A 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.
A 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 are lying to others.
We describe both of these passages below, with rebuttals.
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
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.
Whenever a statement is encountered in the Bible, it is important to
It is universal; it is applicable for all eras and all cultures.
It 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, the emergence of single-celled life, 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
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.
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
is, even people who have not been exposed to the Bible have God's
standards "written in their hearts" as part of their development as
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.
"... 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
John 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
Robert 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
"... 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
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 beliefs on religious topics 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 mind set 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.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.