Apologetics · Atheism · Forgiveness · Paul the Apostle

The Psychology of Atheism

Skeptics of religion in general, along with those who are hostile to theism in particular, argue that the reason why individuals believe in God is because there is a psychological need for God to exist in order to rescue the creation from a meaningless existence.

It is wise and proper to concede that the skeptic makes a valid point with this assertion. Those who believe in God do not want to believe that the universe, and all that is in it, is a product of time plus space plus chance.

But there is something else to consider. The skeptics of religion, the agnostic and the atheist, also have psychological baggage they carry. It can be noted that they do not want God to exist because they know that if God does exist as He is revealed in Scripture, then He is a God who is holy, righteous, and One who is angry with the wicked. God is a God of wrath against the unjust. If God exists, then He is the last great obstacle to a person’s autonomy and accountability, and it is this accountability that drives the skeptic to deny the existence of God. There is a self-interested psychological predisposition for God not to exist in the mind of the atheist and the agnostic.

Of course, the desire for God’s existence does not prove that God exists. And the desire for God’s non-existence does not disprove He exists. The issue must be determined on some other ground such as objective truth. That there is objective truth concerning the existence of God is discussed by the apostle Paul in Romans 1.

Paul postulates that God is known to every person. He is the God who is there, and He is not silent. God has made Himself known to men so that it can be said without equivocation that “which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them” (Romans 1:19).

If this is true, if God is clearly known, then why are their atheists? The biblical answer is that there are agnostics and atheist because skeptical individuals suppress the truth. They deliberately hold truth down. This does not mean that truth is not known, it is. But it does mean that individuals naturally tend to suppress dark thoughts or memories that they are afraid of or find unpleasant. Adam and Eve were afraid of God after eating the forbidden truth. They ran and hid from God. And that is what the skeptic does. He holds the truth down because he is afraid of God, and knows there is good reason to be afraid.

The Bible teaches that God is holy, just, and good. God is righteous, and He is immutable. He does not change. God will hold every person accountable for the things done in their bodies and the thoughts they think in their heart. It is this ultimate accountability that people hate and so they are determined to change “the truth of God into a lie and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:25).

When individuals suppress the truth about the existence of God, God will give them over to their passions and wicked thoughts for a season. God will allow individuals to deny His very existence in order to confirm them in evil. For others, God is pleased to redeem and forgive because they confess sin, acknowledge Him, and accept the divine forgiveness which is to be found through Jesus Christ the Lord.

To the professing atheist and agnostic, to the skeptic the theist can say, “You know the truth but you suppress the truth. You change the truth into a lie because you are afraid of God. You have a right to be afraid, but there is hope for redemption and salvation, for God is a forgiving God. He will forgive you of all your sins if you will accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior.” The Christian can say to the skeptic, “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord. Salvation is yours for the asking, it is yours for the receiving, right now. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

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