God is Inescapable for the Atheist or Anyone Else

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.

Atheism and Its Irrational Call for Proof of God

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”1

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15).1

Atheism frequently demands that those who believe in God give proof of His existence.  It claims the requirement of such proof before the willingness to believe God does exist.  The evidence for them is “proof.”  Apart from this demand for faith being a contradiction, atheism’s approach is a contradiction.  To demand perceived (or seen) proof for believing (faith is in the unseen) is an untenable demand.  Proof relies on the senses (the seen) but faith relies on the unseen.  While faith calls for evidence from unseen reality (Hebrews 11:1; i.e., promises), seen reality is limited and thereby not an adequate means for proof of God although seen reality offers substantial evidence for God.

A person has a right to their own opinion, but they do not have a right to define evidence or proof according to their own terms. Those who also demand proof fail to realize that irrefutable proof is not scientific. Therefore, atheism stands on an unscientific ground while claiming to hold to scientific methods. That which is held in theory is not necessarily held at proof.

Many theories and hypotheses do not stand on proof. Yet those who form them as well as those who work with them accept them without the same level of proof as atheism.  For if it did, theory and hypotheses could not be refutable. Theories over time have been refuted or struck down. For a theory to be struck down does not alarm those who hold to the theology of atheism. When someone in the scientific field establishes a theory, atheism does not demand an ill-defined level of proof they demand for God’s existence.

Proof and evidence are not the same although one may call for the other. They are different, otherwise they would not be different words with different meanings.  Their use depends on the particular discipline in which they are used.  For example, the field of mathematics seeks proof in equations for solving a mathematical problem while in the field of law, jurists, judges, and attorneys seek evidence.  Evidence does not necessarily “prove” a case, but it can erase doubt.

Evidence can be used for proof.  However, it does not necessarily guarantee it or make anything certain.  What if certain evidence omits a fact?  That fact can have a substantial bearing for the proof of something.  We live in a world full of limitations.  Such limitations easily lend to the omission of facts for establishing evidence or at most the certainty of something.  Even if we have an overwhelming amount of evidence toward substantiating a thing or theory, our limitations are giant variables that stand in the way of any proof.  Consequently, the demand of proof for God is an absurd demand.  For one, it requires material world proof for God who is not of the material world.  That material world proof at the least is in the imagination as in the case of an atheist who while demanding proof for God imagines for what the atheist demands proof.

The person demanding such proof has not adequately worked through the necessary argumentative processes and limitations that stand in the way of yielding any evidence lending to a proof.  Furthermore, the person making the demand ignores the disciplines in which proof and evidence are called for and applied.  It is a demand without meaning because, it is one in which the one making the demand does not consider that not even atheism can produce the proof against God’s existence.  Atheism cannot even imagine non-existence the non-existence of God (See Anselm’s Proslogium, Chapter Three).  Yet atheism demands proof for what it imagines to be God.  An atheist may say, “Since I do not believe God exist, I do not imagine God.”  However, the the atheist speaks of God, he or she has already imagined and shaped one’s conception of God.  To that, the atheist may reply, “I can imagine that which is false or fictitious.”  Indeed, anyone can imagine fiction, and the creators of fiction do this.  However, they do not call everything they imagine God.  If God did not exist, they could not even speak of God, for He would not arise in their imagination.  This is a very different point than imagining fiction.  One can imagine fictitious beings because they extrapolate such fictitious things from what already exist.

This returns us to the previous statement that a person cannot imagine or even speak of that which does not exist.  For if something does not exist, it cannot be imagined.  Therefore, it takes far more faith to believe in that which one cannot even imagine or of what one cannot speak (that is, the non-existence of God) than it does to place one’s faith in that which one can imagine.  Atheists claim no God and thereby no faith.  In one way this is correct while in another it is incorrect.  It is correct in that faith in the non-existence of God is a giant leap of faith, which is no more than irrational presumption.  For it is a naked presumption and not genuine faith to imagine non-existence of God, which is an impossibility.  In this sense, it takes faith divorced from reason and the entire realm of reality.  For that which does not exist is not part of reality.

Then why does atheism demand proof of God’s existence? Because atheists have already reached conclusion for themselves that He does not exist. They have done that because they reject God as authority over their lives and in doing so place themselves in the precarious position of an autonomous person independent of God.  They do so while being dependent on many other invisible, unknown, or currently unknowable things in the created material universe.

The most common method of rejection is denial.  Denial is not a reply on the merits for any position, especially for the non-existence of God.  It is simply positing a naked declaration stripped of reason.  This stance is a contradiction and irrational position for atheism because it never demands proof for all of the invisible components of the material world’s existence as well as those things that threaten existence. Yet atheism demands proof for something they imagine, that is, their conception of God.  Atheism or those who hold to atheism have already entertained that for which they demand proof while denying the very thing for which they demand proof.  This is a contradiction.

That is, atheism’s demand for proof depends on what an atheist imagines about God and not on reality or what another position may hold.  Consequently, atheism often calls for proof for a straw man god, one it imagines or alleges Christians hold.  For when atheism demands proof, those who are atheists already entertain a god for which they demand proof. The very fact that they imagine the divine gives evidence that God exist, because as noted in a previous article, one could not even imagine God if He did not exist. That goes for any sense of divinity.

By establishing an imagined god and demanding proof for it, atheism alleges victory by asserting that no one has presented proof for the god of the atheist’s imagination. Atheism does not outwardly define the god of whom it demands proof while holding to that which it demands proof.  Many atheists also do not refer to the sacred writings of those who follow the God of those writings such as the Christian Bible.  Many atheists also refuse to read the very book Christians claim presents the real God unless they read it for citations to use against Christians to present a god who is unjust or a tyrant or another straw man. Rather they reject the Bible. In doing so, they fail to entertain knowledge that offers them evidence of God and then claim without having read it as it should be read, according to common reading skills, that its contents are fantasy.  They claim this without offering any refutable scholastic evidence.

This is irrational, for it rejects the knowledge they do not have and refuse to entertain. It is also irrational to demand proof for an imagined god.  This places atheism in a very precarious position in its refusal to entertain knowledge while demanding “proof” of God’s existence when the evidence of such proof could lie in the knowledge they do not possess and not so much in the imagination of the atheist.  It is one thing to demand a defense from another concerning that person’s theology, but it is quite another matter to offer one’s own defense for a held theology.  Quite frequently, atheism’s defense of its theology is demanding proof from theists for the existence of their God.  This demand is not an adequate defense of a position.

Atheism technically is a theology in the proper sense of the term.  A denial that it is not leads to a redefinition of terms like “theology.”  Atheism is a theology of the non-existence of God (or any gods, but particularly the Christian God).  Atheism rests on faith in both the non-existence of God and concerning the invisible things of the material world. By claiming that God does not exist, their faith rest on that proposition, that is, on the non-existence of God, for atheism cannot provide evidence of God’s non-existence. Therefore, they simply must believe.  Atheism also rests on faith concerning the things they do not see as well as on things of which they have no knowledge, the invisible things of the created material world of which there are many.  Any denial atheists make that the must have faith is a redefinition of faith to escape from beleiving they must have faith.

One person does not have knowledge of everything – physics and all other sciences. Yet, atheism demands proof of God while not demanding the same level of proof for the things of which they have no knowledge.  It also fails to consider the context and discipline of which proof is required (such as mathematics versus the legal profession). They believe in those who do have that knowledge (scientists, their teachers, parents, and so on) while pointing to Christians as foolish for believing in those who wrote the Bible and disclose God in it. This is still another contradiction. The glaring part of this contradiction is that many atheists engage in ridicule of Christians for believing God and the Bible while being accepting of many unseen realities for which there is no proof or may not be proof.

Again, ridicule is not a defense for one’s position.  Rather, it is an irrational response.  In doing so, atheism not only dismisses any argument theists put forward, but it offers no evidence for atheism.  In essence, atheism exercises similar belief by believing in those who have more knowledge than they concerning the material world, which holds many unseen and unknown realities.  This is also a contradiction of atheism.

What then should be the Christian reply to those who refuse to believe God?  It should be the same as it would be for anyone else.  Present Christ.  Of course, such presentation requires more discussion than a two word sentence.  It is important to first determine the seriousness of the one to whom we present Christ and the gospel.  The backlash of ridicule or scoffing shows no seriousness for engaging prolonged discussion on a peer to peer basis.  To attempt to give an answer to someone who holds the position of ridicule for the God of the Bible with the gospel would be futile.  This does not mean that we withhold the gospel message.  We give warning of the rejection of God in a similar manner Jesus gave to Nicodemus (John 3:19-20).

As Christians, we have three tools God has given us for encountering those who do not know or yet believe in God and His salvation through Christ: the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and God’s gift of reason.  The Bible is God’s disclosure of Himself.  He really wants people to know Him.  However, two major barriers stand in the way: one’s alienation from Him and separate realms.  We are of the material (temporal) realm, and God is of the divine realm, and He alone exists there.  To know God, He must reveal Himself.  God does so through revelation.  God revealed Himself to us through His word found in the Bible.  Not only this, but He comes up beside His word through the Holy Spirit to not only enable us to understand God but also to relate to Him.  God actually crossed the vast barrier between the divine realm and the material realm in the form of a man, Jesus Christ.

God has also gifted us with the capacity to reason toward comprehension of His word and its disclosure of how to relate to Him through the revelation of Jesus Christ.  We can use these tools for communicating to those who have never heard of the gospel and who do not know God.  The Holy Spirit, then, works within the individual to give understanding just as He did in us.  Only God can penetrate the mind and conscience of individuals to receive His message and place faith in Jesus Christ.  Only the Holy Spirit can change resistance and ridicule to faith and worship.

Both the Apostle Paul and Apostle Peter explain how Christians engage reason in sharing their faith.  Paul states that we use persuasion (2 Corinthians 5:11).  That is, we engage reason to call people to faith in God.  He also writes that we meet reason with reason (2 Corinthians 10:5).  The advantage of the reason we use is that it points to God, receives aid from the Holy Spirit, and involves the knowledge of God as opposed to the knowledge of worldly philosophy.  It breaches the barrier of the material world and calls upon people to reject reasoning that excludes God but rather focuses on that which is eternal.

Peter writes that we give a defense for our hope.  We have the only hope available in light of the hopelessness of the present postmodern self-reliant age.  Such defense engages our minds for presenting the claims of the gospel.  Since we serve and relate to the God of hope, we call all people to it, but not by ourselves but by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is in this power, which resides in the gospel, where our confidence and hope dwells.  Atheism has no hope, which is a fatalistic theology, because it is self-reliant and seeks autonomy.  This is a position of fantasy and not reality.  All need the gospel message of Jesus Christ for life.  Without it, one faces destruction whereas eternal life waits for all who believe the gospel.

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1 Nelson, Thomas (2009-02-18). Holy Bible, New King James Version (NKJV) (p. 1165). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. Use by permission.