Why Do People Choose Atheism?

Why Do People Choose Atheism?

For the past few days, we have looked at facts about atheists compiled by the Pew Research Center. We saw that people who identify as atheists in the United States are primarily male and younger than the general population. We also saw that they scored higher than the general population in a religious knowledge survey that included Christianity-related questions. We also pointed out that they often grew up in a church but left their faith in college. Why do people choose atheism over faith in God?

I think it is safe to say that some choose atheism because they don’t want to follow the moral standards of Christianity. By rejecting God, they can reject His moral standards without pangs of conscience. Living immorally becomes easier when we can pretend that there is no higher authority who sets standards of moral conduct. According to Pew Research, less than half (42%) of Americans believe that it is necessary to believe in God to have good moral values. But that is much higher than in France, where only 15% think that belief in God is essential for good morals. Interestingly, in some Muslim-dominated countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia, 98% to 99% say that a person must believe in God to be moral.

Atheists not only refuse to believe in God, but they also think that faith is a negative factor in society. In the U.S., 71% of atheists say that the decline in religious influence in public life is a good thing. About the same amount (70%) say that churches and other religious institutions do more harm than good. They overlook how many hospitals, orphanages, and charitable organizations have been founded and are supported by Christians. Many Western European countries, such as Belgium, France, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands, have high rates of atheism (14-16%). That contrasts with the percentage of atheists in many Eastern European countries, including Romania, Ukraine, Bosnia, Poland, and Lithuania (1-2%). Even in Russia, only 4% of the population claims atheism. Could that be because the people of those countries lived for years under atheism, and they understand its consequences?

Reading the atheism data on the Pew Research Center website brings many questions to my mind. Why do people choose atheism over faith in God? The answer is as complex and diverse as human beings. At Does God Exist? our mission is to share evidence for God’s existence, the truth of the Bible, and Jesus Christ as the one who can restore us to a relationship with our Creator.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Reference: Pew Research Center

What Makes an Atheist?

What Makes an Atheist?

Yesterday, we pondered statistics about atheism from the Pew Research Center. We considered what an atheist is. We saw that atheists are more highly educated, with 43% having college degrees compared to 27% of the American general public. They also are politically more affiliated with the Democrat party and lean more toward political liberalism. They do have spiritual thoughts and find meaning in family. However, atheists also find much more meaning in money, hobbies, and travel than do Christians or the general population. What makes an atheist? Why do people turn to atheism?

We often blame the fact that young people turn to atheism in college on the influence of American higher education. Educational institutions have become more liberal and atheistic, but perhaps the churches are partially to blame. We learn about God from two sources. In addition to the Bible, the world around us is filled with the life and wonder of God’s creation. “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So, they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:20 NLT).

Many young people who grow up in the church are taught Bible stories along with a distorted scientific perspective of creation. When they get to college, they face new freedoms and challenges to the scientific “facts” they learned in church. The earth and sky seem to be showing something that can’t fit into the human-made interpretations of Bible chronology they have learned. They face a conflict that they must resolve. Too often, they resolve it by throwing out the truth of the Bible along with the scientific errors that have been falsely attached to it.

The bottom line is that the Bible does not tell us the age of the universe or planet Earth. Everything the Bible does tell us agrees with scientific facts. As we have said many times before, science and faith are friends. If there are apparent conflicts, it is because we have bad science or bad theology. The fact that there has been too much of both often turns our college students into atheists.

One more fact from the Pew Research Center is that in a religious knowledge survey, atheists ranked ahead of U.S. adults overall in answering fact-based questions about religion. That indicates that what makes an atheist involves more than a lack of religious knowledge. We will continue with that thought tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Reference: Pew Research Center

What Is an Atheist?

What Is an Atheist?

What is an atheist? We may use the word around like we know what an atheist is, but do we? According to Merriam-Webster, an atheist is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods.” Historically, Christians were called “atheists” for believing in only one God instead of the pantheon of pagan gods. Today, data from the Pew Research Center (which we talked about yesterday) indicates that it is not easy to define what an atheist is.

Reading through the Pew Research Center findings, I found some interesting facts. In 2009, 2% of Americans described themselves as atheists. In 2018 and 2019, that increased to 4%. However, 18% of those who self-described as atheists said that they “believe in some kind of higher power.” Even more surprising is that 54% of atheists say they “often feel a sense of wonder about the universe.” Apparently, even atheists have an innate spiritual sense. Could that be because humans are created in God’s image? When we ask, “What is an atheist?” perhaps we also should ask what keeps them from believing. Could it sometimes be the actions of believers?

Surprisingly, about a third of American atheists say they think about meaning and purpose in life at least once a week, and they “often feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being.” Two-thirds (63%) listed family as a source of meaning. That compares to 73% of Christians finding meaning in the family. However, Atheists placed much greater meaning on money, hobbies, and travel than did Christians or Americans in general. Is that an attempt to fill the empty spiritual void?

When we ask, “What is an atheist?” we should keep in mind that most U.S. atheists are men (68%). They are also relatively young, with a median age of 34, compared to 46 for the general public. Of the American general public, only 27% have a college degree. Among those who identify as atheists, 43% have graduated from college. Can we blame the high percentage of college-educated atheists on atheistic professors in American higher education? Maybe some blame lies in the many churches that teach anti-scientific doctrines, which college students quickly learn cannot be accurate. Hold that thought until we continue this discussion tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Reference: Pew Research Center

Pain and Suffering Do Not Disprove God

Pain and Suffering Do Not Disprove God
Somali Refugee Camp

Despite statements by atheists and skeptics, pain and suffering do not disprove God. Skeptics question how a person can believe in God when there is so much pain and suffering in the world. Several atheists have said that this is the best argument against the existence of God. This challenge is very weak, but many people use it as a tool to support their rejection of God. However, they are overlooking several vital facts:

1-Atheism offers no real alternative to the question of pain and suffering. If you have no purpose in existing, how do you deal with pain and suffering? All atheism can suggest is when pain is too severe, kill yourself. The massive increase in suicides, especially in older people, is because they see no purpose in their existence. Those of us who believe in God know that evil and good do exist, and we are part of the war between them. Chapters 1 and 2 of Job make that clear.

2-Pain and suffering do not disprove God because they are caused mainly by humans who reject God’s plan for life. War, murder, abuse, most diseases, and all socially caused pain are produced by humans. Do we really expect God to straighten out every mess we create? Blaming God for most of the pain in the world cannot be justified.

3-Atheism does nothing to relieve the pain in the world. Atheism calls for no sacrifice to battle pain and suffering because of its dogma of “survival of the fittest” and believing that humans are just animals. Ask yourself how many atheist organizations around the world are fighting disease, social problems, and the results of war and crime. Atheist groups don’t build hospitals and schools or operate shelters and offer food, water, and clothing to those in need. Read Matthew 25:34-40 and see what Jesus calls His followers to be and do.

4-Atheists and skeptics see nothing positive in pain and suffering. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh” and its benefits to him. He says, “My strength is made complete in weakness” and “I am content in infirmities, ill-treatment, for when I am weak, I am strong.”

I have had a lot of pain in my life, including the death of a child and a wife and personal abuse from a wide range of sources. All of this has reinforced my life’s purpose and direction. I have seen the promise of God working in my life. “No trial will come your way but that which all mankind endures. But you can trust God not to allow you to suffer beyond your powers of endurance, but when you are tested, He will make a way out so that you will be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Pain and suffering do not disprove God. Nobody likes pain of any kind, but rejecting God because of it is allowing a false message to destroy our purpose for existing.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

The Atheist State of America

Building decorated with red and green not allowed in the atheist state of America

As the U.S.A. sinks deeper into becoming the atheist state of America, we see continued political oppression of Christians. An example of this is in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Government officials there told city employees to refrain from displaying any religious symbols. That means even red and green decorations are prohibited on any public building. City officials say those colors are “associated with Christmas.” Workers for the city must use blue, green, and purple lights to recall the colors of aurora borealis (the northern lights) and to use only “snowflakes, snow people, and other nonreligious symbols.”

Elsewhere, school children and government workers are restricted from wearing anything that refers to Christianity. With the war in Gaza in the news, it is interesting that Muslim headwear and Jewish skull caps have not been banned, but atheists and secularists are working on that.

It seems obvious to any thinking person that Christianity played an essential role in the history of America. Trying to stamp out all Christian symbols and displays, especially during Christmas and Easter, while allowing symbols of other faiths to be displayed at any time of the year is an inconsistent government policy. The atheist state of America is not just a Christian issue; it is an American issue. It’s an issue of religious freedom. The founders of this country would be astounded by what is happening today.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: The Week for December 1, 2023.

Guilty of Willful Blindness

Guilty of Willful Blindness

In his book Reflections on the Existence of God, Richard Simmons coined the phrase “willful blindness” to describe many people’s rejection of God and the Bible. This phrase is not confined to people who reject God because they are ignorant, but even scholars and scientists are guilty of willful blindness. 

Thomas Nagel, a philosopher at New York University and a promoter of atheism, described his willful blindness well: “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God. I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

Many years ago, a young man attending my presentations at Purdue University asked many questions. When he became silent, I asked him, “What are you going to do with all of this evidence?” He responded, “I don’t want to quit having sex with my girlfriend, and so I am going to ignore it.” 

Richard Dawkins, considered the world’s leading atheist at the time of this writing, says, “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of Darwinian theory … we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.”

Agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow has made this observation: “Scientific reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind – supposedly a very objective mind – when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our professions. It turns out that scientists behave the same way the rest of us do when our beliefs are in conflict with the evidence. We become irritated, we pretend the conflict does not exist, or we paper it over with meaningless phrases.”

Recently, a reader asked why we continue to do this website. He said that, in his experience, people are not going to be confused with the facts and that we were wasting our time by presenting evidence for God. I asked him why he keeps reading the things we post. He responded that he knew his arguments to reject God were getting weaker and weaker as he read how much evidence there is and how good that evidence is in our material. 

The fact is that, in time, being guilty of willful blindness will bear destructive fruit. I suspect my young friend at Purdue is no longer sleeping with his girlfriend. I feel for him knowing he missed the full joy of sex as God intended. I also feel for those like Dawkins and Nagel who cannot tell you why they exist or what is the ultimate purpose of their lives. Having no eternal purpose in living brings disappointment and frustration. Jesus said He came to give life and to give it more abundantly – John 10:10. Acting on evidence is a first step in allowing God’s Spirit to influence our lives Acts 2:38. 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Make the Golden Years Fruitful

Make the Golden Years Fruitful

How we deal with old age is one of the things that distinguishes Christians from those who reject the Bible as their guide for life. Coming from a family of atheists, I have witnessed how they dealt with aging. I have watched my atheist friends use cosmetic devices and surgery to avoid the consequences of age. Of course, no cosmetic treatment or surgical procedure can remove the aches and pains that time brings, but following Christ can make the golden years fruitful.

For Christians, getting older is a time of growth in understanding and wisdom. In Philippians 3:7-12, Paul talks about looking back on things that he thought were important and considering them “rubbish” and that he “counts all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” We can make the golden years fruitful by following the positive teachings of Christ.

We read in Acts 17:19 about Paul bringing his message to the Areopagus, where older Greeks learned new things. Today our Areopagus is the web where we can share information and ideas. This ministry reaches people of all ages with the message that science and faith are symbiotic. Our websites contain a wealth of new understandings. In addition to this site, please check out doesgodexist.org and doesgodexist.tv. Maturity allows us to challenge our old misunderstandings and learn new things. Biblical examples include Apollos in Acts 18:24-28 and Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2-9.

We can make the golden years fruitful by repairing broken relationships. The Bible contains examples such as Jacob and Esau in Genesis 32-33, Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 45:4-5, and Jesus and Peter in John 21:7-17. Maturity is a time to overcome stubbornness and forgive. Jesus called His followers to forgive, but non-believers sometimes carry grudges to their graves. I have seen this happen in my family and friends who didn’t have a Christian basis for forgiveness.

The most significant benefit of being an older Christian is having a purpose in life. I have watched family members who retired from their secular employment or lost a spouse and had no life purpose as they died mentally, leading to physical death. Enjoying grandchildren, recreation, or hobbies lasts only so long. Having a purpose in life lasts right up to the end. Being a Christian in retirement allows me to devote much of my time and energy to the ministry that God has given me.

Matthew 25:31-46 lists things seniors can uniquely do to make the golden years fruitful. You can’t retire from God. Doing His will brings blessings beyond what the secular world can comprehend. Paul expresses this beautifully in 2 Timothy 4:6-22 as he looks back at his life, realizing it is about to end: “I am already being poured out on the altar, the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course….” Don’t let age rob you of the blessing of purpose and usefulness.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Watching Your Child Die Needlessly and Painfully

Watching Your Child Die

It has been more than a year since my son Tim died of COVID. A man who refused to wear a mask or get a vaccination gave him a disease that his weakened immune system could not handle. He died after a six-month battle in which he could not walk, feed himself, or speak clearly. Even though Tim was an adult, watching your child die needlessly and painfully is hard because life is not supposed to end that way.

Every time I see a news report about the death of a child, it reminds me of the pain caused by a careless or even vindictive act of another human being. However, sending your child to school healthy and happy never to come home is even harder. Having your child take their own life is harder yet.

We all cope with the death of a loved one in different ways. Jim Smith has produced a booklet that discusses the ten stages of grief. Those stages are: (1) Shock (2) Denial (3) Lamenting (4) Withdrawal (5) Frustration (6) Panic (7) Depression (8) Detachment (9) Adaptation (10) Reinvestment.

The stages do not necessarily come in that order, and we all have many questions with no answers to make the pain disappear. Guilt, anger, and blame are almost always involved when watching your child die. We may even blame God for our loss and wonder why a loving God would allow it. Unfortunately, atheists have used that as a club against believers.

When we think about what death means to atheists, it seems strange that it can destroy faith in God. I grew up in an atheist home with strongly atheistic parents who taught me that death was the ultimate tragedy. I was not allowed to go to a funeral or a memorial service, even as a teenager. My mother was furious when my girlfriend’s mother took me to a visitation for a classmate’s father. Seeing a dead man in a casket was a radical experience for me. Now, as a Christian, I am dealing with my son’s death. Although I miss him, his death is a blessing that has allowed me to move through the ten stages very rapidly.

Death for Christians is freedom from the evil of the world. My son no longer has to deal with his blindness or his struggles to breathe, walk, feed himself, or speak clearly. He is finally finished with the war between good and evil. Furthermore, his life still speaks to me and others as one full of purpose and meaning.

While watching your child die
, it is difficult to understand how good can come from the senseless death or murder of an innocent person. However, the response of those left behind can bring meaning to the life we have lost. For Christians, death is a beginning, not an end.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

For a free copy of Jim Smith’s booklet, contact us at jncdge@aol.com or our USPS mailing address: Does God Exist?, 1555 Echo Valley Drive, Niles MI 49120.

The Unique Bond Between Christians

 The Unique Bond Between Christians

When I was a promoter of atheism, one thing I envied the most was the unique bond between Christians. As an atheist embracing “survival of the fittest” as a way of life, I was always looking over my shoulder to see what might threaten my security. I watched my father, an atheist college professor, go to extreme ends to protect his standing at the university and promote his reputation and standing in the academic community. I remember him telling me, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” and encouraging me to assert superiority over my peers to achieve success.

Coming from that perspective, I was amazed to see Christians making themselves vulnerable. I envied the unique bond between Christians who were not related and had nothing to gain from those bonds. When Christians were together, they really enjoyed being together. There was sincere kidding and laughter that did not insult, demonstrate prejudice, or serve an ulterior motive. The terms “brother” and “sister” were alien to me as an atheist. When there was laughter between my atheist friends, it was derisive and usually spurred by alcohol or other drugs, and it was hollow and insincere.

I remember riding with my father several miles from our home when a tire blew out. After my father called several work associates with no success, he called a family friend who was a Christian. That man came with a replacement and a jack to change the tire. My father was amazed that anyone would do that, and the Christian friend told my father, “That’s how Christians do things.” I’m not sure my father ever comprehended the importance of that statement and the testimony that it presented.

If I believe in “survival of the fittest” and “he who finishes first wins,” why would I do anything that doesn’t give me an advantage? Who can put a price tag on what it means to have someone care about you just because you share a connection to the teachings of Jesus Christ? The warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “bad company corrupts good character” is borne out in the struggles of life.

In the real world, few people have the strength and resolve to care about others sacrificially. Jesus demonstrated that in the extreme on the cross. Following His example, the unique bond between Christians can show love and care, reaching out to those who don’t share their faith. The “bond of peace” and the love of brethren is not just a nice cliché but a vivid apologetic for the validity of the Christian life.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Singing is Good for Your Health

Singing is Good for Your Health

A Finnish study has found that singing is good for your health. In addition, it showed better verbal fluency in elderly singers compared to non-singers. The study says that these findings make sense because singing requires regulation of attention, versatile information processing, linguistic output, learning, and memorization.

Several New Testament passages talk about singing, including Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Romans 15:9, and 1 Corinthians 14:15. The New Testament presents singing as part of worship, and everyone should participate in worship. Merely being entertained by someone who is blessed with great musical talent is not participating in worship.

In our day of four-part harmony, it is easy for everyone to learn to sing in their comfort range. In the Old Testament, the Psalms were songs. Music for worship in Jesus’ day mainly consisted of chants that everyone could join.

A person can be tone-deaf and still participate in singing in Christian worship. Although many religions use singing as a part of their worship activities, group participation is unique to the worship system of Christians.

Singing is not what takes place in the meetings of atheists. When I was an atheist, the only songs I remember were songs that carried a pornographic or comedic message. Music was not something we all participated in, but it was a vehicle of entertainment.

Making melody in your heart” (Ephesians 5:19) is a proven way to improve your mental health. Furthermore, like everything God tells us to do, it has a purpose and benefits our well-being. Therefore, singing is good for your health, both physical and spiritual health.

— John N, Clayton © 2021

Reference: Readers Digest. September 2021, page 58.