Most people in the world, throughout the ages of history, have believed in some concept of a Supreme Being. They may have had a perverted sense of Who that Being is, but they were convinced that there is a Personal Power greater than man. Given the evidence available, faith is reasonable. That is why the psalmist declared: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). The Hebrew word for “fool” suggests one who is not thinking rationally.
Since unbelief is neither reasonable nor the norm, one cannot but wonder why some people become atheists. I am convinced, after reflecting upon the matter for many years, that religious disbelief does not result from logical conclusions based on well-researched data. Rather, generally speaking, emotional motivation of some sort is a primary causative factor.
Consider the following case. In 1996, Judith Hayes, a senior writer for The American Rationalist, authored a caustic, atheistic tirade titled: In God We Trust: But Which One? In this treatise, Mrs. Hayes revealed two clues as to why she left the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) and became an atheist.
As a youngster, she had a friend who was a Buddhist. Judith was very close to “Susan,” and she simply could not tolerate the idea that her friend, who did not accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God, might be lost apart from the biblical redemptive system. So, rather than carefully examining the evidence to determine whether or not the claims of the Lord (as set forth in the New Testament record—see John 14:6; Acts 4:12) are true, she simply decided, on an emotional and reactionary basis, that Christianity could not be genuine.
Eventually Judith married, but the relationship degenerated. Mrs. Hayes claims her husband was verbally abusive. Again, though, instead of considering the possibility that she might have been responsible for having made a bad choice in her marital selection, or that her husband decided on his own volition to be abusive (in direct violation of divine teaching—Ephesians 5:25ff.), she blamed God for her disappointment. “[H]ow could I possibly have wound up married to a tyrant? Why had God forsaken me?,” she wrote (1996, p. 15). God did not forsake her. He honored her freedom of choice, and that of her husband as well. Human abuse of that freedom is not the Lord’s responsibility.
The infidel William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) was known principally for his skeptical poem, Invictus. As a youngster, Henley contracted tuberculosis, and had to have one foot amputated. He suffered much across the years and became quite bitter. He wrote:
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced or cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody, but unbowed.
His disbelief, however, was emotional, not intellectual.
The late Isaac Asimov once wrote: “Emotionally I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect that he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time” (1982, emp. added).
In one of his books, Aldous Huxley acknowledged that he had reasons for “not wanting the world to have a meaning.” He contended that the “philosophy of meaningless” was liberating. He confessed that the morality of theism interfered “with our sexual freedom” (1966, p. 19). This is hardly a valid argument for rejecting the vast array of evidence that testifies to the existence of a Supreme Being!
Here is an important point. When men have motives for resisting faith in God, and when—out of personal prejudice—they are predisposed to reject the Creator, they become “ripe” for philosophical skepticism.
Asimov, Isaac (1982), “Interview with Isaac Asimov on Science and the Bible,” Paul Kurtz, interviewer, Free Inquiry, pp. 6-10, Spring. See also Hallman, Steve (1991), “Christianity and Humanism: A Study in Contrasts,” AFA Journal, p. 11, March.
Hayes, Judith (1996), In God We Trust: But Which One? (Madison: WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation).
Huxley, Aldous (1966), “Confessions of a Professed Atheist,” Report: Perspectives on the News, Vol. 3, June.