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    Belief and Unbelief:
    The Causes of Atheism

    Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 12 May 2001

    This week I want to leave the world of psychic phenomena and to move on to something completely different. Not everybody, after all, experiences what one might call "supernatural" things. Most people, and especially those who are not Christians, live a very simple life consisting of the ordinary, daily concerns.

    What has always amazed me, I must confess, is how thoughtless your average person is. By 'thoughtless', I don't mean 'uncaring' or 'inconsiderate', but rather such people have never properly thought through their belief system. Why do people believe what they believe is surely a very important question, and yet you will find your average Joe Bloggs isn't even interested in why he believes what he believes. He simply makes his mind up to believe or not believe about something, preferring to leave the thinking to others. Such mental laziness can be fatal.

    The other day I bought a second-hand book on religion written by an atheist psychologist. It's not the type of book I would normally buy, though I do have similar types in my library. He was particularly interested in finding a materialistic explanation for those who have mystical experiences but also wished to find a Darwinist explanation for the phenomenon called 'religion' in general. It didn't take me long to figure out that his god was his own brain.

    I have studied the works of many atheists in my time, including some of the most brilliant minds. One of my favourites was the Hungarian-born Arthur Köstler who lived in England most of his life. His works on astronomy, anthropology, and general science impressed me a great deal. His is what you might call a brilliant mind, just like the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who is also an atheist. Isaac Asimov was another of the geniuses I used to read, both his scientific works as well as his science fiction novels. There are many great minds who had no belief in God and yet were spiritual infants compared to some of the most inexperienced Christians I have met. In virtually every case these brilliant men and women lived in a state of denial and many were bitterly unhappy. Arthur Köstler, for all his clever thinking, concluded that life was meaningless and committed suicide together with his wife, because he could find no hope, no purpose in life. Now why would such an intelligent and gifted man come to such a ghastly conclusion?

    Having once walked the road of atheism myself I can testify that it is one of the most lonely and frightening states of being there is unless you are in a state of complete and utter denial. If the atheist logically thinks through his belief he is forced to conclude that everything is meaningless and without purpose. The more selfless of this category of people live only for what they can do on this earth to better the lives of those around them, but even so they must life with the horrific thought that even this is ultimately purposeless. According to most scientists our universe will one day cease to exist. Our sun will burn out and, unless we have perfected intergalactic travel, our own solar system will die. But even if we did escape as a species, whatever new solar system we came to would also face extinction one day as its own sun died. Existence would consist simply of surviving the death of one solar system after another until the whole universe died. That is the belief of almost every atheistic cosmologist that I have ever read. Now I don't know what you think, but such a world view makes me depressed. Indeed if you meditate on such a world-view for too long you are bound to go completely insane. And so most people who believe in unbelief try to shut out the terrible consequences of their belief structure and simply try to live for each day. They are in what psychologists call denial-mode. In order to cope with their unbelief they simply shut out the consequences of their belief from their consciousness. It's just too horrible not to. And if you do let it bother you, you run the risk of going the way of the Köstlers and hundreds of thousands of others who have taken their lives and brought sorrow to loved ones on earth struggling with similar questions.

    But really, is there any justification for such a negative belief? You will find that people arrive at an atheistic philosophy of life for many different reasons. For many that is what they sincerely believe from the scientific evidence as it is presented to them - they way in which it is deceptively 'packaged'. There are many who once knew there was a God but made the decision to rebel against Him in order to justify a sinful lifestyle. In time they forget what they once knew and unconsciously slip into the thinking processes of other unbelievers. By cutting Him out of their lives, they live in a state of wilful blindness. And finally there are those who have had painful experiences in life and conclude that if there was a loving God that He would never have permitted such a tragedy to hit their lives, especially if they believe they have lived good lives and don't deserve what happened to them.

    These, then, are the only three reasons that I have ever been able to find for atheism:

      1. Genuine ignorance
      2. Wilful blindness
      3. Painful life experiences

    The first category is simply a question of education but the latter two are psychological problems. Some people may actually be atheists for more than one of these reasons - sometimes they can be a combination or two or all three of these categories. And doubtless you could think of people who fit all of them. Usually all three categories play a part in the formation of an atheist's world-view. In just a moment I'm going to look at all three categories, but before I do, a word of warning to Christians: atheism is not necessarily a question of "either/or", of "black or white" - you're not necessarily either an atheist or a Christian with no shades of grey in-between. All unbelief is a kind of atheism, so a Christian who disbelieves parts of the Bible is actually a partial atheist. A Christian who, say, believes in God but not in the Son of God, is a sort of atheist because he doesn't believe what God says about Himself and Christ. A Christian who says he believes in homosexual behaviour is clearly manifesting unbelief and atheism. And I suppose you could argue that people who pick and choose what they want to believe about God aren't really Christians at all. Since we are all imperfect, and since our faith sometimes fails us at odd moments (usually because of disobedience), what ought to concern us is whether we meet the basic qualifications of salvation rather than get caught up in debates on perfection. Perfection is a long journey - the important thing, as I have stressed so many times, is whether we are on the road and are moving forwards.

    Now let us return to the three categories for atheistic belief.

    1. Genuine Ignorance

    The first thing that has to be said is that you can't prove absolutely whether God exists or not, assuming that "proof" involves the physical senses. Atheism, like Christianity, is ultimately a matter of faith. Indeed, it is possible philosophically to demonstrate that you can't prove anything - even physically. I once read a book by a psychologist who tried to prove that life was one huge dream - that it wasn't real at all. Although he ended up creating more problems than he solved, it was an interesting perspective. He actually believed that we were mental projections in some giant, cosmic head, and that our lives were just the dreams of this cosmic being. In short, he claimed we were just phantoms. That is, admittedly, a remote possibility. There's no way you can prove that model to be completely false because it is untestable. How can a thought prove it is just a thought? A silly idea, really.

    All wrong belief is based on wrong assumptions. An assumption is the act of taking something for granted. It was assumed, for example, a thousand years ago that the earth was at the centre of the solar system and that the sun, planets and moons all revolved around it. Ingenious explanations were created to explain how the heavenly bodies moved in the night sky, which in the end became so absurdly ridiculous that the original assumption had to be challenged. In the end some daring astronomers challenged the false doctrine of the Catholic Church and said that the sun was at the centre and that the earth revolved around the sun along with the other planets. Once that fact was straightened out, everything began to fit neatly into place. But that one wrong assumption paralysed science for centuries.

    Atheism rests on the assumption that there is no God and that the universe made itself. Some of the most ridiculous theories have been invented to justify this belief and are the dominant form of thinking in our supposedly advanced society. Today we are taught in schools, universities and throughout the media that the universe, and everything in it, made itself without any sort of intelligent principle behind it. And it's been taught now for so long - nearly two hundred years in the West - that almost everybody takes it for granted as being true. Like Catholic Europe before Galileo, the Christian world was brainwashed into believing, without any sound evidence, that the sun revolved around the earth. Today's 21st century society has been brainwashed with another scientific absurdity, namely, the doctrine of evolution. The trouble is, it is the only theory available to explain atheism, and so it is defended with passionate religious fervour to the point that those who are against it are persecuted and accused of being "unscientific", just as those early astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo were persecuted - sometimes to death - by the Catholic institution for not accepting their unbiblical dogma. In this alone we see that atheism is, actually, just another form of religion. It is the religion of unbelief.

    Now it is not a difficult matter to sit down with someone who has had some basic schooling in mathematics, science and logic and show how utterly absurd the idea of evolution is. Everybody knows that houses don't make themselves, that you don't assemble cars by setting off an explosion in a pile of scrap metal, and that dead objects don't suddenly become living things. And whilst you can never prove 100% that God exists or doesn't exist, you can assemble so much evidence as to be virtually certain.

    A couple of months ago we bought a two-part BBC series of videos on the dinosaurs. There is no way that we can 100% prove that dinosaurs existed or what they actually looked like but there is now sufficient evidence available to give us a pretty good idea. And although the series is based on the assumption of evolution, there is no doubt that the reconstructions of these long extinct dinosaurs is pretty good. Only someone wilfully blind would deny they even existed. There was, for example, once a group of very silly Christians a century-and-a-half ago who said that the devil put dinosaur fossils in the rocks in order to confuse the faithful! Intelligent people don't need to consider such nonsense. And yet that is exactly what we are expected to do with evolution, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that complex things cannot be built randomly out of less complex ones.

    Once when I was a Biology teacher I ran a course on Evolution and Creation. I of course left religion completely out of the course and simply presented my classes with the evidence and asked them to forget everything they had been taught before, read in books, or seen on TV. I taught them the principles of the scientific method and told them to leave their feelings, beliefs and prejudices out of the investigation. After the course, which lasted several months, I then gave them a test and at the end I asked them to arrive at their own personal conclusion: was Special Creation or Evolution the best scientific explanation for the origin of life? With the exception of one person who wrote that she now believed both evolution and special creation were true (a scientific impossibility), every single student said that special Creation fitted the evidence best. The evidence was simply too overwhelming.

    As a Biochemist and one who loves science I have shown a special interest in the Creation - Evolution debate. I know of many scientists who have become Christians because of the Scientific evidence and not because of supernatural experiences, though these may have, and often do, come later. They simply saw the utter absurdity of scientific atheism - it just didn't add up. It didn't make sense.

    But there aren't, unfortunately, many people who are so open and honest. There would be a lot more scientists who were creationists if they didn't have mental blockages of one sort or another caused, for example, by the desire for sinful behaviour or by painful life experiences.

    2. Wilful Blindness

    A few weeks ago I preached a couple of sermons called "WPB" - or "Wilful, Passionate Blindness". You would be surprised to learn just how many people voluntarily brainwash themselves in order to justify a sinful lifestyle. I have been astonished to discover, for example, that some of the strongest champions of atheistic evolution are those whose main motive is to justify a sexually permissive lifestyle. In other words, because accepting God would mean having to obey His commandments which they do not want to do, they choose, instead, to turn a blind eye to the overwhelming evidence and dedicate their lives - not to true science - but to the justification of sin. Darwin's great champion, Aldous Huxley, admitted that this was why he was an evolutionist - he just didn't want to believe in God.

    I suggest that this is, in fact, the major reason for atheism in the world. People just don't want to know the truth. Now the desire to be sexually permissive may not be the only motivation - there are often others, though this is without doubt the major one. Some people are "atheists" out of fear. In some countries it was, and still is, a crime to believe in God. In communist Cambodia the Pol Pot régime exterminated one third of the entire population, including any and everyone who believed in God, along with the intelligentsia and various political categories of person.

    Your average person on the street isn't interested in questions about God because all he wants to do is preserve the sexual freedoms that our liberal society gives him. The idea, for example, that homosexuality activity should be illegal, as it once was, that marriage should be the only acceptable form of cohabitation, or that adultery should be punishable, is usually enough for most people to reject God. For them God is just a straight jacket, denying them the right to sin. This was certainly the spiritual condition of the world in the days of Noah and we are moving into a period of history where exactly the same conditions exist.

    Wilful blindness, then, is the second, and probably the most important reason for atheism today. It is the worst reason for atheism there is and Yahweh says in His Word that a terrible punishment awaits such, not because they are ignorant - God never punishes ignorance - but because they are willfully disobedient. It is very easy to prove that all the following are the fruits of atheistic evolutionist thinking: communism, nazism, racism, imperialism, atheism, humanism, materialism, amoralism, scientism, pantheism, monopolism, anarchism, occultism, Social Darwinism, behaviourism, Freudianism, abortion, the drug culture, promiscuity, slavery, pornography, genocide, chauvinism, New-Ageism, euthanasia, pollution, bestiality, Satanism, homosexuality, criminality, cannibalism and witchcraft. And yet evolutionists consistently deny their responsibility for any of these things. Just look at the philosophies of communism, fascism and liberal democracy and you will find that the scientifically absurd doctrine of evolution undergirds them all.

    3. Painful Experiences

    Finally, we come to one of the most difficult and understandable, even if unjustifiable, causes for atheism: painful life experiences. The first category of people look around at our awful world and, without properly thinking things through, conclude, if God exists, that He is responsible. And since they cannot reconcile a loving God with what they see, they conclude that God does not exist. Or they reject the God of the Bible and try to find another one.

    The second category of people are those who have experienced tragedy in their lives and who do not feel that what happened to them was fair. They react in anger and bitterness and simply turn their back on God. And yet there are others who have been through similar or identical experiences who react in completely the opposite way, and draw even closer to God. The father of the present United States President lost a son in a tragedy - the brother of the current President. I remember reading an interview with him in a major newspaper. The journalist asked if he, as a born-again Christian, was angry with God, but was told that terrible though the experience was, it had drawn the family closer together and closer to Christ.

    I have read many, many such stories, and indeed know people who have had tragic loss. Some have been driven closer into the arms of God and have been reconciled and know joy in their lives, and others have turned away from God and live only half-lives, suppressing and burying the painful memories as best they can, never dealing with them properly, and living lives of fear.

    I am not saying that tragedy is easy. The very opposite. My heart goes out to such people. But what I am most definitely saying is that we have complete freedom of choice in the way we react to tragedy - we are free to stay with God, grow, and find peace and assurance of eternal life, or we can reject Him and live half-lives. Though we may have no control over tragic circumstances, we do absolutely have the choice to react in the way we do. And we are accountable for that choice we make.

    When Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert died while she was yet young, she retreated into mourning for the rest of her life and wore nothing but black. Though as far as I know she never renounced her Christian faith, there is no doubt that she was never fully reconciled with what happened. Only the other day I was talking with a friend in America who recounted how he was at his father's beside when he died. They were all singing psalms of praise to the Lord in his last minutes and when he finally slipped away there was an aura of complete peace and joy on the dead man's face. They knew without a shadow of a doubt that their loved one had passed on to heaven, and whilst they keenly felt the pain of his loss, they were comforted and were able to live their lives in the fullness knowing that they would be reunited with him one day.

    No such blessed assurance awaits those who have rejected God. I shudder whenever I think of those who have consciously chosen to reject eternal happiness for one of the three reasons that people become atheists. But they can repent at any time, confess that they have sinned in rejecting Him, and allow Christ into their hearts. We can turn our lives around so long as we are alive whenever we want to, and people of all ages are doing so today. It is only stubbornness caused by a rebellious heart that keeps most people from making that most important decision in their life.

    There is one other logical fallacy caused by wilful blindness that I must mention in closing. There are some who believe in male but not female, the north pole but not the south pole, in good but not evil. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet these same people assume - quite wrongly - that there is a heaven but no hell. I know many people who live lives separated from God who say: "Well, if He does exist, then we'll go to heaven anyway." It never seems to occur to them that there might be another place for those who have rejected heaven.

    Hell is not a pleasant topic and I'd rather not discuss it, given the choice. But I can't ignore it. God does not ignore it, and Christ described it 18 times in the New Testament. To some extent I can understand those people who reject heaven and hell, but not those who accept the existence of one but not of the other.

    The Bible tells us that hell is inside the earth - Christ Himself said it was underneath our feet, "in the heart of the earth" (Mt.12:40, KJV). Paul confirms this when to the Ephesians he said it was in "the lower parts of the earth". Almost everyone who has literally experienced visiting hell describes it as "under their feet" - I myself have experienced its pull downwards, as many who have had out-of-body experiences will testify. And you will remember that those who were of the rebellion of Korah were literally swallowed up into the earth (Num.16:32-33).

    Although there are thousands of recorded testimonies of people who have visited hell, or seen it in vision, it wasn't until recently that it's sounds were actually physically recorded on tape. I was sceptical when I at first heard the account but now I am convinced it is real. The account and the recording were first published in Finland and made their way to the BBC, where the recording I have originates. Our story takes place in the former Soviet Union, in Siberia, when oil prospectors made an astonishing discovery. I'll let one of the scientists who was present tell you his own story:

      "As a communist I don't believe in heaven or the Bible but as a scientist I now believe in hell," said Dr. Azzacove. "Needless to say we were shocked to make such a discovery. But we know what we saw and we know what we heard. And we are absolutely convinced that we drilled through the gates of hell!"

      Dr. Azzacove continued, ". . .the drill suddenly began to rotate wildly, indicating that we had reached a large empty pocket or cavern. Temperature sensors showed a dramatic increase in heat to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

      "We lowered a microphone, designed to detect the sounds of plate movements down the shaft. But instead of plate movements we heard a human voice screaming in pain! At first we thought the sound was coming from our own equipment.

      "But when we made adjustments our worst suspicions were confirmed. The screams weren't those of a single human, they were the screams of millions of humans!"

    What I'm going to play to you now is that actual recording. It's ½ a minute long. What you are going to hear is disturbing. If you don't want to hear it, I suggest you put your fingers in your ears when I turn on the tape recorder.

    {Recording available at Website URL: http://www.av1611.org/sound/misc/dighell.ra }


    Brethren and sisters, there is no excuse for atheism and there is no reason for anyone to go to hell. But there is a need to be honest with ourselves before it is too late. This is not a pleasant subject, but how can anyone who is facing up to reality ignore it? If your loved one was ignorantly or even wilfully walking into a death-trap, wouldn't you want to warn him? One of the most powerful lessons my mother ever taught me about the dangers of smoking was to blow some cigarette smoke through a white handkerchief. I can still see that filthy tar stain in my mind's eye to this very day and, even putting the scientific evidence aside, would never smoke just because her witness. I have played this tape-recording for the same reason. Even though the Bible is perfectly clear about hell (I will give scripture references for those who want them), it is sometimes helpful to come face to face with the awful truth before it is too late. As everybody here knows, I am not a hellfire-and-damnation preacher, and don't believe in frightening people into heaven. However, it is my duty as a minister to point out realities, especially eternal ones.

    Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news, you will save it. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What could you give to get back your soul?" (Mk.8:34-37, CEV).

    The answer to that question is: nothing. You have absolutely nothing to give in return for the salvation of your soul. And that is the salvation message. Salvation is free, if only you'll just receive it, and then keep it by walking obediently in the commandments for the rest of your life. And it doesn't matter whether you've only got one day of your life left - it's never too late. The thief who was saved on the cross next to Yah'shua (Jesus) is proof that it is never too late - so long as you make the choice before you die, and it's a real, genuine and sincere one.

    Don't ever gamble with eternity - it isn't remotely worth it. All you have to do is (a) realise that you're a sinner, (b) that you can't save yourself, (c) that Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) died on the cross to cancel out your sins, and (d) that by faith in the Son of God you are saved from hell and are heaven-bound.

    Now I can't prove any of this to you scientifically but I can sure as hell give you a mountain-load of evidence that what I am saying is true. In the end it is our free choice - but once made, can never be reversed. As Paul said, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Heb.2:3, KJV). May you make the right choice, is my heartfelt plea, in the Name of Yah'shua (Jesus) our Lord. Amen.


    WHAT CHRIST SAYS ABOUT HELL: (1) "fire" Matt 7:19, 13:40, 25:41 (2) "everlasting fire" Matt 18:8, 25:41 (3) "eternal damnation" Mark 3:29 (4) "hell fire" Matt 5:22, 18:9, Mark 9:47 (5) "damnation" Matt 23:14, Mark 12:40, Luke 20:47 (6) "damnation of hell" Matt 23:33 (7) "resurrection of damnation" John 5:29 (8) "furnace of fire" Matt 13:42, 50 (9) "the fire that never shall be quenched" Mark 9:43, 45 (10) "the fire is not quenched" Mark 9:44, 46, 48 (11) "Where their worm dieth not" Mark 9:44, 46, 48 (12) "wailing and gnashing of teeth" Matt 13:42, 50 (13) "weeping and gnashing of teeth" Matt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30 (14) "torments" Luke 16:23 (15) "tormented in this flame" Luke 16:24 (16) "place of torment" Luke 16:28 (17) "outer darkness" Matt 8:12, 22:13 (18) "everlasting punishment" Matt 25:46

    This page was created on 12 May 2001
    Last updated on 12 May 2001

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