Those were atheists?!
“Those were atheists ?!” my nine year-old son asked. “I thought they would look more… you know… mean-looking. I wish you’d let me debate them. I think I could have taken them. Wow, so they were really atheists, Dad?” It was one of those moments that really stand out in my mind. I had just finished an open “Question and Answer” session in a weekend seminar. Approximately twenty atheists had shown up in response to the flyers spread around town. My oldest son had come to the front of the auditorium to help me pack up at the conclusion of the night. We had a few moments alone and so I used that time to discuss some of the topics mentioned during the Q & A session. My son’s comments came after I revealed to him that the individuals who I had just been talking with were atheists. My son was shocked. After all, the atheists were dressed very similar to him! In fact, one of them had been extremely kind to him and had carried on a conversation with him about football and school.
I Can Answer That Question
Far too often we view atheists as evil people who wear scary-looking clothes and mean scowls on their faces. The reality of it is we might be hard pressed to pick them out in our own community. They may be living literally in the house next door. On one occasion I was speaking at a small congregation in a little town in Arkansas when a Christian asked me a question: “Why do atheists do ….” I smiled and answered that I wasn’t sure since I was not an atheist. A man to my right stood up and meekly said, “I can answer that question.” You could have literally heard a pin drop. He continued by saying, “I realize I will probably lose some business with some of you all and have known most of you my whole life, but I’m an atheist.” This was a man in their community they had known for years, and yet there he was—an atheist—in their midst.
In many cases atheists dress like we do, talk like we do, and oftentimes have nice personalities. They come in all shapes, sizes, and socioeconomic classes. These individuals frequently come across as “questioners” or intellectually superior—making religion appear to be a crutch. This may be why so many young people are drawn to them like moths to a flame. Make no mistake about it, atheists are real and are very much in your community.
Atheism is the belief that there is no God. It is derived from the Greek word atheos, meaning godless. Atheos means “without,” and theos means “deity.” The number of individuals who identify themselves as atheists has increased dramatically over the past few years. It has become the belief system of choice for many high school and college students who deem it critical to question everything and go against the norm. So exactly how are atheists appealing to our children and grandchildren?
The Scientific Method
One of the reasons atheists have been so successful in emptying out church pews is because they have convinced at least two generations that everything must be proven using the scientific method. From an early age, students are taught that if you cannot see, touch, taste, smell, or hear it, then “it” does not exist. Those who have stiffened their necks against God recognize that He exists beyond scientific measure—and thus, our young people feel that it is impossible to prove His existence. Case in point—just before I was to teach 700 students about Christian evidences at a Christian academy, one of the seniors got up and offered a prayer. During his prayer, he made the statement that while they didn’t know for sure God was real and couldn’t prove He existed, they had faith and believed in Him. This young man had just told 700 of his classmates he was not sure God was real!
Many Christian parents find themselves dismayed when their child returns home from school only to announce they no longer believe in a God. And yet, as more and more atheists take a militant approach, this phenomenon is occurring more and more often. In a personal email an atheist indicated, “I never really seriously thought about church and religion until I moved to college. After thinking, reading, and discussing God and religion, my belief in God faded and eventually disappeared. Letting go of God was not an easy process—at least for me.” It was not an easy process, but this individual has officially turned his back on God.
Something From Nothing?
Atheists struggle with explaining the very existence of the universe. Any logical person would be hard pressed to defend that nothing exists today. The very fact that you are reading this article indicates that something exists. (Some might contend that this is all a hallucination—but I would still ask where did the hallucination come from, and exactly how do you know it is a hallucination? For something to be acknowledged as a hallucination would mean that one can know reality.) Since it is an absolute truth that something now exists, it demands that something has existed forever. Otherwise, one would be forced to argue that something came from nothing—a position that is weak and illogical. It is a self-evident truth that something can’t come from nothing, thus something has to have existed forever. This truth does not prove a Supreme Being, but rather it establishes that something has “eternal” properties.The essence of being eternal can be defined as existing without a beginning or end—sometimes considered to be outside of time. Since something exists today, it is a reasonable scientific observation to then go one step further and deduce that something has existed forever.
But how do we go about identifying that eternal “something”? This is where naturalistic science meets philosophy. All of our scientific observations exclude anything being “eternal” in nature. (Some might argue that the universe holds an eternal potential, i.e. Heni Poincare’s work would argue that given a sufficient length of time, it will reorder itself into its original arrangement without any loss of usable energy. However, the evidence of such a “theory” is still lacking and would be a faith-based assumption in itself.) Everything that man is currently aware of obeys the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that things are running down and wearing out (a concept also shared by writers of the Bible; see Hebrew 1:11; Isaiah 51:6; Psalm 102:26). Eternality would indicate that something is not running down and had no beginning. Consider the following equations:
1. Something exists today—THUS—something must be eternal and has always existed.
2. Something is eternal (doesn’t wear down and was not created)—THUS—something violates scientific laws (specifically the Second Law of Thermodynamics).
3. Something violates scientific laws—THUS—something exists outside the observable laws of naturalistic science.
From these we can conclude:
4. Something eternal is THUS outside the observable laws of naturalistic science!
While many atheists may not like this “math,” it is inescapable. To argue otherwise would be to deny our very existence. We can logically conclude that something has existed forever—something that is not explainable by naturalistic science. That something is God.
A Belief System Without Hope
Without a belief in God, one must ponder what hope these individuals truly have. What is their view of the afterlife? Consider the following proposition:
1. Only bodies in which a component (e.g., the spirit) is eternal and endless can have meaning (E form: No finite lives have meaning).
2. If there are no gods, then there are no endless lives (A form: If there are no gods, all lives are finite).
3. If there is no God, then no lives have meaning.
This meaning does not equate with happiness, as non-believers and believers alike can experience worldly happiness. However, the core meaning for our lives shapes our attitudes and oftentimes dictates how we conduct ourselves while on this earth. For many, the whole duty of man is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). For others, the duty of man is to eat, drink, and be merry. Consider for a moment the response I received from two atheists when I asked them how they view death.
Jason said, “Non-existence, period. Dead people do not exist. The person ceases to exist upon death. Death is just a way of expressing that a person has passed away into non-existence, which is (by that concept) only troubling for the people who still exist.
Another atheist, Josh, remarked, “My view on death and an afterlife is pretty nihilistic and generic of the typical atheist. There is no afterlife, and we’ve got to do what we can now. It will make dying a lot easier to know that I will be known long after I die, so for me, it’s kind of like making my ego survive my body.”
I’ve heard it said many times that it takes more faith to be an atheist than a Christian. Given the amount of evidence we have for God, I would agree. Ask yourself ,“Do I have enough faith to be an atheist?” Ultimately we are without excuse! (see Romans 1:20).
Brad Stine once mused: “Who is more irrational? A man who believes in a God he doesn’t see, or a man who’s offended by a God he doesn’t believe in?” I would take that even one step further: “Who is more irrational? A Christian who believes in God but doesn’t teach his child about Him, or an atheist who doesn’t believe in Him but takes the time to teach the child his beliefs?”