There Are No Atheists?

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.

One thought on “There Are No Atheists?

  • July 13, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    As an Atheist, I find Colson’s reasoning and hypocrisy sickening since he’s one of Tricky Dick’s flunkies who found Jesus while in prison. Someone should ask him, how come “Christians” like him always find Jesus and religion when they’re painted into a moral corner. No one finds Jesus after winning the Super Bowl or the Academy Award.

    For 26 years (I became when at 14), I’ve never prayed or had religious thoughts when panicked. Believe me, my wife and friends who have been on a plane with me can attest to this. Oh I’m scared and not keen on flying unless necessary but hoping a divine being is going to save my butt is the last thing on my mind.

    Colson’s spurious logic on disproving the disproving of “God’s” existence could be applied to the existence of genies (Islamic belief), oni or hostile spirits (Japanese) and Baron Samedi (voodoo) which his brand of Christianity dismisses.

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