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Atheists Really Believe in God But Refuse to Admit It Says, Evangelical Pastor Nate Pickowicz

atheists dont exist

Calvinist Nate Pickowicz, pastor of Harvest Bible Church in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, recently wrote a post for the Entreating Favor blog titled The God-Fearing Atheist. Pickowicz trots out the age-old, worn-out argument that there really is no such thing as an atheist:

It has been said that there is a “God-sized hole” in every person. In other words, the human heart was designed to want and need God. It’s a kind of fingerprint that God leaves on the souls of those created in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Here’s the rub, not every person acknowledges or believes that God exists. How then do we explain this?

In John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, he makes a case for “the knowledge of God implanted in the human mind”. Because it is often argued that religion is a man-made invention to subjugate the masses, Calvin points to indigenous tribes of people who are fully convinced of the existence of God. Furthermore, almost uniformly, these tribes worship blocks of wood and stones as gods rather than believe in the absence of deity. They are naturally prone to worship.

Calvin then addresses the atheist.

He writes, “The most audacious despiser of God is most easily disturbed, trembling at the sound of a falling leaf.” He’s referring to the abject fear within a person when one comes to the end of himself. We’ve all heard the recently deemed politically incorrect phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes.” This is what Calvin is talking about. Intellectually, one can deny God all day long, but placed into a situation which appeals to a person’s instincts, that “God-sized hole” becomes a gaping, aching chasm. In conclusion, Calvin writes, “If all are born and live for the express purpose of learning to know God, and if the knowledge of God, insofar as it fails to produce this effect, fleeting and vain, it is clear that all those who do not direct the whole thoughts and actions of their lives to this end fail to fulfill the law of their being.”

Did you catch that? Because we’re hard-wired to acknowledge God; if we don’t seek Him, then we violate our own nature!

According to Pickowicz, everyone is hardwired to know God exists. His proof for this claim? The Bible. He presents no empirical evidence for his claim. Pickowicz, quoting the God of Calvinism, John Calvin, points to the fact that even indigenous tribes acknowledge the existence of a deity. Fine, let’s run with this argument for a minute. Let’s say everyone is hardwired to acknowledge “God.” Why is it then that this knowledge of God is so varied? If it is the Christian God who puts it in the heart of everyone to acknowledge him, why is it that so many people acknowledge the wrong God? I would think that the Christian God would make sure that everyone knew that he alone is God, yet day after day billions of people worship other gods. Why is this?

Pickowicz needs to get his nose out of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and do some serious thinking about WHY people are religious and WHY they choose the God they do. Several years ago, I wrote a post titled Why Most Americans are Christian. In this post, I explained why most Americans, when asked if they believe in the Christian God, will answer yes:

Cultural Christianity is all about what  people say and not what they do. This is the predominant form of Christianity in America. When asked, do you believe in the Christian God? they will say Yes. It matters not how they live or even if they understand Christian doctrine. They believe and that’s all that matters.

It is this Christian world  into which children in the United States are born. While my wife and I can point to the various conversion experiences we had, we still would have been Christians even without the conversion experiences. Our culture was Christian, our families were Christian, everyone around us was Christian. How could we have been anything BUT Christian?

Practicing Christians have a hard time accepting this. They KNOW the place and time Jesus saved them. They KNOW when they were baptized, confirmed, dedicated, saved, or whatever term their sect uses to connote belief in the Christian God.

Why are most people in Muslim countries Muslim? Why are most people in Buddhist countries Buddhist? Simple. People generally embrace the dominant religion and practice of their culture, and so it is in the U.S.

It is culture, and not a conversion experience, that determines a person’s religious affiliation. Evangelicals, in particular, have built their entire house on the foundation of each person having a conversion experience. However, looking at this from a sociological perspective, it can be seen that a culture’s dominant religion affects which religion a person embraces more than any other factor.

Only by looking at religion from a sociological perspective can we understand and explain why people believe in a particular deity. People such as Pickowicz deny the value and importance of such explanations, preferring to let their trusty inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible do the talking. It is impossible to have a reasonable conversation with people who think in this manner. For them, God has spoken, and any knowledge, be it sociological or neurological, that doesn’t affirm the Biblical narrative, is rejected out of hand.

Pickowicz, like Calvin, thinks that when put in circumstances where death is a distinct and imminent possibility, atheists will abandon their godlessness and cry out to God. And his evidence for this? There is none. I am sure there are stories of atheists crying out for God when dying, just as there are stories of Christians cursing God when facing death. Again, there are numerous reasons for why these things happen, but Pickowicz rejects them all, assured that all atheists KNOW there is a God and when they die they will cry out to the Christian God. (I would love to hear Pickowicz’s explanation for the fact that most people when they die will call out for some other God besides the Christian one.)

Christopher Hitchens, arguably one of the most notable atheists of our generation, died December 15, 2011. Detailing Hitchens’ final days, Ian McEwan of the New York Times wrote:

The place where Christopher Hitchens spent his last few weeks was hardly bookish, but he made it his own. Close to downtown Houston is the Medical Center, a cluster of high-rises like La Défense of Paris, or London’s City, a financial district of a sort, where the common currency is illness…..

….. While I was with him another celebration took place in far away London, with Stephen Fry as host in the Festival Hall to reflect on the life and times of Christopher Hitchens. We helped him out of bed and into a chair and set my laptop in front of him. Alexander delved into the Internet with special passwords to get us linked to the event. He also plugged in his own portable stereo speakers. We had the sound connection well before the vision and what we heard was astounding, and for Christopher, uplifting. It was the noise of 2,000 voices small-talking before the event. Then we had a view from the stage of the audience, packed into their rows.

They all looked so young. I would have guessed that nearly all of them would have opposed Christopher strongly over Iraq. But here they were, and in cinemas all over the country, turning out for him. Christopher grinned and raised a thin arm in salute. Close family and friends may be in the room with you, but dying is lonely, the confinement is total. He could see for himself that the life outside this small room had not forgotten him. For a moment, pace Larkin, it was by way of the Internet that the world stretched a hand toward him.

The next morning, at Christopher’s request, Alexander and I set up a desk for him under a window. We helped him and his pole with its feed-lines across the room, arranged pillows on his chair, adjusted the height of his laptop. Talking and dozing were all very well, but Christopher had only a few days to produce 3,000 words on Ian Ker’s biography of Chesterton.

Whenever people talk of Christopher’s journalism, I will always think of this moment.

Consider the mix. Constant pain, weak as a kitten, morphine dragging him down, then the tangle of Reformation theology and politics, Chesterton’s romantic, imagined England suffused with the kind of Catholicism that mediated his brush with fascism and his taste for paradox, which Christopher wanted to debunk. At intervals, Christopher’s head would droop, his eyes close, then with superhuman effort he would drag himself awake to type another line. His long memory served him well, for he didn’t have the usual books on hand for this kind of thing. When it’s available, read the review. His unworldly fluency never deserted him, his commitment was passionate, and he never deserted his trade. He was the consummate writer, the brilliant friend. In Walter Pater’s famous phrase, he burned “with this hard gem-like flame.” Right to the end.

So much for atheists leaving this world screaming for God. Hitchens entered the foxhole of mortality, knowing that thoughts of God were for those unable to face the brutality and finality of death. Hitchens died as he lived, a man who held true to his godlessness until the end. (If you have not read Hitchens’ final book, Mortality, I encourage you to do so.)

I know there is nothing I can write that will change Pickowicz’s God-addled mind. But perhaps time will. Pickowicz is a young guy who has not experienced much of life. I can only hope that he will get to know a few flesh-and-blood atheists before he dies. I hope he will have the opportunity to observe not only how atheists live but how they die. I am confident that the young preacher will find that dying atheists hold true to their convictions until the end. Unlike countless Christians when faced with death who have to be reassured of their salvation, atheists will need no such reassurance. Atheists know that death is the end. All that remains are the memories their friends and families have of a well-lived life. And that, my friend, is enough.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    “Pickowicz is a young guy who has not experienced much of life.”
    …….or real people. Loved the TV series ‘Battle Creek’ and the comment by the Dean Winters character to the geeky, socially-awkward Josh Duhamel, ‘Do you actually KNOW any people?’ It’s an in-joke between DH and me now, oft-repeated, as we facepalm about Trump, Graham and many other religious crazies!!!

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    The great love inspired by the Lord Jesus always reduces to a common denominator of blast! when discussing faith or lack of it with a true copyright believer. They know that you unbelievers are wrong because they are right! The mountain of KNOW is unassailable and as you offer further knowledge, further tools (Bart Ehrman books or whatever) the believer begins to mock your ignorance because you have not understood the only book worth reading, the one formed in the mind of God, the KJV!.
    This Circle Game always always reduces to the common denominator and must end with you in the pit of fire or at least left to your own devices until God gets really pissed and swats you like a fly.
    Ever wonder why no Christian really cares to lay down their life for you, even take off their coat for you or give you their car? (Oh geez, did I lock those church doors when I left the prayer meeting?)
    I have trouble finding a generous thought after the kind of sermon that Pickowicz offers up from the mind of God-at-War.

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    Pickowicz makes no logical sense. He says there is a god shaped hole in everybody’s heart but he doesn’t explain why it has to be the Christian God. There are, conservatively, some 120,000 different gods worshipped throughout the world. That is one hell of a big number. So Pickowicz doesn’t believe in 119,999 of them, just one less than the number I don’t believe in.

    The trouble is that pastors and their ilk, whilst obviously capable of being intelligent people (as shown by Bruce) exist in a very narrow worldview, and are almost always very badly educated (the PhDs among them are usually very suspect, and they are supposedly the best). Hence they so easily espouse drivel, as in the case of Pickowicz, but are incapable of engaging in any sort of rational discourse that might naturally follow.

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    Michael Mock

    I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: the assertion that atheists know (the Christian) God exists but refuse to admit it makes absolutely no sense. Consider the situation:

    An all-powerful, all-knowing being exists. Those humans who give it their allegiance are inducted into paradise, into a place of perpetual happiness, after death. Those humans who fail to give this being their allegiance will suffer an eternity of horrible, conscious torment after their deaths. The being has made its presence known, on some level, to everyone, everywhere.

    Atheists, however, refuse to admit that this being exists. Why? Given that background, given that we know that this being exists, what possible benefit could we gain from pretending otherwise?

    If we say God doesn’t exist, we’re free to sin? Ridiculous. Christians have free will, too; they’re every bit as free to sin as atheists are — and they demonstrate that capability frequently. We think that God won’t call us to account? Again, ridiculous: you’ve already said that we know this being exists, and that we know it’s all-knowing. Given that scenario, we’d also be completely aware that pretending that God doesn’t exist wouldn’t change anything — so why would we bother? We refuse to admit that God doesn’t exist because we’re rebellious and defiant? Equally ridiculous. How do you defy the all-powerful? What does rebellion even mean when the thing you’re trying to rebel against knows everything you do, say, or think, and is undefeatable? Why would we even try?

    The existence and nature of God cannot — cannot — be as obvious as the Apostle Paul (or Saint Calvin, for that matter) would have us believe. If it were, the only logical course of action would be for us to do our absolute best to please the Almighty and get into His eternal country club. If it were, none of us would be having this conversation in the first place.

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      What the hell is wrong with Gawds and royalty? Why do they always want us to please them instead of seeing us as a possibility for charitable actions??? Hell and tarnation, why can’t the miserable Queen, Gawd, the Saudi king, and all the rest of the chosen, just give us a vacation with snacks included? Why is it always obey and please? Unless, they really want to control us and keep us docile, suck our tax and worship of wealth! Almighty Trump , thou hast shown me the way, the truth and the light. Lead me on the path of double-digit profits and special hair. Help thou my unbelief, my male pattern baldness and my hope in lotteries. Oh Donald, you are my hope, my truth. (I just saw a video with Trump saying, “I could walk down 5th Ave. and shoot somebody and still my voters would support me!”
      America, be afraid. Be very afraid.

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      August Rode

      “Christians have free will, too; they’re every bit as free to sin as atheists are — and they demonstrate that capability frequently.”

      I have been “reliably” informed by True Christians (TM) that only those who follow Christ’s teachings are True Christians. Those who sin are *not* True Christians. The implication of this is that True Christians never sin and are therefore in no need of Christ’s (putative) sacrifice. Christ’s crucifixion was apparently irrelevant for True Christians and pointless for everyone else.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Every God has its day. Show me someone who believes in the ancient Greek or Roman gods. Or An, Enlil and Enki.Or Nana-Buluku. Or Zaojun.

    If religions are cultural constructs, they endure only as long as they have the power of wealth, physical force or sheer numbers. That is why Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world today. But that cannot continue forever. One day, the Christian God will meet the same fate as the others. When, I don’t know, but it will happen, if for no other reason than the Christian nations losing their power.

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    It wasn’t that long ago that there was a study done of people’s brains. And when a certain part of the brain was stimulated, people felt like someone was there. The conclusion was that people have brain activity that makes them feel like there is a god. I wonder how Pickowicz would take this. No, wait a minute, I don’t wonder. He’d reject it without any thought whatsoever.

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    dale m.

    Why oh why do so many Traditional atheists fall over the trip wires that evangelicals lay out for them to explode upon ? Some preacher starts talking about how atheists don’t believe in the 10 commandments and atheists immediately attack them on those 10 commandments. The preacher has already controlled where the conversation is going.

    Did anyone stop and think for a moment that there is no mention in the Old Testament of any 10 commandments ? They don’t exist in that context. My first question would be, to any preacher, “What happened to the other 630 ??” These frauds nitpick and from their nitpicking, they create an entirely new hot-off-the-press religion out of it. Moses NEVER came down from that mount with any 10 commandments. He was up there for 40 days inscribing 640 of them. THIS IS A JEWISH TEXTBOOK !!! Not a Christian one !

    Its what they don’t say that really counts with these fraudsters. If anyone would actually take the time and read them (150 negative commandments/ 490 positive commandments), one might find the real reason they are not taught outside Judaism. These commandments instruct all God’s people to follow all the Jewish traditions that a true believer must. In short, it instructs you how to be a Jew, dress like a Jew, think like a Jew. So. Never let these preachers control the direction of the conversation. In the world of the fraudster, your ignorance plays right into their hands.

    “Every atheist knows in His/ Her heart that there is a God.” So what ? Why fight it ? Turn the bloody tables on them !

    Of all the atheists on this blog, I’m probably the only “New Atheist = Q”. In the political arena of atheism, I’m more like the Planet Pluto. Way out there and definitely demoted to a minor planet. But I came most probably from one of the outer gas giants. A moon within the original Traditional atheist orbit. In fact, there’s a small handful of us. We are now in a very eccentric orbit, not following any of our 8 bigger sisters. But our eccentric orbit allows us a grand view over all the other worlds and once in a while we will cross the plane of our brothers and sisters just to say we’re still here. Our views are very different.

    So. This hole-in-the-atheist where “God” is supposed to be. Pickowicz is challenging us about our lack of belief in “God”. Attack! Attack! Attack! No! No! No! No! First and foremost, this is a TRIP WIRE ! Stop. Look around. Find the trip wire. Then disarm it. ASK HIM FOR HIS DEFINITION of “God”. Any preacher will give you the 3 cornerstone definitions. [Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent]. But did you fall for that ?!? Remember, a fraudster wins when he/ she controls the direction of the conversation by NOT MENTIONING how this was really chronic nitpicking. They don’t want you to be fully aware. Remember the 10 Commandments ? Did you know that there are some 8 definitions of God which are undeniably accepted by every preacher but NEVER mentioned ? Why is this ? Because they could no longer accept being Christian. The full 8 definitions are only for atheists, in the very same way that all the biblical commandments of the “Old Testament” are strictly for the Jewish people.

    And this is where the New Atheists come in. These preachers can win fights against Traditional atheists but NEVER against us. And I have fought many of them on my home site. They always retire and NEVER come back.

    I’m tired. Early morning. I’m going to bed. Goodnight all. Til tomorrow.

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      Dale, I don’t even begin to understand your comment. You seem to be claiming that you are a special kind of atheist who has some special way of dealing with the likes of Pickowicz that ‘ordinary’ atheists don’t have. I’m bound to say that is not my experience. I don’t deny that most atheists (I’m speaking here for the UK where atheism is almost the default position) give the matter little consideration. They’d be dismissive of Pickowicz and his arguments, but probably wouldn’t be able overly to explain. On the other hand, in atheist circles where there is consideration of the issues, Pickowicz wouldn’t be given the time of day. For example, the ‘omnis’ have been so thoroughly exposed as being inconsistent and contradictory that apologists have stopped claiming them as properties of God, replacing ‘omnis’ with ‘maximally’, recognising that ‘perfectly just’ is impossible alongside ‘perfectly merciful’, or the even more basic ‘able to create the rock he is unable to lift’.

      I don’t know many thinking atheists who couldn’t chew up and spit Pickowicz in the blink of an eye.

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    oh the desperation of theists, especially Christians. They must convince themselves that everyone really does agree with them since they have nothing else to show that their nonsense is true. External validation from another human is all they can hope for.

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    Dear Mr. Pickowicz:

    You’re an idiot. Seriously. And you’re a rude idiot, at that. You pretend that you have the ability to read minds, and you’d sooner believe a dusty old book rather than listen to real, live people talk about their own thoughts and experiences.

    Fortunately for you, there probably isn’t a vengeful sky-daddy waiting to slap you silly for violating the commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness. Regardless, I strongly advise you to stop lying about people you’ve never even met because it makes your beliefs look risible and worthless.

    More risible and worthless than they already look, anyway. 😉

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    Jaqen H'ghar

    In the final analysis, it is luck, all luck, and pure luck. It always boils down to the haves and the have-nots. The haves (those who have the ability to think critically and the ability to dare to question and change) can break the vicious circle/cycle of ignorance and suffering. The have-nots are condemned to be what they are. Condolences to them and their progeny (unless the progeny get lucky and become the haves). A man can only thank his lucky star that he’s one of the haves. In the end, a man will have the last laugh when he breathes his last knowing that death can only claim a man and no others because a man is spared of prolonging this crazy, violent, constantly changing/deteriorating, and illusory/valueless form of existence by leaving no child behind. Valar morghulis. Speed up the 6th Extinction. Yippee ki-yay!

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      Having worked in the health field for many years I have had the experience of witnessing peoples’ response to their imminent demise. I have seen non believers face the end with peace and grace. I have seen Christians plead for any treatment to delay the inevitable. If you are in pain and believe that paradise awaits why cling to this life? In my experience religious faith is not much of a factor when the grim reaper is calling

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    The very first thing that struck me about Pickowicz’s little diatribe is that he is from Gilmanton, New Hampshire. Gilmanton was one of the towns in New Hampshire that inspired Grace Metalious’s novel Peyton Place. The hypocrisy of the town is its most notable feature.

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    Pastor Pickowicz, I used to believe in a Christian deity, mostly because my family raised me in evangelical Christianity and I didn’t know much otherwise. Church a few times a week, Christian school with Bible classes and chapel and a white Christian slant on everything. I didn’t spend any time with non-Christians until I was 16 years old and got a job in a university lab. Some of those folks were Christian too, but the “wrong kind”. There were Jewish people, Hindus, Shinto, atheists, and I am not sure what else. Mostly we talked about science, about the work we were doing in the lab. I was there for 8 years, and that exposure to educated people from different backgrounds, along with the folks I met in college, really opened my eyes to other ideas and helped me realize that there were so many good people who didn’t have the same religious beliefs as I did. As I have traveled the world, I have seen that people generally take the religion of their family. That’s just how it is. My kids don’t have a religion – I left religion when they were little and left it to them to ask questions. I don’t know if they will choose a religion – it’s up to them, not my business – they’re both adults.

    Anyway, I don’t believe in deities. You, Pastor Pickowicz, should not assume you know my mind and beliefs better than I do. I don’t have a deity-shaped hole anywhere inside me. It’s OK that you don’t understand this – but please ask an atheist or two or twelve before you try to speak for us. Thank you.

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Bruce Gerencser