An Honest Admission
Recently, this title in the Washington Post (Feb 4, 2016) caught my eye: “I’m an atheist. So why can’t I shake God?: Turns out it’s pretty hard to believe in nothing when your psyche is wired for faith.” Elizabeth King, the author, then tells how she abandoned her childhood Christian faith for atheism. Yet, “somehow God has found a way to stick around in my mind.” She thinks that “God’s lingering presence” could be attributed to “the inner-workings of the human mind” against which the atheist battles hard. She claims, “If I could. . . banish this figure from my psyche, I would.” In the end, she has to admit, “I have no choice but to accept that I’m an atheist with a sense for God.”
Not only did I appreciate her candid confession, I also identified with it. I used to be an atheist, one who claimed in Sociology class that God was created in the image of man. Still, without expressing the same words, I too wondered, “Why can’t I shake God?” The Puritan Steven Charnock (c1628–1680) answered this question well in his Discourses on the Existence and Attributes of God (1682), one of the most profound yet practical treatments ever written on the doctrine of God.
We Are All Atheists
Charnock develops upon Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” This verse describes everyone, for we all as sinners try to escape God (like fallen Adam did) and push him out of existence. Some of us manifest a conscious “disowning of God” while the rest of us exhibit a practical atheism affirming God but denying him in our hearts by sinful lives. We distort a “right notion of God” and fail to seek and love him, for which we were created. Indeed, whoever fails to love God, “denies God.” We are all by nature atheists.