Recently, while posting a colleague’s blog entry at work, I had to add a hyperlink to the Washington Post and stumbled across this little “gem” of an opinion:
There Are No Atheists
—Charles W. “Chuck” Colson
On a cross-country flight some years ago, we hit severe turbulence. The gentleman in the seat next to me who had been insisting vehemently that he was an atheist shouted out loud, “God help us.”
Yes, even atheists pray because the image of God is implanted in us. Independent studies have showed that we yearn to know God. It’s the way we’re wired. So to be an atheist takes a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that which deep down we all know to be true.
I have, in fact, never met an atheist. When a person professes to be one, I ask him to offer me the proof that God does not exist. I’ve never had anyone successfully respond to that question. Most retreat and say they’re really agnostics. I then ask them if they have examined every religion exhaustively. Their answer is usually no. I explain they cannot be agnostics unless they are sure that God can’t be known.
There are no atheists. There are simply people whose pride overwhelms their innate knowledge.
Following this same train of thought, of course, there are no believers. I had dinner with a pastor recently, and he admitted that sometimes he lapses into doubt. Yes, even pastors doubt. But he insisted that despite this, he knew his faith was real. I asked if he had studied every religion exhaustively, and he said no, so I had to ask how he could be certain his was the one true faith.
Evidence shows that human beings are universally fearful of death. What is virtually inevitable, then, is that they invent supernatural beings who can promise them everlasting life. (This is, of course, one of two ways “heathen” gods are dismissed—the other being to call them demons.) So again, following Colson’s logic, I must insist that there are no believers. Were I to parody his final sentence, I would have to say that there are merely people whose fear overwhelms their common sense.
Of course, either these positions—there are no atheists; there are no believers—is reductionist wishful thinking. When it comes to people’s hearts and minds, things are never so clearcut. Obviously there are believers. And to borrow from Colson’s “cannot disprove God” argument, just because he says he never met an atheist doesn’t mean there aren’t any.