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.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
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.
6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.
7 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.