Since the nineteenth century, methodological atheism has governed the approach of thinkers in many different disciplines. Psychologists, biologists, philosophers, and many others have examined data under the assumption that God does not exist and cannot be an explanation for the phenomena we observe in this world. In our own day, even to suggest that we might consider evidence for the existence and influence of a Supreme Being in our world is one of the quickest ways to get shouted down in many scientific circles.
Despite the assumption that God does not exist and the ongoing attempts to explain all of reality by appealing to impersonal processes, belief in the existence of God remains quite high. This has stymied many thinkers, for if the evidence for impersonal, natural processes is so compelling, why do men and women cling to belief in a Creator? Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, considered this question during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He theorized that belief in God arose from fear of such things as earthquakes, volcanoes, and other threats from the natural world. We cannot reason with such forces, so Freud said human beings personalized these events, inventing deities behind them who can be reasoned with. By performing the right rituals and saying the right prayers, we can alleviate our fears of the natural world. Over time, our beliefs became more sophisticated, and instead of worshiping individual gods, we came to worship only one God.
Freud’s explanation might seem reasonable to some, but it cannot account for how people respond to the God of the Bible. Consider Mark 4:35–41. While Jesus and the disciples were on a boat during a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples feared for their lives. Jesus was asleep, and they did not understand why the storm did not terrorize Him as well (vv. 35–38). When Jesus awoke, He spoke to the wind and sea, and they calmed down instantly (vv. 39–40).
If Freud’s explanation were correct, we would expect the disciples’ fear to have evaporated once the threat of natural forces ended. But the disciples became afraid when they saw Jesus exercise such power over the storm (v. 41). They understood that they were in the presence of the holy Creator Himself in the incarnate Christ, and they were terrified. People do not fear God because they fear nature. They fear Him because He is holy and they are not.