The Decision to Become an Atheist
Why does someone decide to become an atheist? Perhaps they’ve been raised in a home where their parents are atheists. Perhaps they started out in life believing in God, but when they prayed about a situation and didn’t get the answer they wanted—or didn’t get it quickly enough—they said, “Well, there must not be a God after all.” Or they decided the problem of why God allows evil in the world is just too great to overcome.
In his message “No Other Way to Heaven except through Jesus,” Adrian Rogers presents the case for belief in God, the reasons many choose unbelief, and the clear, simple path one can take to know that first, there is a God, and then we can know Him personally.
It’s a comprehensive message, one that cannot be reduced to a short article, so we encourage you to hear it in its entirety on June 6-7, or in the broadcast archives on those dates or afterward at our website, www.lwf.org.
In this article, we take one aspect of that extensive message: looking at the path a person may take when they make the choice to become an atheist.
In Romans 1, Paul says (v. 16-20)
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed. From faith to faith, as it is written, “the just shall live by faith,” for the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness, because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them, for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead [and here’s the bottom line], so that they are without excuse.
Every Person Has Some Light
All people have been given have some light about the reality and existence of God. Paul makes that clear.
Imagine that the end of time has come, the time we call “the final judgment.” Standing before the throne are all those who’ve never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as those who did hear and rejected it.
The indictment is given, “For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”
Some say, “Your Honor, we’re not guilty! We never heard the Gospel; we never knew how to be saved. We’re innocent by reason of ignorance.”
Then the Apostle Paul will speak up. He’ll point out, “Your Honor, I will prove they’re not innocent because of ignorance or never had an equal chance. I call two witnesses to testify. Witness number one, take the stand. Give the court your name.”
He says, “My name is Creation.” “You’re the witness that God exists?” “Yes. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them, for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).
Creation testifies, “The Heavens declare the glory of God” Psalm 19:1.
If you have a creation, you have to have a Creator. The Bible says that the Creator “is clearly seen by the things that are made.” When I see a finely tuned piano, I know someone crafted and tuned it. When I see a watch running with precision, I know someone crafted it. When I see a building put together in symmetry, I say, “There is an architect.” When I see this mighty creation, I say, “Creator.” When I see order and system, I say, “Intelligence.” That’s the reason the Bible says, “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There’s no God’” (Psalm 14:1).
Then Paul will call his second witness.
“My name is Conscience. For when the Gentiles [those who’ve never heard the Gospel], which have not the law,” [Old Testament law], “do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law unto themselves, which show the work of the law written in their hearts; their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.” Romans 2:14.
Two witnesses all people on earth must face: the outward, objective witness of creation and the inward, subjective witness of conscience. “Unto them” is creation, “in them” is conscience.
Man has a built in knowledge of God. God made man to know, love, serve and have fellowship with Him forever. “Christ is that true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).
Augustine said, “The soul of man is restless until it rests in God.” You cannot get around the two witnesses. Creation and conscience testify that no matter who you are or where you are, every person has some light.Atheists are not in atheists because of intellectual problems. They’re atheists because of moral problems. It’s not a matter of intelligence. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:22
All of us have a God consciousness. It’s not a matter of intellectualism; it’s a matter of morality. “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).
An atheist is someone who is uncomfortable with the existence of God, so he says, “If I can get rid of this idea of God, I can get rid of this uncomfortable feeling.”
But he really doesn’t get rid of it—not down deep. He’s like a man who bought a new boomerang and killed himself trying to throw the old one away. The knowledge that God is just there, and the more you try to get rid of it, the more you know subconsciously God exists, because deep in your heart, conscience speaks.
Light Refused Increases Darkness
There is great danger in refusing the light we’ve been given.
“They are without excuse, because when they knew God [by creation and conscience they knew God exists], they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Darkened. All mankind has some light. Light refused increases darkness.
You cannot simply take light or truth and put it in your pocket and say, “That’s very interesting, I’ll spend it someday if I need it.” No, when God gives you light, when creation and conscience speak to the heart of any individual anywhere on earth, if they do not glorify God, believe there is a God, and desire to know Him, they do not remain static. They begin to regress. And they lose even the light that they had. Their foolish heart will be darkened.
Watch carefully here. I pray you won’t miss what I’m about to say. In the Bible, the opposite of truth is not error, it is sin. Why does a person refuse truth? Because of the sin in his heart.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18)
The word “hold” literally means to resist the truth; suppress, smother, hold back the truth. How do you hold back the truth? Not in error, but in unrighteousness.
Why Does A Person Not Believe In God?
Belief in God means they have to adjust their lifestyle. On the one hand, on one side is the person’s unrighteous lifestyle. On the other side are creation and conscience. Creation and conscience tell him there’s a God. His lifestyle says, “If you admit that, you’re going to have to change how you’re living.”
He’s in a quandary between the two. If he turns toward acknowledging God, he turns from that lifestyle; but if he turns away from truth, he’s free to embrace his old lifestyle. So when he says, “I will resist the truth in unrighteousness,” and turns away, he gets farther from the truth, father from the light, into the darkness, and “his foolish heart is darkened.”
Unbelief Is the Baggage That Comes With Sin
This truth is never more graphically illustrated than in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, a most terrifying passage in the Bible. It speaks of the Antichrist who is coming:
“Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish because”—note—“they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved.”
Why do they perish? “For this cause God shall send them strong delusion.” (v. 11)
You say, “Hold it, Pastor! God doesn’t send anybody delusion.” Go back and read verse 11. Why would God send them strong delusion? Verse 11 continues, “That they should believe a lie.”
It’s getting worse, isn’t it? God sends delusion “that they should believe a lie” What is the end result? “…that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (v. 12)
There in that last phrase is your key: they had the truth, they saw it, yet they chose to “believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
They heard the truth! They knew the truth! They turned from the truth! They pleasure in their sin! They looked at God, they looked at their sin, and they chose their sin.
God responds, “All right. That’s what you want. You want your sin, and the baggage that comes with it is delusion, a lie, and damnation.”
How does this compute with the verse, “God is not willing that any should perish”?
He is not willing. But He also will not violate a person’s free will. I have often observed,
You are free to choose. You are not free not to choose. You are also not free to choose the consequences of your choice.
Again, the problem is not in the head. The problem is in the heart. One of the greatest promises in the Bible is John 7:17. People were wondering, “Who is Jesus Christ?” The Pharisees were testing Him, taunting Him, picking at Him. Jesus responded, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” Then He threw out one of the greatest challenges in the Bible:
“If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of Myself,” in other words, “whether I’m just some megalomaniac, some peasant prophet who has a messianic complex, or if I have come from God.”
Do you will to do the will of God? If you do, and if you take up this challenge, then you will know.