What do atheists look like? Do they have tattoos and piercings? Do they look rough and rebellious? Do they drive cars with ACLU bumper stickers? Or do they have a look of smug arrogance and intellectual superiority? What if I told you that many atheists look just like the couple in the picture to the left? What if I told you that many atheists are frequently seen with folded hands, praying or with open Bibles, reading? Yes, it’s true. Now allow me to explain.
Probably most of us could quote Psalm 14:1 – “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” We keep that verse handy as an apt description of atheists. However, I would like for you to take a closer look at this familiar passage.
My friend and colleague, Jody Apple, brought this to my attention over a year ago. The words “there is” in this passage, is not in the Hebrew text and is an addition by the translators. Several Bible translations will italicize those words, denoting they were added by the translators. The significance is that instead of saying “the fool has said in his heart there is no God,” it could be saying, “the fool has said in his heart, ‘no, God.’”
I would call this “practical atheism.” While of course it is foolish not to believe in the existence of God, it is also foolish to believe in God, but to say “no” to him. In what practical or functional sense does this differ from atheism?
So maybe we had better reevaluate the way we have applied Psalm 14:1. Could it be that this passage isn’t about “them,” but about “us?” Do believers ever say, “no” to God?
- What do we say when God calls upon us to make deep sacrifices? Do we ever say, “no, God?”
- What do we do when God calls us to pursue peace and unity within the church? Do we ever say, “no, God?”
- What do we do when God calls us to discipline the impenitent brother in Christ? Do we ever say, “no, God?”
- What do we do when God calls us to forgive one who has sinned against us? Do we ever say, “no, God?”
- What do we do when God calls us to speak up and be heard, to stand against our culture, and the tide of public opinion? Do we ever say, “no, God?”
- What do we do when God calls us to seek him and his kingdom ahead of our own lives and family? Do we ever say, “no, God?”
If so, maybe Psalm 14:1 has as much to say to us as it does to the atheist. Give it some thought!