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Reason? Does any person claim assertively, "There is no God," because of lack of information (or because of alleged, misleading "proof"); or is an Atheist deliberately choosing to ignore General Revelation (Common knowledge), and Special Revelation (Historical Jesus)?

Sufficiency Can the Atheist lean on Modern science for proof of Atheism, or is that a broken reed? Is General Revelation sufficient to make his assertion inexcusable in this modern world of academia? (Is Romans 1-2 still applicable?)

(The Hebrew word for fool is nabal: Empty person, fool. Young's Analytical Concordance, p. 360.) The concept of "atheism" was known in the ancient world. Greeks philosophers...and Christian martyrs...were often indicted...and killed for the charge of atheism in ancient societies.

{Note that Question #84864 establishes the fact that the correct translation of this distinguishing phrase is, There is no God. That Question mainly dealt with the Hebrew wording, especially with whether "There is" is wrongly suppled by the translators, and just "no, God" should be allowed. Overwhelming proof supported the "There is no God" phrase since that is the way dozens of other verses are translated, the Hebrew word containing all four English words.

The question here before us today does not deal with syntax, but with the "causes of unbelief" that deal possibly with motive, amount of information, self-will, agnostic hindrances, etc. See second half of verse in question!}

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  • Hi Ray, I do think it's worth taking care with your terminology - the author describes this person first and foremost as a fool, not an atheist. Take care with the way that words may charge your question with meaning that may detract from exegeting the passage impartially, or could be read in a defamatory way towards atheists who are fellow users of the platform. Atheism as understood by the Greeks is different to how we would use the word today, and is still probably different from what this author means.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 23:01
  • @Stevecanhelp-Is this a better wording of the question? Willing to revise again, if necessary. Thanks for pointing this out. It is for All that Christ died!
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 19:35
  • Does this answer your question? Does the Fool say "There is no God" or "No to God" in Psalm 14:1
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 14:50
  • the answers in the Question #84864 on the translation also explain that it is about practical denial of God rather than atheism. It is actually the ignorance of spiritually blinded people who think there is no God who is watching him.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 14:52
  • Romans 1 applies to pagan pantheists or polytheists, not atheists. You are also asking about nature and attitude of atheists in the verse; in that case it doesn't suit this site coz whether real atheists exist in ancient times is debatable; perhaps this suits better to Christianity:SE. I'd be interested in the question to find ancient example of atheism, but the Psalm is written for general people mainly the believers. The context is clearly about someone who is a practical denier of God's authority in a rhetorical sense, rather than real atheism.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 15:05

5 Answers 5

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This is an instance where fully quoting the relevant text would be helpful. Psalm 14:1 actually says:

"The fool hath said in his heart, '[There is] no God'." A.V. ['God is not' - Y.L.T.] [Emphasis mine]

He or she is not reported as saying this belief out loud. It is a conviction that is in the heart, though Jesus told us that "Out of the heart's abundance the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). However, when people know themselves to be in a tiny minority, surrounded by the rest who believe the opposite, the tendency of most of the minority is to keep their mouths shut.

In the days of the Psalmist, virtually the whole nation vocally and actively proclaimed their belief in the one God. Yes, there would be those who denied the existence of God - in their hearts - but few would dare stand up in public and state, "I do not believe Yahweh exists."

The question asks if lack of information is a reason for not believing God exists. Not in the nation those Psalms were the property of. Information about the God who they worshipped was written down in the scriptures they had. This contained history about God's dealings with humanity from the creation until their day. They were taught from infancy about this history, and their particular relationship with God as being "a people for his name", called to be distinct from the pagan nations around them, to be holy. That same information remains available to all nations today, added to which is deeper revelation about God's dealings with humanity from the time of Christ to the prophetic last book of those scriptures, Revelation.

Certainly, information from God about himself has been confused with a plethora of different revelations from different sources. That was also the case in the times of the Old Testament, with all the surrounding pagan nations having their own claims and explanations about their gods. Yet even that should not be a cause for claiming "there is no God", because whatever differences of beliefs about God there are, and practices based on those beliefs, history continues to show that the vast majority of humanity, through the centuries, has believed (and continues to believe) in God (or, gods). Indeed, to come to a conclusion that there is no God should require sufficient information for an individual to take that minority stance. Those who say, "I don't know" are agnostics, not atheists.

Or, the question asks, is it due to ignoring 'Common Sense' (General Revelation)? Common Sense is not so common, for a start, and it varies around the world. As for 'General Revelation', yes that is all around, for everyone to see. This is where the other text in question comes in - Romans - but not chapters 1 to 2, chapter 3 verses 10 to 18. This is where Psalm 14:1-3 is quoted.

General Revelation is not so much ignored, as explained away. Claims are made that all of this world, all the life in it, and this universe, just came about through chance occurrence, with no need for any God to create the basic materials, and that life can spontaneously emerge out of inanimate elements, given enough time and the right circumstances. Rather than ignoring General Revelation, it has to be taken so seriously that an alternative explanation that rules out a Creator God has to be built up.

The final question is, Can the Atheist lean on Modern science for proof of Atheism? Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. Some will choose to interpret scientific facts a certain way, or to use them to build up an imagined scenario devoid of God, but science itself does not, and cannot, do that.

The US National Academy of Sciences said, "Science is a way of knowing about the natural world. It is limited to explaining the natural world through natural causes. Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral." - (from page 28 of Victor J. Stenger's God, The Failed Hypothesis) But read Who Made God? In search of a theory of everything by Edgar Andrews, where this scientist explains the hypothesis of God, and takes Stenger to task, in the process.

Although Albert Einstein rejected the idea of a personal God and might be described as a pantheist, he complained, "In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views." (from page 425 of Ronald W. Clark's Einstein: The Life and Times)

It's nice to see scientists being careful not to rule out the possibility for the existence of God. Especially scientists of the caliber of Albert Einstein. Theists do not just say that it's possible for God to exist, they would argue that there is evidence of the God of the Bible breaking through into human experience and making himself known. They believe their faith in God is warranted due to God's self-revelation. Evidence is not proof, but proof has to start with evidence. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8510711/Belief-in-God-is-part-of-human-nature-Oxford-study.html

In Christian faith, General Revelation combines with Special Revelation, God's self-revelation (particularly through that which came via Jesus Christ, who has declared God - John 1:18.) That is our warrant for belief in the existence of a Creator God, who cares enough about his creation to send his only-begotten Son into the world, to save.

The faith of the Psalmist in the reality of God was pre-Christ, but he knew the promises of God to be utterly dependable, and he had the scriptures that promised God sending this deliverer, otherwise how could he ever have penned Psalm 2? He wrote of people imagining a vain thing - a foolish thing, in other words. They wanted to break away and be free to disbelieve and to do whatever they liked. The course of wisdom (the opposite of foolishness) is to serve God and to kiss the Son, to put their trust in him. That is the one thing atheists can never do, and for that reason, God in heaven laughs at them in derision (vs. 4).

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  • you wrote, "The final question is, Can the Atheist lean on Modern science for proof of Atheism? Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God." However, it is possible to point out the contradictory nature of all scripture, to show that it is stupid to believe the gospels.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 1:26
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Note that the passage does not say "He who says there is no God is a fool", but rather, "the fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'". Without knowing David's authorial intent it could be exegeted either way:

  1. Perhaps this is merely a description of those who are foolish (who have an 'empty' or 'withered' view of reality) who rejects both God and good works. It could be that David is aggregating the behaviour of many different people and showing the common rejection of God that this behaviour entails.

  2. Perhaps this is an intended barb for people who were outspokenly rejecting God's presence, or at least of YHWH specifically, who is specified later in the Psalm.

Personally, given that we don't have any examples in scripture of Israelites declaring there to be no God, I'd incline more towards #1 than #2. In a similar way that David's son would later expound on the characteristics of a 'fool' in Proverbs, the simple reading would be that David is just describing the consequences of their folly.

In your question you ask:

Does any person claim assertively, "There is no God," because of lack of information (or because of alleged proof); or is an Atheist deliberately choosing to ignore "Common Sense" (Common knowledge)?

I don't think this text can be stretched this far (does any person claim X because...) or really speaks to this point meaningfully. Based on this Psalm, I don't think either of your statements clearly apply here - nothing is said about lack of information, nor about anybody deliberately choosing to ignore common sense. But rather, if anything it's the folly itself which causes them to reject God.

In other words, when we are committing wrongdoing, we have a de facto interest in there not being a God. If there were a God and we reject him, that would have negative consequences that we don't wish to consider. So it is perhaps not a matter of evidence, nor of willful ignorance, but rather of the same kind of casual ignorance with which we forget about the negative effects of sugar or alcohol because of our interest in consuming them.

Yet, interestingly:

4 Do all these evildoers know nothing?

They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord.

5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.

Regardless of the fool's outward rejection of God, there is still an aspect where the presence of God's people makes his reality unmistakable, if only subconsciously. The fool rejects God in his heart, but is confronted by Him when he encounters Him at work in the real world.

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  • No God at All Good analysis. Reminds us of F. Dostoyovski's character in the novel, Brothers Kaza..., who remarked that Without God and the Hereafter (accountability), all things are permissible. That is, the person will tend to live foolishly because there really is a Day of Accountability.
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 19:43
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Disclaimer: I don't speak for any sect.

Psalm 14 is not about atheists. Atheists did not exist in the ancient (pre-scientific) world. The "fool" thinks that all of the deities are scams. But the LORD says that they think that, only because they don't realize that YHVH delivers.

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    @Ruminator-The Ancient world was pre-technological but was never "pre-scientific." Scientists are still trying to figure out many of the accomplishments of the oldsters! King Solomon was quite a biologist! (1 Kings 4:29-34)....The concept of "Atheism" was known, tho maybe defined a little different. Christians were accused of Atheism because they would not worship graven images, nor Caesar. etc. Peace!
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 21:48
  • @raygrant, it seems you are confusing the terms. Yes, they were technological, but science is a "discipline" to which the ancients did not adhere. The pioneer of the scientific methodology arrived with a thud-BANG from a Muslim consigned to prison: youtu.be/5cPzNmtoZDU Of course, you've never heard of him because he's Muslim, not Christian. Nor do I think you understand peer-review or the scientific method.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 1:22
  • 1
    @Thank you for your interest! By "technological" I refer to the fantastic advancements in electricity, atomic energy, and digital field...which are of relatively recent origin (not the "invention of the wheel" era)....PEER REVIEW and SCIENTIFIC METHOD? Seems I heard something about that in my math classes at the University when getting my Master's degree. Peace.
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 19:39
  • 1
    Did Atheists Exist? See Psalm 10:4, 5:12, 73:9-12, Romans 1:18-23, 3:11, Jude 1:4, 8, 15.
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 21:06
  • blueletterbible.org/tools/MultiVerse.cfm?s=00AP8J So what?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 0:52
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Psalm 14:4 may have a hint to the answer

4 Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord. (NIV)

The Lord asked a question that didn't need an answer for the answer was implied 'negative'. Surely these evildoers were smart to devour His people as though eating bread. They were fool just because they never call on the Lord.

It may be worth to note that 'Fool' does not have an absolute meaning. It needs to first clarify as 'relative to whom'. In the scripture, it often uses 'fool' to describe those who sinned or didn't know the Lord. Therefore Paul made a statement in Romans 1:22

22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools (NIV)

In his 1 Corinthians 1:18-30, Paul made an irony comparison between wisdom and fool. He started with these

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Cor 1:18-19 NIV)

This is to say, those who knows the Lord are fools in the eyes of those who don't know the Lord, who in His eyes, are fools.

With this understanding, never judge anyone a fool, for we may never know who will be a fool at the end. It reminds me a word from Jesus

22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister (fellow disciples) will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

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I would feel is an attitude issue of the person than logical (information/ knowledge) issue. If one has such attitude then this person can be destructive to those around.

Most cases God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob rewards the righteous and punish those with rebellious attitude.

just my overall personal opinion.

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  • @VNPython-So you deduce that most aversion to believing in a God is usually a fallen-human nature attitude, and not the result of a reasonable perusal of evidence, whether of a Self-revelation given by God Himself, or by logical deductions from the existence of the well-designed Universe! To discover Truth, one must be open to Truth ,yes? Keep studying the Bible, it's good for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 19:30
  • how to explain something that is cant be scoence-explained? human discoveries is so limited on many subjects to be able to come to a conclusion of whether there is spiritual stuff. if one is normal, would be able to appreciate nature then will realize things dont just work like clockwork. which country on earth has divine content in their history?
    – VNPython
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 0:15

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