For as long as there has been sin, there have been atheists, those who deny God. Christians today sometimes think that atheism is a new phenomenon, something that began to exist in the twentieth century. Those who have studied some history might push the date a little farther back, perhaps to the Enlightenment. But atheism is much older than that. We encounter it even in the pages of the Old Testament. The psalmist, for example, speaks of the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1).

Atheism is certainly much more culturally acceptable today than it might have been one thousand years ago. We do, in fact, see a change in the West with the spread of Enlightenment philosophy. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, men such as Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud represented an atheism come into its own. In our own day, the new atheists (who are much less philosophically aware than the old atheists) have popularized the philosophy of the fool.

Because atheism is so widespread today, Christians often view atheism as the worst possible sin. Certainly, it is sin and it is foolish, but is it the worst possible sin? Is there anything worse than atheism? I would like to suggest that there is.

Consider the following comments from the book of James: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19).

To those who are boasting that they believe in God while living lives that indicate the opposite, James is effectively saying: “You believe in God? Good for you! But so what? Demons believe in the existence of God too. It isn’t going to help them, and it isn’t going to help you who live like demons.”

For as long as there has been sin, there have been atheists, those who deny God.

The greatest enemy of God in Scripture is Satan. He is the dragon, the serpent who has waged war against God from of old. He and the other fallen angels (the demons) are not atheists. They know God exists, and they hate God. Because they hate God, their entire existence is one of defying God. And here is where we see something worse than atheism.

It is one thing to deny the existence of God. This is what fools do. It is another thing to defy the God whose existence you know. This is what Satan and the demons do.

Defying God is worse than denying God, and this is what we do every time we sin against God. When we sin against the God we know exists, we are defying God and engaging in behavior that is fundamentally satanic in nature. We are doing what the demons do.

This is important because we as Christians can often behave in a Pharisaical manner, looking at the atheist and saying, “God, I thank You that I am not like them.” What we fail to realize is the utter wickedness and evil of what we are doing when we sin, when we defy God.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

The believer who sins says in his heart, “No!” to God.

We are not without hope, however, for there is good news. There is the gospel. Jesus Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3), and “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The Lord Jesus now intercedes for us at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34).

If you have defied God, if you are defying God, repent and turn to Jesus Christ, the only One in whom forgiveness for sin may be found.

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