Kinds of Atheists

By Cecil Willis

All religion finds its impetus in the worship of the infinite, transcendental Being that we know as God. When one worships God, he is paying homage or reverence to God. It is a physical impossibility for one to worship God unless there is an unfeigned faith in his heart that such a Being as God is a real entity, rather than the figment of one’s imagination. Only those who genuinely believe in the existence of God can render sincere praise and adoration to Him. For an unbeliever to try to worship God would be but folly and nonsense, because worship presupposes that one devoutly believes.

Throughout the history of mankind there have been varying amounts of atheism. Virtually from the beginning there has been some doubters. Especially throughout the past few centuries have there been atheists interspersed throughout the historical situations. History is replete with the names of men such as Voltaire, Ingersoll, Paine, and myriads of lesser lights. These men have had many idiosyncrasies. They have differed in many points, but one thing they held in common: they all denied there was a God.

The Biblical account recognizes that there are many unbelievers. It discusses the different classes of atheists, or declares why some men become atheists. We would like for you to think with us about some of the reasons why people become atheists. Not every person becomes an atheist for the same reason, just as it is likewise true that not every person turns to religion for the same reason. Some turn to religion simply because they are in despair. Others because they learn what the Scriptures teach, and so they become simple New Testament Christians because of their love for the truth, and because they love God and heaven and fear hell. So it is with atheists. Not all atheists are atheists for the same reason.

Influence of “Scholars”

First of all, there are many of our good young people who are made atheists because they are influenced by prestige. Many a mother’s heart has been broken over the unbelief created in the heart of her son or daughter because the youth has become engulfed with the personality of his or her unbelieving teacher. To many, even in our own land, unbelief is equated with scholarship. Believers are thought to consist of nothing but an uneducated, superstitious mass of gullible people. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The Bible teaches Christians to predicate their faith upon evidence. The apostle Peter commands us to: “sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear.” (1 Pet. 3:15). The Bible does not teach us gullibly to accept faith in God. In fact, the Scriptures teach that certain evidences were given to the Gentiles, so that they may be without excuse. They could have believed in God, had they only had their minds open. Paul says: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse.” (Rom. 1:18-20).

Yet so many of the world’s youth who have been nurtured “in the chastening and the admonition of the Lord,” depart from the faith, not because sound reason for unbelief has been offered to them, but because so many of the world’s educated men are unbelievers. Actually, relatively few of the world’s scholars are atheists. Believing scientists and philosophers are vastly in the majority. Nevertheless, a lot of the teenagers, and college students are jarred from their faith by ridicule from their associates. Rather than prepare themselves to answer the quibbles of skeptics, they acquiesce. They follow the path of least resistance, and forfeit their faith, thinking they gain in return for it, recognition as one of the learned.

A lot of these people never fully accept the consequences of their accepted atheistic philosophy. Without God, there is no longer any moral responsibility. One can no longer say I ought to do this or that, for there is no longer any real basis for an “I ought.” There is no criterion of moral responsibility. It was blasted into oblivion by their newly accepted unbelief. Atheism precludes moral responsibility. But actually these boys and girls, these young men and young women, fortunately, never live by the logical deductions of this theory of unbelief. They go right on living according to the moral code they learned from the Scriptures, yet they profess not to believe the Scriptures.

Moral Failures

On the other hand there is another kind of atheist. We might call him an atheist with a purpose. He became an unbeliever for a given purpose. He is the individual who labors to find some basis of unbelief in order that he may be relieved of any moral responsibility for his sinful life. He is what we may call the atheist made so because of moral failures. The Bible pictures this kind of man in vivid language. In Psalm 14:1, the scriptures say: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Who says there is no God? The Bible says the “fool” says it. The word “fool” as used in this passage does not mean a lunatic, or a person mentally deficient. Here it has a different meaning.

We must remember that the Old Testament originally was written in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew word used in this passage, and here translated by the word “fool” is “often used in the Scriptures to denote a wicked man.” (Albert Barnes, Commentary on Psalms, Vol. 1, p. 113.) In fact, it is used many times in the Old Testament, and it is sometimes translated so as to imply wickedness. For example in Isa. 32:5, 6 the same word here translated “fool” is translated “vile person” (KJV). It means a wicked person. The word also came to mean “foolish” because of the recognized folly of wickedness. So the psalmist David is saying the wicked person who pursues the folly of sin says in his heart there is no God.

As we were studying the preceding kind of atheist, the kind caused by admiration of one’s atheistic teachers, we found that atheism will likely lead one into sin, but we find in this kind of atheism his sin leads the individual into atheism. This man recognizes that he is doing wrong, but rather than attempt any kind of correction of his fault, he attempts to justify his moral delinquency by seeking some basis upon which he can declare there is no God.

In Psalm 53 we find virtually the same language as we found in the fourteenth chapter as to why an individual will become an atheist. The writer there says: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none that doeth good” (Psalms 53:1).

You will notice in both these verses, it is said that the foolish man has said in his heart, there is no God. It may be that he never finds the courage audibly to express his unbelief, but nevertheless, because of his sinful manner of life, he has said in his heart, there is no God. The thought passes through his mind, and he reflects on it, and cherishes it. And even though this man never will openly say he does not believe there is a God, nevertheless he continues to live as though there were no God. His actions speak the sentiment of his heart, when his tongue is too fearful to do so.

In Psalm 10, David speaks of the activities of one of these wicked men, and describes how he seeks to justify his unrighteous deeds. He says: “For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire. And the covetous renounceth, yea, condemneth Jehovah. The wicked, in the pride of his countenance, saith, He will not require it. All his thoughts are, There is no God. His ways are firm at all times; Thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his adversaries, he puffeth at them. He saith in his heart, I shall not be moved; To all generations I shall not be in adversity. His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression: Under his tongue is mischief and iniquity. He sitteth in the lurking-places of the village: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent; His eyes are privily set against the helpless …. He saith in his heart: God hath forgotten, He hideth his face, he will never see it.” (Psalm 10:3-11). Notice why this man was an atheist. He had done certain vile deeds that he knew would bring about punishment if God existed. He was going to continue so to live, regardless of punishment impending, so he began to tell himself that there is not a God to punish you for your activities. So you can continue in them without fear of judgment. This is precisely the way most atheists are made. It is the result of sinful living.

The Agnostic

Then there is a third kind of atheist. He is what we may call an agnostic. The word agnostic simply means one who does not know. These people live upon the same earth, enjoy the Summer and the Winter, the blessings of the sun, moon and stars, just as do the devout believers. God sends the rain upon the just and the unjust, the Bible says. But in spite of the fact that these people are sharing the natural blessings of God, they still profess not to know whether He is existent or not. This is but another way to express unbelief.

Regardless of whether one wants to admit it or not, there are certain things that must be explained. Creatures are ere. The heavens and the earth are here. How did they come to be? Life exists. From whence did it, come? The believer proposes an explanation. He declares that the inspired Scriptures tell us how all these things came to be. We read in Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible likewise explains the ‘origin of man. It was not through the gradual development of some primordial cell that gave birth to higher forms of life, including man. The Bible, in Genesis 1, tells us that God, by fiat creation, made all these is. He spoke it into existence. He said “Let there be light, and there was light.” In Psalm 100:3, the writer says: “Know ye that Jehovah, he is God: It is he that hath made us, and we are his.” God is the creator of man. Man is not merely a glorified ape. He is the product of an omnipotent hand. He is the work of God, created in His image.

But our unbelieving associates, while denying the Bible offers adequate explanation as to the beginning of things, offer no better explanation. Indeed, quite often they offer no explanation at all. They simply propose to point out what is wrong with the Bible explanation of origins. We have no objection to one investigating the Bible account. In fact we encourage it. But if one is going to criticize the Biblical account of creation, and the Bible explanation of beginnings, he should have a better explanation to offer. If not, he should be hesitant to criticize.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:31, p.3-5
June 6, 1074