Secular Humanist once had a question they wanted answered among themselves. “If there is no God, why are so many people around the world religious?” They concluded that the answer was a psychology need to invent God, because the alternative to nihilism was too frightening. Life must have meaning, definition, and purpose.
Christians have a question for all Secular Humanist. “Since there is a God, and it is evident He exists, why do Secular Humanist insist on embracing nihilism, or some form of atheism?” It is a good question the Christian asks, because there is a psychology to atheism which is explained in the book of Romans.
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:21-32).
Atheists are not ignorant men. Some are intellectual giants.
David Hume May 7, 1711 August 25, 1776
John Stuart Mill May 20, 1806 May 8, 1873
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche October 15, 1844 August 25, 1900
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre June 21, 1905 April 15, 1980
Theists are not ignorant men either. The Church has her intellectual giants.
Athanasius of Alexandria c. 296-298 May 2, 373
Augustine of Hippo November 13, 354 August 28, 430
Anselm 1033/1034 1109
Thomas Aquinas 1225 March 7, 1274
Martin Luther November 10, 1483 February 18, 1546
John Calvin July 10, 1509 May 27, 1564
The difference among people is not a superior intellect. Differences between the atheist, and the theist, may arise from a logical error, a false presupposition, an emotional reaction to a gospel truth, or a dramatic life experience. One man told me of his parents putting him into an orphanage at the age of eight. Since that event he has never trusted anyone, or anything, he could not personally understand, or verify, and this included a belief in God.
One of the factors that must be included in the debate between the atheist, and the theist, is the psychological factor. An advancement is made in the discussion, if it is agreed by all, that the question of the existence of God is loaded with psychology. When God is discussed, people come to the discussion with a biased opinion. Every individual is capable of looking at this issue through the lens of their own bias.
My own bias is that God exists. I resent, and reject the idea that my life is without meaning. It is to be conceded that people can construct a philosophical system based on their own desires, prejudices, and biases.
In the final analysis, the existence of God cannot be based on what any one individual wants to be true. Furthermore, the critics of Immanuel Kant have a valued point, when they say that just because it is important to live life as if God exists, in order to have an orderly, and meaningful universe, and society, as Kant concluded, that does not necessarily mean that God exists. A life of meaninglessness without God, is not sufficient ground to argue for the existence of God. Such a position only reflects the state of subjectivity of a theist. It does not prove God, one way, or another.
In like manner, for those who deny the existence of God, there is an important invested interest on their part. God stands as the greatest object in the way of asserting individual autonomy. If there is no God, if God does not exist, then every individual is free to say, and do, whatever their minds conceive with impunity. There is no fear of punishment, loss, or fine. No one can say they are right, or wrong, in what they do, for if there is no Moral Law Giver, there is no Moral Law.
The atheist understands that the worse fate he could face would be to fall into the hands of the living God whose Moral Law he has violated without regret. The atheist will do everything within his power to deny his guilt, his culpability, even to the point of denying accountability to God.
Because there is a psychology for God, that does not prove God. Because there is a psychology against God, that does not prove God, nor does it disprove His existence. Just because someone does not want something to be true, does not mean it is not real.
Arguments for the existence of God must be made on an objective basis, not a subjective basis. An objective evidence for the existence of God can be engaged, but first, the psychology of those who wish to deny the objective evidence, must be realized, and understood.
Individuals do not want to believe in God, because they do not want to be held accountable for the lives they live. There is as much psychological pressure for individuals to deny the existence of God, as there is psychology pressure to assert His existence.
The New Testament addresses the psychology of those who do not want God to exist, or to have any say in their life. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
The mind of the natural man, the unbeliever, the atheist, is so darkened by prejudice that it does not want to open the mind to let the rays of God’s light shine in. The things of God are foolishness unto him. He cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned. What the natural man can know, according to Romans 1, is that there is a God. God can be known, in an objective way, through the created universe. Paul argues that not only can all men know God through nature, but all men do know God through nature.
What Paul goes on to insist, is that man’s problem is not intellectual. There is sufficient information to know God. God’s manifestation of Himself has not been obscured. Man’s problem is moral. The charge is that man does not want God. The charge is not that man cannot know God. He can. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
Not only do men not want to believe in God, they definitely do not want to believe in a God of wrath. There are many theists who will affirm the existence of God, but they too deny He is a God of wrath. The word for wrath is orge, from where we get the word orgy, referring to a violent eruption of passion. Not only is God angry, He is furious. God is not angry with the righteous, but with unrighteousness, and ungodliness.
If there is one particular sin that has caused God’s anger to boil over, it is the sin of unrighteousness, which can be described as ungodliness. The specific sin of which Paul writes, and for which God is so angry is the suppression of the truth. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
It is an evil holding down of truth that makes God angry. The word for hold is katecho, and can be translated, “hold down”, “stifled”, “hindered”, “repressed”, and “suppress.” God has clearly manifested Himself to every human being. But what men do with God’s revelation is to hold it down. The ungodly resist it. They bury it. They suppress it.
In modern psychological language, humans suppress, not happy thoughts, but bad thoughts. We suppress the thoughts, and images, of painful, traumatic events. When visiting a counselor you might be asked questions about your childhood, past experiences, or painful memories. A good counselor will be listening to what you are saying, and he will be watching your bodily reaction to the conversation as well. The counselor knows that suppression of a painful memory does not erase the trauma of the mind. Something maybe buried, but it wants to come back out.
A person might want to push down a strong coiled spring, but it wants to come back out. Traumatic memories will come back up in a dream. They will come back up in a less threatening form. As Paul continues to explain the psychology of atheism, he writes that the ungodly will change, they will trade, they will exchange the truth of God for a lie. “And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23).
A less threatening image of God is conjured up in order for the unbelieving to be in control, and not be frightened. This is knowingly done. The truth is exchanged for a lie. The creature, especially self, is worshipped, rather than the Creator. Paul makes the primordial behavior of man to be the foundation of evil, and the basis for rejecting God. This is idolatry.
Counselors understand that individuals do not destroy the original image, or idea, but they do transform it, and remember it in such a way as not to cause so much pain. There is a psychology to atheism. Atheism fears God more than man, or nature. Atheism fears the wrath of God, which they know they are worthy of receiving. “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:32).
In the presence of the Holy, every Creature is exposed as unholy. The unholy knows that God is all knowing. The unholy knows that God is immutable. He does not change His attitude about sin. It must be judged.
The only hope for the atheist, is to stop suppressing the truth, and embrace God’s plan of salvation which is by faith in the person, and work, of the Lord Jesus Christ.