During a UK-based study, Understanding Unbelief, atheists and agnostics from various countries, including Brazil, China, Denmark, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom were interviewed. In the New Scientist overview of the study, they highlighted that the majority of atheists (71%) and agnostics (92%) believed in “at least one supernatural phenomenon or entity,” the most common being a belief in “fate” (“significant life events are meant to be” and “underlying forces of good and evil” exist), but astrology, reincarnation, and karma all made the list as well.
For some atheists/agnostics, it is easy to mix certain aspects of different religions into their worldview. For example, over 8% of Japanese respondents and 1% of Chinese respondents identified themselves as Buddhists. In most forms of Buddhism, there is no personal God or gods, and, ultimately, Buddhism teaches that any “god idea” has its origin in fear, which needs to be mastered and put away by meditation, and that belief in God is not necessary to achieve enlightenment. Buddhism could best be described as non-theistic: that if there are any gods, they don’t matter.
But for most, it is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile atheism or agnosticism with a religion that believes in God—like Christianity. Nevertheless, atheists and agnostics still borrow many aspects from a biblical worldview—whether they realize it or not. For example, logic, truth, knowledge, morality, and science—which are predicated on the Bible being true—do not come from a materialistic and naturalistic view of things. Atheists and agnostics often agree that logic, truth, morality, and so on exist, but it cannot be justified in their worldview.
Like everyone, atheists and agnostics long for meaning, purpose, and hope. After all, God has written eternity on their hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), so they know there must be more to this life than what we can see. But their worldview does not offer any ultimate meaning, purpose, or hope. In their worldview, when you die, you cease to exist. That’s it. The end. Or is it? If that were really true, then why do up to 25% of atheist and 35% of agnostic responses “agree” or “strongly agree” that reincarnation exists? And (even more surprisingly) why do up to 30% of atheists and agnostics “agree” or “strongly agree” that life after death exists? That certainly seems like a core-belief contradiction.
Since atheists and agnostics know there is no ultimate meaning, purpose, or hope in that kind of outlook, what do many atheists and agnostics do to give themselves the very thing their worldview cannot supply? They add a (false) hope to their worldview: karma, astrology, fate, reincarnation—or many other things for which the study didn’t account. Each of these beliefs gives some idea that there is more to us and this life than just naturalism. That, somehow, our lives have some kind of cosmic purpose or meaning, and maybe, just maybe, there really is something beyond the here and now.
But what these atheists and agnostics really need to do is acknowledge the bankruptcy of their worldview and ditch it! They need to give up a worldview that cannot give them what they truly long for and embrace the only one that can: a biblical worldview grounded in the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
— Avery Foley and Troy Lacey, Answers in Genesis, Atheists: Believers in Fate, Reincarnation, and Karma?, August 6, 2019