Why do so many human beings want to reject spiritual truth? This is a valid question in the modern age since it is clear that many people who are atheists are so not because of an act of intellect but one of will. The fact of God, a higher power of intelligence and love who is the source of our being, is graven on every human heart, even if many of us would deny this. It is also apparent from Nature if one looks beneath the surface, and it is taught in religions throughout the world. To be sure, the present materialistic culture and artificial environment in which we live play a strong part in blinding us to the reality of the Creator, but there is more to it than this. A number of people nowadays are not just casually agnostic or uninterested in whether there may or may not be a God because they are too busy going about their daily business. They are not just spiritually indifferent but actively and assertively atheistic. They claim there is no evidence for God (a debatable view), maintain that science gives them all the answers about life they need (equally disputable since it actually gives none about life and its origin as such), and even condemn religion as morally reprehensible (confusing wrong-headed response to religious teaching with the teaching itself). They claim to be motivated entirely by reason, and at one time I thought that might be true and that they were wrong but honest. I now see that that is not the case, and that many people actually do not want there to be a God or Creator to whom they owe their existence. They are motivated not so much by reason as intellectual pride and arrogance.
I should say that this accusation is not levelled at everyone who doubts a spiritual reality to life. The world is too much with many people, and the idea of God simply doesn't matter to them unless and until they are brought low by suffering. However there are people who reject God not because of unbelief but because they hate the idea of God and of themselves as a created being. They disguise their true motives, probably even from themselves, which makes it very hard to discuss the matter with them. They are as wedded to their position as a religious fanatic is to his. Sometimes these people will try to be more morally pure than any believer because they need to prove to themselves, and to others, the superiority of their position, and show that they do not need God to be a good or principled person. However on examination it transpires that their morality is based precisely on their sense of superiority and an intellectual arrogance rather than simple goodness, kindness or a genuine concern for others. At best, it is a mentally based morality rather than one of the heart, echoing their own often highly developed intellect but lack of intuitive vision.
A confirmed atheist of this kind is always an egotist. Of course a believer may be too, but an atheist always is because he has denied God, and the fundamental reason for denying the reality of God is the desire to assert the primacy of the self and to be beholden to no one. It is almost a form of teenage rebellion and dislike of being told what to do which leads me to think that many dogmatic atheists are simply people who have not grown up properly or who carry the wounds of childhood within them, often to the point of not wanting to be healed of these wounds because they feel defined by them; and to be healed would be to lose their sense of self-validating injustice, on the flames of which they feed.
For the plain truth is that atheism is not a reasoned and logical assessment of the situation in which we find ourselves. It is often no more than an angry rejection of God, and denial of the transcendent because of the implications of what that would mean for the atheist's sense of personal autonomy.
Now, of course, some people don't reject God so much as what they believe to be an anthropomorphic version of God, and this is understandable up to a point. Obviously the reality of God is far beyond any idea we might have about it. But the fact that we are made in His image (and we are since the nature of his being is manifested in us) means that we can, on some level, reflect his reality. This means that ideas we might have of him are not completely false as long as they correspond to the highest we can find in ourselves. For instance, when we say that God is a Person we are not saying that he is a person in just the same way as Mr Smith who lives next door, he is not a personality, but his essential nature is ‘I’, not just pure abstract being. I see it as a meaningful coincidence that in English I, the first person, and 1, the number, are almost identical.
Let me repeat this since it matters. God cannot be reduced to mere impersonal abstract being. There is no life in the abstract without its instantiation and those who seek the Absolute without also acknowledging the Personal God will not find the living truth though they may find some expression of it. God is life, yes, but he is also alive.
The doctrinaire atheist requires everything to be explainable in scientific terms, apparently not noticing that a great deal of our experience lies outside the limitations imposed by the senses which is the world explored (often in extraordinary detail) by science. But what this leads to is a denial of such things as goodness, beauty and truth as being in any way real. They become merely relative things, simple concepts or personal judgements, which evaporate when you look at them too closely. Now, there are no solid, intellectual grounds for doing this so it can only be a prejudice. The prejudice springs from a desire, and the desire is to reject God because the person does not want to think of himself as a creature, a created being accountable for his actions to a judge who has authority over him. He wants to be free but the freedom he wants is of and for the self. However to be bound by and to the self is the greatest captivity. The only true freedom is from the self, and this is only possible in God.
Then there is the question of morality. The atheist justifies his rejection of God by saying that he needs no spiritual overlord to make him behave properly. He has a moral system based on reason which is just as humane and decent as any spiritual morality. Leaving aside the fact that his secular morality is often based on his inheritance of a spiritual one, and that in many respects it becomes progressively weaker the further it departs from its original source, there are other problems that he may not have considered.
Most people in the modern world grow up in households in which the prevailing moral ideas are shaped by a type of secular humanism which might appear not too different to Christianity if it were a religion purely of this world with no sense of the next. That’s not surprising since, as I say, secular humanism has borrowed much of its moral position from Christianity, but it leads many people to think that secular humanism has taken all the important bits of Christianity and got rid of the superfluous stuff. The truth is precisely the opposite.
What is left out is the reality of the absolute and this is the foundation of all the rest. Without the fatherhood of God the brotherhood of man has nothing real to bind it together, and the undoubted moral falling away in the West and elsewhere comes from replacing a morality rooted in spiritual truth with a secular morality that has no roots in anything real. The result is that each generation becomes further separated from the idea of spiritual truth and, as it does, its sense of a genuine moral order, founded on a real transcendent truth is diminished.
Once you start to separate human intellect and will and feelings from their proper source in spiritual realities you lose the all important connection between the human being as he is here in this world and his true origin and purpose which are in higher dimensions of existence.
For the fact is that the basis for an objective standard of morality can only come from something eternal that is outside the human mind. This is God and it must be a personal God too because impersonal reality is just that, impersonal. An impersonal reality would be truth only but a full and complete morality must be based on love and truth equally and that means a personal God. Only if founded on a transcendent reality can morality itself be real in the sense of being the same at all times and in all places and not contingent on external factors. But any morality that comes from the human mind will inevitably be conditional and dependent on circumstances affecting that mind. In consequence it will be both mutable and relative.
Secular morality denies religion so it has to look elsewhere to justify itself. Often nowadays it looks to science but science can only examine the realm of nature and nature cannot explain itself so science has nothing to say about true morality. This is an inversion of truth in which the tail is seen to be wagging the dog. No wonder it gets everything back to front. And when it comes down to it the very phrase 'secular morality' is a contradiction in terms since secular means something of this world while morality if it is to be grounded in anything real necessarily implies something beyond this world, something that takes its origin from a timeless reality of truth and goodness. If there is not this reality then any system of behaviour is arbitrary and meaningless and one is not better than another from an absolute point of view. This leaves you with a morality that can change at any time and a changing morality is no morality at all.
The point I am making here does not mean that an atheist can never act from a moral position. Of course he can, but what I am saying is that if he does, and that position coincides with what is generally accepted as goodness, he can have no real reason for doing so according to his belief of how reality is structured. Indeed, without some kind of sense of an absolute that overrides everything in this world and against which everything in this world must be measured how can the atheist actually define anything as 'good' as such? His belief, logically considered, must mean that there is no real moral difference between a Hitler and a saint. Each is just pursuing his own subjective preference and there is no real reason to say that one is better or worse than the other. Against what true yardstick would you be measuring this? The common good? But there is no common good if all we are is animated matter. Without an over-arching reality we are all just locked in our little selves with no true connection to anybody else. Consequently there is no real reason for me to care about you except for any advantage it might bring me. And what this adds up to is that a secular morality has no foundation outside or beyond itself and therefore can never be truly real.