NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – A Southern Baptist seminary president is speaking out against coercion of belief in a new video from the group Openly Secular – an organization aligned with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science, the Secular Student Alliance, and other "freethought" groups.
In the video, Akin claims he disagrees with secularists about "some very important issues," but he also says he agrees that "no one should be coerced when it comes to their particular religious belief."
"Whether they are religious or not religious, they should have the freedom to believe what they believe and they should be able to do so without hatred, without discrimination. They should not be put down because they happen to disagree with another person in terms of what they believe," Akin says.
Akin says he also believes people have worth and dignity regardless of their religious opinions and should be respected for their beliefs if they follow "the dictates of their conscience." He cites areas where people of faith and secularists can work together for the benefit of others – in poverty initiatives and caring for the environment.
"There are a number of other things we can come together and work together with mutual love, mutual respect and understanding for one another," Akin says.
Akin has received both criticism and praise for his appearance in the video campaign.
How in the world can we as Southern Baptists come and say, 'but we can work together on poverty, we can work together on caring for the planet' which are more and more the things of interest? We are throwing all of our worldview away to say we can work together on these issues that aren't really even a part and purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention.
One supporter, Matt Capps, a brand manager for The Gospel Project, teaching pastor at The Fellowship in Nashville, Tenn., and a blogger at Baptist21, wrote that Akin should be commended for his actions.
"In an increasingly secularized world, we as Christians need to avoid the two extremes of withdrawal and condescension when it comes to cultural engagement," wrote Capps, a Southeastern alum.
"We are to serve faithfully as a representative of Christ, even as we interact with secularists. As evangelical Christians become increasingly marginalized, we will be tempted to respond in sub-Christian ways," Capps continued. "God has saved us so that we would bring every square inch of our lives under submission to His Lordship. We do this as a matter of witness and obedience."
But one Southern Baptist pastor said Akin should "repent" for lending his voice to a group which openly rejects the existence of God and is aligned with other organizations that refer to Christianity as dogma and "superstition."
Randy White, pastor of First Baptist Church of Katy, Texas, said in a video Openly Secular has taken its "cue from the LGBT community," which White described as a minority group that had been successful in getting their agenda passed.
"Their goal is a secular society," White said. "The worldview of OpenlySecular.org is that there is no God. It is that there is no sin. There is no morality. There is no image of God in man, thus there is no human dignity."
"How in the world can we as Southern Baptists come and say, 'but we can work together on poverty, we can work together on caring for the planet' which are more and more the things of interest? We are throwing all of our worldview away to say we can work together on these issues that aren't really even a part and purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention."
Controversial HBO talk show host Bill Maher, who frequently speaks out against Christianity, has also filmed a video segment for Openly Secular. In his segment, Maher calls all religions "ancient myths."
"Now it seems to me the most obvious decision a person could make in their life, do I want to make real world policy decided on the basis of proven facts at the outer reaches of where humans have gotten to do in science, or do I want real world decisions based on ancient myths written by men who didn't know what a germ or an atom is or where the sun went at night. I make choice A – science and facts," Maher says.
"So if you are an openly secular person, it is important to stand up and say it is not okay to make decisions based on myths," Maher adds.
Openly Secular was created by atheist Todd Stiefel and is aligned with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance and Stiefel Freethought Foundation.
The goal of the Stiefel Foundation is to create "a world where government favors liberty over dogma and freethinkers are overt, united and influential."
The Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science was founded by prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, who claims Christianity is a form of "religious extremism" akin to jihadism.
"Religious extremism not only interferes with the advance of science but with personal freedoms and human dignity, and not only in places where jihadists hold sway but in America as well, in areas such as access to contraception, LGBTQ rights and women's equality," a statement on the organization's web site says.