by Fr. F. J. Koch
That God exists is a truth made known to us by reason; hence atheism is opposed to reason.
1. Atheism does not satisfy the intellect; it cannot refute the arguments in support of God’s existence, nor can it adduce valid reasons for denying it. Thus it fails to beget in its adherents a firm conviction.
Lord Bacon of Verulam (1561-1626) writes: “A little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism, but a farther proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion.” Cicero says of an Epicurean atheist: “I never knew any one who had so much fear of death and God, the two things that we are told not to fear at all; he is always speaking of them.” (de nat. deor., I, 31.) “But, indeed, positive atheism, as a rational conviction, is impossible. It is absolutely impossible that any direct positive proof whatsoever should be brought against the existence of God.” (Kane, God or Chaos.)
2. Atheism does not satisfy the heart. We are naturally impelled to seek lasting happiness, and our craving is never satisfied unless there is eternity with God. Thus atheism destroys all joy in life, all courage in misfortune, and all hope in death.
“No one is so completely alone,” says Jean Paul, “as the man who denies God’s existence. He mourns with the heart of an orphan, bereft of the greatest of fathers, beside the vast corpse of nature, in which no universal spirit lives and moves, and he continues to mourn until he himself drops off from this corpse.”
3. Atheism overthrows morality and authority, the supports of human society. If it were universally accepted, it would inevitably bring about the destruction of the human race.
If there is no God there is no supreme Judge and no check upon immorality and vice. If there is no God there is no Lord and Master, ni Dieu ni Maitre, and this involves anarchy, the overthrow of all civilization and of human society. Hence even pagan states upheld faith in the gods, for as Homer says (Od., Ill, 48): “All men have need of them.”
Atheism originates either in pride of intellect or in perversity of the will.
Intellectual pride refuses to acknowledge any supernatural authority in spiritual matters and relies solely on individual investigation. The quest of knowledge apart from the practice of religion stunts man’s religious tendency, narrows his intellectual horizon, makes him dwell upon isolated facts, and leads him to oblivion of God, who is the first cause of everything. As an individual an atheist who has received a Christian education and lived in Christian surroundings may remain morally good, for even an unbeliever is unconsciously influenced by his Christian environment.
A perverse will and an immoral and dissipated manner of life are a frequent source of unbelief. Hence we read in Holy Scripture: “The fool [Hebrew nabhal, lit. morally corrupt] hath said in his heart: There is no God.” (Ps. xiii, i.) St. Augustine, too, remarks: “Nobody denies God save one whose interest it is that there be no God.” La Bruyere (who died in 1696) says: “I should like to find a sober, learned, self-controlled, and chaste man who denies the existence of God and the immortality of the soul; but such a person does not exist.” d’ Alembert writes: “A foolish desire not to think like other people, and to give free scope to the passions, has produced more unbelievers than all specious arguments put together.” A modern writer on education says: “The slave of sinful habits is finally forced either to despair of God’s mercy or to doubt God’s existence. It is natural, moreover, that he should hate one whom he is compelled to fear, and resist one whom he dreads. During his lifetime Voltaire enjoyed himself and mocked at God; when he had to die he stormed and raved.” (Pesch, Lebensphilosophie, I a, II.) Even Rousseau gave the following advice to a young friend: “My son, preserve thy soul always in such a state that it may wish that there were a God, and then thou wilt never question this truth.” (Emile, IV.)
As man approaches maturity he feels most forcibly the power of his passions, and hence it is at this period of life that many lose their faith. No one becomes an unbeliever at a more advanced age; in fact many who have lost their faith when young recover it later. (Buffon, La Harpe, Montesquieu, Daumer, Coppee, etc.)
The adherents of atheism have never been very numerous, and in every age the noblest and most intellectual men have invariably believed in God.
Socialists generally profess atheism because believers in God, who hope for a just reward in the world to come and who regard rulers as God’s representatives, refuse to adopt their views. Many socialists, though otherwise well educated, know practically nothing of Christianity. Among learned men most of the professed atheists are either students of natural science or philosophers. Concentration of mind upon matter diminishes their appreciation of what is spiritual and moral in life, and especially of God, the supreme Spirit. Yet even among scientists the great majority are believers. Kneller has enumerated more than one hundred and sixty scientists in the nineteenth century who were sincere believers. (See A. Kneller, Christianity and the Leaders of Modern Science.)
In every age innumerable princes, statesmen, artists, poets, soldiers, inventors, and scholars have believed in God. Among astronomers may be mentioned Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Herschel, Euler, Secchi, Madler, Heis, and Galle. Among scientists and philosophers: Bacon, Descartes, Leibniz, Wolf, Ampere, Volta, Newton, Kant, Faraday, Liebig, Linnaeus, Cuvier, O. Fraas, Joh. Muller, Ohm, Rob. von Mayer, Helmholtz, Siemens, Pasteur, E. V. Baer, J. Ranke, Becquerel, Lord Kelvin, and many others. Ozanam says of Ampere that on one occasion he raised both his hands to his head, exclaiming: “How great God is, Ozanam, and what a mere nothing is all our knowledge!” Even Darwin, whose works are often quoted by unbelievers in support of their views, confesses:
“The question whether a Creator of the universe exists has been answered in the affirmative by the greatest thinkers who have ever lived.”
From the book, A Manual of Apologetics by the Rev. F. J. Koch. Translated from the revised German Edition By A. M. Buchanan, M.A. (London). Revised and edited by the Rev. Charles Bruehl, D.D., Professor at St. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, PA.
New York: Joseph F. Wagner Inc., 1915.
Nihil Obstat: Remigius Lafort, S.T.D., Censor.
Imprimatur: John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.