Posted by: stpowen | May 31, 2015

Categories of Atheists

Exodus 5:2. ‘And Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice…..?”‘
Psalm 14:1. ‘The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”‘
Romans 1:28. ‘And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.’

This blog is now being followed, possibly for the first time by an atheist blogger. Welcome, sir, if you’re reading this. Of course, Martin Marprelate had to have a little look at the website, and browsed through Atheism 101. In this post, the author discussed various categories of atheists. There were ‘Intellectual atheists,’ ‘Activist atheists,’ ‘Seeker-agnostics,’ ‘Anti-theists,’ ‘non-theists’ and ‘Ritual atheists.’ This last category is of those who, while not believing in God, nonetheless like to go to church and participate in the services. I often find these folk in U.R.C. and certain Anglican churches, where they fell right at home because the minister is probably one of them.

Anyway, while Martin was browsing through all this, he was put in mind of a book written way back in 1830 by a man called Robert Bridges, entitled The Christian Ministry; with an Enquiry into its Ineffectiveness. It is many years since Martin read this, and his memory is not what it was, but there was a list of different kinds of ‘infidels,’ as Mr. Bridges called them, along with brief descriptions of each. He reproduces them below, with Martin’s own comments since he has forgotten what Mr. Bridges wrote. Before starting, it is worth noting that atheism is nothing new. It is often represented as a ‘scientific’ viewpoint, but it is nothing of the sort. There were atheists in Robert Bridges’ day, thirty years before Origin of the Species, and 3,000 years ago the Psalmist wrote, ‘The fool has said in his heart, “there is no God.”‘ Fools were saying it then, and their intellectual descendants are saying it now. We take it for granted that every thinking person knows deep down that the world and the Universe scream intelligent design at us. The Julie Andrews School of Cosmology clearly states,

‘Nothing comes of nothing,
Nothing ever could.’

So either there is no Universe, and we are all figments of each other’s imagination, or there has to be That which is eternal (to be a first cause), supremely powerful (to call the universe into being and to sustain it) and supremely intelligent (to design all its amazing complexity).  The idea that first there was nothing, then it exploded and then it  all fell into place makes no sense to me.

So here are three categories of atheist, courtesy of Robert Bridges, and also a fourth and fifth of my own.

1. The Proud Atheist.  This type of unbeliever is best illustrated by Pharaoh in Exodus 5.  ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?’  “I’m Pharaoh; I don’t take orders from anyone.”  You’ve probably met this sort of fellow at parties; he’s the one who dominates the discussion by giving his own view in a very loud voice:  “Well, what I think about it is this…….”   Such a man may believe, like Cicero, that religion is a good idea for keeping the ‘ordinary people ‘ behaving themselves, but for someone like him, of superior intelligence, wit and discernment, such rules simply do not apply.  A few years ago I heard such a man on the television.  He was a famous actor and his argument broadly was this:  “Who is God to tell me what to do?  I have played Lear, and acted opposite Gielgud and dear, dear Larry.  I’ll be the judge of what’s right and wrong, thank you very much!”

The proud atheist may live an outwardly respectable, even virtuous life.  However, the Bible teaches that pride is a root of many sins.  Certainly, most sexual sins have their origins in pride.  A man reasons, “Fidelity in marriage may be all very well for the lower classes, who  get themselves into all sorts of trouble, but for a man like me, virile, handsome, suave– well even God Himself, if there were such a Person, wouldn’t expect me to remain faithful to this pathetic little woman I’m saddled with!”  Not many people realise that the chief sin of the people of Sodom was pride (Ezek. 16:49).  So it is written that ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6).

2. The Sensual Atheist.  This sort of fellow is the one who has some sort of besetting sin in his life from which he is unable or unwilling to depart. He has decided that there is no God because he wishes there were not, and he will adopt as his own any arguments that he may read which will support his prejudice, since he has a secret fear that actually there may be one.

3. The Imitative Atheist.  These are usually younger people, lacking in self-confidence.  Perhaps they have been to university and heard Christianity or religion in general spoken of in disparaging terms by some confident-seeming fellow, and they are embarrassed to attach themselves to something that has become a standing joke among many people.  These are the people who ‘follow’ Richard Dawkins’ blog or Twitter account and ‘like’ everything he puts on it.    In conversation they will often trot out something from one of Dawkins’ books like Climbing Mount Improbable, not realising that it has been refuted by half a dozen writers {1} and that Dawkins himself is something of an embarrassment to many scientists.

4. The Complacent Atheist.  These are those whose life is so easy and pleasant that they really don’t feel the need to trouble themselves too much with thoughts about eternity.  They are enjoying life so much in the here and now.  They are like the Rich Fool in our Lord’s parable who was only concerned to build himself bigger barns in order to store all his wealth, not considering that one day God might say to him, “You fool!  This very night your soul will be required of you!” (Luke 15:20).

5. The Worried Atheist.  This is the most hopeful category of unbeliever, and by no means the least common.  This type has adopted atheism without thinking too hard about it, either because he was brought up to believe it or because he was intimidated into it by a sarcastic university lecturer.  However, try as he might, he cannot rid himself of the thought that Creation actually seems much more likely and logical.  These people will often have their own atheist websites where they will demand a proof of God’s existence so detailed and extreme that they wouldn’t think of asking it for asking it as proof of anything else.  But this is just whistling in the dark.  There is a little voice whispering away in their hearts, “Don’t be so silly!  You don’t really believe what you’re writing!”  One day, God willing, they will look out of their window and see the amazing beauty and complexity of nature, and suddenly realise that it could never have come about by chance.

So which category was I in?  Well, I was a sort of composite.  I started out as a mixture of 3 and 4, and then slowly turned into Number 5 until God finally saved me.


{1} I particularly recommend Who Made God? by Prof. Edgar Andrews, emeritus Professor of Materials at Queen Mary’s College, London.


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