In the Bible it is written, "
The fool hath said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Ps 51:1) The Psalmist associates Atheism (i.e. strong
Atheism: the explicit rejection of the existence of deity) with foolishness, asserting that there is something inherently irrational about Atheism. Validating this biblical claim is straightforward.
An Irrational Claim
To establish that Atheism is irrational we first need to clearly understand the claim of Atheism itself, and distinguish it from a similar belief system: Agnosticism, which is not knowing if there is a God. The Atheist is not merely stating, as the Agnostic does, that he cannot accept the claim of Theism (belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures) since he has not yet found evidence of God. Similarly, the Atheist is not merely saying that he does not accept the supposed nature of God as claimed by any of the various world religions. I myself believe that God is different than all major world religions teach. No. The Atheist is claiming something quite different. Atheism is a belief that God does not exist: the Atheist is asserting this as a fact, as a known certainty. In doing so he implies that he has verifiable evidence that proves and establishes the non-existence of God.
Secondly, we may observe that we cannot verify that something does not exist unless we are able to either (1) search out and explore all possibilities related to its existence, or (2) show that its existence is precluded by the known existence of certain other things. For example, if we have been told that there exists a fire-breathing dragon that is easily observed every morning in the entrance of a particular cave, then we may go to that cave and observe the entrance for an entire morning. When we do not observe the dragon, we may conclude, or prove, that such a dragon does not exist because we have evidence that would be impossible to collect and observe if the dragon we have heard about does exist. We cannot prove from the data we have collected that there are no fire-breathing dragons at all … all we can know for certain is that the story we have heard about this particular dragon is untrue. We are able to establish this because there was enough substance in the claim itself to enable us to collect the necessary data and either accept or reject the claim.
In making the claim that God does not exist, the Atheist implies that he has convincing evidence of the non-existence of God. So ... has the Atheist searched out all possible locations where God might be located, or all conditions under which God might be detected? God, as creator of the universe, may choose to remain outside the known universe, being entirely undetectable and unknowable within the natural realm, making it impossible for the Atheist to do an exhaustive geographical or physical search.
Then has the Atheist observed some natural phenomenon that precludes the existence of God? Only if we can know for certain that no deity of any kind would ever allow such a phenomenon to occur. But this implies knowing something about the nature of God which only God himself can reveal. Since the simple claim that God exists specifies nothing of God's nature, it is impossible for the Atheist to collect evidence which contradicts this claim.
Perhaps the most common "evidence" we find presented in this connection, mostly directed at the Judeo-Christian concept of God, is the awareness of so much evil in our world. Yet the assertion that a good God would not allow such evil is merely a presumption that God can have no good purpose in doing so; the fact that we do not yet see this purpose is no evidence contradicting God's existence. And where do we get this notion of evil or justice in the first place, if there is only matter and energy? Either there is a God, or there is no good and evil. Such an approach to denying God's existence is inconsistent by definition.
We have here, before us, the sum and substance of any and all argument against the existence of God. The atheistic claim turns out to be entirely groundless, without any substance or foundation whatsoever. Since we cannot do an
exhaustive search to determine if God exists, and since the simple claim of Theism does not admit enough detail to enable us to find any condition or state that precludes the existence of God, it is impossible to verify the
non-existence of God. Any complaint that a just God's existence is inconsistent with evil implies, in itself, a God to define evil. These facts imply that any explicit denial of the existence of God is inherently irrational; it
cannot be based upon reason. Agnosticism can, in theory, be claimed rationally, but not Atheism. Atheism is therefore, at best, merely bold presumption.
A Foolish Bet
In light of the fact that one cannot disprove the existence of God, it is also possible to show that it is infinitely unwise to live as though a just and holy God does not exist. Perhaps the most well-known proof of this is Pascal's Wager. The argument is logically sound, having no rational rebuttal.
The idea, very simply, is that if we desire the best expected outcome in life then it is wise to live as if a just and holy God exists, one that rewards good and punishes evil, even if such a God does not actually exist. For, unless it can be known for certain that such a God does not exist, one must assign some non-zero chance of being true to the idea that seeking to know, please and honor such a God has an infinite reward, and that being in rebellion against and alienated from God has an infinite loss or penalty. If we also agree that any earthly gain or loss is finite, then we maximize the goodness of our expected outcome in life by choosing to live as if there is a just and holy God and seeking to win God's favor. An infinite gain or loss, even in light of the smallest chance of reality, is still an infinite potential which dwarfs any earthly experience, regardless how improbable this eternal prospect seems. Therefore, as long as we are unsure about the existence of God, it is prudent to live so as to please such a God if one does happen to exist.
There is only one way to avoid this conclusion: one must know for certain that a just God does not exist. This is, again, the irrational presumption of Atheism. Therefore, while Pascal's Wager does not prove that a just God exists – it actually does prove that it is unwise to act as if he does not exist.
The Psalmist's claim is hereby fully vindicated: Atheism is both boldly presumptuous and inherently foolish, in
thought and in practice. In order to assert with finality that there is no God, or even to live as if this might be true, one really must, so to speak, check their brain at the door.
Scientific Evidence that God Exists
A final step we might take in this regard is to actually prove that God does, in fact, exist and that he is just. It is generally claimed that this cannot be done. However, if God chooses to be knowable or observable in some way then we may both seek and find evidence of his existence and conclude with certainty (prove) that God is as he reveals himself to be.
The Nature of Scientific Proof
"Proof" in this context is defined as evidence that is convincing to an unbiased, reasonable person. For when a person is unwilling to be convinced about something then evidence and facts are irrelevant; when God himself is reaching down from the sky, speaking to us and tapping us on the shoulder we can still exclaim, "Weird!! Hallucinating again!"
Positively determining that an idea or concept (the hypothesis) should be accepted as true is an activity that allows us to use the scientific method, a method of research in which a problem is identified (Does God exist?), a hypothesis is formulated (Yes), relevant data are gathered (the evidence), and the hypothesis is empirically tested (Does the evidence support this hypothesis?). If the evidence consistently and strongly supports the hypothesis then we confidently accept the hypothesis as true, but if the evidence does not support the hypothesis then we do not accept it. Lack of evidence does not imply that a different hypothesis (No) is true; this is the Atheist's fundamental error.
While the provision of empirical evidence may not constitute formal, logical proof, it is sufficient for scientific, experiential proof and is commonly used in both the scientific method and in legal settings. One accepts a hypothesis as true when evidence consistently supports it, and when we have no contradictory evidence or plausible alternate hypotheses. Until contrary evidence is discovered, or alternate hypotheses become available that help explain the evidence, this condition is considered "proof" by reasonable, unbiased people.
Proving the existence of God like this is, in fact, a scientific inquiry. Science is simply the study of reality through experiments: the observation and analysis of predictable, repeatable behaviors. While we cannot prove that God does not exist, it is possible to scientifically determine that God does exist by finding verifiable evidence of his existence.
Compelling empirical evidence of the existence of God is provided by C.S. Lewis in his classic work, Mere Christianity, where he asserts, "Atheism is too simple;" it does not account for the universal human perception of moral law.
We begin with the self-evident assertion that every (self-aware) person (not infants, invalids or the mentally retarded and insane) is aware of something we call Moral Law, a standard above and beyond the natural realm which defines good and evil, and that rational humans cannot live as if there is no Moral Law. This is self-evident since every rationally capable person experiences it for themselves and may easily observe it in others.
We all recognize injustice, especially against ourselves, and we invariably react to any accusation that we have transgressed Moral Law as if the charge has actual substance. When accused, every rational person responds by defending themselves and claiming they are innocent, or by admitting guilt, or in defiance -- purposing to transgress even more. In no case do we reject the very notion of morality in our response to accusation. We cannot live as if there is no morality, as if there is only the natural world of energy and matter, elements which can have no inherent moral quality. Every rational soul lives life as if there is something more than the natural world, as if events actually matter. This phenomenon has no plausible explanation other than that there is a God who has defined a moral standard and evaluates human behavior based on this standard.
As Lewis argues, a moral statement is unrelated to the idea that we are naturally designed to desire certain things (which give us pleasure) and to avoid certain other things (which cause us pain). This kind of preference may be accounted for apart from God. But we cannot derive a sense of morality, an "ought" or obligation, from mere preference: "I want" or "I do not want" is entirely different than "I should/ought" or "I should/ought not."
Essentially, we may observe that obligation is entirely and substantially different from preference; the concepts are explicitly unrelated and they are oftentimes opposed to each other. A moral standard implies a duty that is independent of culture, personal opinion or preference that is binding on a person even if it is to their own hurt. It is imposed upon others regardless whether they happen to agree with it. When we sense that some act is "wrong," like, say, massacring innocent children, we understand that it does not matter who agrees with us: we are claiming knowledge of a standard that is not a matter of personal opinion, preference, interest or desire. This phenomenon is not something that can be derived merely from the natural realm and the struggle to survive within it. This phenomenon is evidence of metaphysical reality.
This sense of morality, of moral obligation, of justice and injustice, actually implies a supernatural being, God, the grand "Says Who?" that consciously and intelligently defines some actions as "good" and other actions as "evil." Further, in building into each one of us an unshakable call for justice, an awareness that there should be a reward for goodness and a punishment for evil, and also an irresistible urge to impose our own sense of morality on others, God shows us that he holds all human beings accountable for their actions -- he has built this aspect of his own nature into our very own DNA.
This sense of morality and passion for justice cannot be a phenomenon driven by an evolutionary development ensuring the survival of a species because it transcends the physical properties of the universe: it is entirely unrelated to matter and energy and often runs contrary to instinctively natural urges. This phenomenon, by its very nature, cannot be explained by, understood within, or accounted for merely within the natural realm. It was not created by Man because it transcends Man and is understood by Man to evaluate behavior in a sense that is unrelated to the physical nature of his actions.
And while there are certainly differences in moral standards between humans at some level, the phenomenon is universally consistent in that all humans impose their moral views on others as if it actually were a universal, divine standard. Our differences merely reveal that we are, in some measure, broken and confused about God's definition of good and evil. But even in these differences we all consistently act as if God has actually provided such a definition. Morality is an experience and perception of the reality of an entirely different world, of an entirely different nature, and every human being is both aware of it and continuously participates in it.
Try to imagine a fully functioning humanoid which places no moral value whatsoever on any event, even when actions are opposed to its own desires. It feels emotions like fear, as when in the path of a forest fire or running from a tiger, or happiness, as when it is parched and finds a source of clean water, but no sense of morality. As an animal, it feels safe or afraid, sad or happy, content or restless, satiated or hungry. While it knows companionship and familial affection with members of its own clan, it knows no ultimate love or hatred, no resentment or appreciation, no shame or honor, no kindness or cruelty, no defiance or rebellion or guilt. There is no concept of revenge, of impropriety, of integrity or decency, the very notion of "good" or "evil" or "unjust" or "fair" is completely foreign to it. It has no sense of purpose, destiny or fate, or of social values or ethics. It has no ego, no sense of self-importance or significance. In fact, this creature is incapable of seeing any meaning in anything at all. In its narrow little worldview, everything just is.
Imagine further, the creature we consider is actually incapable of having such perception and awareness. When you try to explain to it why you are angry that it has stolen someone else's food, or why it should assist those from another clan who are destitute, or tell the truth, it simply returns a blank, disconnected stare. It is like trying to explain color or sight to the blind, or hearing to the deaf. It is not that its sense of these things is limited or undeveloped, it simply does not have the capacity or ability to perceive these things or to sense them at all; it cannot understand what you are describing. Any action that does not impact this creature's own comfort and safety is irrelevant to it, for the mere struggle to survive can only motivate the creature within this sphere. Forest fires are undesirable and inconvenient, being parched and hungry is very unpleasant, and being eaten alive is very painful. This is all it knows. But forest fires are not unjust, no action is inherently "good" or "evil." No living thing has a "right" to eat or to drink … or to live: killing, whether it is killing a zebra, or a mosquito, or a fellow humanoid in a contest to gain access to females and reproduce, is just as natural to the humanoid as breathing. All the animal knows is convenience or inconvenience, pain or pleasure. Happiness and sorrow only spring from the instinct to survive and procreate in the context of limited natural resources. Can you imagine someone, anyone, being like this? Would you call this creature human?
Better yet, can you imagine how everyone, every single human being, came to be so very different from this?
Fully functioning human beings are universally designed and equipped with an inherent perception that Moral Law exists, that events matter, and that there is meaning and purpose in life. These perceptions relate to non-material aspects of our environment, so they cannot spring from or be described or understood with the natural senses. They must spring from and be energized by that which is above and beyond the material realm. As such, this metaphysical reality cannot be discovered naturally – it must be revealed, and humans must be designed and created with the ability to perceive it. Such a design cannot be sourced in the drive to survive and procreate because it is entirely unrelated to such desires.
In summary, human awareness of metaphysical reality shows that we already believe in God, we know that he is just, and we expect him to hold us accountable for our actions. We can see that we believe this way
because of the way we consistently act. A just and holy God has already and unmistakably shown so much of himself to us that we cannot ignore Him and live otherwise. As rational human beings, we are literally unable to live as if
only the material world exists. This is evidence, consistently and entirely un-contradicted evidence of supernatural metaphysical reality, scientific proof … of deity.
The phenomenon of Moral Law implies that God exists because (1) no rational person is capable of living as if there is no metaphysical reality and (2) there is no other plausible cause proposed for this type of perception if there is no God. In other words, no one can live their life as if only the material world exists, and no one can explain why they are living the way they are if a just God does not exist. Given the data currently available to us, any other conclusion than "God exists and he is just" is therefore illogical, irrational and unreasonable, even if this theistic conclusion happens to be incorrect. All of the data we currently have at our disposal implies that it is correct, and no data in our possession explicitly contradicts it.
To argue against this conclusion, given the data we currently
have at our disposal, is comparable to disputing the boiling point of water: "Just because we don't yet have data that shows otherwise, we cannot conclude that water boils at this temperature and atmospheric pressure." Scientists,
reasonable people who are not already irreconcilably predisposed against an idea, do not respond like this. When we have a preponderance of data to examine, and all of the available data consistently and perfectly fit our
hypothesis, and we have no other plausible explanation for what we are observing, we accept the related hypothesis as true and we consider the evidence that supports it to be "scientific proof." The fact that God exists is hereby
established. For those interested in knowing this God and walking with Him, formal proof that the God of the Universe is the God of the Bible is provided in
In summary then, Atheism is irrational, and this is evident from the data commonly available to anyone who can reason. The Atheist cannot act like an Atheist, as if there is no moral law. He deeply values credibility, though his atheistic claim implies that there is no honor in credibility. He makes moral arguments without acknowledging a reasonable basis for morality, and he responds with indignation at the charge of foolishness in his Atheism ... as if the charge has actual substance. The Atheist consistently acts as if there is metaphysical reality even while he is denying that it exists. The Atheist is acting like he is self-deceived, not like the mere animal he claims to be -- he cannot behave as he claims to believe, merely the product of chance and natural selection, and his actions consistently betray and expose this self-deception.
The Atheist finds himself in a dilemma since he wishes to retain a posture of honesty and credibility in a civil society, which is itself founded and upheld by the very thing he is denying (divinely revealed Moral Law). The Atheist and his religious peers are all commonly aware of a transcendent moral standard, while the Atheist is openly disdaining the possibility of any deity to create this standard and give it substance. In order to retain credibility he must find a way to base metaphysical reality upon a purely physical foundation. This, by definition, cannot be done. With no evidence upon which to base his assertions, the Atheist must either resort to bold, naked presumption or renounce his Atheism, or quit thinking about it altogether.
So, as the hardened Atheist must eventually presume that physical reality sprang from exactly nothing, from emptiness, and created itself, so he must presume that metaphysical reality springs from nothing, creating itself. It is the height of circular reasoning … only tolerated by the rest of us because the absurdity is presented so confidently by people who have, in so many other respects, shown themselves to be intelligent, thorough and reasonable with facts.
Yet if one claims in any other context to have in their possession something verifiably real and tangible, that came into existence of its own accord from absolutely nothing, that, say, the watch upon their wrist just appeared by itself out of thin air – ex nihilo – they are rightly ignored or mocked into silence. How then does the Atheist boldly assert the very same -- about everything -- that life sprang itself from non-life ... all by itself, that all matter and energy came from a pure vacuum ... all on its own, that the moral senses of which all sane men are aware are merely empty delusion ... based on absolutely nothing -- yet a delusion which he himself cannot ignore or escape?
How true it is that God has made foolish the wisdom of this world. In the light of common fact, let no rational human being cower any longer before the daring presumption of Atheism. Call it what it is, in love, and then pray for the deceived with compassionate respect.
Even the Atheist is made in the image of God, and the God who created Man can change the stony heart and give sight to the blind. But, indeed, only God
himself can do this: do not expect to convince the Atheist merely by rational argument. Know now that one does not become an Atheist by any form of reason -- but rather by selfish arrogance, or by profoundly careless ignorance, or
by cultural extortion or bribery, or by a deep, traumatic soul wound. A humble, confident kindness will likely go much farther than cold debate in our effort to win his heart.