A few years back, I read Christopher Hitchens’ rather angry book, god is not great. As I reflected on it, it occurred to me that there are no real atheists. There are no true, self-assured atheists. There are only people who are lying to themselves.
“Wait, that sounds crazy! What about Hitler, Nietzsche, Stalin, and a host of serial killers and mass murderers?! What about the worst of the worst?!”
Contrary to humanistic psychology, the Bible teaches that all people have a knowledge of God, then reject that knowledge. Consider:
- “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.” (Psalm 53:1)
- “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)
Notice in both verses that there is a knowledge of God that is innate within every human that unbelievers then deceive themselves about (“the fool says in his heart”) and reject (“suppress the truth”).
Why Do They Reject?
If self-proclaimed “atheists,” then, have a knowledge of God which they reject, why do they reject Him? The answer lies in their lifestyles, their self-chosen desires, their lusts of the flesh.
The Bible regularly connects self-deception about God to the desire to “do abominable iniquity,” such as violence against other humans (e.g., abortion), perverted sexual desires, envy, deceit, slander, disobedience to parents, and the like.
It is often assumed that beliefs lead to lifestyles, and this is very true. But the connection works in the other way, too. We suppress God’s truth because we want to do abominable evils against Him and our fellow man, then our false beliefs allow us to do just so.
The Evil Circle
Apart from God’s gracious deliverance, our evil desires lead us to believe lies. In believing these atheistic lies, we justify our own evil desires. It is an evil, dark circle of deceit.
Women and men want to kill “unwanted” children, so they invent doctrines that allow it. A young man wants to steal a pair of shoes, so he decides God hasn’t spoken in the Ten Commandments. A young woman wants to feel loved, so she morphs God’s institution of marriage to mean “being in love.”
To put it another way, in the unbeliever, the atheist, the “fool,” desires rule beliefs. Individuality governs truth. Selfishness stomps out the reality of God’s revelation.
For Christians, it is just the opposite. By the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we have escaped the rule of ourselves to be conformed to God’s Word. God’s Word is reality, truth governs and changes individuals, and faith redeems desires toward the all-satisfying God.
Pray for those today who are still caught in this evil circle, and don’t think for a moment that their false beliefs are the strongest force in their hearts. Rather, it is their selfish, dark, evil desires to defame their Maker.