God Does Not Believe in Atheists

Craig A. Parton
Friday, February 29th 2008
Mar/Apr 2008

The current virulent strain of evangelical atheism does a disservice to many of the arguments of traditional atheism. I am thinking here of the latest efforts by the new Apostles of Atheism, Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation), and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything). It certainly does not advance the atheist position to have a proponent like Dawkins rambling around the world arguing that if one raises a child to be "religious," then one is basically raising them to be an axe murderer and/or a terrorist. Dawkins' extremism alone has led renowned atheist Michael Ruse to confess that "The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist." (1)

This article summarizes the arguments of traditional or "classical" atheism-i.e., atheism as it has been presented since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. The articulation of these arguments also serves to cover the essential arguments of the new Apostles of Atheism, without the need for dealing with their hysteria from which even other atheists such as Ruse are beginning to distance themselves. Next, each argument is separately analyzed and found to be wanting in evidence and in logic. Finally, since one has hardly proved enough by ending at the existence of God if God has chosen to be silent, the importance of the case for God's specific entrance into the human situation is put forth.

My vocation is one of a trial lawyer. The assertions of atheism-as well as the assertions that God is there and has not been silent-will, therefore, be implicitly tested by legal canons of evidence employed in law courts for almost a millennia as a means for arbitrating competing factual claims.

We only note in passing that God does not believe in atheists because, as pointed out by trial lawyer John Warwick Montgomery, in the end there really are no atheists and never have been in the history of the world. In fact, everybody has what Paul Tillich called an "ultimate concern," something that gets first place in one's life when the chips are down. That "ultimate concern" is that person's religion, regardless of whether they formally consider themselves to be an atheist. More importantly, that ultimate concern is their god-whether it be their intellect and ability to reason logically, a girlfriend, a Ph.D., buffed abs, an Academy Award, a toy poodle, or season tickets to Green Bay Packers games.

The Traditional Arguments of Classical Atheism

The main objections of classical atheism are as follows:

Belief in God is psychologically explainable as part of a regressive and infantile cultural stage.
Belief in God has disastrous social implications.
Belief in God has harmed the advancement of science and the findings of modern science contradict any such belief.
Belief in God is illogical.

These four categories of argument have been carefully analyzed, and repeatedly and thoroughly refuted by serious Christian apologists for the past two millennia. One would think (as far as one can surmise from the cloistered world of contemporary evangelical atheism of the Dawkins-Adams-Hitchens variety), however, that new evidence has been discovered that refutes theism and, more specifically, that refutes the central claims of historical Christianity. This is simply not so.

Let me also preface my comments to each of these four arguments by confessing that I would rather deal any day of the week with a serious atheist than with a religious liberal of the Christian species-type. Those who technically and officially stand within the House of Salvation, and yet then gladly (and utterly irrationally) stand in judgment and criticism of the Word inscripturated and the Word Incarnate, are infinitely more dangerous to the future of the Christian faith than all the Dawkins-Adams-Hitchens the outside world will ever produce.

Also note that none of the traditional arguments of atheism deal head on with the actual primary source evidence for the central claims of Christianity-namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. Why is this? The answer is simple: The sheer factual strength of the historical case for the trustworthiness of the biblical authors and the claims of its central figure Jesus Christ (both of which are subjects that have been analyzed by trial lawyers for over 400 years) are so impressive and deep that an informed atheist is wise not to trod there.

The four arguments and refutations that follow are only introductory in nature. The endnotes will lead one to greater depth and further study.

ARGUMENTS AND REFUTATIONSBelief in God is psychologically explainable

While Dawkins argues this point loud and clear in The God Delusion, this contention has been presented repeatedly since the psychoanalytic revolution began in the nineteenth century and was also echoed in the reigning philosophical circles of that time. Freud and Nietzsche certainly articulated the position that belief in God the Father is nothing more, and nothing less, than wish projection. It is the infantile groping of a repressed psyche to turn into reality that which it desperately wants to be true-namely, that one has an all-loving, all-wise, all-benevolent Father way up there. It is akin to belief in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and it is a belief that only intellectual and cultural maturity can show to be mere fiction.

This psychological pull toward the need for a father figure and for some type of order that is imposed on a random universe is-per classical atheism-eminently understandable, but also eminently explainable. In short, the argument says that the "God Wish" goes back to the domain of primitive man. As man progresses psychologically and socially, belief in God has been shown to be largely irrelevant and only of persuasive interest to the uneducated classes who then indoctrinate their children in order to prevent intellectual and social progress from occurring.


This argument is invalid on several grounds.

First, belief in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy is a natural condition in the early years where the lines between fantasy and reality are necessarily blurred. Many people, in fact, mature to a belief in God (witness the recent controversial conversion to theism of renowned British atheist Anthony Flew). This argument simply fails to explain why so many come to a belief in God, and specifically a belief in the God of Christianity, late in life and after obtaining a robust university education. Clearly not all these people have simply retreated to infantile regressive behavior by becoming theists or Christians. Many, for example, would see the conversion of an adult C. S. Lewis-as he himself did-as a progression into maturity rather than a regression into an infantile world of denial. (2)

This argument also ignores some basic facts derived from the biblical data in support of Christian theism. The Bible is hardly a book full of teachings that are equivalent to the vocational teachings of a wet nurse. From "turn the other cheek" to "give your enemy your coat," from "feed the poor" to the doctrine of hell as a place for those not perfectly holy and for those failing to perfectly follow the Law, this is decidedly not the religious pablum that naïve primitive man would conjure up over a hot fire, a juicy femur head, and a pot of gruel. An infantile position would be one that, for example, failed to deal with the reality of evil and instead focused only on man's glory and greatness, or one that ignored man's essential inability to follow even his own moral standards. In Christian intellectual history, one finds serious reflection on issues of man's nature and the nature of God, the reality of sin and the possibility of salvation, the nature of history, and the existence of real ethics. Profound insights on these topics have hardly come from what might be called the "infantile or regressive" impulses of such men as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, John Henry Newman, G. K. Chesterton, and Alvin Plantinga, to name but a few. Finally, R. C. Sproul is perfectly correct when he contends that this argument by atheists might just as easily be turned on its head. (3)

In short, perhaps atheists wish so badly for an all-knowing Last Judge not to exist that they have projected their highly regressive and infantile fantasies onto the issue of the existence of God. The argument, therefore, ends up being utterly self-defeating on logical grounds alone.

Belief in God has disastrous social implications

This argument contends that belief in a lie (i.e., that God exists) leads inextricably to disastrous social consequences done "in the name of God"-from wars to slavery to loss of any kind of a truly liberal social conscience. More misery, so the argument goes, is caused per cubic inch by misguided religionists espousing a belief in God as a pretext for the imposition of the worst possible social conditions.

This misery has crossed cultures and spanned all generations. Jews kill Arabs, Protestants kill Catholics, Muslim sectarians kill Muslim sectarians, and evangelicals kill abortionists. Islam has its jihads, Christianity has its crusades, Hinduism has its caste system, and the world groans and travails as a result.


First, an initial comment on strategy: Many well-meaning Christians think the way to attack this argument is to show that what the atheist says happened in the history of the Christian church really did not happen or can be explained or understood in a different way "once all the facts are known." This is a disastrous defense strategy. One who takes this approach will harm the strength of the fundamental refutation of this argument.

We note in passing that since the Christian church has been full of sinners since the time of Jesus, this means that we should expect sin also to be intertwined in the history of the church. If the history of the church was only a history of "sweetness and light," it would refute a central and repeated teaching found in the biblical data-i.e., the depravity of man.

Next, just because individual practitioners of a position may have personal moral failings and/or utterly fail to remotely understand, interpret or apply the truth of their worldview, does not mean there is necessarily anything wrong with that worldview. Does the fact that a liberal environmentalist drives a gas-guzzling SUV mean that all arguments for global warming are necessarily incorrect? Does the fact that some Christians in Nazi Germany failed to condemn Hitler and even went along with the concept of the Reich Church mean that Christianity necessarily con-dones Nazism? Or as John Warwick Montgomery put it in his debate with atheist trial lawyer Mark Plummer, if Einstein had been convicted of shop lifting would that mean that E does not equal MC squared? (4)

Finally, a commitment to the existence of God, and more specifically God's particular existence in the person of Jesus Christ, has in fact resulted in a remarkable track record throughout history of the relieving of human suffering and support for the social and cultural progress of man. This is in sharp contrast to the social devolution that is the lot of societies wedded to a materialistic metaphysic formally based on atheism (Stalin's Soviet Union comes to mind). Christianity in particular gave birth to the rise of modern medicine and the establishment of the first hospitals and care for the mentally ill and the elderly, (5) the beginning of orphanages, (6) the development of the university in Europe and in America, (7) the rise of compulsory and universal education and the rise of the library, (8) and the elimination of slavery in England. (9)

While all of these advances are easily established through a multiplicity of scholarly sources, the world has yet to see its first atheist leper colony. This is not accidental. With no transcendent and defensible basis for the dignity of all human beings, atheistic materialism has tended to be incapable of moving in any direction but one of "might makes right," and has utterly failed to provide any defensible basis for universally valid human rights.

Belief in God has harmed the advancement of science and the findings of modern science contradict any such belief

The position of classical atheism, and especially as argued by Dawkins, is that science has disproved God. Anybody who insists on clinging to belief in God is a superstitious reactionary, a religious fundamentalist who is in complete denial about the advances of science, since atheism is the only viable option for evolved thinkers. Science is the only reliable tool for the discovery of knowledge and it alone has revelatory power. Furthermore, believers in God have always been threatened by progress in science since they intuitively understand that science holds the silver stake necessary to impale the blood-thirsty vampire of belief in God.


First, let us deal with the argument that believers in God (and specifically Christian believers) have historically reflected hostility toward science and have done all they can to thwart the progress of science. Actually, the opposite is true-Christian believers have a long and distinguished history of involvement in the scientific enterprise, which has been based on the belief that the universe reflected a rational and intelligent Creator and that intelligence was built into the universe. The origin of modern science, as Alfred North Whitehead says, (10) required an insistence on the rationality of God that deified nature (as seen in Aristotelian pantheism) could never achieve nor could Eastern religions, since they considered nature utterly random and incapable of objective investigation.

The list of serious Christian believers involved in the scientific endeavor is deeply impressive and includes Copernicus (who proposed the heliostatic theory), Tycho Brahe (who discovered a new comet and built an observatory), Roger Bacon (a prime developer of the inductive method), Kepler (who formulated the elliptical movement of the planets, and developed and confirmed three astronomical laws), Galileo (the first to use the telescope to study the universe), Pascal (who discovered barometric pressures vary with different altitudes), Newton (who discovered the law of gravity and invented calculus), Farraday (the discoverer of electromagnetic induction), Pasteur (the founder of microbiology), and Gregor Mendel (who laid the foundation for modern genetics). (11) In our own day, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project and a former atheist now turned evangelical Christian, is credited with mapping and sequencing the full human genome. (12)

As for the argument that Christianity fears science, one must be careful to determine from the outset exactly how the term "science" is being used. Christianity does not fear the scientific method nor does Christianity fear factual data. The problem comes when science brings philosophy in through the backdoor and without a proper introduction to the other house guests. This happens when scientists operate with philosophical starting points that preclude contact with data (or require convoluted explanations to avoid, at any cost, a nonmaterialistic interpretation of the data). This avoidance strategy is required to protect and defend deeply held naturalistic assumptions about the universe. One example is the a priori assumption that nature is all there is and that only natural explanations are meaningful, no matter what kind of gerrymandering one must do with the data. One immediately thinks of the arguments against the so-called Intelligent Design movement that seek to shut down data accumulation and reasonable scientific theorizing on purely philosophical grounds by claiming that the Intelligent Design movement is simply theology or religion masquerading as science.

In point of fact, the findings of modern science are confirming the biblical material that complexity and intelligence are basic building blocks in the universe. Professor Michael Behe has shown that Darwin did not have the tools to observe what we can observe today on the biochemical level, and what we do observe establishes that the fundamental tenants of Darwinian evolution (i.e., random mutations over long periods of time) are insufficient to generate even the "simple" complexity seen in the most basic life forms. (13)

Belief in God is illogical

This argument can take two different forms, both of which we will consider briefly. The first argument contends that all philosophical proofs for the existence of God are inherently contradictory because they all beg the question: "Who then created God?" The second argument insists that the existence of evil (e.g., the Holocaust, 9/11, pediatric AIDS victims, the shopping channel, etc.) makes irrelevant any evidence for the existence of God. This is because any God shown to exist is hardly worth human allegiance since he is either incapable of preventing evil (and thus not all powerful), or could prevent it but chooses not to (and thus clearly not all good).


The issue of "who created God" is not particularly profound, though it apparently started Bertrand Russell on the downhill slide to atheism. The fact of the matter is that the world is a contingent universe (i.e., nothing in the world contains the explanation for its existence in itself, but instead one must look outside of it for an explanation). The physical sciences have an impressive battery of illustrations of the fact that the universe we live in is contingent and finite (the second law of thermodynamics being only one such example (14) ). To regard the world we live in as eternal is simply out of the question. Similarly, to regard the Creator of this world as likewise contingent (i.e., "Who created him?") begs the question since that only forces us to continue to pose the same question ad infinitum. As Montgomery says, "Only by stopping with a God who is the final answer to the series do we avoid begging the question-and only then do we offer any adequate account for the contingent universe with which we began." (15) Our universe is simply a blooming lot of contingency! The atheist stops at this universe and refuses to move to the God who is not contingent and who is himself the necessary being to start the whole process. The atheist, however, stops with his explanations at this world, and yet this world offers utterly no reason for stopping with it and its heap of contingent "stuff" crying out for explanation.

As for the problem of evil, first we note a logical problem with the argument that the existence of evil disproves the existence of God. As the analytical philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein established, (16) there is no such thing as "ethics" unless one has a truly transcendent source of such ethics. Without that transcendent judgment on what is right and what is wrong, one cannot even speak of "evil" save in only relative or culturally conditioned manner. In short, one must presuppose an absolute moral standard even to employ the word "evil" in the across-all-cultures manner employed by the atheist in this argument. However, an absolute standard of morality is impossible unless God exists. If there is no God, both good and evil are strictly relative concepts and by-products of cultural conditions and sociological-political-psychological factors. More directly, if God does not exist then there simply is no "problem of evil." What is is, and no more can be said.

Secondly, Christianity is not in the least incompatible with the existence of evil in the universe. The biblical data is unimpeachably clear that evil entered the universe through the volitional acts of the creatures, not the Creator. Evil entered the human condition as a result of a completely free moral choice by the creatures to do their own will in direct contradiction to the plain and unambiguous word of God Almighty. The consequence was eternal separation from God as well as suffering and death in this life. Sin and its effects are irrational, however, and do not obey nice, clean rules of cause and effect (i.e., the idea that you only get what you truly deserve). Thus, innocent children get AIDS and innocent bystanders die in terrorist attacks while the elderly Godfather, Don Corleone, dies quickly of a heart attack in his tranquil garden after playing a game of chase around the vines and tomato bushes with his beloved grandson.

But the biblical picture does not end by simply separating God from the cause of evil. Indeed, in Jesus Christ death (the final result of sin and evil) is conquered decisively and forever. Jesus grieves at the tomb of Lazarus over the devastation that human evil and death bring. In Christianity, a most solid foundation exists for standing against moral evil and for doing so with complete confidence that such a stand has the divine stamp of approval. Contrary to the attitude of benign resignation toward evil in many Eastern religions (the concept of karma and the essential unity of good and evil emasculate any real ability to aggressively counter the cause and effects of human evil and suffering), Christianity speaks of human depravity as being so real and dreadful that it required the Son of God to enter human history in order to make atonement for humanity's sin. Thus, not only is evil condemned, but God himself takes the consequences of that evil onto himself in his very body.

The result is that no one can say that God does not understand human suffering and evil. The cross of Jesus forever silences the argument that God does not understand what it is like to suffer, to be unjustly treated, and to die. Finally, Christianity is clear that Jesus Christ will return again to totally obliterate all sin and human suffering and to wipe away all tears from every eye.


"Christianity has compelled the mind of man not because it is the most cheering view of man's existence, but because it is truest to the facts"-Dorothy Sayers. (17)

Theism, however, has some very disconcerting bedfellows. We are told that the devil himself is a theist, and that he and his minions at least "tremble" in that knowledge (James 2:19). The case for theism is ultimately of little value if God had not chosen to enter human history and to speak clearly about man's condition. This, in fact, is precisely the claim of historic Christianity. It is the many infallible proofs that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself" that must be finally confronted. That those proofs come in writings that have an overwhelmingly solid documentary pedigree can take a serious skeptic to the place where a long line of lawyers (18) have also allowed the compelling primary source evidence to lead-namely, to the very doors of eternity where life and salvation lie within the saving work of Jesus Christ.

1 [ Back ] Ruse is quoted on the cover of Alister McGrath's The Dawkins Delusion: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (Carol Stream, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2007).
2 [ Back ] For more detail, see Lewis's spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955).
3 [ Back ] R. C. Sproul, If there is a God, Why are there Atheists? (Minneapolis: Bethany Publishers, 1978).
4 [ Back ] The Great Australia Atheism Debate Tape Series (Edmonton: Canadian Institute for Law, Theology and Public Policy, 1986). See for tape catalog.
5 [ Back ] Alvin Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), p. 156.
6 [ Back ] A. R. Hands, Charities and Social Aid in Greece and Rome (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1968), pp. 27-28.
7 [ Back ] Donald Tewksbury, The Founding of American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil War (New York: Colombia University Press, 1932), p. 82.
8 [ Back ] John Warwick Montgomery, "Luther, Libraries and Learning," reprinted in Montgomery's In Defense of Martin Luther (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 116-139.
9 [ Back ] W. E. H. Lecky, History of European Morals (New York: D. Appleton, 1927); see also Edward Ryan, The History of the Effects of Religion on Mankind: In Countries Ancient and Modern, Barbarous and Civilized (Dublin: T. M. Bates, 1802), p. 151. Alvin Schmidt devotes a chapter to the topic in Under the Influence, supra at ft. 5, pp. 272-291.
10 [ Back ] Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York: Macmillan Press, 1926), p. 18.
11 [ Back ] Schmidt, Under the Influence, supra at ft. 5, pp. 240-241.
12 [ Back ] Dr. Francis Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Free Press, 2006).
13 [ Back ] Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
14 [ Back ] See Professor Gordon J. Van Wylen, Thermodynamics (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1959), pp. 119-174, see esp. p. 169.
15 [ Back ] John Warwick Montgomery, Christianity for the Tough Minded: Essays in Support of an Intellectually Defensible Religious Commitment (Edmonton: Canadian Institute for Law, Theology and Public Policy, 2001), p. 27.
16 [ Back ] Wittgenstein concluded in his magnum opus, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971), that "[e]thics is transcendental." Proposition 6.421.
17 [ Back ] Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (London: Methuen & Co., 1946), p. 13.
18 [ Back ] A partial list includes Hugo Grotius in the sixteenth century (the so-called "Father of International Law"), Sir Matthew Hale in the seventeenth century (Lord High Chancellor under Charles II), William Blackstone in the eighteenth century (codifier of the English common law), Simon Greenleaf in the nineteenth century (dean of Harvard Law School and greatest living authority at that time on common law evidence), Lord Hailsham in the twentieth century (former Lord High Chancellor and accomplished trial lawyer), Jacques Ellul in the twentieth century (professor of law at the University of Bordeaux), Sir Norman Anderson (authority on Muslim law), and John Warwick Montgomery (English barrister, American lawyer, chief trial counsel in some of the most important human rights cases of the day litigated before the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France). For further discussion on the issue of why trial lawyers in particular are so attracted to the Christian faith, see Parton, The Defense Never Rests (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2004).
Friday, February 29th 2008

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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