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