Atheism is making a bit of a comeback. While the majority of Americans believe in the existence of a Divine Being, several recent books by atheists have hit the shelves, and the best sellers list. On May 1, a book entitled, “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” by Christopher Hitchens was released, and this week it tops the New York Times Bestsellers list for nonfiction hard covers. Other similar books that have recently been released, and been “bestsellers” include: The God Delusion, By Richard Dawkins, Letters to a Christian Nation, By Sam Harris, and God: The Failed Hypotheses, By Victor J. Stenger. What this trend seems to indicate is that atheism is becoming popular once again.
For quite some time, “spirituality” has been on the rise in America. That’s not necessarily a good thing, because the “spirituality” that is so popular today is of a vague, ethereal, Oprah-like, new age, flaky, “all roads lead to Heaven” kind of variety. In other words, rather than sound Biblical, Christ exalting “spirituality” we have seen an increase in “deceiving spirits,” or what the Apostle Paul referred to as “doctrines of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) Surprise, Surprise! Demons still exist, and they love teaching their warped and diabolical insights to unsuspecting dupes who are looking for the “new thing” in spirituality.
In a recent sermon, I mentioned the Conversations With God book series by Neale Donald Walsh as the number one example of a new age American “spirituality” that is demonic in nature. The thrice divorced Walsh was seeking God in a hospital room several years ago, when he claims God began to speak directly to him about all things “spiritual.” Walsh then claims to have picked up a notebook and started writing all of God’s “thoughts.” Walsh probably should have asked his “god” for a picture ID, because what his “god” told him was that everyone goes to Heaven, there are no moral right and wrongs, and that all religions are messed up. Walsh simply joins the list of delusional cultists who claim “everyone is wrong but me!” Unless things change, he will one day join the likes of Joseph Smith (Mormonism) and Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah’s Witnesses) in the “spiritual” wing of Hell. But that’s a blog for another day.
The point is…a belief in a Divine being (or force) has been on the rise for some time. But now, atheism is making a comeback. And in all honesty, if you’re going to believe in a made up god…you might as well be an atheist. Both roads are damnable. But, I’d like to look at another road. The “Narrow Road” and in so doing, offer a refutation of the recent fascinations with atheism. (As a side note, I plan to post a critique of “God Is Not Great” in the next couple of weeks, Lord willing).
All people are “hard wired” to believe in God. Some atheists deny this, claiming that most Americans believe in God when they’re young because of religious and family influences, but that’s simply not true. And as an example, I cite the book of Acts, chapter 28.
The Apostle Paul was going to Rome as a prisoner, when the ship carrying him, his guards, and the ship’s crew (276 people in all) got caught in a fierce Nor’easter. After two weeks of being storm tossed, the ship finally lands on the island of Malta, some 90 miles South of Sicily. Here’s what happened after they came on shore. “The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, "Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live. However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.” (Acts 28:2-6 NASB)
First, let’s note that these “natives” were not exactly Ph.D’s in theology. While they probably weren’t “head hunters” they certainly didn’t have access to very much religion, church, or spirituality. And yet, they assume a couple of things. First of all, they assume that there is a universal standard of right and wrong. They knew that Paul escaped a ship wreck. Then they saw him get bit by a snake. Now, what is the logical conclusion? To them it was that Paul had done something to make God mad, and that Paul would pay for it. While they didn’t have details about God…they certainly believed in His existence, and that a standard was set, by God, for humans to follow. They assumed (wrongly) that Paul was living in violation of God’s standard, and would thus be punished. Which leads us to point number two.
They believed in Justice. Not only does God exist, and have standards, but He will also see to it that Justice is served when those standards are not met. It’s impossible to read this text and not remember what Paul himself wrote in Romans 2 concerning the Law of God. Obviously, God’s people should know God’s Law and obey it. But what about pagans (such as these Malta-men)? “When Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” (Romans 2:14-15 NASB) Even “Gentiles” (a.k.a.—Pagans), know deep down that God has a standard, and it should be obeyed. They know “instinctively” that God requires goodness, and blesses it. And God abhors wickedness, and punishes it. What did this knowledge of God cause the Malta-men to do? According to Acts 28:2 above, they “showed us extraordinary kindness” and “kindled a fire and received us all.” In other words, they were motivated to treat these strangers kindly, because God will bless kindness, and punish evil. This belief is clearly seen because of what they erroneously thought about Paul and the snake bite. All of their conclusions weren’t correct, but their inherent belief in a God of Justice, who has moral standards, was right on. They didn’t have enough knowledge of God to be saved. But, in their savagery, they weren’t foolish enough to be atheists. Notice what else they believed about God.
They believed God transcended nature. Once Paul survived the snake bite with no ill effects, they concluded he must be a god. Why did they assume this? Because a mere mortal would have died from the bite. At the very least he would have gotten a swollen hand and threw up, or something. But Paul just shakes the snake into the fire and goes on his merry way. A couple of hours later, Paul is cooking a hot dog and drinking a Coke by the fire, while they continue to stare at him expecting him to topple over. The obvious conclusion? He must be a god.
Again, their conclusion was wrong, but their inherent “Theistic” beliefs were right on. And, like it or not, everyone, including avowed atheists, have this belief in a Divine Being “hard wired” within them. You’re not an atheist by default. You have to spend some time conjuring up the “faith” to be an atheist.
As another example of “hard wired” Theistic belief, I cite Acts 17:28. This account has Paul on Mars Hill trying to share the gospel with the philosophical pagans of Athens. In Paul’s brilliant sermon he begins by talking about the pagans current beliefs and then (as Spurgeon used to say) “make a beeline for the cross.” One of the beliefs these pagans already had was in a “Creator” God. Notice what Paul says: “For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’” (Acts 17:28 NASB) Paul makes the argument for God as a “Father” (i.e., “Creator) based upon some of their very own pagan poetry which declared ‘we are His children.’ Where did they get this belief? From philosophy? From their parents? From their school teachers? No. Ultimately, that got it from their heart. The belief in a Supreme Power exists within the heart and mind of all sane creatures.
One only needs to open their physical eyes to see what’s around them to believe in God. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NASB) All people should be able to look at the falling rain and the growing crops and say “God does that.” All people should be able to look at the miracle of child birth and say, “God does that.” All people should be able to look into the sky on a clear night, see the stars and moon and say, “God does that.” To ponder on the fact that we live on a planet that is suspended for thousands of years in space, spinning at a constant rate, and say “God does that.” To say anything else is not simply irreligious. It’s completely irrational. So, where did all of this stuff come from anyway? “Chance” created the world? By “chance” people came into being? All of the intricacies of our world and universe is being held together……..by “chance?” Let’s get real! It takes FAR, FAR more “faith” to believe such lunacy, than it does to believe in God, the Creator, Sustainer, Author, and Finisher of all things. Atheism must be conjured up over time because its completely absurd. To be an atheist you must deny the obvious. Even the foolish savages in the African jungle aren’t crazy enough to do that. It takes education, and it takes arrogance….to deny the Divine obvious. Step one on the road to Heaven, is a belief in a Divine being. Step two, is to place your faith in the REAL Divine Being, and His Divine Son Jesus Christ…rather than following a false religion, of a false god, that leads to a very real Hell.
I’m sorry, I can’t be an atheist. I don’t have the “faith” to pull it off. Instead I’ll believe the obvious and give in to my “hard wired” beliefs in God. Then I’ll bow before the ONE through whom “all things came into being” (John 1:3). And I’ll pray that all the atheists of the world will one day do the same…before time runs out.