rebelling against low expectations

There Are No Real Atheists


“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

–Romans 1:16-20, (ESV) emphasis mine

Based on my experiences through the years and the observation of other Christians, I believe there is a lurking, pervasive fear of the “intellectual atheist” amongst Christians. This nameless, faceless group of people seems to be our modern-day Goliath which goes about blaspheming God and mocking His people. These scoffers, whom God laughs at from His throne in heaven (Psalm 2), have raged and taken their stand against the Lord loudly enough that we have become afraid of them.

We fear them because we think maybe they have an argument we can’t defeat, questions we can’t answer, theories we don’t understand, or data we are not aware of. We fear them because maybe within their Ivory Towers they have ascended to a higher state of knowledge and understanding. We fear them because they can be loud, angry, mean, and belittling.

Even worse, we may fear them because we’re not entirely sure that the Bible is God’s Word. Maybe, in some ways, we agree with the unbelieving World’s way of thinking.

And maybe we have a haunting suspicion that they are right, and we are wrong.

No Reason to Fear

Whatever the reason, this is my word of encouragement to all Christians who fear interacting with the atheist: You have no reason to fear them. In fact, you already possess in God’s Word the primary reasons why you should not fear them.

And what are the primary reasons Paul gives for not being ashamed of the gospel, and thus, not being afraid of those who brazenly reject it?

1) The gospel is the power of God for salvation (v. 16).

2) Anyone who rejects the gospel knows the God of Scripture, but he suppresses the truth of God in unrighteousness (v. 18).

3) God has clearly revealed Himself to all men, through general and special revelation, so that they will have no excuse for their unbelief on the final day of judgment (v. 19-20).

In sum, the most basic reason why you should not fear the atheist is that atheists themselves don’t truly believe what they claim to believe.

All atheists know, without doubt or excuse, that God exists because God has clearly revealed Himself to all of humanity. Regardless of a person’s belief system, everyone truly knows in their heart of hearts that the True and Living God exists. No one will be able to plead ignorance on the day of judgment for a fact that God made abundantly clear to them every single day of their lives.

An Amazing Capacity for Self-Deception

So, how is this possible? How can atheists seem so sincere and genuine in their denial of a Creator? The atheist can say God doesn’t exist while believing that God exists in the same way that a person can profess to be Christian while not actually being a Christian.

The commonality between the false believer and the God-believing atheist is a powerful thing called self-deception. We all have an amazing capacity for self-deception because, as fallen creatures, we have an amazing capacity to lie.

We can lie to others, and as most people are readily willing to recognize, we can lie to ourselves. We all know someone who has been “in denial,” both knowing the truth and refusing to admit that they know it at the same time. We have all been hypocrites ourselves, who say we believe one thing and then do the opposite. Because of sin, we all, atheists and Christians alike, have the ability to lie to others, to God, and to ourselves.

Not Intellectual, But Moral

The dilemma of the atheist professing a denial of God’s existence while really believing that God exists is no dilemma at all. It’s a pattern of behavior that we’re all very familiar with here in this fallen world. Paul expresses this condition eloquently by saying that atheists are those “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

The Apostle John puts this same truth in another way: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God,” (John 3:19-21).

All unbelievers know that God exists, but they push that knowledge down and suppress it because they love their sin. Their suppression looks like this: a young boy is angry with his father and yet also very hungry. So, to show his anger, the boy hides his eyes with one hand to make his father “disappear,” and yet he holds out his other hand so he can receive food from him. This is how the atheist lives; he shields his spiritual eyes from the glory of God in creation while presumptuously expecting the ongoing provision of God to sustain his daily existence. So, as it turns out, there are no real atheists.

Therefore, we begin to see an apologetical principle come forth: The atheist’s problem with God is not intellectual, but moral. They don’t deny God because there’s a lack of light or evidence for His existence, or because it’s “unscientific,” or because it’s “irrational.”

They suppress the truth of God because they love the darkness and hate the Light.

The Power of God for Salvation

This ought to be very encouraging for you, Christian! This means that you don’t need to fear the atheist’s arguments or data or theories or questions; none of those things have anything to do with why he denies God.

So, we should not fear atheists and we should also not quibble over “facts” or “theories” with them. Instead, we should strive to show them the contradictions between the beliefs they profess and the way they live in God’s world. We should boldly and unashamedly proclaim to them the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God for salvation to all who believe.

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About the author

Zach Smith

is a full-time speech-language pathologist who works primarily with children with autism. He’s married to a beautiful woman and is a father to boy-girl twins. He enjoys lifting, playing chess, reading, and writing. You can find him online at: Basic Truth – Applying the Word of God to every area of life and culture (


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  • I once talked to an atheist about Christianity and how the world was created, it was a hard conversation, but now that I read this, I can see things he asked about God and what he denied and questioned the how it was even believable or possible and also shows how under-prepared I was. This article brings more clarity in how to talk to other people and what I can ask.

  • Correct me if I am wrong, but are you saying that we should not debate over topics of theology and evidence for Christianity with an atheist, but rather the deep down reason as for why they reject God?

    • In my experience, if I am talking with someone who claims to be an atheist and they bring up questions about theology or the historical accuracy of Christianity, I try to understand their heart attitude first. If they’re just asking these questions harshly to trip me up or confuse me without waiting for me to answer, then I know they aren’t really interested in the questions, but in defending their life of ungodliness. So I try to steer the conversation back to the gospel. But I will definitely talk with them over these topics if they are genuinely seeking answers and are willing to listen.

    • Hey Jacob,
      I’m not saying that we should never discuss evidence for Christianity with atheists. Sometimes it’s useful if done with the proper foundations. However, if our primary method of apologetics is providing evidences for the atheist to evaluate, then we have subjected God to the bar of human intellect and reasoning. God’s Word is clear that a lack of evidence is not why atheists reject the Living God; rather, they willfully misinterpret and suppress God’s clear revelation of Himself to them.
      Instead of relying primarily on providing evidences for Christianity, we ought to start with the truth and authority of Scripture and argue that the atheist could not rationally reject God without first PRESUPPOSING God. We go down to the foundations of his belief system and expose the fact that it makes knowledge impossible. We show the atheist that if He doesn’t start with the God of Scripture, he can’t interpret any evidence whatsoever. This method presents God and His Word as ultimate and unquestionable while objectively proving that Christianity is the only true option available.

      I hope this helps! I have an article that introduces this topic on my website:

  • Literally none of this is true. Atheists don’t believe in god(s) at all, that’s how atheism works?? Has the author never interacted with an atheist in their life??

    • Dear Phil,

      You are simply begging the question as to what is true and how you have knowledge of what is true, given your worldview (which I assume is not Christian).

      I say that God has objectively revealed the truth that all men are created by God and inherently know Him without fail. God has also revealed that men suppress their knowledge of God and deceive themselves by saying He doesn’t exist. God’s Word defines atheism as nothing more than a form of self-deception. Therefore, on the basis of the authority of the omniscient and personal God of Scripture, we must conclude that men cannot truthfully say that God does not exist.

      You are making the bold claim that God’s Word regarding His creation is false. How do you know that it’s false? What authority do you have to say that God is false? How do you have access to the truth, Phil? Are you omniscient? Do you know all truth so as to distinguish it from falsity? Do you know the hearts and minds of all atheists to know whether their claims are true or false? On what ground do you stand to lift yourself above the inerrant, infallible, and unquestionable Word of God?

      • I don’t think you can should use something which athiests wouldn’t believe in to argue that they don’t exist as it’s simply tautology.

        On your last paragraph, just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you can’t believe it. I can’t know vampires don’t exist but certainly don’t think they do to such an extent that I ignore them conceptually within my moral framework
        God is the same for me. Maybe something created the universe but why would I believe it was the Christian god (as opposed to Islamic, Hindu, etc) and certainly I don’t believe in any moralistic God enough for it to actively form any basis for how I live my life.

        • Tom,

          What you seem to be suggesting is that I have to presuppose the atheistic worldview in order to argue against it, which is irrational on its face. I will, instead, be rational and stress the extreme antithesis between the atheist’s position and the Christian one in order to expose the irrationality of the atheist. It’s called the presuppositional method of apologetics, which is underpinned by the Christian Transcendental Argument. I never made a tautology in anything that I’ve written, so this is a misrepresentation of my work.

          My entire point is that atheists do, in fact, know that God exists. So, I can’t make heads or tails of your vampire comment. Also, comparing the God of Scripture to vampires is also absurd on its face, and I will not seriously entertain such a disrespectful analogy.

          God must be the Christian God because without the Christian God you, Tom, could not speculate about any religion, let alone rule it out, with certainty as you say, as a reasonable belief. The only reason you can type out your message to me is because you do in fact operate under the assumption of the Christian God. You rely on God for every intellectual undertaking, while simultaneously suppressing your knowledge of Him (which was the point of my article).

          The question you have to answer from me is this: How do you know anything, given the necessary implications of your rejection of the Christian God?

By Zach Smith
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →