Atheist (A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods, or one who believes that God does not exist.)
Agnostic (A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.)
This recent book was written, I thought, to primarily speak to people who identify themselves as Christians, but live their lives believing in rather than knowing God. After reading these quotes by a well-known agnostic and atheist, I think it was written for them as well. These are dictionary definitions–I have had a hard time getting atheists I know to give a personal definition of what they believe or do not believe, and why. American Atheists (www.atheists.org) state that “atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.” Using their definition, I guess I could call myself an atheist, since I also lack belief in gods, and goddesses too; however I do personally know the one true and living God.
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences, and presenter of popular PBS show “Cosmos”. He did not identify himself as an atheist or an agnostic, but based on his stated beliefs, he was more agnostic than atheist. These are some quotes by Sagan.
“An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no God.” Sagan obviously never read the American Atheists’ definition of atheism, which says nothing about knowing anything, only about lacking belief in. We know from this quote that Sagan did not consider himself an atheist, and did not even know the correct definition of one. Had he known, maybe he would have become a member. For $35 you can become a member and attend conventions, Atheist Pride marches at state capitals, and other atheist focused events.
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” So true—and that incredible something waiting to be known is God. Unfortunately, Sagan spent his life believing in sciences, but never came to know God—although from these quotes, he knew at his soul level, but refused to acknowledge at his limited scientific mind level.
“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” No scientist could ever create the universe, or even create an apple from scratch. No thing can be created except as a re-creation, reconstruction or re-purposing of something that has already been created. No man ever has or ever will be able to create something from nothing. That ability belongs exclusively to the Creator of all.
“You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.” This quote by Sagan is such a wonderful confirmation of the truth contained in this book. From the time we are children, our own parents, teachers, and others we look to for truth about life, intentionally and unintentionally lead us astray by presenting us with all sorts of false and deceptive things to believe in. Beliefs are fickle, changeable things. Throughout our lifetimes, our beliefs are constantly being challenged and often proven to be untrue—that goes for our beliefs in the sciences, religion, politics, history, country, government, friends, spouses, parents, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, tooth fairies and pixie dust, to name just a few. As one belief is disproved, people who do not know God look for the next thing they can believe in, that can give their life meaning and purpose, if only for a little while.
The following quotes are by Stephen Hawking: the first from a 2007 interview with BBC News; the second and third are from his book The Theory of Everything.
“I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.” I find this quote by Hawking, an avowed atheist, to be wonderful on two levels. First, he speaks from the level of what he believes (that “deep-seated need to believe” that Sagan spoke of), not what he knows. Second, he acknowledges God, who he says he lacks belief in (assuming he abides by American Atheist’s definition). How can someone who lacks belief in the existence of God say that the laws of science may have been decreed by Him, but that God does not intervene to break His own laws? In his book The Grand Design, Mr. Hawking says: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.” I wonder where Mr. Hawking thinks the law of gravity came from, and is that not one of the laws of science decreed by God that he spoke of in his BBC interview? It is sad that a mere man who is deemed to be smart by the insignificant standards of worldly knowledge of men, can lead others to believe even the most damning theories. Just because they believe him to be smarter, they will follow him to eternal damnation. But then look at what Hitler, a psychopathic narcissist, was able to encourage people to do and believe, as well as Osama bin Laden, Joseph Stalin and many others throughout human history.
“A scientific theory is just a mathematical model we make to describe our observations. It exists only in our minds. So it does not have any meaning to ask: Which is real, ‘real’ or ‘imaginary’ time? It is simply a matter of which is a more useful description.” A theory is “a supposition (an uncertain belief) or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” There is no absolute knowing with science—it is nothing more than an uncertain belief, which is changeable with the introduction of new observations that contradict and disprove previously held theories. As for time, it is a construct that only applies or has significance to us on this little blip in the physical realm. In eternity, time has no purpose.
“If the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would be neither created nor destroyed. It would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?” I particularly love this Hawking quote, as it so beautifully describes God, who has no beginning or end. Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” God, of course, is so much greater than the universe as we know it or could ever know it, and is impossible for man to quantify—which must bug the living daylights out of Mr. Hawking.
I was thinking about the many people I know and love who call themselves atheists. Not all, but most grew up in homes where the religion of Catholicism was practiced—some even went to parochial schools. Knowing this about them makes it easier to understand how they can self-identify as atheists—they never got to know God personally—they were not encouraged to read and study God’s Word, they were never taught to follow the Way God clearly lays out in His manual for us to know Him and be in relationship with Him, through Jesus and Jesus alone. They were being told by mere imperfect men that they could only reach God by going through them and practicing legalism. It is no wonder they ran from religion; but in the process, they ran from God, and from their salvation. Once someone comes to know God, there is no unknowing Him. We can, however stop believing in all sorts of things, especially those things we are taught to believe which are follies, or downright manipulative deceptions intended to control and lead us astray. Many churches, not just the Catholic Church, have led multitudes astray with their non-biblical “religious”, pagan teachings, legalism, traditions and practices. That is why God repeats over and over again throughout His Word, “Know Me”—He is God, His existence is in no way predicated on our believing in Him. His desire is that we know Him, personally and intimately. He calls us to know Him, and the only way we can know Him and walk in relationship with Him, is to know Jesus, who He sent so that we might know and be reconciled with Him. He cannot be known intellectually; He cannot be proved or disproved by science, argument or debate. He can only be known Spirit to spirit, at the level of our true and eternal essence, that part of us that was created in His image. John 4:23-24 “But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
There is one thing we must all agree on, and that is that all of us will die—some sooner, some later, but we will all die (except those followers of Jesus who are alive at the time of His return). Whether you believe in Him or not, everyone will stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account for their lives and the choice they made concerning Him. Those who chose to be in relationship with Him in this life through Jesus Christ will be with Him for eternity, made pure and redeemed by our acceptance of His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Those who chose not to be in relationship with Him in life have chosen not to be in relationship with Him for eternity, and will be cast into outer darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. We have been given free will to choose where we want to spend eternity. Hebrews 9:27-28 “And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him.” Be eagerly awaiting Him—you could die at any moment, and he could return at any moment. Psalm 103:14-16 “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.”