Author Jonathan Noyes
Published on 01/17/2022
Other Worldviews

The Word Atheists Don’t Want to Say

As we observe the law of causality at work in the world around us, the explanation for our existence begins to look a lot like God.


I was sitting with my sister in in her apartment in Boston with her boyfriend, now fiancé, and their best friends, and one of them asked me the question I love getting. It’s the best question anybody can ask me: “What evidence led you to believe God exists?” My response to them was three questions.

I asked, “Do things exist?” Their response was, “Of course things exist.”

“Do you think things that exist have always existed?”

“Well, I don’t think so,” they said.

Looking around the room, you could point to the table or the cat. You could point to the car outside. You could point to the paintings or the television.

“Have these things always existed?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

Well, then, then the third question is, “What caused them to come into existence?”

When I was sitting with my sister and her friends, I was met with silence. “I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. I’m not a philosopher. I don’t know these things. I don’t know.”

But rationally, we have only two choices. Everything either has to come from some thing or no thing. And who in his rational rights would say nothing caused the world? Even if it’s possible, what’s most reasonable? This puts atheists in a very interesting place. They don’t want to say something caused the universe, because the minute they do, their naturalism is dead. This is where I started as a naturalist, because I tried to explain the existence of the stuff, and I didn’t have anything available to me to adequately explain it. If I appealed to “something caused the universe,” that something had to have certain qualities in order to create everything. That something had to be powerful. It had to be creative. It had to exist outside of time and space. It had to be immaterial. And before I knew it, and before the atheist knows it, that something that they want to posit as the creator of the universe starts to look an awful lot like the G word, and they don’t want to say that word. That’s the bad word: God.

Instead, to avoid the G word, at least for me, I’d want to posit the nothing option, but as I pressed into it and tried to learn from the world around me, it seemed like this was really unreasonable. I’m not going to argue that it’s impossible to get something from nothing—I think it is impossible to get something from nothing—but I don’t have to do that with the naturalist.

Keep in mind, it’s the atheist or the natural materialist who wants to claim Christians are unreasonable. That’s what I used to say: “You are the unreasonable one. I’m a purveyor of reason.” So, I’m just going to ask the atheist, what are the chances? What are the chances of nothing producing everything?

Think of your dream car. Mine right now currently happens to be the Tesla X. I would love to be able to buy my wife a Tesla X. Imagine if I came home, and parked in my driveway, after a long day of work, is a brand new black mirror Tesla X. It’s wrapped in a bow, and it has my name on a huge name tag. I walk inside, and my wife is prepping a meal, and I say, “Babe, did you see the car in the driveway? It’s so cool. It’s amazing. Thank you so much! Where’d you get it? Can we afford it?” And she says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” So, there’s a car in the driveway. Where’d it come from? “Oh, it just appeared out of nowhere. It was crazy. It was the craziest thing. Stuff like that, it happens all the time.” Stuff like that never happens. Things like that don’t happen all the time. Nothing like that comes from nothing. If things came from nothing, then science itself would be impossible.

I know that you’re starting to recognize that this is the kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God. When I was wrestling with it as an atheist, I didn’t know it had a formal meaning or a formal name.

I want to talk about “nothing” for a minute, because sometimes this word has been called into question. When I say “nothing,” I don’t mean the so-called “nothing” of Lawrence Krauss. I’m not talking about a quantum vacuum. Even that had to come into existence from somewhere.

Major scientists have all written on this. When I say “nothing,” what I mean is the universal negation. No thing. It’s that which rocks dream about. That’s the nothing I’m talking about.

The nothing option is actually worse than magic. Oftentimes, as an atheist, I used to say, “Oh, you’re going to appeal to your magic now.” It’s a short, pithy thing to say to the Christian. It has rhetorical force behind it. But when I started thinking about it, I realized, “Wait a second. I’m the one appealing to something worse than magic.” When a magician pulls the rabbit out of a hat, he’s got a magician, himself. He’s got the hat. He’s got the rabbit. Well, on the “nothing” view, he’s got no hat, and he’s got no magician, either—just the rabbit brought into existence out of nowhere. Is that reasonable?

Here’s the main point: Christianity has superior explanatory power when it comes to the existence of the world around us. When I was honest with myself in pursuit of the answers to those big questions, my atheism just simply fell short. Naturalism can’t explain where stuff comes from, but Christian theism can. And not only that, but it does so in a way that’s consistent with our basic intuitions about reality and the world around us. The explanations Christianity provides line up perfectly with the way things really are, and once my presuppositions of naturalism were dropped to the floor, and I availed myself to a supernatural explanation, I realized there was nowhere else to run. There’s nowhere else to turn for answers. All effects have causes adequate to explain them. Therefore, Christianity has better explanatory power when it comes to the existence of the universe.