Happy Atheist’s Day

In recognition of National Atheist Day (April 1st), I wanted to post the following article that I wrote in honor of the unofficial celebration. Feel free to leave a comment or to share it to your favorite social media.

“If I did not believe in God, I should still want my doctor, my lawyer and my banker to do so.” – G.K. Chesterton

national-atheist-day-2You may not be aware of it, but every year on April first we celebrate Atheist Day! OK…the official designation might be April fool’s day, but I think that the two names are interchangeable, and I believe that I have biblical precedence for believing so. In Psalm 14:1, King David writes, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Why would David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, make such a claim? Why is it foolish to say that “there is no God?” To answer this question, let’s take a look at what atheism is and what it claims. You may be surprised to discover that this task is not as easy as it might seem.

Language is said to be arbitrary. That is, there is no natural relationship between words and the concepts that they represent. However, words, as a linguistic form, do have a history; they have an etymology that is useful in tracing them or their component parts to a common source and meaning.

The word atheism comes from the Greek word “theos” (God) and the prefix “a” (without). So in the broad sense of the word, an atheist is a person who lives his life without acknowledging the existence of God. Atheism is in contradiction to “theism,” which is the belief in a deity or deities.

Let’s look at another word – agnostic. This word is also derived from two Greek words; the word “gnosis” (knowledge), and the prefix “a” (without). An agnostic is one who believes that we do not possess sufficient knowledge to justify belief in a deity.

Atheism has undergone somewhat of a transformation over the past few decades. Prior to the mid twentieth century, the standard use of the word atheist was to designate someone who believed that there were no deities at all. It was a positive assertion of the nonexistence of God. There were very few people who actually would claim to be an atheist, and most people who did not believe in God would claim to be agnostic instead. The reason for this should be apparent; the assertion that “there is no God” is as much a claim to knowledge as is the claim “there is a God,” and requires the atheist to provide evidence of his assertion. However, It is impossible to prove a negative, “there is no…” In order to assert that there is no God, one would have to possess all knowledge (be omniscient) about everything, everywhere (be omnipresent). Ironically, this would give the person claiming that there is no God, some of the very characteristics of God.

Primarily through the writings of prominent atheists such as Antony Flew (who later in life embraced theism), the concept of the “presumption of atheism” gained wide-spread acceptance among what would become known as the “new atheists.”  The presumption of atheism, according to Flew, meant that we should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of God was made known. It made atheism the default position and placed the burden of proof on the theist to provide evidence for the existence of God. As Flew explains,

“In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist.” (A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip Quinn and Charles Taliaferro [Oxford:  Blackwell, 1997], s.v. “The Presumption of Atheism,” by Antony Flew)

This changed the standard definition of atheism to a broader definition that also embraced agnostics, and gave way to several hybrid theological positions (see diagram below).

513px-theological_positions-svg

This “new atheism” freed the atheist from the untenable position of having to prove that God did not exist, but blurs the distinction between atheist and agnostic. As William Lane Craig points out, atheists “… are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities.” (Reasonable Faith with William Lane Craig)

But is lack of knowledge about the existence of God – the core belief of atheism and agnosticism – really true? Is there a God and can he be known? As a theist and a Christian, I look to the Bible to answer these questions.

There are numerous references in the Bible that make it clear that God has made himself known to people everywhere through the process of natural revelation. (See my earlier post – Revelation, Inspiration, Illumination…What’s the Difference?)

Natural revelation is the reveling of information about God that can be found in the natural world and is discoverable or discernible by such disciplines as natural science, astronomy, biology, physics, etc… The Bible says in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

Natural revelation is also referred to as “general” revelation because it is part of Gods common grace which is given to all people everywhere to make known certain truths about God. Romans 1:19-20 says,

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

God adds, at the end of verse 20, that because of this knowledge about him that is given to everyone, people are “without excuse” for not believing in him. It is not a matter of not having knowledge of God, as the atheist and agnostic claims, but, as Romans 1:18 tells us, the unrighteous suppress the truth about God because they do not want to acknowledge him as God.

The Apostle Paul continues in Romans 1:21-22, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…”

And that, my friends, is why we have Atheist Day.

Soli Deo Gloria

(Author’s Note: For more information about how to dialogue with atheists, click here for an article at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry for some excellent suggestions.)

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About Mike Ritt

I tell people that I am a writer trapped in the body of a Consumer Safety Inspector for the USDA. I love to spend my free time (ha-ha) reading and writing, and I write everything – stories, poems, essays, and shopping lists – it doesn't matter. I have been married to my redhead (Tami) for over twenty-five years now. Although we live in the mountains of western Montana, we are still die-hard Packer fans! I have been a Christian for over thirty years now, and each day seems like a brand new day, with more to learn about God and his word. What a wonderful journey this has become! Click the “Contact” button on the menu bar if you want to write me for any reason, whether it’s to know more about me or the glorious gospel of grace.
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27 Responses to Happy Atheist’s Day

  1. Clearly you’re not looking to convert anyone. But even without the insults the Bible quoting isn’t going to go very far.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Charlie King says:

    What day do we get to celebrate egotistical, indoctrinated bullies who use sarcasm to put down others while claiming to be a follower of a loving god? I already had a deplorable segregation bill passed yesterday, today you’ve given me a whole new reason I’m thankful I’m not a part of the Christian community anymore. One day Christians like you will wake up and realize you did more harm than good. I hope.
    We do have a real day btw. The Day of Reason every first Thursday of May and it’s to celebrate us using our minds instead of prayer and blind faith in an archaic book that is easily dismantled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike Ritt says:

      Richard Dawkins, has shown the world what atheists mean by “Reason” at the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. When he instructed the crowd of cheering rally-goers that when they meet someone who says that they are religious that they should be “mocked and scorned.” Forget using civility and logic to confront a theist’s arguments or beliefs. Just show your contempt by ridiculing them. Did anyone there see the hypocrisy of Dawkins saying this at the end of a rally for “REASON?” Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9UKTuuTHEg

      Like

      • Charlie King says:

        I’m not condoning that behavior. Personally I have a real distaste for Dawkins. But when those with the “objective morality” set the standard with stuff like this post, it’s no wonder some atheists turn into assholes in response.
        “Let’s pass laws on a daily basis that discriminate against anyone who doesn’t believe what we believe. We shouldn’t even have to make them cakes!”
        “Let’s constantly make sure atheists feel like second class Americans and humans! They shouldn’t even have a vote!” Don’t forget the wonderful George Bush senior and what he said about us as president.
        “Let’s go on WordPress and seek out atheists and torment them and ridicule them and put them down because we know the truth.” I’ve had just that happen to me, so I hope you can understand why I’m a bit embittered.
        And then we get here, to this wonderful post which I wouldn’t have opened if not for your click bait presenting it to be about atheism. You believe in a god, in a morality based on the bible, in Jesus, correct? So tell me… Is it Jesus’ technique to post a blog that calls an entire group of people fools and make fun of them using his father’s scripture? Is this Paul’s technique to reach others by “being all things to all people”? And is it your Christian ethics that drives you when you get pointed out doing something wrong and instead point the finger at others (who according to you don’t know the truth) and say, “but they started it”? I understand Dawkins. I don’t have to like him, but I get his attitude. He’s pissed off at generations of people beating on others in the name of Christ, and he’s calling for atheists to be militant because he fears that if we don’t, we’ll just get crushed. He can be such a dick sometimes, but that point is a valid one. You’d see that if you looked at people the way your Jesus supposedly did – with love.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Karen King says:

        Do you even realize that you’re doing exactly what Dawkins told atheists to do, except the other way around? You’re mocking and scorning atheists… What a way to reach out to others. What a way of being “the light of the world.” Bravo!

        Like

  3. KIA says:

    didn’t jesus say not to call anyone fool, for you were in danger of hell fire?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mike Ritt says:

      Trying to interpret scripture is a lot like purchasing real estate. The most important principle to follow is, “Location, location, location.” You always interpret scripture in it’s context.

      If you examine the context of the verse that you referred to, in Mathew chapter five, Jesus was not giving a list of dos and don’ts. Here is the text:

      You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)

      He was teaching on the larger issue of sin emanating from the heart of a person, and that it is not just actions, such as murder that people will be judged for, but they would also be judged for the condition of their hearts, such as anger which can lead to insults and even murder.

      Later in Mathew, in chapter 23, Jesus called the Pharisees and scribes “fools.” He could do this because his heart was righteous. God can call atheists “fools” because God is perfectly holy. However, you and I have to be careful of what we say because our hearts are corrupted by sin, and that is why we are guilty of hell fire.

      Like

      • KIA says:

        “However, you and I have to be careful of what we say because our hearts are corrupted by sin, and that is why we are guilty of hell fire.”
        so are you going to be apologizing and repenting for calling atheists fools anytimes soon?

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mike Ritt says:

        If you read my article carefully, you will see that I never call anyone a fool, I only reported what God declared in the Bible. If you want to demand an apology from him, then go for it.

        Like

      • KIA says:

        so if i simply repeated what hitler said, in agreement with him, that jews are subhuman and deserving of extermination… would i not be found guilty of hate speech? saying you are just repeating someone else’s words only works to clear you of guilt if you yourself are not in agreement with those words.
        as far as apologizing to the abrahamic god of the bible? why would i? there is no evidence such a being actually exists. and if he does… he’s a monster who needs to beg our forgiveness for the atrocities he’s done.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Mike Ritt says:

        The only thing that I meant by my remarks was that I am not calling anyone a “Fool” because I have no authority to do that. I am reporting what God said because, as our creator, he has ultimate authority over us. I absolutely agree with his words or I would not write about them. To compare God’s merciful warning – about foolish thinking that will lead to ultimate destruction – to Hitler’s vitriolic hate speech is ridiculous. Finally, please read what I write carefully before you comment. I never said that you should apologize to God. What I said was, “If you want to demand an apology from him, then go for it.”

        Like

      • KIA says:

        But you are agreeing with the God of the bible calling people fool. Same thing buddy

        Like

      • Karen King says:

        “And that, my friends, is why we have atheist day” Ummmm, you did call us fools…

        Liked by 3 people

      • So I’m not really upset over being called a fool, I’ve heard it before and it’s not unexpected. But your assertion in the comments that:

        “If you read my article carefully, you will see that I never call anyone a fool, I only
        reported what God declared in the Bible.”

        is being super pedantic and only true in the sense that you omitted the *exact* phrase “Atheists are fools.”

        However in any other sense, such as making a reasonable inference about a statement in conversation, you definitely have. Here’s one example:

        “OK…the official designation might be April fool’s day, but I think that the two names
        are interchangeable, and I believe that I have biblical precedence for believing so.”

        While sure you can say there is biblical precedence, that doesn’t mean it also isn’t your personal view, which is evident from pretty much the fact that this blog post even exists. Also you clearly state that *you* think that the two names are interchangeable, and that’s not just what the Bible says, since I’m certain that April fool’s day isn’t mentioned in scripture.

        Anyway, as I said, say you think atheists are fools if you like. But be honest and own up to it, don’t do it in a roundabout way and then claim you didn’t. Or if you feel you went too far and want to apologize that would be great too, I doubt many would harbor any hard feelings over it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: April fools’ day | Random thoughts

  5. Arkenaten says:

    I always understood Flew accepted some form of Deism? Do you have a link to confirm he accepted theism, please?

    Like

    • Ark, deism would be included in theism. He had to pick the word “theism” because he couldn’t say “Christian.”

      And since he never adopted Christianity, it really has no relevance to his other points. Did you notice my comment below catching him finagling on his own beliefs?

      Remember Ark, it’s okay to lie, as long as it’s for Jesus.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “OK…the official designation might be April fool’s day, but I think that the two names are interchangeable, and I believe that I have biblical precedence for believing so.”

    “If you read my article carefully, you will see that I never call anyone a fool, I only reported what God declared in the Bible.”

    Here’s some helpful advice: if you’re going to take the position that it’s reasonable to believe in things without credible evidence, own up to it. Both of the above quotes were taken verbatim from your post and your comments. Not owning up to your beliefs just makes you look petty.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. thanks for showing that you have no more belief in your bible and supposed savior than I do. And, as I’m sure many folks have pointed out, it’s atheist, not athiest.

    Like

  8. Mike Ritt says:

    For people who claim that they don’t believe in God, some atheists sure do get upset when He calls them a “Fool.” If the flying spaghetti monster called me a fool, it wouldn’t bother me one bit because I don’t believe in him. Even if one of his followers told me in a blog article that the flying spaghetti monster said I was a fool, it still wouldn’t bother me because I DON’T BELIEVE IN HIM. I think that you all need to go read my other article on “How not to believe in something.”

    https://iaatruth.com/2015/12/16/an-atoothfairyists-tale-how-to-not-believe-in-something/

    Like

    • Charlie King says:

      You’re actually acting like a real ignorant fool yourself here, Mike. I said that. And I owned it. I said it because no one gave a shit that a book made by archaic people said we were fools. Half of us used to believe that book. Everyone was just pointing out your hypocrisy and your lack of ownership to what you said. Our being fed up with a predominant amount of Americans (which you so perfectly represent here) that want to segregate and demote their fellow human being in no way means we believe in your god. Seriously, take a cue from guys like Roger Browning over at a Clear Lens. There’s a Christian who actually knows how to discuss rather than belittle.

      Like

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