*by Wes Moore
Sometimes in debates or discussions with atheists, especially in the context of the creation/evolution issue, the unbeliever uses the argument, “Well, you don’t have to believe in God to be moral.” In most cases, the Christian simply concedes the point and moves on.
I understand why we do this. I’ve even done it myself. However, I want to point out a flaw in our approach that can have serious consequences for the atheist we’re debating.
What’s the flaw? It comes down to this simple truth: There are actually no good atheists.
No Good Atheists
In the first place, I don’t buy the argument that atheists are good even when compared to the average lost person’s moral code. A person who denies the existence of a Creator has freed himself from any and all moral demands of a higher power. In their minds, they are free to do whatever they want, whenever they want.
If you could look into the secret places of many of their lives, I’m sure you would see a pattern of behavior that is far from moral.[i] As a former atheist, this was certainly the case in my life. Though I knew somewhere inside God was real, I rejected his (and, in fact, anyone else’s) authority over my life and allowed myself any form of sin I thought acceptable.
Moreover, it is difficult enough to try to do what is right when you believe in God and fear his judgment. How much more difficult when you couldn’t care less!
However, even if you grant the argument that an atheist can be as ‘moral’ as any other lost person, from a biblical perspective you must realize they are not good at all. In fact, quite to the contrary, they are patently evil.
Atheism is Idolatry
Atheism is actually a form of idolatry. The idol in this case is man himself. In Romans 1:18-21, Paul says that mankind is without excuse for not knowing and worshipping the true God. Their rejection of what has been “made plain to them” leads them to create their own gods, which, in the end, are nothing more than an extension of themselves. In atheism, carved idols are not god, man is.
These people, far from being moral, are called “godless” and “wicked” (18).
As an aside, based on this passage and others, I would argue that there really is no such thing as an atheist. Atheists demonstrate the highest form of deception and hypocrisy, denying outwardly what they cannot avoid inwardly. Years ago when I was an atheist, I thought about God all the time. I couldn’t get away from the overwhelming evidence, both inwardly and outwardly, that my Creator existed. It’s the same with all atheists.[ii]
But, back to the point—what the Bible says about atheists. The Bible calls those who reject the existence of God “fools”: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Furthermore, the Bible declares that even the work done by an atheist (the wicked) is evil: “…the plowing of the wicked is sin” (Proverbs 21:4).
Think about it—what could be more immoral than denying the existence of the being who created you, gives you health and food and opportunity, and even the very breath you use to deny his existence?
The Harm of Allowing This
The problem with accepting this argument and not pointing out the biblical truth that atheists are not moral, is that it can leave the atheist with a sense of self-righteousness.
I know you don’t actually believe the atheist is righteous. And I know this isn’t what you’re actually saying when you concede this argument. But put yourself in the mind of the atheist. You, as the representative of the Bible and the true God, have just allowed for the possibility that he is, at least in some form, righteous.
How can conviction come in this case? What will the Spirit use to bring sorrow for sin?
In the end, our goal is not to win an intellectual argument (though the intellectual side of our faith is very important). Our goal is to lead lost souls in repentance to Jesus Christ for salvation. Sometimes we forget about that crucial goal when we’re engaged with an atheist.
We can’t afford to do that.
What do you recommend?
The next time an atheist says, “You don’t have to believe in God to be moral,” look at it as an open door to share the gospel. Tell him he can’t be moral at all and deny the existence of his Creator. Walk him through the arguments I’ve given in this article and the Bible passages I listed. And then tell him about the work of Jesus Christ on the cross on his behalf.
“But, they might get mad!” So what! “They might not listen.” How does that change anything? “They might accuse me of being intolerant.” What else is new?
We’re not here to win a popularity contest either. The truth is not popular, especially among atheists, whose true, heart-level problem is not that they don’t know if God exists, but that they do, and simply hate him for it.
What could be more immoral than that?
[i] Unfortunately, this is also true of many believers. But that’s the subject of a different article.
[ii] We can also deduce from this text that you can prove God’s existence. Sometimes we say, “Well, we can’t really prove God’s existence to someone. We can only show them the evidence.” Paul’s words make this a false statement. God himself has said the evidence he has given humanity is absolutely convincing, leaving no room for unbelief.
*Wes Moore is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and the founder of Evidence America, an apologetics and evangelism training ministry. Wes is the author of Forcefully Advancing, a book designed to equip the average Christian to engage the lost; The Maker, a futuristic apologetics novel; and The Spiritual Top 50, a non-fiction apologetics book designed to help Christians answer the questions their lost friends are asking. You can learn more about him at www.wesmoorenow.com and https://www.
by Wes Moore
It’s 2332 AD and our greatest fears have been realized. America has been destroyed and all history of her erased. The Global Government, made up of America’s present friends and foes, oppresses the world and hunts down and annihilates any person or group that threatens it. No one can challenge the great Global Government until a suicidal archaeologist named Adrien Bach finds a black box buried in the remote desert that was Middle America. The other-worldly contents of this box lead him to the truth—about America, the Global Government, and the greatest crime in human history.
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