The Real Argument for Atheism


The primary atheist argument for the non-existence of God seems to be the problem of evil. If there is a God, how can innocent children suffer? How can children in Africa suffer from parasitical worms in their eye? This seems the whole argument for Christopher Hitchens. If God existed, Hitchens objects, he sounds like a North Korean dictator.

Yet something here makes no sense. There are a dozen good logical arguments—philosophical proofs– that God does exist. This one counter-argument does not suggest that he does not exist. Rather, it suggests he is not on our side. “Like flies to idle children are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.” So why do the atheists instead jump to the non sequitur conclusion that he does not exist?

It is not that they are angry at God for evil, either. It makes no sense, after all, to be angry at someone for not existing. Yet they sound angry.

It seems to me that their real problem must be fear. Anger is the natural mask for fear: “fight or flight.” Of what? Of God punishing them. If God exists, and he is a moral being, they will eventually be judged. An evil or malignant God may not judge on moral grounds—but he too will punish, probably even more so. The safe and reassuring assumption is that God does not exist.

Then they project their own sense of having sinned on God, portraying this God, even though non-existent, as evil. This is scapegoating. If there is evil in the world, if evil is natural, if God is evil, and everyone is evil, I have the moral right to do what I want. Then they project the claim that those who believe in God are indulging in “wishful thinking,” while they are the hard-headed realists—an act of misdirection. It reveals their fear of hell. Once you start to lie, you begin to reliably say the opposite of the truth.

It is all classic denial. It all suggests the correctness of the Biblical assumption that atheism is not an innocent intellectual error, but a moral failing. And it means that the level of atheism in our or any society is some measure of how morally depraved it might be. Although wicked people can claim to be religious, the level to which being openly atheist is socially acceptable is a reflection on society as a whole and its values.

But that is rather good news, for North America. In Canada, the current figure declaring themselves atheist is only 8%. In the US, it is 3.1%. In Britain, various surveys put the proportion at 25% or higher.

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