Atheists do not exist!
No, that’s not a joke or wordplay. I mean it. There are no atheists.
What is an atheist?
An atheist is a person who denies the existence of God. Don’t take my word for it, Stanford et al. will tell you the exact same thing.1 Atheists assert that God does not exist. This is in contrast to the agnostic view, which holds that man cannot know whether God exists.
Of course, you are wondering why, in the presence of so many people who claim that God is a fiction, I am claiming that such people are a fiction. You are right to wonder, and I have two replies.
Most such people conceive of “God” as the greatest force in the universe. To them, “God” is the greatest being. Said another way, the word-symbol “god” represents the concept of “the greatest being.” The problem, however, is that this claim—that there is no greatest being in the universe—is entirely compatible with theism. Christianity itself denies the existence of an all-powerful entity in the universe, because God is not “in the universe.” God is not of the universe. God is uncreated and non-contingent being. In fact, what is arguably the most precise and encompassing definition that we could give of God is that He is Being. In the words of the Old Testament: “I AM.” In the words of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, “Ipsum Esse Subsistens”—God’s essence is existence.
Thus, for one to accurately conceive of God as “the sheer act of ‘to be’” would render it impossible to deny His reality, by virtue of the plain incoherence of the statement. Denying the existence of existence is absurd, even to the dullest of us.
Regardless of whether the self-labeled “atheist” in question is denying the existence of God or of some pathetic distortion of God, he hath bitten off more than he can chew, for to deny the existence of God is to claim far greater knowledge of the universe than any man possesses. I need not mention the mere fact that the breadth of human knowledge of the oceans of earth is so pathetically small as to be compared to a drop in a bucket. How much more could—or, better yet, couldn’t—be said about our knowledge of the human brain, or our solar system, or our galaxy?
Yet despite this overwhelming and insurmountable gap in human knowledge, the “atheist” is prepared to assert the non-existence of something intangible. He knows that he has no grounds on which to deny the existence of water elsewhere in the universe, but he affirms that God is imaginary. We might be tempted to call this foolishness, but this is quite possibly the greatest example of delusion—a belief that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary. (To be clear, the ‘evidence’ referred to is not evidence in favor of God’s existence; it is evidence that man is too ignorant to rationally assert God’s non-existence).
But let us assume, for a moment, that some individual actually does possess knowledge of the universe sufficient to maintain that God is unreal. Were this person real, his knowledge of the universe must be perfect, lacking in nothing. For if he lacked some knowledge, then that alone would compromise his certainty. But if this person existed who possessed perfect knowledge of the universe, would he not, in his perfection, be equivalent to the very idea of “God” that the atheist denies?
Where Did The Atheists Go?
Now, seeing as how the world is rid of all atheists, what are we to call those poor souls who once—hopefully not still—asserted to know that God does not exist? Provided they maintain their doubt as to the existence of God, properly-defined or not, such people would most fit into the camp of agnostics.
Now, agnostics believe “that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God…” (Oxford Dictionary)(emphasis mine). Incredibly, this position is as untenable as atheism!
Say Goodbye to the Agnostics
If I were to declare, “If extraterrestrials exist, nothing is known or can be known of their existence or nature,” I suspect that I would be ignored or vigorously refuted for such a brash claim. How, one must wonder, does a person come to know about the unknowability of a subject? Nevermind that the agnostic claims that nothing is presently known, which itself demands a perfect knowledge of the minds of seven billion people. The even greater problem is the claim that nothing can be known, for that is self-refuting.
To claim that nothing can be known of God is to claim knowledge of God; it is to assert that one knows that God would never reveal Himself to humanity. If one knows that God would never provide revelation, then that one already knows something of God, which is the very thing he is claiming is impossible. On what level does this even have the semblance of rational thought?
Where the atheist is caught in a delusion, the agnostic seems to be caught in ideological confusion. There is no escaping that reason takes a backseat to the truth for these sad souls. Their mindset is incredibly similar to those with mental illness. It is something to marvel that society finds so distressing the man with auditory hallucinations, but is so accepting of people who claim to know the unknowable.
Richard Dawkins titled one of his books “The God Delusion,” and I am tempted to believe that he was unintentionally prophetic. Modern day atheism and agnosticism are either delusions or ideologies. If delusions, they are rightly called ‘God delusions,’ for the one suffering from it has set himself in the place of God, believing that his knowledge is like unto God’s. If ideologies, then they are worshipping—that is, valuing—a proposition above the truth. They have deluded themselves into believing that a mere idea is more valuable than the invaluable truth. These ideologies are also rooted in a ‘God delusion.’
Is There Hope?
Perhaps I am wrong, though. Delusions are only delusions if the belief persists after it has been demonstrated to the subject that the belief is false. In this case, the false belief may very well be about the nature of truth. It ought not be dismissed that the first words spoken by the newly-appointed Pope Benedict XVI were about the “dictatorship of relativism.” If the Holy Spirit wanted, as I believe He did, Josef Ratzinger to be Bishop of Rome for only a brief time, then I am convinced that it was for us to hear and heed those words. It is often said that the greatest trick the devil ever played was to convince the world that he does not exist. Well, in our day, the more damaging trick was to convince the world that truth does not exist.
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.