Understanding Why Atheists Don’t Believe: 5 Reasons

Atheists, strictly speaking, are individuals who don’t believe in any God.  Many are content enough to say simply, “I don’t believe” and leave religion alone while others like Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens and thousands of YouTube commenters, actively seek to ridicule, belittle

Prof. John Lennox

Prof. John Lennox

and even try to disprove an entity in which they don’t even believe!  A few go so far as even trying to disprove the historical existence of Jesus.  So why no love for our creator?  I’ve identified five reasons why atheists are so stirred to anger by our Father, our savior and our helper.

  1. Suffering: I won’t try to explain why God allows suffering because any words I could provide, especially to those who have recently experienced a great loss, would do little to satisfy their anguish nor could my words, through their pain, be read clearly enough to prove God’s existence.  I will say only that the existence of suffering whether it be instigated through man’s free will, natural disasters, or disease does not disprove God nor does it challenge that he is all loving.  Christian apologist, John Lennox, offers his much better insight on this through his presentation, “The Loud Absence: Where is God in Suffering?”   
  2. Religion causes all the wars: The 911 attacks provided material around which prominent atheists could rally and claim how throughout history and still today, like the 911 attacks, religion causes most conflicts.  I’m nearly certain that our American Revolution and our Civil War were not waged in Jesus’ name.  Additionally WWI and WWII could not be considered religious wars nor Korea or Vietnam.  One might argue that Hitler was a Christian and he waged war against the Jews in Christ’s name but those close to him knew he secretly despised Christianity and pretended to be a believer to gain the people’s support.  Regardless atheism is not blamed for Joseph Stalin’s slaughter of the Jewish people atheist though he was.  Likewise Charles Darwin was not ravaged because Hitler desired to create a master race through Darwin’s theory of natural selection.  We must also take care not to lump one religion in with others that may be more vocal about using violence to convert non-believers.
  3. God is cruel: God permits slavery. God commands genocide. God allows babies to be murdered.  As Christopher Hitchens one said, “God is a celestial North Korea.” Personally I find comparing God to an atheistic state to be ironic.  To understand God’s actions one must understand the context in which they occur and we must also understand God’s justice.  We expect the wicked to be punished. In fact most of us crave it.  How many of us shout in outrage over simple inconveniences inflicted upon us by our neighbors? So when God witnesses hundreds of years of theft, rape, murder, idolatry and child sacrifice among a people why do we disapprove of his judgment over them? Dr. Paul Copan does a good job of explaining God’s justice in his presentation, “Is God a Moral Monster.”
  4. Science: Science and evolution have, in atheist’s minds, disproved the existence of God.  Perhaps not too surprising, 93% of biologists in the National Academy of Sciences are either agnostic or atheist.  Many claim that evolution is fact and actually there are theistic evolutionists, meaning Christians who too believe in evolution.  With evolution the atheists claim we don’t need a God to explain from where all the complicated organisms, including ourselves, came and with various scientific laws physicists argue we don’t need a creator to explain the intelligent design of the universe.  Then how did our universe come into being? If it was void of time and space then no laws of physics existed. So then what or who kick started the whole process?  Additionally evolution can’t explain how life on earth first came into being.  Apologist Frank Turek gives a great lecture on this called, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.”
  5. They just don’t want to: Even if you gave the most credible arguments to God’s existence, even if the arguments countered and overwhelmed every contrary argument, many atheists simply won’t concede.  I’m sure you’ve seen a questionable call made in a professional sporting event which could decide the outcome of the game.  The way you view the call depends on which team you want to win.  If the call helps your team win, then the call was right, if your team loses as a result, then the call was wrong.  To atheists like Richard Dawkins or comedian Bill Maher, religion is just too dangerous and frankly too stupid to believe in.  Atheism needs to win and therefore no evidence will dissuade them from their faith.

Atheists have plenty more reasons why they don’t believe in God.  A few have merit while other opinions are birthed solely from an irrational hatred towards God.  Frank Turek summed up Christopher Hitchens’ book, God is Not Great in one sentence, “God is not real, and I hate him.”

I don’t hate atheists nor do I pity them.  I have friends who don’t believe. As I’ve heard John Lennox say, many of them put us Christians to shame in terms of morality.  If we are to be good Christians though let’s try our best to be good reflections of Christ and love even those who seek to ridicule us.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they (unbelievers) are without excuse.” Romans 1:20


12 thoughts on “Understanding Why Atheists Don’t Believe: 5 Reasons

  1. Stan Adermann

    I wonder if you’ve considered how perfectly reversible some of this reasoning is. For example…

    “To Christians like Ray Comfort of Ken Hamm, atheism is just too dangerous and frankly too stupid to believe in. Christianity needs to win and therefore no evidence will dissuade them from their faith.”

    1. Ryder Post author

      Stan: I think that is a great point! I’m not familiar with Ray Comfort but I have seen Ken Hamm in a group discussion with other Christians and even to them he was adversarial. Both sides have proponents that perhaps are too overly passionate and not as open minded as they should be.

    1. Ryder Post author

      Thank you for your comment. While you may not think God has been proven, to many people including former devout atheists who have researched history and science, God has revealed himself and I think for this reason his existence is sought to be disproved by those who consider religion dangerous despite the fact they don’t believe in him in the first place. Thanks again for your comments!

    1. Ryder Post author

      I don’t know if you are a sports fan so this analogy won’t work for you if you are not but to a Dallas Cowboys’ fan, tangible video replay evidence says that their receiver Dez Bryant caught the ball at the one yard line to set Dallas up for the go ahead score to win their game on Sunday over the Packers. If you are a Packers’ fan, the tangible replay evidence suggests he didn’t catch the ball. Even though there is great evidence that he may have caught the ball and evidence that he may not have caught the ball, fans believe what works best for them. Personally I don’t like Dallas too much but I thought they were robbed.

      For former atheist Lee Strobel for instance, he began researching the prophecies concerning Jesus written hundreds of years before his birth in addition to secular evidence written about Jesus’ life and the empty tomb. He spent a year doing this because he wanted to disprove Jesus to his wife but in the end realized that he was wrong. His book is called, “The Case for Christ.”

      Josh McDowell who was sexually abused most of his young life and who was convinced that God did not exist because of course no loving God would allow such a thing, took a similar journey. He sought to disprove God’s existence but through all his thorough research came to the conclusion that he was real.

      C.S. Lewis was also an atheist, details his conversion to Christianity in his book “Mere Christianity.” I believe he said that when he realized God was real that he was the most reluctant convert in all of England.

      Francis Collins ,former Head of the Genome Project, details in his talks about how through all his scientific research in to the complexity and design of the human body that chance and randomness could not have created us. There has to be an intelligent designer. Nature could not have done it on its own. Collins however is a theistic evolutionist meaning that God got us started but then set evolution on its course as well.

      Stephen Meyer who was not an atheist so I suppose you could call him biased, gives many discussions about his book, “Signature in the Cell” that illustrates how amazingly complex we are and even in billions of years, nature could not produce us from some type of primordial soup.

      Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles for atheists is explaining why not only is the universe and our planet finely tuned to support life, but even how the universe came into being from absolutely nothing. Remember before the big bang there was no space, time or laws of physics of any kind. So how do you get something from nothing? To a Christian of course the answer is obvious and conclusive. To a skeptic however, they just can’t see it on the replay.

      Then of course there is the famous quote by astro physicist Robert Jastrow at the end of his book, “God and the Astronomers”. Jastrow, who was an agnostic, says, “At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

      In the end one could provide plenty of evidence for God’s existence and at the same time a non-believer will be unswayed by anything short of God himself appearing in the sky. For many the answer comes down to what team you want to win.

      Two thousand years ago the apostle Paul said this, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they (non-believers) are without excuse.”

      I think when we look around at our world of technology we have no problem affirming what man has created but we no longer want to concede what God has created.

      Thanks for your comments. Please understand that my comments above were not said or typed rather with the slightest bit of indignation or animosity. I’m not a scholar or a scientist. I’m trying to get through this the best I can just like you are. But when I look at the video replay, I just see God winning. That’s all.

      1. goodontheoutside

        But what brought each of them to their conclusion? It dounds like they all just felt god was real based on their research but didn’t actually get proof. I wouldn’t accept a murder charge simply because someone looked at the case and decided the accused was guilty, there would need to be evidence..
        With the football analogy, clearly they both can’t be right.

      2. Ryder Post author

        You are correct about the murder charge. There must be evidence. Now of course if you are sitting on a jury you must make a decision based on the evidence of whether the accused was guilty or innocent. Problem is you don’t have any video footage of the defendant committing the crime so you must make a decision based on the preponderance of the evidence. What does all the evidence suggest? If the murder weapon was found at the accused’s house, if blood matching the victim was found on the accused’s clothes, if the accused had defensive wounds from the victim on his body and skin of the accused was found under the victim’s fingernails, odds are the accused is your best suspect. Let’s also say that boot prints matching the accused’s boots were also found outside the victim’s home in addition to tire tracks matching the accused’s car.

        Your murder analogy is convenient because J. Warner Wallace was once an atheist and also a cold case detective. He applied his cold case detective skills to the history surrounding Jesus and like others found that the preponderance of the evidence from not only the Bible but secular historical accounts, points to Jesus’ resurrection. You can look him up on YouTube.

        A mathmatician apparently calculated the odds of one person fulfilling even eight of the numerous prophecies surrounding Jesus foretold hundreds of years before his birth. He said it would be like filling Texas knee deep with silver dollars and asking someone to walk through it blindfolded and find the one silver dollar that he marked. The odds of someone finding that silver dollar are the same odds that someone could fulfill even eight of Jesus’ prophecies. Now to the person who wants their side to win, that is an open and shut case. To the skeptic they need even more evidence despite the overwhelming odds not in their favor.

        As far as the other scientists they look at the Universe and our World’s fine tuning and based on the preponderance of the evidence, conclude an intelligent designer. Honestly I don’t need much convincing. I can’t believe that our thousands of species of plants and animals all came from a puddle of ooze that miraculously formed on earth and was struck by lightning produced by an atmosphere that also miraculously came into being. I can’t believe that some type of complex protein formed in the ooze which then formed a creature of some sort that then crawled onto land and into the perfectly hospitable environment that was also seemingly produced by random chance. The odds of our earth being the correct distance from the sun, being tilted exactly as needed on its axis, spinning at just the right speed, orbiting at the right speed, having the proper mixture in the atmosphere, having a moon the correct distance, and having even a planet like Jupiter to suck up the asteroids, in an already well designed universe is 10 to the fortieth power. That is more than there are atoms in the universe! Randomness just doesn’t create order.

        So in the end, I like many of these other researchers who at first needed far more convincing than I, look at the evidence and decide that not believing in a creator is a far, far greater leap of faith than believing the world was created by God. But believing in God really isn’t a leap of faith for me.

        In the end individuals like Richard Dawkins will never see God and will never believe he exists unless God actually appears in the sky and I’m afraid even then most people would assume God were just an alien visiting from another planet. Thanks again for your inquiry.

  2. Stan Adermann

    It comes down to a question of what constitutes evidence. You like the fine-tuning argument, but do you remember when people were saying that it was mathematically proven that bees couldn’t fly? It turned out that mathematician made an error, but the line about bees being unable to fly is still repeated today when it has long since been mathematically shown why they can. The same is true of the fine tuning argument. Computer models have demonstrated various tweaks to laws of physics much larger than is held out in the fine tuning argument that allow for different but still livable universes. Biologists and astrobiologists are finding extremophiles and building blocks of life in more and more extreme places where we thought it was impossible.

    Much like the calculated age of the earth changed a great deal before settling on its current age of 4.54 billion years, science refines what it knows slowly over time as our understanding increases. We are learning more and more about what happened around the big bang, but assertions about what might have started it and the processes involved are still conjecture, and do not rise to the level of our understanding of gravity, for instance. And even gravity is still not considered 100% solved.

    You cite a list of smart people who researched things and became Christian. But there are a great many people who started Christian and lost their faith through the same process, Bart Ehrman being one example. Statistically you’re more likely to lose your faith than gain it in college.

    The bit about the odds of Jesus fulfilling the OT prophecies stands on a number of very poor assumptions, the first of which being that the Bible states it accurately. Unfortunately, there is no Bible scholar who can show evidence that we know what the original Bible texts said, since the oldest complete copy anyone has of any NT gospel comes from after the year 200, and the partial copies we have prior to that date show the greatest number of copying errors. The claim that the NT is accurate and without error is a matter of faith.

    If you want to convince me there is evidence for God, the best way to start is by showing me that you understand both the strengths and weaknesses of your own arguments. You may say I’m obstinate, unwilling to consider the evidence, but I would say that we must first agree on what constitutes evidence.

    1. Ryder Post author

      I’ve listened to Bart Ehrman online and he has many intelligent things to say as do a good many intelligent people who disagree with them. I don’t disagree with you that many people lose their faith in college when there are more professors trying to to disprove God then there are those allowed or courageous enough to teach about him. As one who has been to and lived the college life to full effect, I would imagine sermons about how to live a clean life would fall on deaf ears anyhow. No one wants to feel condemnation especially young people living their life for themselves. Sweeping God under a scientific rug is more convenient than facing our own shortcomings. Hitchens has said as much. I don’t say that in judgement because as I said I lived the party lifestyle quite gratuitously. I’m sure God is lost to a good many young people. Drug use, rape, and unwanted pregnancies is also higher among young people as well so we can’t put too much stock in their decision to leave God in college.

      I wonder how many people come back to the faith though because they feel God’s spiritual tug on their hearts? How many men and women return to the church in their 30s and 40s after looking into the eyes of their children and realizing they aren’t lumps of chemicals created at random? I don’t believe in God because of something William Lane Craig said and nor do I disbelieve him because Bart Erhman suggests we can only believe if we have the absolute original Bible text. I believe because I can feel him and that can’t be taken away from me. I’m very thankful this is so. I’m sure to a disbeliever this sounds inconceivable or in many ways foolish but this is the truth.

      Anyway I didn’t write my post to prove God’s existence only to point out to others why some don’t believe. The reasons why are not obvious to those who know of no reasons to disbelieve. I hope you find the answers you are looking for. My best to you and your family!

  3. Pingback: Understanding Why Atheists Don’t Believe: 5 Reasons | A disciple's study

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