Intellectually Dishonest Atheism
1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
Some people don’t believe in God because they have intellectual hindrances to belief, questions that haven’t been resolved yet. Every Christian goes through at least some degree of this while he/she is searching for truth. That is understandable and intellectually honest. And some degree of doubt can be a constant companion for life of the most devoted Christians because “faith” implies there is something to doubt, something without 100% proof.
But there is another kind of disbelief that results in atheism, and this kind of disbelief comes from sin. It works like this. The person may believe in God, but he struggles with a particular sin, or lots of sins. He tries to overcome the sin, to resist the temptation, but he keeps failing, or the sin is something that feels good, like gluttony or sexual sin or abusing power, so he doesn’t really want to stop. So he lives with the constant nagging guilt of failure or the cognitive dissonance of saying he believes in something, but not living the beliefs. Eventually, he just starts questioning why those things would be sin anyway when they’re so “natural” or “irresistible.” This causes him to doubt that any God that forbids these things is a real God or a good God. So he ends up rejecting belief in God because the implications are too hard: belief would cause him to have to live a life of virtue.
This kind of atheism is intellectually dishonest, because the person refuses to admit to himself the actual cause of the disbelief. But it’s a remarkably common cause of atheism. In the verse above, the word “fool” isn’t talking about the intellectually honest person who doubts God’s existence. As a biblical commentary states: “The Hebrew words rendered fool in Psalms denote one who is morally deficient.” A fool is someone who does immoral things: that’s why the end of the verse talks about people who are corrupt.
Please be careful to be intellectually honest with yourself. And challenge your friends who are engaging in this kind of self-justifying self-deception. It is difficult to live up to God’s standards, so some people just quit trying. Don’t do that. It’s not about trying to be perfect, but about moving toward God. The Holy Spirit will help you, but you have to keep your eyes on Jesus.