I used to be an atheist. Even though I believed in God.
Millions in our world also are atheists. Though some of them believe in multiple gods.
This is clear from Ephesians 2:12 (look for the bold). Before becoming Christian you were …
ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες καὶ ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ
hope not having and atheists in the world
My apologies for the extremely clunky, literal and word-for-word translation! I hope it conveys the idea. Here Paul writes to Christians in Ephesus – the proud centre of very active religious devotion to Artemis (see Acts 19:27). Paul addresses people who actively turned to Christ in faith, many of whom publicly spurned their former religious ways (see Acts 19:18-19).
Knowing all this, Paul labels their pre-Christian way of life as without God, atheist.
There are at least two points to draw from this.
- Artemis (and all those other gods) are not real
None of the countless gods of the nations are the true God. Despite whatever spiritual reality lies behind them, none of them are the Creator, lawgiver, saviour, rock and comfort. Thus, people who follow them – even with amazing and life-shaping devotion – have no God and have no life.
- The opposite of atheism is relationship with God
The real God always existed for the residents of Ephesus (and Australia too!). Yet it was not enough for Ephesians to merely accept God’s existence. The move from ‘without God‘ to ‘with God‘ came by faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). One who accepts the existence of the God of the Bible, but does not trust him, remains an atheist.
It should not surprise us that atheism has spokesmen and women. We should not be tempted to write them off as ‘a minority’, by saying that more than 50% of our neighbours think God exists. Instead, the Bible makes it clear that atheism is one way to explain the great human problem – we are without God, and need the news of Jesus to restore what we have lost.