Atheism and Agnosticism
Since conceptions of atheism vary, determining how many atheists exist in the world today is difficult. According to one estimate, atheists make up about 2.3% of the world's population, while a further 11.9% are nonreligious. According to another, rates of self-reported atheism are among the highest in Western nations, again to varying degrees: United States (4%), Italy (7%), Spain (11%), Great Britain (17%), Germany (20%), and France (32%). According to a 2009 report by the American Religious Identification Survey, people claiming to adhere to "no religion" made up 15% of the population in the US.
Creation VS Evolution Debates and more!
What is Atheism?
The word atheism comes from the negative a which means 'no,' and theos which means 'god.' Hence, atheism in the most basic terms means 'no god.' Basically, atheism is the lack of belief in a god, and/or the belief that there is no god. By contrast, theism is the belief that there is a God, that he is knowable, and that he is involved in the world. Most atheists do not consider themselves anti-theists, but simply non-theists.
Atheism is not a new development. Psalm 14:1; written by David around 1000 B.C., mentions atheism: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" Statistics show that up to 10 percent of people worldwide claim to be atheists.
Many atheists claim that atheism is not a belief system, while others say it is. Since there is no official atheist organization, nailing down which description of atheism to use can be difficult. Nevertheless, the following are some definitions offered by atheists. Whichever definition you accept, atheism denies God.
"An atheist is someone who believes and/or knows there is no god."
"An atheist lacks belief in a god."
"An atheist exercises no faith in the concept of god at all."
"An atheist is someone who is free from religious oppression and bigotry."
"An atheist is someone who is a free-thinker, free from religion and its ideas."
What is Agnosticism?
Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God is impossible to be known or proven. The word "agnostic" was coined in 1869 by T. H. Huxley from the Greek roots a- not, and -gnostic, knowing. Agnosticism is a more intellectually honest form of atheism. Atheism claims that God does not exist—an unprovable position. Agnosticism argues that God's existence cannot be proven or unproven, that it is impossible to know whether or not God exists. Although they claim God's existence cannot be empirically proven or disproven, the Bible and the natural law (our conscience) teaches that God's existence is clearly seen in the universe (Psalm 19:1-4), in nature (Romans 1:18-22), and in our own hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In other words, God is clearly proven by His creation. Yet God's existence must be accepted by faith.
The Bible tells us that we must accept by faith that God exists. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith "it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." God is spirit (John 4:24) so He cannot be seen or touched. Unless God chooses to reveal Himself, He is invisible to our senses (Romans 1:20). The Bible declares that the existence of God can be clearly seen in the universe (Psalm 19:1-4), sensed in nature (Romans 1:18-22), and confirmed in our own hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Agnostics are unwilling to make a decision either for or against God's existence. It is the ultimate "straddling the fence" position. Theists believe that God exists. Atheists believe that God does not exist. Agnostics believe that we should not believe or disbelieve in God's existence, because it is impossible to know either way.
For the sake of argument, let's throw out the clear and undeniable evidences of God's existence. If we put the positions of theism and agnosticism on equal footing, which makes the most "sense" to believe in regards to the possibility of life after death? If there is no God, theists and agnostics alike and all other life forms that exists all simply cease to exist when they die. Thus, in their worldview all life will simply die out never more to exist. But who in their right mind would ever want believe that life came into existence just so that it would disappear forever? Their worldview makes life meaningless and without any real purpose. If there is a God, both theists and agnostics will have someone to answer to when they die. From this perspective, it definitely makes more "sense" to be a theist than an agnostic. If neither position can be proven or disproven, as they say, it seems wise to make every effort to thoroughly examine the position that may have an infinitely and eternally more desirable end result.
It is normal to have doubts. There are many things in this world that we do not understand. Often, people doubt God's existence because they do not understand or agree with the things He does and allows. However, as finite human beings we should not expect to be able to comprehend an infinite God. Romans 11:33-34 exclaims, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?'"
We must believe in God by faith and trust His ways by faith. God is ready and willing to reveal Himself in amazing ways to those who will believe in Him. Deuteronomy 4:29 proclaims, "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul."
Refuting Atheism and Agnosticism
Two Main Types of Arguments from Atheists
Lack of Evidence
Atheist positions seem to fall into two main categories. The first is the lack-of-evidence category where the atheist asserts that the supporting evidence isn't good enough for him to affirm God's existence. The second is the category where the atheist believes that the idea of God's existence is illogical and contrary to the evidence at hand. To simplify, one position says there isn't enough evidence to conclude that God exists, and the other position says the evidence is contrary to God's existence. For those atheists who simply lack belief and exercise no energy in the discussion, neither category applies because they are not involved in the debate. But, some of those who claim to lack belief in God are often involved in discussions where they are arguing against God's existence.
However, in discussions with atheists, you won't hear any evidence for the validity of atheism. There are no "proofs" that God does not exist in atheist circles; at least, none that I have heard -- especially since you can't prove a negative regarding the existence of God. Of course, that isn't to say that atheists haven't attempted to offer some proofs that God does not exist. But their attempted proofs are invariably insufficient. After all, how do you prove there is no God in the universe? How do you prove that in all places and all times, there is no God? You can't. Besides, if there was proof of God's non-existence, then atheists would be continually using it. But we don't hear of any such commonly held proof supporting atheism or denying the existence of God. The atheist position is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove since it is an attempt to prove a negative. Therefore, since there are no proofs for atheism's truth, and there are no proofs that there is no God, the atheist must hold his position by faith. Faith, however, is not something atheists like to claim as the basis of adhering to atheism.
So atheism cannot be proven and must be accepted by faith, and God's existence must be accepted by faith. However, the Bible and the natural law (our conscience) teaches that God's existence is clearly seen in the universe (Psalm 19:1-4), in nature (Romans 1:18-22), and in our own hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In other words, God is clearly proven by His creation. Yet, God's existence must be accepted by faith.
Evil and Suffering
A typical argument posed by an atheist to show why God does not exist 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. Of course, the problem is that the criticism is a false dichotomy. In other words, there are more than two possibilities; namely, God might have a reason for allowing evil and suffering; man's freedom might require the allowance of evil and suffering, etc.
Since all that God made is good, even those things which appear evil only appear that way because of a limited context or perspective. When viewed as a whole, that which appears to be evil ultimately contributes to the greater good.
For example, certain virtues couldn't exist without evil: courage, mercy, forgiveness, patience, the giving of comfort, heroism, perseverance, faithfulness, self-control, long-suffering, submission and obedience, to name a few. These are not virtues in the abstract, but elements of character that can only be had by moral souls. Just as evil is a result of acts of will, so is virtue. Acts of moral choice accomplish both.
What good comes out of a drive-by killing, someone might ask, or the death of a teenager through overdose, or a daughter's rape, or child abuse? The answer is that a commensurate good doesn't always come perceptibly out of those individual situations, though God is certainly capable of redeeming any tragedy. Rather, the greater good results from having a world in which there is moral freedom, and moral freedom makes moral tragedies like these possible.
This observation reveals an interesting twist in this problem. If morality freely chosen can only happen in a world where evil is possible, then heaven will be a place where there will be no moral growth, where moral choices will not be possible because all the inhabitants of heaven will be immutably good. Growth of the soul is only possible and available to inhabitants of a fallen world.
Two Scriptural observations lend credibility to this view. First, in recounting the great heroes of faith, the writer of Hebrews mentions that some were rescued by faith, but others endured by faith "in order that they might obtain a better resurrection." (Heb. 11:35) Second, St. Paul tells St. Timothy that "godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Tim. 4:8)
Both of these verses indicate that conditions in this life affect conditions in the next. Bearing up under evil in this life improves our resurrection in the next. Godliness in this life brings profit in the next. These benefits are not available after this life or there would be little urgency to grow now; all eternity would be left in which to catch up.
A deeper, more profound good results when virtue is won by free, moral souls struggling with evil, rather than simply granted to them as an element of their constitution.
There's a sound reason why God has allowed man the freedom to choose evil. It doesn't conflict with His goodness. God is neither the author of evil, nor its helpless victim. Rather, precisely because of His goodness He chooses to co-exist with evil for a time, that His goodness may be all the more manifest in those who overcome it by freely choosing to do good and avoid evil.
Romans 8:28: "And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints."
Scriptures also indicate that God is more likely to let true believers suffer so that our faith may be built up, to not give us riches so that we will not be trapped by them, and let us be persecuted so that we can be effective light and salt to the world. He has not changed His methods in the twenty first century from what He did in the first century. We are to be set apart to Him, crucified with Him daily. We are to nail to the cross the desires and appetites of the flesh, and learn to serve Him--in health or disease, in poverty or in wealth.
It is not always God's will to heal. Both the Scriptures and experience teach that God may use physical afflictions for refining, correcting, and chastening (Hebrews 12:3-11; Job 23:10). God's Word teaches that He can heal anyone, anytime, but that He does not heal everyone, every time. Paul learned this truth when God explained why his thrice repeated prayer for personal healing was not granted (2 Corinthians 12:1-10); and, also, when one of Paul's faithful helpers, Trophimus, was unable to accompany him because of sickness (2 Timothy 4:20). When we pray for healing for ourselves or others, we must never forget that such healing is always God's prerogative based upon what He knows is best for each of His children.
Refuting the Agnostic Argument
Agnosticism is starting to become quite popular these days; many seems to be seeking refuge in it. Its perceived to be the safest route for the secular man. For those unfamiliar with it, agnosticism is basically the belief that there is no way to know whether or not there is a God. The agnostic therefore neither believes nor disbelieves in God, since both the theist and the atheist fail to conclusively prove the existence of one. There are different forms of agnosticism with varying definitions (e.g. ignosticism); but at the end it boils to the agnostic being someone who refrains from taking a stand and defends his ignorance.
Here's the problem with the entire agnostic world view. It is based on one fundamentally flawed precept; and that is the assumption that the proof for God is an empirical one. It rests on the belief that if there was to be a proof for God then it would be very much like a philosophical or scientific proof which could be repeated by any one at anytime and would always yield the same result. Since nothing like that exists, the agnostic ignorantly yet confidently says, 'There's no way to know'.
What the agnostic fails to realize is that empirical proofs exist for things that are confined to the material world; things to which the laws of nature apply, things that are within the realm of human comprehension. God by definition is far beyond all this. How then does one expect to find an empirical proof for something that is metaphysical? How then does one apply science to the One that created science?
The proof for God is not an empirical one but an experiential one. It is not like a mathematical proof that is based on fundamental axioms rather it is an experiential proof like the proof for love. How would one prove that love exists? Certainly not by running scientific experiments and by debating with philosophers. We all know that love exists since it is a phenomenon that we've all experienced.
In the same way God cannot be proven through abstract proofs and speculative theology. Faith is something that is realized through contemplation and experience. The phenomenon of faith and the issue of finding God simply can't be treated as a mere philosophical problem to which an abstract proof is sufficient.
Hypothetically speaking, let's say I was to give you a concrete proof for God's existence right now. Assume that I've told you what it was and you see no way of arguing against it. It's foolproof; flawless. Would you all of a sudden start believing in God just because of an argument you can't rebut? Would you change you entire lifestyle and live in accordance with God's will just because of one argument? Most people won't. You believe in God when you realize that He exists, not when you are told He exists.
The issue of faith is directly related to experience. Finding faith and God is a journey that is ought to be undertaken; it requires a combination of the mind and the heart. Its not about blindly following faith or relying entirely on your brains; it's the convergence of the two in perfect harmony.
There are numerous evidences of God all around, the greatest proof for the Creator is creation itself. The only ones who will see these evidences and accept them are the ones that will sincerely seek God, those who look for the truth. God in the Bible constantly pushes the reader to ponder over the world around him and to realize the beauty of God's creation. He further says, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13), and "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7). Those who ask God to guide them are the ones that will be guided. God is to be found where he claims to be, He doesn't claim to be in books of philosophy but He does claim to be in the Bible. so I encourage you to read it.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth... God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." (Genesis 1:1, 31)
"You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you." (Nehemiah 9:6)
"He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight. He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it. The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke. By his power he churned up the sea.... By his breath the skies become fair.... And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! How then can we understand the thunder of his power?" (Job 26:7-9, 11-14)
"How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number-living things both large and small. (Psalm 104:24-25)
"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3)
Christ "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." (Colossians 1:15-16)
"In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." (Hebrews 1:2)
Atheists and Agnostics are Without Excuse
It is infallibly taught in Sacred Scripture that everyone above the age of reason can know with certainty that there is a God. They know this by the things that are made: the trees, the grass, the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. Anyone who is an agnostic (who believes that God is unknowable) or an atheist (who believes that God does not exist at all) is without excuse. The natural law convicts him. This is a revealed truth of Sacred Scripture.
Creation itself bears witness that there is a God, that is, a living, omnipotent and intelligent Being who created it. The apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Rome that since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities – His eternal power and Godhead – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made (Romans 1:20); and David said that the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1). Therefore, since the existence of God is so clearly witnessed by His works, those who deny His existence are without excuse. "The fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God" (Psalm 53:1).
God defined infallibly, based on Romans 1, that the one true God can be known with certitude by the things which have been made, and by the natural light of human reason.
Romans 1:19-21: "Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of Him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; His eternal power also, and divinity: SO THAT THEY ARE INEXCUSABLE."
Atheists, agnostics and unbelievers are without excuse, because they are surrounded by the works of God which attest very clearly that God exists. Undoubtedly the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, clearly prove the existence of God because they did not come into existence by chance or by their own power but by the will of the only true God. For according to the Scripture there was a time when all these things did not exist, then at a certain point of past time they came into existence by the will of God. God created them in six days (Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-3; Exodus 20:11), and in wisdom God made them all (Psalm 104:24). Oh, what a wonderful wisdom can be seen in all the works of God! It can be seen even in the simplest forms of life. God is indeed a wise Designer and Creator! Among the things made by God, one, that is, man, was made in God's image, for the Scripture says: "So God created man in His own image" (Genesis 1:27). That's why Paul says that man "is the image and glory of God" (1 Corinthians 11:7). Man himself, therefore, bears witness that God exists. When one considers that man is an intelligent being, with a will, reasoning ability, emotions and a conscience, how can he deny the existence of God?
The Catholic Church has dogmatically defined the principle set forth in Romans 1 – which directly contradicts the teaching of atheism and agnosticism.
Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Session 3, On Revelation, Can. 1: "If anyone shall have said that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be known with certitude by those things which have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema."
Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Session 3, On God the Creator, Can. 1: "If anyone shall have denied the one true God, Creator and Lord of visible and invisible things: let him be anathema."
All the people who die in unbelief and in cultures which have never been penetrated by the Gospel go to Hell for sins against the natural law and the other grave sins which they commit – which bad will and failure to cooperate with God's grace is the reason for why they deny God or that He does not reveal the Gospel to them.
2 Corinthians 4:3: "And if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them."
To sum up, just as one's computer or one's watch exists because someone designed it and built it, and we can't affirm that no one has made it (for it suddenly appeared one day accidentally!), so the universe (that is, the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them) exists because someone designed it and made it, and this 'someone' is God, our creator. In other words, the perfection, the beauty, the design and the orderliness of the universe require the existence of a Supreme Being whose intelligence and power have no limit, and this Supreme Being is God. It is absurd to think that the universe was not created by God.
Everyone can know with certainty that there is a supreme spiritual being, Who is the One True God and the Creator of the world and all that it contains. There is no one who cannot understand and believe that God exists, if he considers how the earth bears fruit and how the heavens give rain, how the trees bloom, how each and every animal exists in its own kind, how the stars serve man, and how troubles and sorrows come and often happen against the will of man. From all these things, man can see that he is mortal and that it is God who arranges and directs all these things. For if God did not exist, everything would be disorganized. Thus, all things are of God, and everything is rationally arranged for the use and knowledge of mankind. And there is not the least little thing that is created or exists in the world without reasonable cause. (cf. St. Bridget's Revelations, Book 1, chapter 15.)
Everyone knows that God is not something that they have carved out of wood or jade or stone. They know that God is not the tree that they worship or the river they worship or the rock or the snake or the sacred tree frog or nature spirits. They know that these things aren't the Creator of the universe. Every such person knows that he is worshipping a creature rather than the Creator.
If a man cannot understand or comprehend God's virtues and powers as they are because of his weakness, he can still see them with faith and believe. But if people in the world do not want to use their reason to consider God's power, they can still use their hands to touch and sense the deeds that Jesus Christ and His saints have done. They are namely so obvious that no one can doubt them to be the deeds of God. Who raised the dead and gave sight to the blind if not God? Who cast out the evil devils from men if not God? What have God taught if not things beneficial for the prosperity of soul and body and easy to bear? (cf. St. Bridget's Revelations, Book 1, chapter 15.)
If there were truly people of sincere and of good will who had not yet attained the faith, then God would send a preacher (even miraculously, if necessary) to bring the Catholic Faith and baptism to him.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent. III, 25, Q. 2, A. 2, solute. 2: "If a man should have no one to instruct him, God will show him, unless he culpably wishes to remain where he is."
St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent. II, 28, Q. 1, A. 4, ad 4: "If a man born among barbarian nations, does what he can, God Himself will show him what is necessary for salvation, either by inspiration or sending a teacher to him."
St. Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, 14, A. 11, ad 1: Objection: "It is possible that someone may be brought up in the forest, or among wolves; such a man cannot explicitly know anything about the faith. St. Thomas replies: It is the characteristic of Divine Providence to provide every man with what is necessary for salvation… provided on his part there is no hindrance. In the case of a man who seeks good and shuns evil, by the leading of natural reason, God would either reveal to him through internal inspiration what had to be believed, or would send some preacher of the faith to him…"
"It is in accord with God's justice that entry into heaven must be gained through steadfast faith, rational hope, and fervent love. A person ponders more frequently and adores more lovingly that which the heart loves more and loves with greater fervor. So it is with the gods that are placed in temples - though they are not gods nor creators, since there is but one sole creator, I myself, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But the owners of temples and people in general love the gods more than they love me, seeking to achieve worldly success rather than to live with me.
"If I were to destroy the things that people love more than me, and make the people adore me against their will, then I would certainly do them an injustice by taking away their free will and desire from them. Since they have no faith in me, and there is in their hearts something more delightful than me, I reasonably permit them to produce externally what they love and long for in their minds. Because they love creation more than me, the Creator, whom they can know by probable signs and deeds, if only they would make use of their reason, and because they are blind, accursed is their creation and accursed are their idols. They themselves shall stand in shame and be sentenced for their folly, because they refuse to understand how sweet I am, their God, who created and redeemed humankind out of fervent love." (St. Bridget's Revelations, Book 5 or The Book of Questions, Interrogation 8.)
A Personal Knowledgeable God
I have already showed from the Scripture that the existence of God can be proved in various ways. However, I would like to say something else. Man can not only know that God exists, but also know Him personally. In other words, He can have a personal relationship with God. For Jesus Christ said: "All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him" (Luke 10:22). Therefore, God the Father can be known through His Son, there is no other way to know God. Thus, in order to know God a man needs to know His Son. How can one know the Son of God then? By repenting of his sins and believing in His atoning sacrifice and His resurrection.
I am by the grace of God among those who know God. However, I would like to make it clear that God cannot be perfectly known by our imperfect mind. I mean, we can't know all His purposes, all His ways, all His judgements, all His thoughts, for the Scripture says: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord?" (Romans 11:33-34) and also: "Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven – what can you do? Deeper than Sheol – what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea" (Job 11:7-9).
In conclusion, one can know God, know that He exists, and have a relationship with Him. We are among those who know God, and even though we know that our knowledge of God is partial, as it is written: "We know in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9), we have the firm confidence that one day we will know God just as we also are known by Him. We have an altar on which we offer our spiritual sacrifices, but not an altar with the inscription 'to the unknown or unknowable God' but with this inscription 'to the God we have known and whom can be known through Christ Jesus, His Son'. To Him be the glory now and forevermore. Amen.
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. God offers all of us forgiveness and salvation through baptism if we will simply receive His gift to us (John 1:12), believing Jesus to be the Savior who laid down His life for us – His friends. If you place your trust in Jesus as your only Savior and die in state of grace (free from mortal sin), you will have absolute assurance of eternal bliss in Heaven. God will forgive your sins, cleanse your soul, renew your spirit, give you abundant life in this world, and eternal bliss in the next world. How can we reject such a precious gift? How can we turn our backs on God who loved us enough to sacrifice Himself for us?
If you are unsure about what you believe, we invite you to say the following prayer to God; "God, help me to know what is true. Help me to discern what is error. Help me to know what is the correct path to salvation." God will always honor such a prayer.
If you want to receive the faith and Jesus as your Savior, simply speak to God, verbally or silently, receive baptism (how to convert to the true Biblical Faith), obey His Church and His Law, and tell Him that you want to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. If you want a prayer to say, here is an example: "God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for sacrificing yourself for me. Thank you for providing for my forgiveness and salvation. I want to accept the gift of salvation through Jesus. I want to receive Jesus as my Savior. Amen!"
Beware of atheism and agnosticism and refute it, for it is a wrong belief, which is used by that ancient serpent to keep millions of people far from the true and living God.