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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: When the God of the Bible Is Rejected

Don Stewart :: What Is Atheism?

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What Is Atheism?

When the God of the Bible Is Rejected – Question 16

Atheism is a belief which is held by many people. It is important, therefore, that we have a proper understanding of the beliefs, or non-beliefs, of atheism.

Atheism Defined: God Does Not Exist

The word atheism comes from the Greek prefix a meaning “no” or “non” and the word theos meaning “god” or “God.” An atheist is one who believes that God does not exist. Simply put, the atheist has no “God beliefs.” The atheist explains all of existence in a natural rather than a supernatural manner. When he looks at the world around him he sees it as a product of natural forces. The atheist considers religious belief in a God, or gods, as without ultimate meaning.

There Are Practical and Theoretical Atheists

We need to make the distinction between practical and theoretical atheists. Practical atheists live and speak as though no God exists. They may hold to some belief in God but for all intents and purposes they live their lives without acknowledging God. God does not interfere with their lives, and they do not acknowledge Him with the way they live.

Theoretical atheists claim to hold an intellectual belief that no God exists. They not only live as though no God exists, they also state their belief. Practical atheists far outnumber theoretical atheists.

Problems with Atheism

There are a number of problems with atheism. They include the following:

1. A Person Must Have Infinite Knowledge to Know God Does Not Exist

Some atheists believe that proof of the non-existence of God is available. They contend that there is convincing evidence that God does not exist. Yet, this type of atheist cannot personally know with certainty that God or gods do not exist. This is because there are only two possible ways that anyone could know that God did not exist.

Since it is possible that a God exists somewhere in the universe who has not communicated to us, a person would have to have complete knowledge of everything that is going on in every part of the universe to categorically make the claim that God does not exist. Of course if that person had sufficient knowledge to be able to make the statement that God does not exist, they would be all-knowing and then, by definition, they would be God. Otherwise they could not know with certainty whether or not one God, or many gods, do exist.

2. Special Revelation Could Tell Us That God Does Not Exist

There is a second way that someone could know that God does not exist; if they received a special revelation informing them that there exists no God or gods in the universe. But only God Himself could give that special revelation, so this way of denying God’s existence is also ruled out.

Therefore, a little proof may show that God does exist, while no amount of proof that humanity can gather can ever disprove His existence. Thus to state that God does not exist is to commit the fallacy of “categorical denial.”

One should more properly say, I do not believe that there is evidence of the existence of God rather than saying there is no God. Many atheists do argue like this. On that basis, the atheist can then present their case as to why they think God does not exist, and the theist, the one who believes in God, can counter the atheist”s arguments of why they believe that God does exist.

The Bible makes it clear what it thinks of atheism:

Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.” They sin and commit evil deeds; none of them does what is right. (Psalm 14:1 NET)

The position of the atheist cannot be reasonably held.

There Is No Ultimate Right or Wrong in Atheism

There is something else that must be recognized. The logical result of being an atheist is that there are no moral absolutes. Indeed, there is no such thing as right and wrong. In denying the existence of God, atheists find nothing greater in the universe than themselves and their own beliefs. There is no Lawgiver or Judge before whom the atheist will someday stand to give an account of their behavior. Therefore atheism permits the individual to do whatever he or she wishes to do. Although some atheists have a moral code, they certainly do not have to follow any moral standard. This atheistic belief system gives the entire world a reason to act in an irresponsible and sinful manner.

However, this brings up an unsolvable problem for the atheist; the problem of evil. While atheists recognize that evil exists in the world they cannot appeal to any outside standard to say what it right and what is wrong. This leaves them in the uncomfortable position of denying God but recognizing evil.

In fact, if there is no absolute standard of right and wrong then why call anything evil? By definition, there is no absolute authority to tell us what is right and what is wrong. Yet the atheist cannot live consistently with this belief system. When an atheist is wronged they will complain just as loud as those who believe in an absolute standard of right and wrong. However, according to their own system, there is nobody who can actually say what is right and what is wrong.

The believer in the God of the Bible has no such problem. He or she can examine the Scripture for an absolute standard of right and wrong. Contrary to the atheists, the believer in Jesus Christ knows who we are, why we are alive, and what is going to happen to us when we die. Indeed, the God of the Bible has told us our identity, purpose and destiny. Atheism can provide no such answers.

Summary – Question 16
What Is Atheism?

Atheism denies the existence of a personal God. They believe there is no convincing evidence that any sort of Deity exists. Some atheists make the claim that no God exists while others say they do not believe that there is any convincing evidence for the existence of God.

Yet there is no way that an atheist can really know this for certain. The atheist would have to have all knowledge of everything in the universe to make such an authoritative claim as to God’s non-existence. Strange as it may sound, only God, whose existence is denied by the atheist, could have the ability to prove that no God exists!

Atheists can also be simply divided into two groups. We have the practical atheists and the theoretical atheists. There are more practical atheists than theoretical atheists. Practical atheists merely live as though God does not exist, though they may have some belief in a God. Theoretical atheists state their denial. They openly say that God does not exist. Whatever the case may be, God’s existence is denied.

The logical result of atheism is to deny any sense of right and wrong. This opens the door to all types of behavior that threaten the very foundation of human societies. The atheist, by denying the existence of God, replaces God with himself. However, the atheist cannot really live consistently with this position. When they are wronged they complain. But if each of us sets our own standard there is nobody to really complain to.

Furthermore, the atheist does not have any answer to the problem of evil. If there is no ultimate standard then nobody has the right to call anything good or evil. This is one of the many problems for the atheist.

The Bible-believer has no such problem. God has provided an ultimate standard of right and wrong by which we know how to live. The atheist has no such standard.

How Is God Viewed in the New Age Movement? ← Prior Section
If Atheists Actually Cannot Claim That God Does Not Exist, Then How Can They Argue Their Position? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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