As a follow up to the previous post, From the Ashes of Anlong Veng, I wanted to offer a summary statement concerning the strange but very real commonalities that exist between men like Al Sharpton and Christopher Hitchens. Remember that Hitchens is an evangelical atheist and Sharpton is (oddly enough) both an agnostic and a Pentecostal minister, which is another way of saying that he is among some of the worst kinds religious opportunists there can be. Now some may ask the question, “How could they possibly have anything in common?” Very simply put, neither of them believe in the true God (that’s God not “god”).
The only thing that makes them appear to be so different is the manner in which they convey that unbelief.
My argument for all of this is based upon a text that Hitchens complains a great deal about in his book, god is not Great:
Psalm 14:1-3 : 1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
1 The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one. [NKJV]
Now a brief reading of this text might lead some to believe that David is referring to an early form of atheism that openly confessed that there is no God. But this is not the precise point of the psalm as affirmed by the Apostle Paul who quoted this text in Romans 3 in order to remind us that “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” Thus, we need to be careful not to miss the heart of the argument supplied by David and Paul – all lost men have a heart-epistemology which refuses to acknowledge God in every way possible. This concept of Psalm 14 is affirmed by Hans-Joachim Kraus in his book, Theology of the Psalms:
“This assertion (‘there is no God’) is not the expression of an atheistic theory, but the summary of a practical attitude. As one who denies God the rasha’ (‘wicked’) discloses himself in his deceptive activity that brings death and destruction.” Theology of the Psalms, p. 129.
Note the detail of the psalm itself – the fool says in his heart that there is no God. Clearly this is an internal epistemology that is made evident by the external manifestation of ungodliness in his life. Thus this truth applies to any man who denies God in his heart. As well, the fact that Paul employs Psalm 14 for both Jews and Gentiles is significant. In reality, all unbelievers are practical-atheists whose lives declare this heart-conviction: “there is no God to whom I must account.” Where the important distinction comes is in how such men mask their practical-atheism.
The Religionist: Some men prefer the veil of manmade religion to mask their internal unbelief. There is certainly no shortage of examples in the Scriptures to illustrate this – Jude lists for us men like Cain, Balaam, and Korah to illustrate that there will always be those who are “hidden reefs in your love feasts” but who are “doubly dead and uprooted” spiritually. These men may proclaim faith in, and allegiance to, God, but in their heart of hearts they live as though God did not exist at all.
The Secularist: Other men will openly confess their denial of God. In the most extreme example we have the evangelical atheist. A person such as this may think that he is less of a hypocrite than the religionist, and yet his professed atheism is nothing more than an overt admission to self-deception: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” [Romans 1:18, NKJV]. By suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, the secularist proves himself to be on the same footing as the false religionist. Thus, while the secularist isn’t wearing the embarrassing monkey-suit of false religion, he is in fact wearing “the emperor’s new clothes” in all its humiliating disgrace.
At the end of the day, the only differences between the religionist and the secularist are the masks of deception that they wear. Arguing over which one might be better or worse is simply an exercise in futility. Both men need Christ – that is our hope and prayer for any religionist or secularist that we may ever meet.
I realize that it’s a bitter cup of reality from which to drink, but apart from God’s redeeming grace – we’re all a bunch of lying fools.