4 Major Reasons Why People Become Atheists

By Brian Chilton

The psalmist David wrote, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There’s no God.’ They are corrupt; they do vile deeds. There is no one who does good” (Psalm 14:1, CSB). The psalmist claims that it is irrational for one to deny God’s existence whether it be by atheism or by alternative worldviews. Atheism has become popular in recent years. But, the pressing question is, why? Normally, people become atheists for four major reasons. I was influenced by some of these reasons to become a theist-leaning-agnostic for a period of time. While the atheist will claim to be a “free-thinker,” he or she is often imprisoned by emotionalism rather than reason.

Major Reasons People Atheism

  1. The person desires moral independence. Often the person who becomes an atheist or agnostic wishes to make one’s decisions without anyone telling them otherwise, including God. The person metaphorically wants one’s cake and to eat it, too. The person desires moral independence. One wants to have as much sex, take as many drugs, drink as much alcohol, make as much money (even if it hurts another), without any need for guilt. If there is no God, then the person is free to choose their own morals. By claiming that morality is up to the person, the person claims absolute independence.

Unfortunately for the skeptic, humans are built with a moral code within them. The moral law is transcendent. People realize it is wrong to hurt others unnecessarily. Ironically, the skeptic’s worldview collapses the moment he or she begins to speak about social justice. Social justice means nothing if there is no transcendent morality. Transcendent morality cannot exist if there is no transcendent reality known as God.

  1. The person holds emotive reasoning. That is to say, the skeptic bases one’s decisions on emotions rather than reason and logic. When God does not rescue them from a bad choice, the skeptic becomes angry with God and leaves the faith (if he or she was in an organized religion) or refuses to come to faith (if one was not part of an organized religion). Emotive thinking is especially found in the claim that a good, loving God cannot coexist with a created world full of evil (e.g., the claims of Neil deGrasse Tyson). The skeptic may have been hurt by Christians in church and desired to get back at them by becoming an atheist. The choice is based on emotion rather than reasoning.

The trouble with this mindset is that it does not always consider all the facts. As I have entered doctoral studies, I have read authors who eschew a person “flaming” others. Flaming is the act of blowing up emotionally and irrationally bombarding another without considering all the facts in the discussion, an act that has only increased in recent years. Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, and many others have answered that a good, powerful, and loving God can coexist with a creation that is evil so long as such a God has good reasons for allowing it.

  1. The person desires global unity. That is, the person becomes an atheist, or at least agnostic, because one does not want to tell a person of another faith that he or she is wrong. Some skeptics think that they can solve the world’s problems by holding that no religion is true, except their religion of atheism. The skeptic holds that their skepticism will unite people together globally rather than causing divide. I am not a combative person. As such, this reason led me into agnosticism, at least to the idea that all religions could be true. People who hold this notion desire the love of people rather than the love of God.

Unfortunately, global unity is impossible as it pertains to religious views because all world religions and worldviews hold major differences. In addition, many have the notion that differences in religion cannot be discussed peacefully. However, if Christianity is true, then discussing these issues rise dramatically in importance. Unity should be sought by all believers, but it should not come by sacrificing truth. In reality, all worldviews hold major differences. Each worldview should be tested. It was my investigation and devotion to truth that God used to bring me back to faith. I then understood that Christianity holds good reasons for its authenticity.

  1. The person desires intellectual neutrality. As mentioned earlier, some do not test their beliefs. When the person’s beliefs are challenged, they are left without answers and hold that their previous worldview must not be true. This is the reason why many have left the church. Again, I had the same problem in the early 2000s. My faith was challenged by the Jesus Seminar. I had no way to answer their claims, thereby leaving me defenseless. None of my mentors could provide an answer to their claims. Thus, I naturally assumed that Christianity was false or at least deeply flawed.

A simple investigation using The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell launched me into the realm of Christian apologetics. I realized that Christianity does hold merit.

These are the four major reasons that individuals become atheists. Nearly all the reasons that people become skeptics are found in these four. Thankfully, answers are found in Jesus of Nazareth.

Video: William Lane Craig gives more reasons as to why people become atheists.

Video: David Wood, a former atheist, describes his conversion to Christianity (long edition).

Video: David Wood, a former atheist, describes his conversion to Christianity on CBN (short edition).

Check out Wintery Knight’s take on this issue and on the impact of these reasons upon former Christian, now atheist, Dan Barker at https://winteryknight.com/2017/09/26/why-did-dan-barker-leave-christianity-for-atheism/

 

 

Notes

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2xI7Ftu

 

 

About the Author

Brian Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian is full member of the International Society of Christian Apologetics and the Christian Apologetics Alliance. Brian has been in the ministry for over 14 years and serves as the pastor of Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkinville, North Carolina.

 


 

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24 replies
    • Susan Tan says:

      Evidence my foot. Spirit should be controlling not evidence.

      One of the components of spirit is courage.

      You sat back demanding evidence from your own senses when God already provided it.

      You were too afraid to step out and trust God.

      You preferred the material which can be weak to the immaterial which can be super strong.

      Why do you think God likes to use weak people to dispel the people who think they are strong.

      Look at David and Goliath. It took courage for David to step out in faith and when he did God lent Him His supernatural aim.

      All the sissies sat back and let Goliath call God names.

      Grow a set of balls and start believing God more and doubting your own senses more.

      Senses can be tricked. Magicians have been doing that sleight of hand stuff for centuries.. Even that evolutionary picture people show all over the place of an ape turning into a man looks like a sleight of hand trick but is any carnal man discerning enough to catch that deception when they see it?

      Pray to God for some discernment to go along with that spirit you lack.

      Thanks for reading.

      Evidence? Some people don’t even know evidence when it stares them in the face and some people can’t assess it.

      So God spelled it all out for everyone in His Word which He backed up with a life example: Jesus Christ.

      But everyone has his own reasons for answering when God calls or pretending they don’t hear Him calling.

      You had better start reading the book with an open mind. Never mind all these negative materialistic skeptic stereotypes that you have forced your mind to work through.

      Ask God to give you an open, free mind and use it honestly for once in your life.

      There isn’t a damn thing wrong with Jesus. He is your perfect savior and friend.

      That is all. Thanks for reading.

      And yes the Spirit moved me to write the above.

      Some people need firmer direction than others.

      Reply
    • Donovan Baker says:

      Agreed. These are not reasons for finding a lack of a belief in god(s). I know lots of atheists, I’ve not heard of them say these things.

      This sounds more like justifications for a lack of actually asking them. No evidence, no belief. Sorry but it really is that simple. Christians may look for reasons to want to be or stay Christian, but atheists don’t look for reasons, we just don’t believe. I know you hate that it is so simple, because you guys make it all so complicated and need complex reasons for everything.

      I also don’t look for reasons to remain an atheist. I’m open changing my mind to someone proving their claim that a god exists. Are you really open to thinking you could be wrong? I am. Faith will never be a way to the truth, as it is the absolute opposite way of actually looking or finding it.

      By the way, you write very well. Kudos for that. Please just ask some of us, so your content can have better insight when writing about atheists. Credibility, can go a long way.

      Reply
  1. KR says:

    Reading this, I have to wonder: has the author ever actually asked an atheist why he/she no longer believes? Actually, you don’t even have to go around asking atheists – conveniently, many of them have posted their deconversion stories on YouTube. What you will find is that none of them chose to be an atheist. In fact, a recurring theme in these stories is that their loss of faith was something they fought tooth and nail. Prayer, intense bible studies, reading various apologetics literature, consulting with clergy, family and friends – all in an attempt to hold on to their faith. Their final deconversion wasn’t a choice but an acceptance that they no longer believed.
    .
    This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Just go to yourself – could you as a believer simply choose to stop believeing in God? Of course not – that’s not how belief works. If it was, belief would have no content, since it would be based on nothing but an arbitrary decision. Our beliefs come from our convictions and we don’t get to choose those. Now, if you couldn’t stop believing by choosing to, what reason do you have to think the deconversion of an atheist was a choice? None, obviously.
    .
    My impression is that the reasons for deconversion that Brian Chilton presents are the ones he finds the most comforting, because they relieve him from the uncomfortable thought of people actually losing their faith because they no longer find Christianity convincing. Going for the comforting answer is very human but if Brian Chilton is interested in actually understanding why people are leaving Christianity, this is not going to be helpful.
    .
    I’ve mentioned Phil Zuckerman before in this forum. From his Wikipedia page: “Philip “Phil” Zuckerman is a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. He specializes in the sociology of secularity.”
    .
    Dr Zuckerman has done extensive studies on the secularization trend we’re seeing all over the western world. There are a number of his lectures available on YouTube. I’d recommend the one called “Irreligion Rising: Why More Americans Are Becoming Secular”. In this lecture, Zuckerman identifies seven factors that he believes are driving the “rise of the nones” (people ticking the “none” box for religion):
    .
    1. The rise of the religious right
    2. The Catholic church priest pedophile scandal
    3. Increase of women in the paid labour force
    4. Increased acceptance of gay rights
    5. Reaction to the 9/11 attack
    6. Irreligion and impiety in the entertainment industry
    7. The Internet
    .
    Note that these are the factors that Dr Zuckerman believes specifically apply to the US. There are of course other, more general factors that drive the secularization trend, like increased level of education, healthcare and material standard.

    Reply
    • Will says:

      I am wondering the same. Not sure this person (who wrote this article) asked very many atheists why they don’t believe. Based on what I have seen, I can name the reasons why most atheists and atheists… 1. God didn’t answer their sincere prayer(s) for something or someone. 2. A Catholic priests molested him. 3. Why is there evil and suffering in the world (when God is love and all-powerful). 4. Turned off by TV evangelists or some other Christian that didn’t measure up.

      Usually, it’s a combination of these reasons. But the biggest single fallout comes from the prayer issue. I guarantee you that at least 75 to 80% of atheists have prayed sincerely to God for something genuinely good. Not something selfish. But something genuinely good. But God didn’t answer yes, no, or maybe so, but nothing at all. But all the while the churches are teaching the congregation to pray for this and that and how God answers in a prosperity gospel manner plus a lot more of people would give a seed offering.

      Reply
      • Cameron hall says:

        This is because they aren’t as patient. When you pray to God for something, there are others who are praying for the same thing, and most of them have had there prayers answered because they were patient. God answers all prayers, sure but there are things people need to understand. 1. When God does not answer your prayers, it does not mean that he’s forgotten about you, its just that it was not made for you to have at that time. What you want may not come to you right at the moment but what that only means is that he has something even better that you will receive, better than what you prayed for. That’s at least the way I was raised. In some most cases it has worked for me. From the time I was in the sixth grade prayed to God for a girlfriend. I was starting to grow impatient to until I just sat down at lunch one time and took the time out to think, based on the behavior of almost all of the girls at my middle school they were on drugs, doing alcohol most of them were even pregnant. And I thought to myself maybe these are not the people God wants me to be around because a person with common sense would already know that being with a person with all those negative things going on with them, is nothing but a recipe for disaster. This was all the way up till my ninth grade year. Now, as a junior, I not only have a girlfriend, but I have more friends then ever, good teachers, i finally got a 3.5 GPA which in all my years of school I’ve never had and am pretty popular. Patience can take you a long way, especially with God! It did it for me.

        Reply
  2. Andy Ryan says:

    “Nearly all the reasons that people become skeptics are found in these four”
    .
    How did you discover this or discern this? ‘Nearly all’ suggests you’ve quantified all the reasons using some method. Can you tell us what this method was? Who did you ask, what poll did you use? Or is this simply a guess on your part?
    .
    “Emotive thinking is especially found in the claim that a good, loving God cannot coexist with a created world full of evil (e.g., the claims of Neil deGrasse Tyson).”
    .
    That’s not emotive thinking – it’s a logical argument. The argument is that a good, loving God would do something to present evil. The world is full of evil. Therefore it seems unlikely that a good, loving God exists. Of course, you’re welcome to disagree with the argument, but that doesn’t make the argument emotive, it’s just a logical argument whose premises you disagree with.
    .
    “A good, powerful, and loving God can coexist with a creation that is evil so long as such a God has good reasons for allowing it”
    .
    How do you distinguish this posited God from a God who allows evil to flourish because he is non-good and non-loving, or who simply doesn’t have the power to stop it? Once you figure that a God may have unfathomable reasons or motivations then you’re effectively letting go of pinning the label ‘good’ or ‘loving’ on Him.

    Reply
    • jcb says:

      In response to

      “A good, powerful, and loving God can coexist with a creation that is evil so long as such a God has good reasons for allowing it”

      This claim is true, but is only relevant to the LPOE (which claims that god necessarily does not exist). The EPOE still shows god “probably” does not exist. Theists cleverly and typically say that there “might” be a god with sufficient reasons, which is true, but rarely try to show (b/c they cannot (currently)) that there are morally justified reasons for letting all the evils happen. Yesterday’s shooting should remind us that we have good reason to think that there is (probably) no perfect being.

      Reply
      • Windy says:

        The reason I have heard about God not interfering in evil is because man has free will to do what he does. But we will answer for our bad crap when at heavens gate.Burn baby burn.

        Reply
  3. David says:

    Are you kidding me Brian? You thought Strobel’s book was intellectually satisfying? Have you read Robert Price’s “The Case Against The Case For Christ”? There is a lot of poor reasoning in the two books you cited above but none worse than Vardaman’s Magic coins in Strobel. The fact that he would rely on John McRay and put such ridiculous nonsense in his book proves he is desperate and grasping for straws as are you. And Price makes an excellent point in his critique of Strobel. If he is really interested in honest journalism why did he pick only conservative evangelicals and soft toss them questions they could easily answer. If you think his book is even handed reporting you are very gullible. If in your mind, “The Case for Christ” and “The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict” were sufficient to overcome the views of The Jesus Seminar and other skeptical writings I question your intellect. Sorry for the ad hominem attack. Just thought it would be ok since you employed three in your argument above.

    Reply
  4. Susan says:

    Some atheists are atheists because they want God to be wrong and they like to point to the problem of evil to dismiss a good God’s existence rather than submit to Him.

    God can bring good out of evil. Evil in fact may be necessary to bring forth the highest good.

    A seed doesn’t give birth to itself all alone. It has to have the right conditions.

    In this world if you read the Bible it could be you can see God is in the process of creating people to be like Himself.

    People like to ask how did God come to be? But we don’t know the answer to that. Only God does.

    So God gives Jesus and the Bible to us among various social conditions both good and evil and says pick which way you will go.

    But some people would rather sit around arguing about the roads instead of picking the high road and actually taking God’s course then they want to complain about it later.

    God sent Jesus to set the right example. Some people are paying attention to Him while others try to dismiss him.

    We’ll see who is right and what life tests everyone passed and everyone flunked on judgment day.

    Most arguments revolve around human interpretations of God’s messages.

    Christians even learn to surrender their own reasoning faculties to stay with the herd. So they follow orthodox interpretations for fear of getting separated from the herd of other Christians.

    But God isn’t that orthodox. He changes between being a lion and a lamb as is needed for each situation that arises.

    You can sit around arguing empty existenial questions living a meaningless existence or you can attempt to get your heart right with God. That might mean though that you cease to conform with and be comfortable with this world.

    Still that is how God brings the good You out of the evil you.

    Because you stopped asking retarded questions and let Him get real with you.

    God is oersonal so the question really is are you brave enough to handle His inspection?

    Because He is going to bring evil out of you. When all is said and done this world is just God’s boot camp and some people will pass it and some will flunk out.

    So start paying more attention to God and less to the objections and questions of people who may not even be motivated enough to pass God’s tests.

    Why does anyone bother to learn from someone who lacks motivation or from people trying to set ithers up for spiritual failure.

    Everyone needs spiritual success. Spirit upholds the whole structure of a human being.

    So pick your role models carefully and look for the ones that exhibit the right spirit and sentiments.

    “The righteous are bold as a lion” Psalm 28.

    Repentance is how you say sorry to God so He can turn your whole life around and bring good out of the old evil you.

    Reply
    • Susan says:

      “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”

      Christian truth is a Person not a doctrine.

      Christians are originals that conform to a Person not to other Christians ideas of what a Christian is.

      A person is God’s original work of art. Some people know that and submit to Him working in and on and through them.

      Some people don’t.

      God is still creating and people are still His work in progress.

      I don’t know why some settle for the way things are.

      Progress requires change. First the individual changes then he goes out and changes the world.

      That is the way the world works and that is the way God works in the world.

      By first dealing with the world. One person personally at a time.

      Reply
        • Susan says:

          Well God Bless you, David. I don’t know why you keep shooting the hell barb at me when I believe God saves each in his own order like the scriptures say.

          I hope you get over this senseless anti-Christian grudge you are harboring some day.

          Remember there are no atheists in foxholes but repenting before you get that far is even better.
          What if it improves your order?

          Take care!

          Reply
        • Susan says:

          You know when you bust out of that self limiting mental box that other people have put you into David?

          When you start thinking for yourself.

          Stop slandering the God of the Bible on the internet like so many do and go dig into the history of universalism.
          You may be surprised what you find out.

          God approves of being Berean.

          So why are you always seeking to be top dog by showing your brains off to people in intellectual pissing contests when you could have won the approval of Someone who really matters?

          The only One who’s opinion of you that really matters is God.

          Who cares about the approval that comes from the world? The world is just a crowd of evil people.

          So why are you seeking to impress evil people with your thinking?

          Start thinking for yourself and stop challenging stereotypes that people have painted and accepted as the truth and maybe you will arrive at a more liveable conclusion for yourself.

          Reply
  5. Susan Tan says:

    Really ho cares why an atheist is an atheist. God calls unbelievers fools and that is enough for me. I no longer have to understand why a weak minded thinker like an atheist insists on following his own weak minded thinking.

    Jesus Christ made no claims. He proved everything Himself by His own works which were miracles demonstrating His absolute control over life and death and the weather and the universe.

    He left the claims to be made by His disciples like Peter who declared Him the Messiah, the Son of God.

    Jesus never had to claim a thing because He demonstrated who He was absolutely.

    It is only a dunce who disputes such clear and convincing evidence.

    The Hebrews did a great job maintaining the scriptures. Catholicism did a poor job.

    That is all.

    None of the disputes made by dunces hold any merit what so ever so why do believers go down to the level of examing dunce complaints and arguments.

    Learn to leave the fools alone, Christians.

    Read up on “the fool” by Bob Deffinbaugh over on bible.org’s site.

    Fools can hurt you.

    They put Jesus on the Cross.

    Hope this helps. When God calls an unbeliever a fool they should take Him seriously about that. Not dispute the record He has provided and left behind that was poorly managed by His very own children.

    God Bless to everyone reading,

    Why wait for the Holy Spirit to convict anyone without explaining their standing properly to them?

    Everyine is a sinner without God’s grace. Only a self deceived lying fool denies that truth to himself then looks for evidence to corroborate that he isn’t a sinner or a fool.

    But Jesus said it. There is only one good One. Everyone else is a sinner. It is just so e people want to be deceived and not have to let God deal with their sins and some don’t.

    Jesus loves you anyway self deceiving lying fool. So repent while there is still time to get yiur heart and your life right with God. Not with the world. With God.

    Reply
  6. Paul says:

    Well i certainly have a very excellent reason for a good like me to be an atheist since i never had a wife and family that i really wanted to have since i am no different than the other men and women out there that have a life together with their families as well. God unfortunately never made good women like the old days when most of the women back then were Real Ladies which made love very easy to find too. So as you can see i certainly have a right to very bitter and a atheist as well since i will admit that i hate being single and alone when i never should’ve been in the first place.

    Reply
  7. Ken Raney says:

    I alway felt there were 3 reasons a person became an atheist. 1. They are mad at God (God let them down. A loved one that they prayed for died anyway as an example). 2. They have done things they think God could not possibly forgive them for. 3. Hedonism (they like to be in control of their life and are not willing to cede anything ti anybody).

    Reply
    • Haze says:

      And I’ve rarely met an atheist who became atheist for these reasons. They’re touted by believers I guess because, as someone wrote already, they’re easier to fathom for believers and don’t threaten their beliefs. But mostly, atheists become atheist because they found objective reasons to believe in god in a general sense to be lacking, and specific religions’ beliefs to be even more lacking. I’m an atheist. I’m not mad at god, since i don’t believe he exists, what he could forgive is irrelevant because, once again, I don’t believe he exists. And hedonism is irrelevant too because since I don’t believe god exists, I don’t have to cede anything to him, either. Really, the easiest way to understand an atheist is to think of things or beings *you* don’t believe exist. Does you lack of belief in Santa Claus, of forest spirits, or the Egyptian god Amon-Ra is caused by you being mad at Santa Claus because he didn’t bring you the presents you wanted, or you having cut trees down which forest spirits really don’t like, or you not wanting to cede anything to Amon-Ra? Presumably not. You just don’t believe in the existence of these beings, and think you have good reasons not to believe in it. And so you don’t care the slightest bit about what a non existing Santa Claus would think of you if he existed. Atheists are no different. There’s a rather well know saying : “the only difference between you and me is that I believe in one less god than you do. Like me, you have no problem not believing in the thousands of legends, myths or religions people used to believe in or still believe in. There’s only one of them you hold as being real and true. Contrarily to you, I don’t believe that this one is any more real (or believable) than the others. Once again, if you want to understand my state of my mind with regard to your god and religion, just look at your own state of mind regarding all the things you don’t believe in. I feel basically the same way about your god as you feel about Bigfoot or leprechauns. I’m simply fully convinced he doesn’t exists because I’ve no reason to believe he does, and I have on the other hand many reasons to believe that your specific religion (probably Christian) is just not credible at all.

      Reply
  8. Susan says:

    I chose to be an atheist after meeting so many horrible religious people that praised god and acted so much better than everyone else but lied cheated and stole from others. I was raised a christian, I have lived in may towns and met many people of all walks of religion. I think most people are just scared of dying so they make up god and heaven so they don’t have to worry about death. The sad thing is that death is what gives life meaning believing in a god or everlasting life diminishes the importance of this life. I never want to be like so many of the hypocritical Christians I know. I will live my life believing that it is a miracle that I am here and live every second to the fullest and I am fine with that. Reading this article was a reminder of how narrow minded most religious people are. Everyone should be allowed to believe what they want and not be judged for it. If god exists and hes as great of a person as everyone makes him out to be I’m sure he would accept me as I am and not shun me for doubting him.

    Reply
  9. Aaron P. Jimenez says:

    People become atheists when the church (its leaders) fail to be good examples to their parishioners. Corruption in the church turns off members, add to this the injustice happening in our world, and this will lead them in questioning God (if He really does exist and does He care). If their questions are not answered, and… worse..if their quest for justice had failed or if the injustice they see keeps on going… evil wicked people living and laughing their way to the bank, then most surely they will leave the church and stop believing in God.

    Reply

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