Imagine… No God?
In 1971 John Lennon issued his hit single titled Imagine which managed to take the #3 spot in Billboard’s “Hot 100.” Shortly after John Lennon’s death in December of 1980 the song was resurrected as an anthem supporting utopian ideas such as a world without any religion, no countries, no possessions, but simply a world comprised of a single brotherhood. These same sort of impracticable ideas are not new and will no doubt continue in the world until the final day when Jesus Christ returns. The law of God which is written on everyone’s heart bears witness of our fallen natures and in turn allows humanity to wonder what a world might look like if there was no divine law accusing us. Enter the atheist.
I spent a good deal of my adult life confessing the belief that because there is no evidence God exists, then there is no reason to believe in His existence. My confession, if left in the form I just wrote out, is what can be termed soft atheism. As opposed to hard atheism, soft atheism doesn’t contend that the statement “There is no god.” is true. Rather, the soft atheist maintains he is an atheist because he fails to believe there is a god. Interestingly enough, this failure to believe is exactly what Jesus tells us in the Gospels condemns us, “…whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
The hard atheist, on the other hand, confesses something much more than a mere lack of belief. He maintains that the statement, “There is no god.” is true. It is because of this affirmation of the truth of the aforementioned statement that hard atheism is also referred to as positive atheism and with soft atheism therefore being called negative atheism.
In sum, the hard atheist affirms that it can be proven—through reason and evidence—that the statement “There is no god.” is true; whereas, the soft atheist simply maintains that he has no good reasons for believing God exists at all. What is common between the two is imagining their creator does not exist.
There isn’t a self-professed atheist alive who isn’t imagining a world with no God. Recall that the Apostle Paul instructs us ”14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:14-16).
That is, the law written on our hearts shows us that God does indeed exist (Romans 1:19). The atheist of any stripe must work to suppress the truth that they are the creation of God. Yes, when I was an atheist I pushed down against the truth of what my heart told me is the case, God exists and I am in trouble with Him.
Notorious atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (now deceased) spend an enormous amount of time and effort resisting the truth written on their hearts. Why do these atheists beat their drums so hard if in fact there is no God? How many people are writing books titled “The Santa Claus Delusion” or “Unicorns are Not Great: How Belief in Unicorns Poison Everything”? (I am playing off the titles of books written by Dawkins and Hitchens.) I’ll tell you the reason.
Atheists have to work hard at imagining a universe where God doesn’t exist because, unlike Santa Claus and Unicorns, God does exist and He created in such a way that nobody can excuse their unbelief. Isn’t this what Paul writes to the congregation in Rome?
“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. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
I know first hand that atheists will deny it, but the reason why they don’t spend time and resources arguing against the existence of Santa Claus, Unicorns, and perhaps the Tooth-fairy is because in their heart is no concept of such beings having existence in the world. There is truly nothing to kick against in these instances. Such is not true about God, though.
So-called hard and soft atheists must use every wit of their imaginations to raise enough unbelief to silence the accuser in their heart which tells them night and day they are in trouble with their Creator. The atheist doesn’t understand or know how to bring peace to his heart other than to desperately try to erase any knowledge of the existence of God from his mind. Indeed, the whole affair is much like Edgar Allen Poe’s tale, The Tell-Tale Heart. In that story Poe’s fictitious murderer finds no relief over his crime of murdering the “old man.” Indeed, the imaginary sound of the old man’s beating heart terrifies the villain of this story. Try as he may to convince himself that the old man is gone forever, the law written on his heart accuses him of his sin and the villain is driven to finally confessing to the police, ”Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!”
Yes indeed, we all have been given a “tell-tale heart” by God. The good news of Jesus Christ’s death, through which our sins have been forgiven, is not written on our hearts. We must hear this good news through preaching of the Word (Romans 10:17). It is only through receiving the Gospel in faith that the wicked imagining there is no God can be repented of and stopped. Ultimately this is what the atheist is kicking against, the Gospel. He does so out of rebellion and he knows he hates God. There in is a surprising difference between God and Tooth-fairies in the mind of the atheist, hard or soft. The atheist doesn’t hate the Tooth-fairy or Unicorns, but they really do hate God. Hence they labor against the law’s accusations against them night and day. For them, a god-less universe is the ideal perfect place; it is a place of peace from their nagging conscience, a place where they don’t have to think about God and their sins ever again. Yes, a universe without God is a fiction and it is one the atheist imagines he lives in now.
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