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The Psychology of Atheism

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
July 23, 2022 12:01 am

The Psychology of Atheism

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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July 23, 2022 12:01 am

It is not a lack of information that keeps atheists from believing in God. Today, R.C. Sproul explains the psychological impulses that drive people to deny God's existence.

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If there's a God, why are there atheists. Stay tuned. Renewing Your Mind is next. Can we prove God exists, as believers, we simply look at creation and respond with a resounding yes skeptics though shook their heads. They claim that there is no scientific way to prove the justice of God to Renewing Your Mind that Dr. RC Strobel explained that for those who refuse to believe it's not for lack of evidence. It's something much deeper in our last session we explored how the 19th century atheists in seeking to understand why mankind seems to be incurably religious that they came up with multiple theories that would say that religion is a result of the inventive creative imagination of human beings who simply don't have the moral courage to face the cold, stark reality of the ultimate meaninglessness of human life so that there is a psychological impulse.

I psychological need out of which, in order to escape grim reality.

People formulate for themselves and their own comfort.

The idea of a God who hopefully will rescue them from meaninglessness. Now, when I mentioned at the beginning of this course are used to teach a course in atheism where I required my students in the graduate school to read the primary sources of the atheists and that as we analyze them. I looked at the epistemological patterns that we've explored questions of the causality and rationality and so on.

But also, if you recall those earlier lectures I mentioned that almost to a man the critics of theism came back to this principle that the real impetus for theism is grounded in human psychology and because of that, several years ago I undertook to write a book for laypeople to give them a brief introduction to some of these skeptical philosophers and to show how the New Testament responds to it in the original title of this book, which is now in paperback was called the psychology of atheism. The title now is if there's a God, why are there atheists in other words I'm playing on the principle we talked about the last time where the 19th century skeptics were saying if there is no God.

Why are there theists in their answer was psychological need and so I'm asking in this book. If there is a God, why are there people who deny his existence, and so on. And early in the book. I have a discussion of why it is the great thinkers disagree we've mentioned that in the past that some of the most brilliant thinkers in all of history have come to both ends of the pole, though I radically disagree with Jean-Paul Sartre and his understanding of reality. I certainly don't think that he was a dummy. Jean-Paul Sartre was one of the most insightful engaging acute thinkers of the modern era.

And certainly John Stuart Mill was also a giant in terms of his intellectual power. He was prodigious obviously is was Compton human for blocking the others.

Nietzsche and then on the other side of the corn you have people like Aquinas and Augustine and Solomon. The Titans historically who have defended the theistic arguments and so it's not just a question of superior intellect that the difference among people may be because the evidence was incomplete for one group or the other. Somebody made logical errors and we know that brilliant people can disagree because of epistemological errors of one sort or another, but I said one of the factors that has to be included in this whole debate is the psychological factor. Let's agree right up front that the question of the existence of God is indeed loaded with psychological baggage I was a soccer game last night and I was sitting next to a man who was getting more and more exercised by the referee's call because he felt that the referee was favoring the opposing team, and he asked me about it after the game and I said you know I used to be a basketball referee when I was in seminary and I can tell you this that when I was refereeing basketball games with another guy.

And if the place was filled to capacity. I knew that there were only two people in the whole room who didn't care who won the game and it was me and the other rough set because we didn't have a bite. We really did. But everybody else in that room had a bias, and they see plates through that they anticipate they think somebody's going to file the person and even if they don't touch them in there. I they see the file and want to know why I didn't blow the whistle or someone, and so we know that, and we all have experience that is we root for our favorite teams in sports and the like that we as people are capable of looking at the evidence through a lens that favors our own bias and I have to say before the whole world that every bone in my body. Once there to be a God. I can't stand the thought that my life is a useless passion and so I have to admit not only that I have that desire. But I also agree with the skeptics that it is possible for people to construct philosophical systems on the basis of their own desires.

On the basis of their own prejudices and biases and have that cloud their thinking, and I also want to say in the final analysis, the reality of the existence of God cannot be determined on the basis of what I want to be true and I agree with the critics of can't do it just because life would be meaningless without God. That's not sufficient grounds to argue for the existence of God. All that really describes is the state of our subjectivity and of our desires.

It doesn't prove God one way or the other but one of the things that I think we have to understand is that everybody who gets involved in the discussion of the existence of God is dealing with the same psychological baggage because for those who deny the existence of God. There is an enormous vested interest on their part for the denial of the existence of God because God stands as the greatest obstacle in the universe to my own autonomy. If I really want to do my own thing with impunity than I know that the highest obstacle to that would be a self existent eternal God, who is righteous and who is just and if I have ever sinned and have not repented of my sin. I know the worst thing that could befall me would be the fall into the hands of the living God.

And so denial is not just a river in Egypt. By will do anything in my power to deny my guilt and to deny my culpability even to the point of denying that I am accountable ultimately for my existence now. Again, let me say that if there's a psychology for God that doesn't prove God, and if there is a psychology against God that doesn't disprove God in the final analysis arguments for the existence of God have to be established on an objective basis, not on the basis of subjective preference. That's what I've been trying to indicate throughout the series, but I'm taking this parentheses here to answer the charge that the only reason why people believe in God is out of psychological wish fulfillment were psychological projection and to make it clear that there is as much psychological pressure or desire for the atheist to deny the existence of God as there is for the theist who wants to affirm the existence of God so that we can clear the air on that in the New Testament speaks directly to this issue on frequent occasions. For example, the New Testament says that the fallen man man in his sinfulness will not have God in his thinking that our natural moral condition is to have a reprobate mind, a mind that is been dark and so darkened by prejudice that we do not want to even open the window a crack to allow the rays of God's self revelation into our head because we know what's at stake. We know were in trouble if we let that knowledge in their now Paul develops this in some detail in his letter to the church at Rome, and in this book I give an entire chapter of exposition of Romans one and I'm not going to going all the details of it here simply give you an overview and remind you that at the very beginning of this course. We talked that in Romans one, the apostle Paul argued that the invisible things of God can be known through the created universe. And I remind you that I told you that there was a collision course between the skepticism and agnosticism of Immanuel Kant, on the one hand, and the affirmations that the Christian apostle Paul makes in his literature where Paul is saying.

Not only can we know God through nature, but in fact we do know God through nature. Now what Paul is really saying here in this can be inflammatory if you're not a theist but at least listen, you can disagree with Paul. If you want to. I don't think you can with impunity. But if not accountable to me.

But the point is that what the apostle is saying is that in the final analysis, your problem with the existence of God is not intellectual it's not because there's insufficient information is not because the gods manifestation of himself has been obscure your problem is not intellectual it's more your problem is not that you can't know God. Your problem is you don't want God. That's what the charge is at least from the apostle and this is where he lays it out in the first chapter of Romans when he says in Romans 18 for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men now becoming quickly that very first sentence creates an allergic reaction and many people.

The last thing they want to believe it is.

It's not just, I don't believe in God but they certainly don't want to believe in a God of wrath when there are many theists you know who affirm the existence of God, who deny the God that they affirm is capable of wrath. The word that Paul uses is a strong support or date from which we get the English word orgy which includes had a violent eruption of passion. What Paul is saying here is that not only is God angry that he is furious now notice that the reason for his anger here that is being made manifest is not that God is angry with righteous people or angry with innocent people, but his wrath is revealed from heaven against what unrighteousness and on godliness, but what we have here in the text is a grammatical construction: tendinitis were two different words are used to describe the same thing with the apostle saying is that there's one particular sin that has caused God's anger to boil over and that that particular sin could be described both as unrighteous and as ungodly and what's the sin he names the child they all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who support press the truth in unrighteousness.

It is an evil suppression or recompression of truths that Paul is describing and that word there suppression is just one translation the form of the verb here in the Greek comes from the root caught a cane now want you to leave the Greek there, but the board caught a cane has been translated, held down, stifled, hindered, repressed, suppressed that. Is that what God is angry about is that God has given humankind knowledge that is not vague or obscure the word.

There is font a Ross that God has clearly offended, Latin is money fast storm has manifested himself so clearly to every human being. This is how radical Paul's affirmation is that he saying that every single person there every one of you knows that God exist because God has shown himself to you through the things that are made, and that he has demonstrated himself to you clearly manifestly but that what we do with it. Every one of us by nature is to hold it down to so resist it, that we take that information that knowledge and we bury it we suppress it or repress it now if we want to talk in psychological categories.

Let's translate this phenomenon that Paul is describing here in the modern psychological category. What kind of knowledge according to the psychologist and psychiatrist do we as human beings characteristically repress or suppress happy thoughts know what we call the images or the memories of painful traumatic experiences.

That's why if you go to see her psychiatrist because your experience than undefined wonks or a nagging fear of some sort so you're upset about something and you don't know why.

And so you asked the psychiatrist exporting may give you an inkblot test he might explore your dreams, he may use symbolic associations and he'll ask you things you know. Explore your relationship with your parents and Phil said you how did you get along with your mother and you answer the psychiatrist and you say, mother. I had a wonderful relationship with my mother. My mother and I got along terrific. I thought my mother was the most wonderful person in the whole world.

Why do you asked me about my mother. So the psychiatrist is not only listening to the word but he's paying close attention to the non-verbal message that you give and he does it for this reason, he knows that if we bury a painful memory that that repression or suppression does not annihilate the memory does not destroy the memory.

It is very but it wants to come back out. In other words, the force of caught a cane means to push something or hold something down by applying pressure against a counter pressure the best image that I can think of is if you had a giant spring, very thick coil on the spring where you had to push it down with all of your might, in order to compress knowing that if you release the pressure that you have wanted that spring is going to come back up.

And so it is with traumatic experiences.

We bury them, but they'll come out through dreams will come back through symbolic gestures. They'll come back up. Here's the key in a less threatening form than they entered the consciousness in the first place.

Later on in this text, the apostle Paul uses another Greek work, which is a form of the verb metal loss which means to trade for to exchange such in which he says men knowing God, through God's self-disclosure once they repress or bury the snow exchange the truth of God for a lie and serve and worship the creature rather than the creator who is blessed forever. In fact, the apostle Paul friends makes this activity of the human mind and that the human heart. The primary primordial foundational act of evil committed by a fallen human which is idolatry. To change the truths traded in an embrace. The lie, and again, if we take that into contemporary categories. This is exactly what the psychiatrist understands we do that we don't destroy the original image or the original idea or memory. We traded so that when the pie had a problem with my mother. That problem comes out. Not in my conscious discussion, but through some tech were some gesture where I can now deal with it in a safe way. The apostle is saying there is a psychology to atheism because he goes on to say what it is that we fear more than nature more than meaninglessness is that the greatest fear that any human being has by nature is to be held accountable by God, who is holy because in the presence of the holy we are immediately exposed of being unholy answer, the God of Scripture is a God who is omniscient, who knows everything about he's a God who is omnipotent, who is all-powerful, he's a God who is altogether holy and worst of all things immutable. There is no hope that, however, grow weak, and loose his omnipotence. There is no hope that I'll ever have a senior moment and loose his knowledge of everything that I've ever done. He will never get Alzheimer's disease.

There is no hope that whoever compromise his righteousness for his holy because he is immutably holy immutably omnipotent, immutably omniscient, and all these things are revealed through nature and we know it, by nature and because that is so terrifying. It is our basic disposition as fallen creatures to have a vested interest to flee since Adam and Eve fled the garden and hid in the bushes because they were naked and they were ashamed.

That's the biggest barrier we have two coming to a full understanding to our naked S Dr. RC Sproul, encouraging atheists to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they don't believe in God and honest answer must include the fact that they don't want God to exist because they don't want to be accountable for their sins, thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. We are working her way through Dr. Spruill series on classical apologetics here in the Saturday edition of her program. He surveys the history of apologetics and introduces us to the basic foundations of logic and how we can use logic as an ally in defending the faith. Let me recommend this 32 message series to you. It's called defending your faith, it's contained 11 DVDs and will be happy to send them to you for your donation of any about to look at your ministries. You can call us to make your request at 800-435-4343 or you can go online to Renewing Your will also add the PDF study guide to your online learning library. That's a helpful resource providing outlines for each message study questions and suggestions for further reading. You might also consider donating the series to your church library to request defending your faith when you contact us today with your donation. Our phone number again is 800-435-4343 in her online address is Renewing Your how do we defend the Bible against the skeptics that will be the focus of the crystals message next week as we continue his series defending your faith. On Renewing Your Mind

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