I recently came across yet another article that claims atheists don’t really exist. This is a very common argument among Christians. To them, the existence of god is so obvious that they simply can’t grasp the concept of not believing. So the only explanation that makes sense to them is that we’re in denial.
Here’s what the article says:
Many profess to be atheists, but my question is whether or not these people, in the depth and quiet of their own hearts, honestly believe there is no God. I contend they do not. I contend that they are living and speaking in denial of what they know to be true. I contend that they are laboring to persuade themselves of what is indelibly and inescapably inscribed on their hearts: that there is a God…
That’s all very interesting, but I have a few questions for the author:
Are you calling me a liar? Are you saying the millions of atheists around the world are all liars, too? And that they’re just pretending to not believe in god? Do you think we say to ourselves, “Damn, I wish God didn’t exist”? Do you think we have secret meetings where we complain about god’s existence and remind each other to keep up the masquerade?
Because if you think we’re all liars, then just say so. Don’t hide behind Romans 1:20 and John Calvin. Have the guts to say what you really think. Or is it something else?
Perhaps you’re saying that although we don’t think we believe in god, deep down we actually do and just won’t admit it to ourselves. But if that’s what you’re saying, how is that any different from not believing in god? Just think about it…
What if I told you that deep down you believe in unicorns, you just won’t admit it to yourself. You assure me you don’t believe in unicorns, but I say, “You’re deluding yourself. You might not think you believe in unicorns, but you do. In the depth and quiet of your heart, you do.”
Not very convincing? Welcome to my world! For all intents and purposes, not thinking you believe in unicorns and not believing in unicorns are the same thing. If you don’t think you believe in unicorns, then you don’t believe in unicorns. It’s the same with god. If you don’t think you believe in god, then you don’t believe in god. Statements like, “You believe in god, you just don’t know it,” are meaningless.
Even if you argue that atheists believe in god on a subconscious level, it makes no difference. I might have the complete works of Shakespeare memorized on a subconscious level, but if I can’t bring it to my conscious mind, then it may as well not be there. A belief that is only subconscious is not an actual belief.
So why do you keep insisting there’s no such thing as atheists? I think it’s because you’re afraid. The very idea of atheists frightens you because if god’s existence is not obvious to us, then maybe it’s not obvious at all. Maybe you’re the one who isn’t being honest. So you stick your fingers in your ears and yell, “Book of Romans! John Calvin! La la la la la!”
If I wanted, I could argue that deep down you do believe in atheists, you just don’t want to admit it. Imagine if I did. Imagine if I took it a step further and argued that you don’t actually believe in god. What if I wrote the following…?
Many profess to be theists, but my question is whether or not these people, in the depth and quiet of their own hearts, honestly believe there is a god. I contend they do not. I contend that they are living and speaking in denial of what they know to be true. I contend that they are laboring to persuade themselves of what is inescapable obvious: that there is no god…
I could make a very strong case that theists don’t actually believe in god: Most of them don’t act like it, there’s no verifiable evidence that god exists, and there are many reasons why people might want to convince themselves there’s a god. For example: desire to see deceased loved ones again, desire to live forever, desire to be happy forever, desire to see evil people punished, etc.
Maybe theists are actually atheists in denial. Perhaps the problem is that they willfully, selfishly, and knowingly loathe this life which they know will end, and they would rather indulge in their selfish desire for eternal bliss and pretend their skydaddy will vanquish their enemies than admit there’s no god. Is that offensive? No more offensive than what you wrote about us:
The problem is that they willfully, selfishly, and knowingly loathe the God whom they see and know to exist and would rather indulge their own fleshly lusts and worship their own souls than honor and give thanks to the God of glory. [italics mine]
By the way… seriously? So all I get to do is break some arbitrary rules about sex and think about how awesome I am, but you get eternal bliss? And you think I’m the selfish one!?
Anyway, I would never presume to tell you what you actually believe. I’m not that arrogant. I think you really do believe in god. But considering all the imaginary benefits that come with it, believing in god seems incredibly easy (and convenient–no social ostracism for you). I’m not surprised so many people have convinced themselves that god exists.
I, on the other hand, have to deal with the prospect that when I die, that will be it. That I won’t live forever, that I won’t see my deceased father again, that there is no cosmic justice. I don’t like it, but at least I have the courage to face it.
So which is it? Am I a liar, or do I believe in god but not realize it? If it’s the former, then you have to wonder why millions of atheists are willing to trade eternal bliss for some earthly pleasures. And how is it that none of them have slipped up and accidentally revealed their god belief? If it’s the latter… well, I already explained why that doesn’t make sense.
It sounds to me like you don’t know many atheists. Since you’re a pastor, I’m willing to bet that whenever you encounter them, you’re too busy proselytizing to actually listen to them. Why not get your nose out of your Bible and get to know us? You might learn something.
Most religious people project their own shortcomings, doubts, and fears on others. Telling we atheists that we actually believe in god, “deep-down,” is simply a religious projection tactic to avoid their own cognitive dissonance. Much like the religious that are the most vociferous against homosexuality are combating the cognitive dissonance of their own predilections that their belief structure (which molds the reality created in their own mind) finds sinful, their fear of disbelief requires that everyone else believe.
I first started living in character to overcome chronic stage fright in my late teen. It’s been really useful. My default atheist these days has evolved on from the angry young academic, confidently astride the moral high ground, into that creepy guy who asks strange questions at even stranger times. The one method guaranteed to reveal the true self-righteous prick behind the charade, has been to tell me that I know god exists.
The issues being pretty much as above.
The very nature of the accusation, that another should have a clearer understanding of your thoughts than you, is self-evidently a delusion of superiority at once mind-boggling in scope, and further diametrically opposed to any conceivable notion of experience that fits the available data.
But it is the casual disregard of the notion that our own experience may have something useful to offer in contemplating our own experience, that really sharpens the tongue.
Accusing such dolts of dishonesty, allows me much greater freedom to disperse my vitriol, the once the insult is identified, all bets are off, and the flood gates are open.
At the moment, I’m sure that much of this nonsense is deliberate, dishonest, and nasty, and I’m sure that our approach should remain, at least in part, indignant and aggressive.
That said, in reading your blog tonight, I was contrasting it with this recent ramble of mine.
and I suspect I had a vision of how one could inadvertently become infected with such a delusion.
In such a case, aggression is counter productive.
Let’s go back to first principles, WWSD?
As ever, first he would remind us,” You are so stupid, you think you could know something? Ptchar!
Then, Questions, more questions.We will need to ask many more questions. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get much traction with this.
It is urgent that raise the profile of this nonsense and how it may fit together, amongst ourselves most of all.
Michael Cottrill says
Christian narcissism and vanity, unavoidable, it seems excessive pride is a Christian trait.
Whenever some idiot tells me that I believe in god deep inside, if they are CHristians, I respond by saying deep inside they know Allah is the one true God. Whatever they say, I vomit it back to them except with Allah in there. Sometimes it works.
“The problem is they willfully, knowingly, and selfishly loathe the god whom the see and know to exist…”. Wow! Except I have certainly never SEEN a god. I don’t think about a god, much less waste energy loathing a god. I am constantly amazed that theists just don’t get it, that the thought is just not there. As for using atheism as an excuse to sin, my personal experience has been that atheists are more apt to be helpful, kind, sincere, decent and honest than about 95% of xtians. They appreciate life and nature more, are generally more pleasant to be around and find it easy to do the right thing. In fact, we could talk about how honest it is to believe in that which is completely unsupported by evidence…How kind it is to promote hate and witholding the rights of the poor, the troubled, minorities, etc… How sincere it is to ” love the sinner but hate the sin”…How decent it is to indoctrinate and withold education from children.
Sorry, I digress.
It is far more accurate to tell him what he is thinking than for him to try to grasp a mind uncluttered by religion.
wrong it is you atheist that do not get it. everyone knows god exists.
atheist narcissism and vanity, unavoidable, it seems excessive pride is a atheist trait. atheist are pathological liars. you can never trust any atheist to tell the truth/. all atheist know god is real, atheist own words and behaviors proves that they know god is real. this website proves atheists love to lie,.
How is it that I “know” god exists?
Are you saying that I believe in god but that I’m lying and claiming not to believe in him? Why, so I can sin? But if I believe in god, wouldn’t I know that this wouldn’t fool god and that I’m risking eternal hell? The idea that I believe but am pretending not to believe makes no sense.
Or are you saying that deep down I believe, but that I don’t know I believe? If that’s the case, what is the difference between not knowing I believe and actually not believing? For all practical purposes, they are the same.
So which is it?