While we can seek to take atheists seriously (after all, some of my readers were former atheists, and some of my favourite Christian writers were former atheists, such as Lewis or McGrath), atheism as a position is open to scrutiny, to criticism, and even to mockery where necessary.
Obviously lengthy and learned critiques of atheism have been penned over the years. So too short, pithy demolition jobs. I do not claim to know about everything that has been written that is critical of atheism and philosophical naturalism. But I have read a fair bit in these areas.
And over the years I have collected some choice quotes on this. What follows is just a small sampling of wise or witty assessments and critiques of atheism, mainly from Christians, and mainly from recent writers. So this piece is mainly aimed at fellow believers. If I was primarily interested in appealing directly to atheists, I would have used some different quotes. I may yet write such a piece.
Here then are 35 short quotes by 18 authors looking at the matter of atheism. They appear in no particular order, other than being arranged alphabetically by author. In order to get many in here, I have chosen shorter quotes for the most part. And where possible I have tried to provide the source of the quote as well.
“A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.” Francis Bacon
“Atheism is rather in the lip than in the heart of Man.”Francis Bacon
“What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing. And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried over much that God was watching what they were doing either. That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.”David Berlinski (a secular Jew), The Devil’s Delusion
“The word rendered ‘fool’ is in Hebrew a term of moral opprobrium suggesting perversity, churlish and aggressive perversity. . . . The Bible’s view is that in the last analysis atheism is less the product of misguided searching, a kind of intellectual mistake, than a defiant and stubborn rebellion. . . . The fact that atheism is not widely seen that way is itself an index of our depravity. In fact, the best-informed atheists commonly acknowledge the connection between morality and belief, between immorality and unbelief. There is a famous passage in Huxley that acknowledges that one of the driving forces behind atheistic naturalism is the desire to tear away any sort of moral condemnation of otherwise condemned behavior. In a passage scarcely less famous, Michael Foucault, one of the theoreticians behind postmodernism, frankly acknowledges that it became important for him to destroy traditional notions of truth and morality, because he wished to justify his own sexual conduct. A few years ago, Foucault died of AIDS.”D. A. Carson, For the Love of God
“The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them. The Titans did not scale heaven; but they laid waste the world.”G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”G. K. Chesterton
“The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”G. K. Chesterton
“If I did not believe in God, I should still want my doctor, my lawyer and my banker to do so.”G. K. Chesterton
“Men tell us sometimes there is no such thing as an atheist. There must be. There are some men to whom it is true that there is no God. They cannot see God because they have no eye. They have only an abortive organ, atrophied by neglect.”Henry Drummond
“The plain fact is that no free and lasting civilization anywhere in history has so far been built on atheist foundations.”Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide
“Atheism is cheap on people, because it snobbishly says nine out of ten people through history have been wrong about God and have had a lie at the core of their hearts.”Peter Kreeft, in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith
“Atheism cheapens everything it touches – look at the results of communism, the most powerful form of atheism on earth.”Peter Kreeft, in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith
“If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes. It cuts its own throat.”C. S. Lewis, “Religion Without Dogma?” in God in the Dock
“I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.”C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — ‘Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,’ as Herbert says, ‘fine nets and stratagems.’ God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
“A creature revolting against a creator is revolting against the source of his own powers – including even his power to revolt. . . . It is like the scent of a flower trying to destroy the flower.”C. S. Lewis, A Preface To Paradise Lost
“Atheists express their rage against God although in their view He does not exist.”C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
“Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.”C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can only organize it against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism.”Henri de Lubac, The Drama of Atheistic Humanism
“Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain.”Alister McGrath
“Moses failed to write the following commandment: ‘Thou shall not be an atheist.’ Instead his first commandment read: ‘I am the Lord thy God . . . Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.’ It was as if Moses had written: ‘Atheists are not godless men; they are men addicted to false gods’. Thus, the battle of love to which the Christian is honourably called today is the struggle to liberate his atheist neighbours from enthrallment to false gods and to help these neighbours find the True God.”Vincent Miceli, The Gods of Atheism
“When mortal men try to live without God, they infallibly succumb to megalomania or erotomania or both. The raised fist or the raised phallus; Nietzsche or D. H. Lawrence.”Malcolm Muggeridge
“The beginning of men’s rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart.”Francis Schaeffer
“Atheism is not the knowledge that God does not exist, but only the wish that He did not, in order that one could sin without reproach or exalt one’s ego without challenge. The pillars upon which atheism mounts are sensuality and pride.”Fulton J. Sheen
“We know too much about matter to be materialists; we know too much about stars to think we are but star-dust. The galaxy of suns and starry worlds may boast of bulk and size and speed, but we too have our boast: Christ walked our earth.”Fulton J. Sheen, Old Errors and New Labels
“The New Testament maintains that unbelief is generated not so much by intellectual causes as by moral and psychological ones. The problem is not that there is insufficient evidence to convince rational beings that there is a God, but that rational beings have a natural hostility to the being of God.”R. C. Sproul, If There’s a God, Why Are There Atheists?
“Men will allow God to be everywhere except on his throne.”C. H. Spurgeon, “Divine Sovereignty” sermon
“Atheism is a strange thing. Even the Devils never fell into that vice, for the devils also tremble and believe.”C. H. Spurgeon
“Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored. It’s sinfulness lies in the fact that it contradicts the word of the one true God and thus attributes falsehood to Him.”John Stott, The Epistles of John
“The Christian faith is good for the world because it provides the fixed standard which atheism cannot provide and because it provides forgiveness for sins, which atheism cannot provide either. We need the direction of the standard because we are confused sinners. We need the forgiveness because we are guilty sinners. Atheism not only keeps the guilt, but it also keeps the confusion.”Douglas Wilson, “Is Christianity Good for the World?”
“If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true, but rather because of a series of chemical reactions. Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much pizza the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else.”Douglas Wilson
“The atheist wants to say there is a correspondence between what he is saying and what is actually going on out there in the universe. He wants to claim that atheism is more than random neurons firing in the brains of atheists; he wants to say that atheism is in fact true. He wants to say that a debate between an atheist and a Christian is really possible. He says that the arguments he presents correspond to the way the world actually is. But on what basis does he assume such a correspondence? How can he show that a certain tiny subset of matter in motion has suddenly decided to give an incisive and cogent account of itself? If someone spilled the milk on the kitchen floor, and we wanted to know what had happened, we wouldn’t, as a general rule, ask the milk. It doesn’t know about such things; it is the accident.”Douglas Wilson
“All human societies are theocracies. The only issue that confronts us is which theos we will serve. The atrocious cultures are the ones who serve atrocious gods.”Douglas Wilson, God Is
There are many more such quotes that can be mentioned. And time permitting, I might try to get the sources for all the quotes I offer here.