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The Folly of Atheism

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 33, January-March 2004.

ATHEISM appears to be undergoing something of a revival these days. It is now a fashionable thing to profess not to believe in God. Unbelievers, particularly those who parade their knowledge of history or science, are applauded and deemed to be very wise. This despite the fact that Scripture has declared them to be fools (Psa.14:1; 53:1).

Rightly understood atheism is to be viewed as a faith with its own distinctive creed. The atheist believes (and often fervently hopes) that there is no God. His faith may be expressed negatively, as "I do not believe that there is a God," or positively, as "I believe that there is no God." With respect to its nature atheism is no different from theism, or belief in God. It is just a different sort of belief. But with respect to its effects it is very different as our society is now witnessing.

We know that we cannot by our own argumentation persuade a man to a true faith in God. Agreater power than logic is required for that. But we can show the reasonableness of belief in God by demonstrating the absurdity, indeed the impossibility, of its opposite. We should note the evil consequences of the denial of God.

First and foremost atheism results in the loss of a final authority. By authority we mean legal power. By a final authority we mean a legal power which is unchanging. Authority of some sort must exist in any society: the alternative is anarchy and the breakdown of society. People can easily see the benefits of law and order. The question which has to be resolved is, Whose will shall prevail?

In former times the answer was that power belonged to an individual. The king's will was supreme. Sometimes this produced benignity but more often tyranny. The king sought to occupy the place of God, but the people were only too aware that he was not God. When they wearied of his rule they were not afraid to rise up and overthrow him. The king, a fellow mortal, did not and could not have the final word on everything. As the Bible says, while we are to honour the king we are to fear God (1Pet.2:17).

In modern times the answer is that power belongs to the many. The people have the authority. So used are we to democracy that it is often assumed that there is something sacred about this form of government. But there can be nothing sacrosanct about the decisions made by the many just because they are the decisions of the many. Unbelieving men tend to be the prisoners of their age and their laws are likely to be revised by the next generation.

Atheism also results in the destruction of a real morality. By morality we mean right and wrong. By a real morality we mean a right and wrong which is absolute, applying to all men in all places at all times. This is the only credible morality but it has been replaced by a unsustainable one – the morality of the majority. Important ethical questions are now effectively decided by human whim. Abortion is an act of murder in one generation but becomes a therapy in the next. To salve the conscience a new morality is developed – one which perversely gives the fox more respect than the unborn child. But in the last analysis there are no safeguards for anyone or anything.

Finally atheism results in the eclipse of a hopeful destiny. By destiny we mean afterlife. By a hopeful destiny we mean a destiny which is blessed. The atheist looks forward to – oblivion! This godless philosophy renders all existence ultimately meaningless yet men have the selfconsciousness that their lives are precious. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that informs us that our lives are truly valuable. In Jesus Christ there is eternal life for guilty sinners such as we are. The resurgence of atheism allows us to focus on these fundamental truths. Let us seize the opportunity!