the places in the world, why do huge numbers of people immigrate to the U.S., Canada, England, and Australia? These are all nations with a shared Christian heritage based on the English Protestant faith -- the same faith that ended the worldwide slavetrade, and gave rise to the industrial revolution, science, and individual rights -- and they incorporate the good aspects of many different cultures until the overall culture becomes a beneficial blend. It works, because Christianity is the fertile ground upon which the healthy seeds of humanity can grow and mingle and flourish. That's why Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Shintoists, Buddhists, Confucianists, and atheists can come to these places and prosper.
Spiritually, I am committed to my belief in God. Politically, I am committed to the principle of freedom. I want my freedom, and, more importantly, I want your freedom, and that means the freedom not to be Christian and even to be anti-Christian. But I will persist in pointing out that the latter is counterproductive. I consider any conservative/libertarian atheist to be a valuable political ally, but I will forever argue that the Christian faith should be acknowledged as the source of freedom, because failure to do so only chips away at the foundation of that freedom.