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About non-Atheists view of Atheism

A common belief by conservative
Protestants that Atheists believe in God:

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About Romans 1 & 2:

A common thread running through the writings of many conservative Christians is that all people, including Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others, are aware of God's existence. They offer as proof:

bulletA passage from Chapter 1 of Paul's epistle to the Romans in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) is often quoted to prove that everyone, including Atheists, are aware of God's existence because of the obvious design seen everywhere in the universe.

bulletA passage of Romans 2 is often used to prove that God's laws are written on everyone's conscience including that of Atheists. This would presumably include an awareness of God.

Many conservative Christians also believe that Atheists are hypocrites; they simply pretend that they are unaware of God, and lying to others.

We describe both of these passages below, with rebuttals.

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Romans 1: Argument from design:

Romans 1:18 to 20 states:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." 1

That is, when a person looks around at the design of the stars; sun; moon; planets; the world and its oceans, mountains, valleys canyons, plants, and animals; and the rest of the universe, they see multiple proofs for the existence of God. There is no excuse for anyone to deny God's existence or creative power.

This is basically Paul's version of the argument for the proof of God's existence from design. Atheists are without excuse, since they only need to look at creation and be forced to conclude that the universe must have had a creator with superhuman/supernatural powers. That is one definition of a God.

A rebuttal:

Whenever a statement is encountered in the Bible, it is important to determine whether:

bulletIt is universal; it is applicable for all eras and all cultures.

bulletIt is only applicable to some eras and/or some cultures.

It can be argued that Paul's statement was applicable in the first century CE when he wrote it, but is not necessarily meaningful today.

In the middle of the first century CE, when people believed in a three tier universe composed of a flat earth, a metallic dome above that supported Heaven, and the space between the dome and earth. Living in a pre-scientific culture, they had no concept of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago, the development of the universe, the origin of the solar system, that the earth rotates around the sun, the coalescence of the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago, and evolution of the species of animals, etc. With the rise of of modern cosmology, geology, evolution, as well as studies of the origins of religion, higher criticism of the Bible, and the quest for the historical Jesus, people in the 21st century have the necessary framework to begin to understanding how the universe developed without a creator, and how the Bible writers formed their beliefs.

People in the first century CE may have had no excuse for having no belief in God. However, many people in the twenty-first century are able to defend their lack of belief in God from the observations and conclusions of science.

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Romans 2: Beliefs written by God onto their conscience:

Romans 2:15 states:

"Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another." (KJV) 1

That is, even people who have not been exposed to the Bible have God's standards "written in their hearts" as part of their design as human beings. In Biblical times, the heart and kidneys were believed to the organs where human thoughts arose and were stored. In modern times, his is often expressed as God inserting an awareness of his law into everyone's conscience.

These two passages from Romans might have inspired the following attacks on Atheists, Agnostics and non-Christians:

bulletCornelius Van Till wrote that:

"... the most depraved men cannot wholly escape the voice of God. ... [Efforts] to destroy or bury the voice of God that comes to him through nature, which includes his own consciousness" can never succeed." 2

bulletJohn Blanchard wrote:

"God has ensured that those who question his existence, along with those who reject him out of hand, have not a shred of moral integrity in doing so...The Bible makes it clear that those who reject God outright, and those who claim to be sitting on the fence, are refusing to acknowledge what they know to be true." 3

bulletRobert T. Lee wrote:

"...atheism is not about proof and evidence, but is about rejecting the fundamental principles of life. Atheism's chief purpose of existence is to deny the existence of God in the midst of overwhelming proof. No atheist will admit these facts. But again, this is the nature of satanic atheism: to refuse to admit the truth." 4

and:

"... atheism is properly defined as a denial of the existence of God in the midst of full knowledge that the true God does indeed exist. Atheism knows God exists; it is quite familiar with that fact, but it says 'under no circumstance or situation will I admit to God's existence'."

Atheism clearly perceives the fingerprints of God on all of creation, but refuses to admit He is the Creator." 5

A rebuttal:

Most of those mental health professionals who are not religious conservatives believe that one's conscience is formed by the age of about seven, as a result of their experiences as newborns, infants, and young children. That is, newborns do not enter the world with a conscience pre-formed by God.

From the hundreds of conversations that we have had with Atheists, Agnostics, and other non-theists via Email and face-to-face meetings, we have concluded that Atheists generally do not feel that they are suppressing a personal belief in God. They truly believe that they can find no conclusive evidence for the existence of God, Satan, angels, demons, or any other supernatural entity. Many Atheists find it difficult to understand how Christians, Jews, Muslims and other Theists can believe in a personal God, without any convincing data to support that belief. Some note that the specific beliefs held by followers of theistic religions are largely determined by one's location on Earth: most people born in Saudi-Arabia accept the beliefs about Allah found in Islam; most Americans in the deep south are conservative Protestants; most Canadians in Quebec are at least nominal Roman Catholics, etc. One's belief are largely an accident of birth.

Of course, most Christians pray to God and believe that their prayers are answered. They believe that they sense God taking an active role in determining even minor events in their life. Many use phrases such as "their daily walk with Christ." They often find it difficult to understand how anyone can possibly refuse to acknowledge God's presence. This mindset may well lead them to conclude that Atheists are "faking it."

Just as homophobia is most easily overcome by dialogue among heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals, understanding of individuals' beliefs concerning the existence of God is also best achieved through contacts between Theists, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, etc. Unfortunately, such individuals seem to form groups of separate solitudes with little interaction.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Paul, "Romans," King James Version of the Bible.
  2. Cornelius Van Till, "Christian Apologetics," Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co, Pages 32-33. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  3. John Blanchard, "Does God believe in Atheists?" Evangelical Press, (2000), Page 483-4. Read reviews or order this book
  4. Robert T. Lee, "It is foolish to debate with an Atheist," Society for the Practical Establishment and Perpetuation of the Ten Commandments, at: http://www.tencommandments.org/
  5. Robert T. Lee, "Exposing the Atheist 1," Society for the Practical Establishment and Perpetuation of the Ten Commandments, at:  http://www.tencommandments.org/

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Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-AUG-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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