The recent publication of Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow's The Grand Design has reignited debate over God's existence. The ironically titled book proposes that the cosmos was spontaneously generated "from nothing," with no God (or gods) required to make sense of existence. Never mind the question-begging: How can nothing produce something, let alone hundreds of billions of galaxies? Many atheists celebrate this bestseller as further grounds for dismissing religious belief.
Most atheists would have us think they arrived at their view through cool, rational inquiry. But are other factors involved? Consider the candid remarks of contemporary philosopher Thomas Nagel: "I want atheism to be true …. It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and, naturally, hope that I'm right about my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that." Could Nagel's attitude—albeit in a more subtle form—actually be common among atheists?
Christian apologists have responded to the New Atheists' arguments—which are often nothing more than a rehashing of traditional objections—with rational arguments of their own. However, they have not talked much about non-rational causes of unbelief. We humans are not only reasoning beings. We also have emotions, desires, and free wills, and these influence our beliefs. As important as it is to remind atheists of the rational evidence for God, the real problem in many cases is moral and psychological in nature.
Such a suggestion is potentially offensive to unbelievers. But we still need to ask if it is nonetheless true. According to Scripture, the evidence for God is overwhelming. The apostle Paul says that "God ...