I have long believed that there is really no such thing as an atheist.
Atheists tend to give the game away by making ethics their main concern. Christopher Hitchens used to challenge people to name one sin an atheist could commit that a theist would not. Atheist ads in subways and on buses in Britain and I think also North America read “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Richard Dawkins’ famous book in his own field was titled “The Selfish Gene.” It was, taken in ethical terms, a defense of selfishness.
Their real concern is ethical, rather than ontological. The question is not “is there a God?” but “is there any punishment for sin?” It is this they want to deny.
Atheists who say they do not believe in God commonly devoutly believe in “Evolution,” “Nature,” or “Science.” They speak of their chosen deity in personal terms, as though it has a will and a direction, and emotions, and is all-powerful.
What’s the difference between this and the traditional conception of God? Only the absence of an ethical dimension. Unlike God, Evolution, Nature, or Science do not believe in right and wrong. It is not God they are rejecting. It is right and wrong.
In other words, atheism is just a dodge by immoral people to convince themselves that they can do as they like, without being eventually called to account.
They give this away, too, by commonly claiming that religion is only wishful thinking, while they are the tough-minded realists. This works only if they ignore the concept of Hell, and think only of the possibility of Heaven. By this assertion, they show that it is Hell they are denying—they begin by denying it. Heaven is purely a secondary issue; presumably they have an inner conviction they’d never make it there anyway.
For an evil-doer, the concept of simple nullity is obviously infinitely preferable to that of eternal torture.
As to Hitchens’ challenge, it is easily met. There are ten commandments. The first three or four, about having no other gods before God, and keeping the Sabbath holy, would be routinely broken by any atheist.
You might argue that this is a Catch-22. How can an atheist be held responsible for violating these commandments if he does not believe there is a God? They are about things due to God.
But then, the fact that God includes these among the commandments suggests that God himself does not allow the possibility. There is, God here attests, really no such thing as atheism.
It indeed seems reasonable to assume that God would have imprinted the awareness of himself in the psyche of each one of us, and in the universe we experience. The universe is a conversation God is having with us.
St. Paul wrote to the Romans:
For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).
The existence of God also seems apparent to human reason seven ways to Sunday: there are many rational proofs of the existence of God. An atheist, if sincere, needs to have grappled with and somehow disproven all of them. And I think it is fair to say that nobody ever has.
“Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.”11 - Catechism of the Catholic Church; Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 2:DS 3004; cf. 3026; Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum 6.
The common claim that the existence of God is an article of faith, and up for grabs, is a scam.
Anyone who asserts that there is no God is committing a willful act of denial.