Here in the UK fewer and fewer people seem to believe in God. According to the 2011 British Social Attitudes survey, only 54% of people believe in God.
But how true are these statistics? For according to the 2010 Office for National Statistics 71% of people still called themselves Christian in 2010, which in turn was marginally down from the 72% in the 2001 Population Census. Surely one might argue anybody who claims to be a Christian must believe in God? But apparently not. It would appear that people can be ‘cultural’ Christians without a personal faith in God.
I find these statistics alarming. As a country we are further away from God than people in the traditional ‘mission-fields’ of Africa, Asia and Latin America. We face an enormous evangelistic challenge in dealing with this rise in atheism
And yet, it is not an impossible challenge – if we can only persuade people to use their minds. One of my contemporaries when I was a student at Cambridge was the son of a famous Oxford mathematician, Charles Coulson by name. Coulson once wrote: “The denial of God is practically always the result of shutting one eye. It may be that for this reason God gave us two”. In other words, according to Coulson, not to believe is to engage in a form of intellectual dishonest – or if not intellectual dishonesty, then intellectual laziness.
The Psalmist was even stronger in his condemnation of those who do not believe in God. According to both Psalm 14.1 and Psalm 531.1 it is “fools”, who “say to themselves, ‘There is no God’”. What is a fool? A fool is someone who denies a self-evident truth –n who takes a position based on arguments that will not stand up against the bar of reason and experience. For although For there is no final proof, the evidence for the existence of God is so strong and so powerful that only a foolish person would discount such evidence.
Take, for instance, the argument from conscience. How do we know what is right or wrong? Epictetus, a noted Greek philosopher, once said: ‘N o man is born with a knowledge of music or geometry, but every man is born with some kind of moral sense, even if he defies it, turns his back on it back on it, and ultimately loses it’. Despite the diversity of human cultures, there is a remarkable agreement on the essential values to which conscience points. How come? Emmanuel Kant, the great German philosopher, wrote: ’Two things convince me of God: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me’. If there is no God, then how do we explain our innate sense of morality?