In the newest episode of the Reasonable Faith Podcast titled “Does Reason Lead to Atheism or Theism,” William Lane Craig argues that some atheists actually believe in God although they deny their belief. Craig explains that sin and complexities of human psychology can lead atheists to suppress their belief in God.
The discussion about whether atheists are liars or otherwise suppress knowledge of God, as mentioned in the second half of the podcast, traces to a blog post from philosopher Stephen Law. During May of 2012, Law authored a blog post titled “Do atheists know God exists?” in which he notes that Craig “takes the view, apparently, that atheists know in their hearts that God exists.” Law explains that Craig’s view would lead one to believe that atheists are liars – even if they happen to be consciously unaware of their belief in God.
Stephen Law, in his blog post, writes, “If the explanation is in terms of suppressed knowledge, it would also need explaining what the motive would be for suppressing such knowledge, given the known, infinitely horrible consequences of doing so.”
Craig, responding to Stephen Law’s question of why atheists would suppress belief in God, draws on passages from Romans 1 and thoughts of Alvin Plantinga. He says, “It’s not at all implausible, that in the case of atheism, that there’s a sinful suppression of the knowledge of God.” Expanding on this reasoning about psychology, Craig explains, “It is perfectly plausible, I think, to think that due to sin and the suppression of the knowledge of god, or rationalization of one’s own behavior or whatnot, that one could suppress and deny that one knows that God exists and be sincere about it even though deep down that person really does know that God exists.”
Further elaborating on his thoughts about human psychology, Craig explains,
The human psyche is so capable of rationalization and suppressing things that we find uncomfortable that I think it’s very plausible to think that an atheist could somehow suppress the knowledge of God or rationalize it away so that he doesn’t have to face it overtly. You can think of cases, especially involving moral misbehavior, where this human ability to rationalize comes out. For example, men who get caught in sexual affairs will, at least in the beginning stages of the affair, typically rationalize away the behavior even though they know that what they are doing is wrong.
Closing the podcast, Craig says that the issue of whether atheists “deep down really know that God exists” is irrelevant and that the real question is whether atheism or theism is warranted. Craig continues, noting, “Why are we raising this question about the personal psychology and sincerity of atheists? I think the reason atheists raise this is because they want to be able to get their backs up and take righteous offense and indignation at being called liars by these Christians and theists.”