Posted by: Average Joe | June 9, 2011

T-shirt Atheism

Ah, summer. That two-and-a-half-month challenge to keep kids from nonstop fighting, boredom, and household damage. It’s also time to take a break and check out the blockbuster movies, right?

You’re in a long line at the opening of a super-hyped movie and you’re fidgety, but not for obvious reasons. The person behind you is sporting a T-shirt with three crucified figures, the front-and-center one with a bubble above him that reads, “I wish I’d been an atheist.” It’s gonna be a good half hour before you’ll be allowed in. As a Christian you figure that God put this person here for a reason, so you think it through. Surely there are problems with that inflammatory statement but you can’t quite put your finger on them, and you don’t want to make a scene. That’s not your style.

What comes out of your mouth, if anything?

Assuming you hold your tongue and decide to “just pray for him” instead, let’s say in the mad rush for good seats, you find yourself right next to the shameless T-shirt wearer as you endure the onslaught of commercials. Or, you have a teenage son or daughter with you and they have already commented or asked about the shirt. Whaddya say, now?

It’s not that Christians can’t enjoy a laugh and poke fun at themselves. Some of the shirts, if irreverent, are funny. And let’s admit—what’s been done in the name of Christ has provided atheism plenty of marketing material. In this case, however, the shirt takes aim at a couple of core doctrines (the atonement and the nature of the Godhead) and ridicules them. It’s like the guy woke up and, knowing he’d be in a line where he’d be seen, made sure he wore the extra snarky shirt.

Christian theology explains that the brazen T-shirt wearer is no different than the believer in at least one respect: human fallenness. The atheist celebrates the notion that there’s “no god” with assorted mockeries and illogical statements such as Christ wishing he were born an atheist so he would not incur the punishment of his Father. The Christian celebrates the atonement as an undeserved gracious act on his behalf that has forever changed his status before a holy God and that galvanizes his life for worship and service.

I don’t know what I would do in this hypothetical situation, especially if my inquisitive twelve-year-old said something, but it is awfully tempting to “correct the blasphemer,” isn’t it? However, there, but for the grace of God, go I.

What might be a better a starting point? “I couldn’t help but see your shirt there? Have Christians wronged you in the past?”

One thing’s for sure. The movie better be worth it.

Your thoughts?



  1. -elbow- “Hey there, Jesus just told me He thinks your shirt is pretty funny. Apparently, you two have a lot in common, aye?”

  2. ” you are lucky to live in America” try wearing a shirt mocking Islam in a Muslim country.

  3. Maybe you could start with a positive comment, such as “Your tee-shirt really made me think.” If a conversation starts, you could go on to say how glad you are that Jesus didn’t back out. Engaging without combating–that’s the challenge!

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