Atheist Appreciation Day

Today is Atheist Appreciation Day, the day in which we celebrate all the contributions that Atheists have made to science, culture, and the arts throughout the ages. Why should I pick April 1 as a day to celebrate Atheism? Well, it is April Fool’s Day and the Bible states;

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

So there you have it. Today is the day for fools to celebrate.

I hope any atheist reading this will forgive me for my little April Fool’s joke. I have been waiting for most of the last year to spring it and I really couldn’t resist. You could say the Devil made me do it, if you believed in the Devil.

Actually, the Hebrew word that is translated as fool in that verse is nabel. The meaning of that word carries a connotation of someone who acts, not just unwisely or foolishly, but also wickedly. A nabel, in other words, is not just a fool in the English sense of the word, but also someone who is morally corrupt. This becomes clearer when you read the psalm in its entirety.

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

Do all these evildoers know nothing?

They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on the Lord.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! (Psalm 14:1-7)

Despite my joke, I do not believe that this psalm was directed at the person who holds the intellectual or metaphysical belief that a deity or deities does not exist. Although Atheism as a belief is far older than many modern Atheist apologists like to believe, ancient Greek philosophers made many of the same talking points as the advanced New Atheists have, atheists in the modern sense must have been very rare among the Hebrews at the time this Psalm was written. Rather, this Psalm seems to be directed at those people who profess a belief in God but who live as though there is none.

I think the number of such “practical Atheists” must be very large in any culture no matter how religious or devout that culture professes itself to be. The majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians, at least in a nominal sense, and many would describe the US as a Christian, or a Judeo-Christian nation. Yet, you would be hard pressed to see much evidence of large numbers of Christians, based on these same Americans personal lives, not to mention our popular culture.

The problem is that many people who state that they believe in God, do not in fact believe in God, at least not in the same way that they believe in the world around them that they can see and feel. God, being imperceptible to the senses, becomes an abstraction, and for many people, the desire to fulfill immediate needs and wants overcomes the desire to follow the will of one who seems to be absent. Think of how the world might be different if God would make himself visible for thirty seconds. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t make a difference at all.

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2 Responses to “Atheist Appreciation Day”

  1. Ben Dattilo Says:

    Is “belief” really a part of faith? To the Romans, Christians were atheists, because they would not worship the Roman gods. Many modern atheists are moralists who take God very seriously and eventually come to see Christianity in the same way that Christians saw Roman State religion: as idolatry or blasphemy (two reciprocal sins). I have heard the description that atheists are mystics with an inadequate concept of God. Are they worse than fools? Is an immoral believer better than a moral person who has abandoned belief?

    Like

    • David Hoffman Says:

      I’m sorry it took me so long to respond. I have been busy lately. To answer your points in order. I would think that belief is an indispensible part of faith. In fact, many people make the mistake of thinking that faith and belief are the same things. I think that faith involves acting on a belief. A person who claims to believe in God but does not act on that belief could not be said to have much faith.
      The religious beliefs of the later Roman Empire tended to be syncretistic and a sort of modified monotheism or henotheism. That is each person worshiped a single god or set of gods while acknowledging the existence of other gods. The problem the Romans had with Christians was they declared either the other gods to be not real, or demons.
      I do not quite understand how an atheist could take God seriously if they do not believe He exists. They could be moral people who take morality and even metaphysics seriously, but not an imaginary being. An atheist might consider Christianity to be absurd or offensive, but how could they consider anything to be blasphemy or idolatry if there is no God to be offended by the blasphemy or idolatry. A person who rejects Christianity but who still believes that a deity exists cannot be said to be an atheist.
      I had thought that being an atheist would necessitate a materialist philosophy that would leave little room for mysticism of any sort. Wouldn’t belief in anything other than the world we perceive carry the danger of ultimately coming to believe in some sort of god? I am not sure what you mean by an inadequate concept of God. It may be that some atheists have a child’s concept of God as an old man with a long beard wearing a white robe and sitting on a throne in Heaven ruling the world. Perhaps that is why some internet commenters state that they do not believe in God in the same way they do not believe in the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. Well, if I had such a simplistic idea of what God is, I might find it difficult to believe. But we ought to put aside childish things when we grow up.
      I believe that an immoral believer is worse than a nonbeliever, moral or immoral because he is being hypocritical, and perhaps even deceiving himself that he is more righteous than he is.

      Like

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