1. Atheism We begin our study with a look at atheism. Atheism is not itself a religion.

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1 1 1. Atheism We begin our study with a look at atheism. Atheism is not itself a religion. What is atheism Atheism is the view that God does not exist. The word comes from the Greek atheos which when we break it down is as follows; a = without or no and theos = God. So literally without or no God. What do atheists say about themselves? There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it. Richard Dawkins Atheism is the vice of a few intelligent people. Voltaire (1764) The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion. Karl Marx (1844) All thinking men are atheists. Ernest Hemingway (1929) Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature. Carl Sagan (1985) How many atheists are there? It is difficult to be precise. Often in surveys atheists and agnostics are grouped together. We should note the distinction here. Agnostics say we cannot know with certainty that there is or isn't a God or gods. They are in essence sitting on the fence. An atheist on the other hand is sure that God or gods do not exist. We could classify both however as non-theists. As a worldwide movement it seems to be increasing slightly. Possibly around 10-15% of the world's population are atheists. The Daily Mail newspaper in 2015 quoted a survey that said 13% of the UK population were committed atheists. The same survey claimed that 61% of Chinese people were atheists. According to Dr Phil Zukerman on the website Psychology today 28% of South Koreans are atheists or agnostic.

2 2 Origins Atheism is nothing new. The bible gives us an account of atheism from around 1000 BC. Let's look at Psalm 14 written by David. The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. Psalm 14:1 Q: What does this reveal about atheists? We also read about the foolish nature expressed through atheism in Paul's letter to the Romans. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and fourfooted animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1:18-25 Q: What does this tell us about atheists? Q: How has God revealed himself? (v 19, 20) What do atheist believe? It is not easy to be precise here. Atheists are of course not organised and do not follow or adhere to guidelines or doctrines. However we can generalise on the following. God / divine being There is no God or divine beings. The Devil The afterlife Holy writings The meaning of life No devil exists There is no afterlife. When you die existence ceases They do not have holy books or scripture. Is not always addressed, they do however see the importance of living well and rightly in this life as there is no afterlife. They believe that

3 3 Influential writers or thinkers in the movement human beings have the power and ability to help themselves and solve the world's problems. Voltaire, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens. Organisation Atheists are not formally organised. Most are not members of formal atheistic groups. They may however side with prominent atheists (see above) and follow, endorse or support these people. They may attend conferences, lectures or meetings to discuss their ideas. Interestingly in 2013 in the UK a group of atheists started the Sunday assembly. In essence this was a church for atheists. It's congregation got together to fellowship, sing secular songs and have lectures or talks. It has proved very popular and now is practised in 63 other countries. Q:What does the Sunday assembly tell you about human beings? Q: What do you think about their choice of things to do during their service? Two types of atheist We might distinguish between two types of atheist. Weak = Simply do not believe in God or gods. They are not actively against other belief systems or religions but just do not believe them for themselves. They have a live and let live attitude. Most of the world's atheists fall into this group. Strong/militant = These atheists are actively opposed to God and are often vocal or aggressive in their attacks against theism. Religion is seen as being dangerous. They think theists are wrong, mislead or brainwashed and seek to help them see the truth. Many such as Richard Dawkins consider it equivalent to child abuse to raise children in a particular faith. The two main arguments posed by atheists 1. The evidence for the God of the bible is weak or non-existent The evidence for God is not sufficient for them to believe or that the evidence they see makes them conclude that God does not exist. Q: What evidence or evidences could you point to that proves the existence of God? Read: Romans 1:21 Scripture declares the existence of God. The bible at no point makes the case or argues for the existence of God. It merely presupposes His existence. Nature also points to the existence of God.

4 4 Read: Pslam 19:1-2 Acts 14:17 Most atheists are naturalistic in their world-view. They believe only in the world that can be seen, touched and felt (empiricism). They reject therefore any supernatural explanation for things. They believe that science provides the answers for what exists. The best testimonial evidence for a spiritual realm is the Bible itself. Historians, both Christian and non-christian, agree that the historical authenticity of the Bible is strong. Jesus claimed to be God s Son, the One who came down from heaven. He made this fact quite clear: You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world (John 8:23). The traditional proofs for the existence of God (Adapted from Grudem's Systematic Theology p143). These arguments have been devised to provide philosophical arguments to the existence of God. They vary in their effectiveness and may or may not persuade atheists. # Argument Explanation 1 Cosmological argument Everything in the universe has a cause. Therefore the universe itself must have a cause. We need an uncaused first cause. That can only be God 2 Teleological argument The world shows evidence of design and purpose. This is evidence of intelligence. Where has this come from? It must have come from an intelligent designer. 3 Ontological argument Begins with the idea of God. God is the greatest thing which can be imagined. If we can imagine God then there must be a real God as it is greater to exist than to merely be a thought without real existence. 4 Moral argument All men have a sense of right and wrong. We need justice to be served. It argues therefore their must be a source of morality. That could only be a perfect and holy God. 2. The existence of evil and suffering (see appendix 1) Their logical argument is as follows. God is supposed to be all good and all-powerful. Evil and suffering exist in the world. If God is all good, he would not want evil and suffering to exist. If He is all-powerful, then He is able to remove all evil and suffering. Since evil and suffering exist, God is either not all good (which means he is not perfect and not God), or he is not all powerful (and limited in abilities and scope). Since either case shows God is not all good and powerful, then He does not exist. Q: What would you say to atheists who make these arguments?

5 5 Q: What does this forget in describing God's character? Towards a Christian answer Many of the Bible s 66 individual books openly express what we would now term the problem of evil. The Bible makes it clear that evil is neither something God intended nor created. Rather, moral evil is a necessary possibility. If we are truly free, then we are free to choose something other than God s will. We can choose moral evil. Scripture points out that there are consequences for defying the will of God; personal, communal, physical, and spiritual. Scripture shows that God did not create evil and does not promote it; rather, it describes God s actions in combating it. God limits the impact of evil, warns us of the dangers of evil, acts to stop the spread of evil, gives us an escape from evil, and will eventually defeat evil forever. The problems with atheism Atheism is philosophically an impossible position to hold. To make the absolute claim that no God exists would mean that you would have to have infinite knowledge. To have infinite knowledge of all things is something only God can have. To say there is no God means that you would have had to be everywhere in the universe at every time, and know everything that is or has happened. This is clearly impossible. No atheist would make this claim but essentially this is what they are saying. Atheism therefore cannot be proven. An atheist cannot produce evidence to prove that God doesn't exist somewhere in our vast universe. Q: What evidence could we give that points to an eternal God? Atheism provides no answer to the question, where did everything come from. Atheists might claim evolution provides the answer but evolution still needs a cause. Where did the matter come from to begin with? Q: How does God provide the only logical answer? (read Genesis 1:1) Atheism cannot explain how we know morally what is right or wrong. If there is no absolute standard of morality then it is simply a matter of personal opinion or preference as to what is acceptable (right or wrong) or not. Someone could argue that rape is wrong, but someone else might say it is acceptable in certain situations. Who is morally right? An atheist cannot answer such an argument. Read Isaiah 33:22 and James 4:12 Q: What does God give us that the atheists lack? I hope this was a useful and informative introduction to atheism.

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