Bread – Atheists

March 7, 2016

Psalm 10

“Why, O Lord, do You stand far away?…In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor…In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’  His ways prosper at all times…He says in his heart, ‘I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.’  His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;…he lurks that he may seize the poor;…He says in his heart, ‘God has forgotten, He has hidden His face, he will never see it.”  Ps. 10:1-2,4-7,9,11

Am I an atheist?  Are you?

You ask, how could I be an atheist?  I believe in God, I have been baptized, I have had the laying on of hands, I have read Scripture and studied some of it, I attend church from time to time, I participate in Bible studies, I even write this “Bread.”  How could I be an atheist when I have all these “marks” of a Christian?  And you are probably the same – you have a Bible (or several), you have read it (or probably substantial parts of it), you go to Sunday School and may even teach it, you give to the church and to various charities, you have said words of repentance and asked God into your heart, and you pray to Him.  How could you be an atheist when you have all these “marks” of a Christian?

This Psalm may very well be the most important Psalm you will ever read because it describes who an atheist really is.  It describes an atheist, not as a person who rejects God with his lips, but a person who rejects God with his actions.

There are five characteristics of a “doing” atheist presented in this Psalm.  These characteristics are (1) arrogance (boastfulness; pride), (2) prosperity, (3) apparent security, (4) abusive speech, and (5) aggression (violence).  The acting atheist may say there is a God by his lips, but he denies there is a God by his acts or he believes that God is absent from the world and therefore his life.

Before we are too quick to reject these as not applying to us, please take a moment and test each of these traits of an atheist against how we behave?

Do we boast in our position, our power, our wealth, where we live, how much education we have, what we know, who our family is, what we have achieved, how often we can play golf or go to the movies or the theater, what we drive?  Of course we do, and we do it every day to somebody.  We camouflage our arrogance by saying, instead, things like “the early bird gets the worm,” and “winning is not everything, but losing is nothing,” and “my business is successful because I built it,” and “I …..”  We camouflage our arrogance by saying that “the only way to win is to be sharp,” “be aggressive,” “be assertive,” “don’t let the other side get the upper hand,” “fight to the finish” “I am the best.”  Recognize these concepts?  I use them every day and so do you.  We justify it because we see it as necessary to get ahead in the world.  We see that getting ahead in the world requires us to adopt the ways and rules of the world, which is to ignore God.

Are we prosperous?  As individuals, the answer is “yes.”  As a group of people in the city, the answer is “yes.”  As a nation, the answer is “yes.”  We like to say that the reason we are wealthy is because God has blessed us, but if that is truly the case, then why hasn’t He blessed everyone?  Because I am special?  Because I have special favor in God’s eyes?  Does this sound prideful, boastful, or arrogant?  It should.  The people who are more wealthy than me have gotten there in substantial part because they have inherited it (see verse 6 – “…in all generations I shall not meet adversity”) or they have “earned” it… and for the most part they have earned it by being “better” at the game of life than other people.   In other words, we have figured out how to “win” and win we do with retirement accounts, land, one or more houses, beautiful furniture and accessories, clothes fit for king or queen, cars and trucks rivaling the most luxurious forms of transportation ever.

Do we have apparent security?  The answer is “yes,” in part because (a) we are prosperous and (b) we know how to play the game (here comes pride again).    In fact, much of our life is spent is doing things that guarantee our security, hence our pre-occupation with the stock market and the extensive use of financial planners (and, yes, lawyers like me too).

Is our speech abusive?  In the simplest form, abusive speech is a bunch of curse words (so-called four letter words), and many of us manage to stifle our urge to speak these, at least among people we don’t know.  However, isn’t abusive speech also slander against another person, a putdown of the other person, a slur about or against another person, and what we might call a “mental beating or beat down?”   When we are brought a request from our boss to recommend someone for a promotion, don’t we elevate the speech about the person we want to receive the promotion and use speech about the others which makes them less attractive for the promotion?  How much of that is true and how much of it is your “spin” on the situation to reach the ends you have in mind?  Have you ever thought of the “spin” you put on things as abusive speech?  Psalm 10, verse 7, describes abusive speech this way – “His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.”   How much of our daily speech is filled with “deceit,” “mischief,” “iniquity,” and “oppression?”  Probably a lot more than we care to admit.

Our final trait of a practicing atheist is violence or aggression.  Now, you say, this is where we show that we are not atheists but Christians because we are not violent or “overly” aggressive.  And perhaps many of us are not this way.  But I daresay most of us are.  As an attorney, I wait (lurk) in the shadows waiting for a fellow attorney to screw up so that I can take advantage for my client (we call this being a good lawyer).  As a supervisor or just a co-worker, you may wait (lurk) in the shadows waiting for someone at your same level to make a mistake so that you can promote yourself into the next higher position or get that raise or get rid of the guy you don’t like anyway (we call this corporate politics).  In politics, we have turned lurking in the shadows to take advantage an art form.  Isn’t the classic “gotcha” just another form of violence or aggression?

But you say, “we must be aggressive to get ahead.”  Bingo!  But you say, “we must lay up our stores of money so that we can retire in safety and have enough money until we are 100.”  Bingo!  But we say that “only poor people fail to plan, fail to act, fail to get educated, fail to win, fail to live well…and we do not want to be poor.”  Bingo!

God is a God of judgment but we act every day like He is not.  God is a God of presence, but we act every day like He isn’t.  God is a God of promises, but we act every day like He won’t deliver.

We may not say that there is no God but we act like there is no God.

If we want to see the living proof of the “paradigm,” of the “perfect image” of the daily atheist, one who says he believes in God but behaves as if he doesn’t, one has to go no further than many of our Presidential candidates.  One stands out in particular – he brags about how important and wealthy he is (he oozes arrogance), he brags about how much money he has, he brags about how secure he is in himself and his situation, his entire method of speaking is aggressive and abusive, and, if you are weak, he would be glad to step on you to do the deal.  He is the classic practicing atheist.  Why is he popular – because we see in him what we want to be.

We say we want to be like Christ but who we really want to be like is the winner, the arrogant, the wealthy, the secure, one with so much power that we can say what we want when we want to whom we want in any way we want about any topic we want – and get away with it.

Why are we weak at a church body?  Why is Christ not proclaimed from every rooftop, in our homes and businesses, and throughout our neighborhoods, our country, and the world?  Why do Christians have so little effect on how we behave in society?  Because in our daily working-out of our faith we have no fear of the Lord, we really don’t think He cares and if He does, we really don’t think He will do anything about it, and we really think He created the world and now is sitting back watching it operate.

We need to change.  How?  We can’t but God can.  And so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit and transform my life by the renewing of my mind, by your ever-present power.  Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.  Help me to fear God more than I fear man, and help me to persevere in the evil day.  And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.”


© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.





2 Responses to “Bread – Atheists”

  1. Rather dehumanizing text you’ve written here.

    • 1bread Says:

      I certainly did not intend to dehumanize anyone, but to ask the question of what makes us more fully human, striving toward God or striving away from Him?

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