Psalm 14: Atheism, Religion & Folly

Psalm 14 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

For the director of music. Of David.

Atheism is not scientific

1 The fool says in his heart,
‘There is no God.’

I sometimes find it tempting to buy into the modern notion that if we take science seriously then we need to dismiss any notion of God as “primitive” and “pre-scientific”. When you stop and think about it there are a number of problems with this worldview, and not least among them, is the assumption that atheism is not pre-scientific. We have it plainly here in the Psalms written a good deal BC. Some people are telling themselves that “there is no God” and, in the eyes of the psalmist, this is the height of folly.

Atheism is foolish because it corrupts us

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.

What really struck me reading the Psalm this morning is the reason given for saying that atheism is foolish. I had always assumed that it was because of how irrational it is. The odds against the universe inventing itself by chance are staggeringly and, dare I say, “unscientifically” high. This is certainly a part of it, but the true folly of atheism in this passage is that the act of believing that there is no God corrupts us. What we believe affects the way we live. If we believe there is no God, it will change the way we live and not for the better.

Atheism is foolish because we will meet God in judgement

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.

The reason why it matters that we are being corrupted by what we believe is because one day we will meet God in judgement. David is here looking ahead to a time when the people of God will be vindicated and evildoers will be “overwhelmed with dread” when they realise their error. At that moment all the pomp and show of militant atheists will be silenced.

Religion is equally foolish

It is important to add at this point that this psalm does not advocate religion either. The psalm applies to all people not just atheists.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.

When the Lord looks down from heaven on all humanity, he sees not only the folly of atheism but of religion as well. Its a devastating insight that when God looks over the religions of the world he sees that none of them seek God. If religions are not seeking God then what exactly are they all about?! No, religion is not the answer to atheism because they are ultimately human inventions. They tell us that we need to be better and that we should stop doing x, y and z if we are to avoid God’s judgement. They tell us that we should start doing a, b and c if we want to earn God’s acceptance. While all this is going on, God seems to view religion on a par with atheism: there are none who seek him.

What we need is salvation

7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

As we know from Israel’s history, these pleas for salvation where as much “from themselves” as “from their enemies”. Its a recognition that despite the claims of the atheist and the religious, people are beyond the point of being able to rescue themselves. We need God to save us. We need God to restore us. The good news is that this is precisely what God has done through Jesus.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3: 19-24)

3 thoughts on “Psalm 14: Atheism, Religion & Folly”

  1. First off, using a bible verse to support the bible is a pretty pointless thing to do. “The fool says in his heart, there is no God”. So what? And the wise man says it to the world. You can say whatever you want, it doesn’t necessarily make it true.
    Atheism (for many) is the position that rejects the belief in a God. Theists say ‘there is a God’, atheists say “I don’t believe you”. Of course there are some who say that God does not exist, but that’s a different story.
    The question of the formation of the universe and the whole ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ argument is philosophical and may never have an answer, but I have to say that if it is down to probability, anything is possible, no matter how small the chances.
    The Bible seems to think that if you don’t believe in God then you suddenly become corrupted and evil. But obviously the Bible doesn’t understand reality, atheists can be some of the nicest people you can find! You never hear an atheist trying to behead someone because they believe in God, now do you?


    1. I understand that this may have been a frustrating read for you and I think you raise some good points.

      For instance, I agree with you that some atheists are really nice people. However, I maintain that what we belief affects the way we live. From a biblical point of view, atheists are “nice people” only because they are acting despite, rather than because of, their beliefs.

      I also agree that the religious beliefs of atheists are varied and so apologise for not including the necessary nuances. I was simply addressing the belief that “there is no God.”

      I disagree with your distinction between philosophy and science in this case. Creating theories that explain evidence is exactly a part of the scientific process and it is not as though there is no evidence that demands a verdict.

      I humbly suggest that your comment about never finding atheists “trying to behead someone” needs revisiting. First, as a Christian, I am keenly aware of how many atheists have persecuted Christians over the centuries through to present day. Secondly, given that it was a reference to Islamic extremists, it sort of reinforces the other point I made about religion being part of the problem.

      Finally, please understand that “using a Bible verse to support the Bible” is precisely the intention of my blog posts. I was not trying to present a full-scale argument for the existence of God as much as help people understand what the Psalm is saying.

      I’m grateful that you took the time to consider this post. Whether or not you believe the promises of the Bible is your decision to make. It is my purpose to help people make informed decisions by explaining what the Bible actually teaches.

      Thanks again for your comment.


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