Psalms 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Hebrews 11: 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is , and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Throughout church history atheism has been seen as the ultimate affront to Almighty God. Scriptures like those above have been offered up to prove as much. The atheist is beyond the pale, unredeemable and totally despised, in the mind of the church.
What is it exactly that makes the denial of God's existence so dreadful? If a man can be labeled a fool for not believing in God, how is it that so many learned men of science fall into this category? Some might respond that these learned men are too proud of their own knowledge and capabilities to admit of a higher power in whose eyes they may not seem so smart. Arrogance can cause us all to deny what is true, but is that really what causes atheism among many of the scientifically minded.
Those who embrace and employ the so called scientific method of inquiry look for evidence to support any proposition. The verse above apparently alludes to evidence which is supposed to make God's existence known. Basically the writer points to the marvelous nature of the physical creation as that evidence. Certainly the complexity and integration of all creation inspires awe in most observers. But does that necessarily prove the unseen? Can that which is seen demonstrate unequivocally that which we cannot see? If anyone, even those who believe that skeptics are condemned by the verses above, were to be asked to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that God exists, I don't think they could do that to the satisfaction of most people. Thus, the disbeliever may be without excuse, but the existence of even a momentary doubt in the minds of even professed believers would relegate most, if not all, of us to this same inexcusable state.
In my experience most skeptics don't start out disbelieving in God despite their observations of the world. Much more often men initially believe in God but due to their observations and life experiences they come to disbelieve. In fact, I highly suspect that most people in the throes of personal trials have doubted God's goodness and even existence. The human heart apparently innately seeks after a higher power, as evidenced by the many religions which mankind has embraced. That inherent longing for and intuitive search for a transcendent reality is , in my mind, the single most powerful piece of evidence for the existence of God, not the physical creation.
At the time the words of Romans 1 were penned, the physical creation was accepted as sufficient to prove a creator. In our day, subsequent scientific discoveries and theories have clouded this issue immensely. For many, especially those who make it their life's work to explore and understand esoteric scientific fields, like cosmology, genetics, and quantum physics, the physical creation is awesome to be sure. but not necessarily conclusive proof of a conscious creator. The orthodox religious adherent may deny that the applicability of Psalms 14:1 can ever be negated by further scientific developments, but, in fact, that is precisely what many God deniers believe.
Regardless of how much reliance one may have on the church's interpretation of the verses above, indisputably, many of our brightest and most educated minds are not compelled by their personal observations to believe in a creator being. This represents a dramatic and recent change. Earlier scientists were much more likely to be believers. However, old observations and beliefs about the cause effect relationships at work now and in the past within the universe have been redefined in very new and counter intuitive ways over the past century. It is easy to demonstrate how the church has been forced, reluctantly to be sure, to alter its own beliefs and doctrine to conform with new scientific knowledge on numerous occasions in the past. The time when science felt compelled to conform to religious dogma is long past.
So why not ask the obvious question raised here? If God wanted all to acknowledge His existence, if that is of paramount importance to His purpose and satisfaction, do any believe that He could make that happen? In fact, that is precisely what many disbelievers look for- incontrovertible proof that God exists. What purpose does it serve in the mind of God to demand faith in His existence but then fail to provide the undeniable measure of proof which would effect that faith? If Romans chapter one addresses that proof, then we are still left to wonder why so many yet fail to believe. Even the skeptics I have heard admit that a belief in a divine being is appealing, so why would they deny His existence in spite of what some see as proof sufficient. Quite the opposite is my observation- men believe what they want to believe, what is pleasant and advantageous to believe, even in the face of manifold evidence to the contrary. To deny what one would like to accept in spite of ample supporting evidence is almost unheard of. Yet that is the conclusion one must reach to explain the skepticism which we observe, even occasionally amongst erstwhile believers.
The real mystery of the Bible is why God veils His existence in mystery and then gets upset because men fail to acknowledge Him readily and completely. A lot less mysterious is the fact that many, even believers, doubt God's goodness and even existence, when suffering the many sorrows of life. After all even Jesus seemed greatly troubled by the pending reality of His own death, apparently questioning God in the process.
Just to add a final thought, I'd like to consider what denying God really means. Since God is defined in the scriptures as love, one could conclude that denying God implies the failure to acknowledge the power and practice of love. In that sense can a person who participates in love be a disbeliever in God (in love, if you will)? Perhaps one who loves, regardless of his theology, is not really a fool after all.