By: Brian Chilton | September 26, 2017
The psalmist David wrote, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There’s no God.’ They are corrupt; they do vile deeds. There is no one who does good” (Psalm 14:1, CSB). The psalmist claims that it is irrational for one to deny God’s existence whether it be by atheism or by alternative worldviews. Atheism has become popular in recent years. But, the pressing question is, why? Normally, people become atheists for four major reasons. I was influenced by some of these reasons to become a theist-leaning-agnostic for a period of time. While the atheist will claim to be a “free-thinker,” he or she is often imprisoned by emotionalism rather than reason.
1. The person desires moral independence. Often the person who becomes an atheist or agnostic wishes to make one’s decisions without anyone telling them otherwise, including God. The person metaphorically wants one’s cake and to eat it, too. The person desires moral independence. One wants to have as much sex, take as many drugs, drink as much alcohol, make as much money (even if it hurts another), without any need for guilt. If there is no God, then the person is free to choose their own morals. By claiming that morality is up to the person, the person claims absolute independence.
Unfortunately for the skeptic, humans are built with a moral code within them. The moral law is transcendent. People realize it is wrong to hurt others unnecessarily. Ironically, the skeptic’s worldview collapses the moment he or she begins to speak about social justice. Social justice means nothing if there is no transcendent morality. Transcendent morality cannot exist if there is no transcendent reality known as God.
2. The person holds emotive reasoning. That is to say, the skeptic bases one’s decisions on emotions rather than reason and logic. When God does not rescue them from a bad choice, the skeptic becomes angry with God and leaves the faith (if he or she was in an organized religion) or refuses to come to faith (if one was not part of an organized religion). Emotive thinking is especially found in the claim that a good, loving God cannot coexist with a created world full of evil (e.g., the claims of Neil deGrasse Tyson). The skeptic may have been hurt by Christians in church and desired to get back at them by becoming an atheist. The choice is based on emotion rather than reasoning.
The trouble with this mindset is that it does not always consider all the facts. As I have entered doctoral studies, I have read authors who eschew a person “flaming” others. Flaming is the act of blowing up emotionally and irrationally bombarding another without considering all the facts in the discussion, an act that has only increased in recent years. Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, and many others have answered that a good, powerful, and loving God can coexist with a creation that is evil so long as such a God has good reasons for allowing it.
3. The person desires global unity. That is, the person becomes an atheist, or at least agnostic, because one does not want to tell a person of another faith that he or she is wrong. Some skeptics think that they can solve the world’s problems by holding that no religion is true, except their religion of atheism. The skeptic holds that their skepticism will unite people together globally rather than causing divide. I am not a combative person. As such, this reason led me into agnosticism, at least to the idea that all religions could be true. People who hold this notion desire the love of people rather than the love of God.
Unfortunately, global unity is impossible as it pertains to religious views because all world religions and worldviews hold major differences. In addition, many have the notion that differences in religion cannot be discussed peacefully. However, if Christianity is true, then discussing these issues rise dramatically in importance. Unity should be sought by all believers, but it should not come by sacrificing truth. In reality, all worldviews hold major differences. Each worldview should be tested. It was my investigation and devotion to truth that God used to bring me back to faith. I then understood that Christianity holds good reasons for its authenticity.
4. The person desires intellectual neutrality. As mentioned earlier, some do not test their beliefs. When the person’s beliefs are challenged, they are left without answers and hold that their previous worldview must not be true. This is the reason why many have left the church. Again, I had the same problem in the early 2000s. My faith was challenged by the Jesus Seminar. I had no way to answer their claims, thereby leaving me defenseless. None of my mentors could provide an answer to their claims. Thus, I naturally assumed that Christianity was false or at least deeply flawed.
A simple investigation using The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell launched me into the realm of Christian apologetics. I realized that Christianity does hold merit.
These are the four major reasons that individuals become atheists. Nearly all the reasons that people become skeptics are found in these four. Thankfully, answers are found in Jesus of Nazareth.
Video: William Lane Craig gives more reasons as to why people become atheists.
Video: David Wood, a former atheist, describes his conversion to Christianity (long edition).
Video: David Wood, a former atheist, describes his conversion to Christianity on CBN (short edition).
Check out Wintery Knight’s take on this issue and on the impact of these reasons upon former Christian, now atheist, Dan Barker at https://winteryknight.com/2017/09/26/why-did-dan-barker-leave-christianity-for-atheism/
About the Author
Brian Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian is full member of the International Society of Christian Apologetics and the Christian Apologetics Alliance. Brian has been in the ministry for over 14 years and serves as the pastor of Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkinville, North Carolina.
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