Blogging the Institutes–1.3.2–Even Atheists Have Some Knowledge of God

“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List

Even Atheists Have Some Knowledge of God

It’s pretty absurd to hold to the belief that certain people created religion to keep others under their control. Many times, those who were teaching others to worship some God didn’t even believe in God themselves! Now, I readily acknowledge that certain people have used religion to subjugate others. But they could have never been successful unless people already had some “seed form” knowledge of God from which full-blown religious adherence grows.

It’s pretty astonishing that some people who have used religion to gain power over others were atheists themselves. In earlier history, there were some who were atheists and at the present time they are many atheists around. But even these atheists will occasionally have a sense of God, even though they don’t want it. Caligula had more contempt for God than just about anyone around at the time, yet even he had great dread when God’s judgment showed up. Although he said he was unwilling to believe in God, he shook in terror before the God he so vehemently condemned. The same thing happens to atheists in my day.

The most proud and audacious atheist is easily disturbed, even by the sound of a falling leaf! How could this be unless the more they try to run from God’s majesty in creation, they more it impresses itself on their conscience? They all look for hiding-places in which they might flee the presence of the Lord. They try to erase this knowledge of God from their minds. But after all their efforts, they remained “trapped” by this knowledge, like someone tangled up in a net.

Though the conviction that God exists may occasionally seem to vanish from the atheist’s mind, it will immediately return. And when it does, it often comes upon them with new intensity so that any relief they had from the gnawing of their conscience goes out the window. They can be like drunk people or the insane: they want to sleep but are haunted by nightmares. Therefore, even the wicked themselves are an example of the fact that some knowledge of God exists in every human mind.

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