“What is Atheism?”
“Atheism” comes from a combination of two Greek words, or rather, one letter and another word. The Greek letter “A” (pronounced alpha) means negative. Combine that with “theos” (theism) for god, a-theism means literally “negative god” or “anti-god” or “there is no god.”
It is important to understand that the atheist is not saying, “I don’t think there is a god” or even “I don’t believe there is a god.” The Atheist is affirming the non-existence of God. He is affirming, what philosophy calls, an “absolute negative.” Anyone who took an introductory course in philosophy will tell you this is an untenable philosophical position. Atheism is a logical contradiction.
Think about it. How can anyone affirm a negative in the absolute? It would be like me saying, “There is not a white stone with black spots anywhere in the galaxies of this universe.” That is affirming an absolute negative. The only way I can affirm that negative is if I had absolute, unlimited knowledge of the entire universe. Yet when a person says “there is no God,” that is exactly what he is claiming.
But atheism is nothing new. David pointed out 3,000 years ago that “the fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”” (Psa. 14:1) Indeed, it is the height of arrogance and folly to claim to know with certainty that there is no God. Many people, recognizing that theism is a self-defeating philosophy, backpedal and ascribe to something called “agnosticism.”
“Agnosticism” comes from the Greek letter “A” (negative) and “gnostos,” which means knowledge. Agnosticism means “negative knowledge” or “anti-knowledge” or “there is no knowledge.” Agnosticism is really easy to defend. All you have to prove is that you don’t know!
But let’s qualify that statement: it is equally foolish to say, “I know that I can’t know” than it is to say “I know everything.” Is this not also self-defeating? If you don’t know, how can you know you don’t know?!
One way to address both beliefs is with a question: what if the atheist or agnostic is wrong? What if a person has lived with the conviction that there is no God or that they couldn’t know if He exists and he comes to death only to find out he was wrong?
Blaise Pascal responded in this way: “Should a man be in error in supposing the Christian religion to be true, he could not be a loser by mistake. But how irreparable is his loss and how inexpressible is his danger who should err in supposing it to be false.”
Pascal isn’t saying he believes there is a chance he could be wrong about God and the Bible. He is simply making the point, from a philosophical perspective, how bad of a deal atheism is. If the atheist is wrong about God, how terrible are the consequences of his disbelief? He would meet God in the judgment with no excuse (Rom. 1:20).
But, hypothetically, if Christianity turns out to be a scam and there is no judgment or reward (which, again, Pascal is not affirming), what exactly has he lost living as a Christian? He has found life to be worth the living. He found the kind of joy, purpose and satisfaction that all philosophy strives to attain. Thankfully, there is a God, He is alive; in Him we live and we survive!