Try as much as they want, atheists cannot remove God from their thinking or conversations. Each time they speak of Him, they acknowledge His existence. Even in their identity and worldview, they acknowledge they know God. They call themselves a-theist. Although the “a” that precedes “theist” appears to them to mean absence, it could also be used as an indefinite article specifying their acknowledgment of God such as in the sentence, “I am a theist.” Furthermore, although atheists integrate the article to make the word “atheist,” they still cannot get away from theism. Inasmuch as they viciously try to claim He is absent or non-existent, theism still stands out in their identity.
I recently dialoged with an atheist on the http://www.patheos.com website who titled his discussion “Godless from Dixie.” Now think about that. Although his confession is “godless,” he could not get away from acknowledging God in it. God still rises clear as the noonday sun in the confession. Many atheists as well as those who do not profess atheism use God’s name or the name of His Son when they curse. In doing so, they pray that God will damn them or others. Such amazement.
It occurred to me recently how no one can conceive, think about, or extrapolate from the corporeal or incorporeal existence that which does not exist.
We can only talk about that which we conceive in our minds, harbor or entertain in our thoughts, or extrapolate or abstract from existence whether that existence is corporeal or incorporeal.
A corollary to this is we cannot entertain in our thoughts, conceive in our minds, or extrapolate or abstract from that which does not exist.
When we talk about something, we have already entertained it in our thoughts or conceived of it.
Therefore, when we talk about God, we have thought or conceived Him in our thoughts thereby giving strong evidence of His existence in our speaking.
Therefore, when atheists talk about God, they have thought or conceived Him in their thinking and give strong evidence of His existence according to the stated premises.
Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109), said similarly when he wrote in “Proslogion,”
How indeed has he ‘said in his heart’ what he could not think; or how could he not think what he ‘said in his heart’, since to ‘say in one’s heart’ and to ‘think’ are the same? But if he really (indeed, since he really) both thought because he ‘said in his heart’ and did not ‘say in his heart’ because he could not think, there is not only one sense in which something is ‘said in one’s heart’ or thought. For in one sense a thing is thought when the word signifying it is thought; in another sense when the very object which the thing is is understood. In the first sense, then, God can be thought not to exist, but not at all in the second sense. No one, indeed , understanding what God is can think that God does not exist, even though he may say these words in his heart either without any [objective] signification or with some peculiar signification. For God is that -than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought. Whoever really understands this understands clearly that this same being so exists that not even in thought can it not exist. Thus whoever understands that God exists in such a way cannot think of Him as not existing” (St. Anselm (1998-09-10). Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics) (p. 88-89). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)
Some may claim, “Superman does not exist. The characters in Star Wars and Star Trek do not exist. The characters or material world in fiction novels do not exist. The gods of other religions do not exist. We can think, conceive, and imagine them although they do not exist and they have come into our minds through an external source.
To this a reply could be given that all of the characters and worlds of fiction are extrapolations of what already exist in reality. Superman is an extrapolation of men who exist. His creator simply integrated characteristics of other things that exist such as flying, great strength, and other characteristics and dressed him up in a costume that children now wear for Halloween. The same also applies to worlds and characters in Star Wars and Star Trek. Their creators embellish, extrapolate from, and impose on such fictitious worlds and characters from that which already exist. Imagination is a great thing, because it can integrate those characteristics from what exist and create novel things from them. The Preacher from Ecclesiastes said as much when he noted:
That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)
That is, what one imagines, thinks, conceives, or extrapolates from what exist has already occurred many times before by others who preceded those who have so imagined, thought, conceived, or extrapolated from what exist. They simply gave this fiction the settings of their generations and encasing this fiction in that which they knew.
A professor once said of writing, “You write from what you know.” Knowledge arises from what we imagine, think, conceive, or extrapolate from what exist. Knowledge cannot arise from non-existence, for there is no knowledge in and of non-existence. That which does not exist cannot contribute to knowledge. For this reason, we depend on what exist to give rise to knowledge for filling our imaginations, conceptions, and thoughts so that we can extrapolate from what exist for creating from it some fictitious existence in a novel, poem, music, or art. All of these display an extrapolation and integration of the characteristics of what exist.
When humanity creates fictitious characters, they do so from what already exist in reality. The ancient civilizations so created fictitious characters and images from stones, wood, and other materials that arose from their imagination as extrapolations of what exist. They then set these images up as gods for themselves. They imagined these gods for worship because they knew God existed. However, they took from the created material order and attempted to fashion from their imagination, conceptions, and thoughts of God and created images from the material world to attempt to stand for what they already knew – that God existed.
Therefore, deny all they wish, God remains strongly implanted in the minds of all as that which exist. They cannot get away from Him no matter how much they try. Their identity depends on their acknowledgment of God (atheist as a derivative from theist). Their opposition and curses reveal that they know Him. Write or preach all they wish against God, but their words testify to Him even though they resist, rebel against, and oppose Him. Atheists betray themselves by speaking and writing about and against God.
King David once wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7) No one can remove himself or herself from the presence of God nor can their thoughts seek escape from Him. He is deeply implanted in their minds, so try as they may, God makes knowledge of Him deeply embedded in everyone’s minds.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful” (Romans 1:21).
How can people who have never heard of God still know Him? This Romans passage puzzled me for a long time until I framed the syllogism above. Our thoughts and conceptions give witness to and evidence of the knowledge of God. It is undeniable evidence within us when our minds entertain thoughts of God. When we think or conceive of God, we show we know Him, not in the same sense that we know Him relationally or redemptively but in the sense that we know God exists. Thinking and conceiving thoughts are part of our experience so that our own personal experience gives witness to the existence of God no matter how much some deny Him. In denying God they deny the reality of their own experience.
The preceding statement Paul makes gives more evidence for our thoughts and conception of God, “…because what may be known of God is manifest in them” (1:19).
Again, when atheists talk or write about God in opposition to Him, they betray themselves by showing that the knowledge of God is indelibly stamped on the mind and conscience. They can only talk and write about that which exist or can be extrapolated or abstracted from existence. In talking or writing about God, they give ample and strong evidence of His existence and show they know Him while doing all they can to suppress that knowledge. The suppression of knowledge does not eradicate it. Knowledge exists whether one accepts it or not. Atheists show that such suppression of the knowledge of God is impossible by continually dialoging about Him.
Those who oppose God and attempt to wipe Him from their existence need to turn their face upward to confess what their thoughts and hearts acknowledge: God is inescapably in their presence and known in their hearts. Their rage against Him will not stand in the judgment (Psalm 2), and their chains will curtail their defiance until they finally admit God is the LORD, their Creator, and Redeemer.