Title: The Three Most Shocking Beliefs of Atheists
Text: Psalm 14:1, Ecclesiastes 1:2, 13, 16-18, Isaiah 5:20
Time: November 11th, 2011
I’ve noticed that atheism is gaining ground in our society lately as I’ve watched television, listened to radio, read the newspapers and surfed the Internet. Atheism is no longer confined to a few individuals or even one person in every town – the “village” atheist. Today, on college campuses across the country there are more than a few outright atheists on the faculty and still others who are practically atheists in their worldview. Atheists appear on television documentaries as “experts” on a wide range of topics. So the general population is being exposed to a lot of atheist thinking today whether they know it or not. But what isn’t so widely known in the general public is just what atheists actually believe. Sure, atheism is disbelief in God – but it goes a lot further than that. The implications of atheism are shocking when we examine them. Most ordinary people never go any further with atheism than it’s a belief that excludes God, but it’s a lot more than that. The implications of atheism are not only shocking — they are outright depressing. It’s one thing for an atheist to appear on television as a cool intellectual who thinks he can explain everything without God; it’s another thing to actually map out what he’s saying and explore the radical implications to his beliefs. If we take the time to really think through what an atheist is saying we’ll find that his view is dark and depressing and essentially nihilistic. Nihilism is the outlook of purposeless meaninglessness. Having studied philosophy at Wheaton College under one of the finest philosophers in the country, Arthur Holmes, I think I grasp most of the essential implications of atheism. I’m alarmed to see how warm and welcoming our society is to atheistic ideas today, whereas, only a few decades ago, most atheists would have been rejected automatically. But today, when television documentaries and news reporters turn to a scientific expert to explain something, more and more they turn to atheists. And more and more the general public is being tutored by atheistic thinking without even understanding the implications of atheism. So today, we’ll be examining the three most shocking beliefs of atheists. I’m sort of in a series entitled, “Three most shocking beliefs of . . .” It started when a newspaper published an article of mine on the three most shocking beliefs of Mormons. I then wrote sermons based on that article explaining the three most shocking beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the three most shocking beliefs of Christian Science – and today, I’m exposing the three most shocking beliefs of atheism. I plan to extend the series to include major world religions, such as Hinduism, Islam and others. As Christians we need to know what people are believing in our society, and more importantly, we need to know what the implications are of these different – and as we understand from the Bible – false beliefs. How can we share the gospel with people if we don’t know where they are coming from? We need to become like missionaries today and understand the culture we seek to influence for the Lord. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool in his heart says there is no God.” That’s not the best way to enter a dialogue with an atheist, quoting this biblical passage, but it’s where the Bible begins with the philosophy of atheism. Let’s examine some other passages and examine atheism in closer detail.
#1 Shocking belief of atheism – life has no ultimate meaning or purpose. Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” When King Solomon uttered this famous phrase to open the Book of Ecclesiastes it shocked a lot of Jews at the time, and it still shocks a lot of Bible readers today who happen to wander upon this passage. Why is such a dark, depressing statement found in the Bible? Are we to take such an utterance as truth? Isn’t the Bible God’s Word? But if it’s the Word of God, why is such a discouraging and despairing statement found there? And why is David’s son, King Solomon uttering such a depressing expression? Well, we don’t have time to go into the entire background of King Solomon and what brought him to the point of such existential despair, but what we can say is that being raised by a king in prestige and privilege, he was given everything anyone could ever want. He had everything anyone could ever imagine – riches, power, position, fame and more. Being in such a unique position, he gave himself permission to explore all the different philosophies of life. One of these worldviews was atheism. Now, he wouldn’t have called himself an atheist, but he explored the worldview and lifestyle of life without God, or what we might call practical atheism. That’s when one lives his life basically as if there were no God regardless of what he says or claims to believe. It’s a very popular philosophy today, much more than outright atheism. Many, many people live essentially secular, godless lives without even knowing it’s basically atheism they are living. But Solomon explored this form of atheism and referred to it in Ecclesiastes as life “under the sun,” or in other words, a purely natural, material life – as opposed to the life of God and spiritual reality in the heavenly realm. The number one shocking belief of atheists is that life is ultimately meaningless or without ultimate purpose. Now atheists will quickly object and say, “My life has plenty of meaning and purpose, thank you.” But if you press them, they’ll have to admit that the only meaning and purpose they refer to is in this short life on earth, but beyond this life there is no overarching meaning or purpose for the universe or earth or human life. And that makes sense from an atheistic perspective, because if there is no God, then there is no context for anything; everything that is, just is, with no ultimate reason or purpose or meaning. Human life just is, each individual life just is, for no higher purpose. This is a very dark and depressing view of life, but it’s one of the main implications of real atheism. So when listening to an atheist, yes, he can be very enthusiastic and excited about what he’s explaining, but remember, when it all comes down to it, he’s preaching the ultimate meaningless and purposeless of life. It’s a dead end philosophy that only ends in despair. But there’s more.
#2 shocking belief of atheism – there is no ultimate right or wrong, no ultimate grounding for morality or ethics. Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah, the great Old Testament prophet decries the perverting of morality and ethics by confusing the categories of right and wrong. When that is done in society then there is no up or down, right or wrong – ethically speaking. But this is exactly what atheism leads to in a person’s life and in the life of society in general. It’s called moral relativism or ethical relativism. There is no fixed or absolute right or wrong. Everything is relative. Absolute moral judgments are impossible under a system of ethical relativism. That’s what we are seeing in society today as atheism gains more and more credibility in the general population. Now atheists will no doubt object, “Why are you blaming us for the breakdown of society? Why are we blamed for the spreading of moral relativism in society today?” Because atheism guarantees moral relativism based on the simple implications of atheism. There may be a number of sources for moral relativism in society today, a number of influences that lead people to make up their standards of right and wrong as they go along in life. Probably the biggest source of this popular relativism is simply sloppy thinking and careless living. Most people do believe in God and hold to some theological convictions about right and wrong, even what is absolutely right and wrong under all circumstances. But they simply live lazy moral lives, not living up to what they profess. But with atheism, it guarantees moral relativism. Within the definition of atheism and the implications of it, we arrive at the belief in no ultimate right or wrong, no absolute standards for conduct. If there is no God there is no Lawgiver and Judge of everything. If there is no ultimate end or raison d’etre, as the French say, reason for being, then who’s to say what conduct is right or wrong ultimately. Atheists all do have some system of personal ethics, but they will have to admit that it is completely arbitrary and relative. If there’s no Lawgiver to determine what is ultimately right or wrong, if there is no Judge to finally decide who is punished and rewarded, then the universe is silent in respect to values and morality. In a world without God, to save or take a life is of equal value. To be a saint, like Mother Theresa, or to be a sinner like Adolf Hitler, is ultimately the same. If the universe is silent concerning ethics, then only human opinion determines what is right or wrong, but only relatively, because man might change his opinion for whatever reason. So in principle, atheism leads to moral relativism. Unfortunately, we don’t have to wait to see the results of this kind of thinking seeping in to society. We see it in the news every day. As atheism has a greater influence on the society, especially the youth, we’ll see what it’s like to live in a world without absolute values. It’s not something to look forward to. Without the intervention of God Almighty, without some form of spiritual revival occurring, I’m afraid we are headed for a dark future on planet earth. Atheism contributes to this darkness.
#3 shocking belief of atheism – there are no ultimate answers to the most profound questions of life. Ecclesiastes 1:13, 16-18, “I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. . . . I thought to myself, ‘Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge. Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom . . . but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.’” Returning to King Solomon during his secular rebellious stage of his life, we see a man who is going through every area of life “under the sun” – that code phrase for a secular, materialistic, naturalistic life utterly apart from God. In his search “under the sun,” or in other words, apart from God, he found nothing of any ultimate value and even found knowledge meaningless. This is one of the implications of atheism, whether the outright atheistic convictions of a Stephen Hawking, famous British physicist who appears on many television documentaries as an authority on all things science, or the practical atheism of King Solomon during his existential stage of life described in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Atheism produces no ultimate answers to the really big questions of life, although atheists are fond of claiming only their view gives us all the answers. For example, atheists like to claim that they know why everything exists, then they give you their answer – the Big Bang. Fifteen billion years ago a gigantic explosion produced all the matter and energy in the universe. Out of this came all the galaxies. Out of this came our solar system. Out of our solar system came our sun and planets and moon. Our earth is one of the planets that formed within our solar system around the sun. Over the course of nearly five billion years the earth formed into an environment suitable for life. Then life happened. Then we happened – and that’s where we are now. But like the old Peggy Lee song, “Is that all there is?” Atheism teaches that we are accidents of the universe. There is no higher reason why we are here, we just are here. There is no ultimate or higher purpose for humanity or any individual. The most profound question of all is, “Why is there something here rather than nothing at all?” Atheism has no answer to this question. But Christianity does. We are here because a loving God chose to share his existence with others and so executed a plan to populate earth with people who would share his image and likeness. They would be conscious, rational and capable of relating to one another and ultimately with their Creator, God.
Atheism can only give “what” answers, but no “why” answers. Humans ask “why?” questions because we don’t just seek to know how the physics or biology of life works, we also want to know why there is life to begin with, why we exist ultimately. The atheist answer really isn’t an answer. Atheists say that we exist because we are the long product of cosmic evolution that started with the Big Bang billions of years ago and ended with life evolving on planet earth. We are simply the product of a purposeless, unguided and unplanned natural process of evolution that took place over millions and millions of years. Why are we here? Because nature happened to evolve us. We are here for the same reason a virus is here – nature evolved it. But these kinds of explanations really explain nothing in terms of the questions that humans have asked for thousands of years. What atheism wants is to do away with all the great questions of philosophy and religion – there are no ultimate answers to those kinds of questions. Atheism wants to reduce everything to mechanics. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy into that reductionism – and I don’t think most people ever will either. We ask questions like, “What is the point and purpose of my life? What is my ultimate destiny? What am I to do with my life here on earth? Who or what is my Creator? How can I relate with God? Is there life after death?” Atheism teaches there is no God and no life after death. Atheism teaches that life is simply being thrown into conscious existence for no point or purpose, and then suddenly being taken out of life at death, never to return again. But why did I appear briefly in life? Atheism has no answer. Atheism claims there is no answer. Atheism actually claims that to ask the question is meaningless. I was once watching a documentary produced by a leading atheist in England who was fielding questions from school children. One asked him what was the ultimate purpose of life? He replied that the question was meaningless. I’m sorry, but that’s just not an answer. Atheism must reject the classical questions of philosophy and religion down through the ages, because it simply doesn’t have any answer to offer. What atheism says is, “You don’t need to ask those questions anymore. We understand now that they are all meaningless anyway.” Well, that just doesn’t cut it. The Bible reveals answers from God that make sense and explain things in a meaningful way. No, the Bible doesn’t get into the technical “how” answers, the nuts and bolts of science, but it answers the profound life questions that really matter. Atheism is ultimately an empty philosophy that leads to discouragement, depression and despair. The great King Solomon of Israel found out by flirting with practical atheism where it leads – nowhere. If more people knew what atheists really believed, for example, these three shocking beliefs, they wouldn’t be as patient listening to the so-called atheist experts on television documentaries. Don’t you be fooled by their false wisdom.