It is my observation that many people are practical atheists. I know this sounds pretty extreme, but from dealing with hundreds of people over the years, I maintain that it is true.
The popular image of atheists is that they are extreme or even belligerent people. Perhaps the image that comes to mind is of a person devoted to a purely secular way of life who gets upset when religion is mentioned. Or maybe you think of an outspoken crank crusading against the public acknowledgment of God.
But atheism has more than one face. Militant atheists –the kind who believe in no deity– are fairly rare. Most people profess some form of theistic belief. A good many actually have a fairly standard concept of God and Jesus as they are taught in the Bible. For practical purposes, however, some of these folks function as atheists simply because they live as though faith in God had little or no connection to daily life.
So, I repeat my assertion that many people who profess belief in God are actually atheists from a practical point of view. God doesn’t really count for anything substantial with them. He gets nothing from them in terms of what they truly value: time, money, devotion. If they throw him a few bucks now and then or give up a couple of hours on a Sunday once in awhile, they feel God should be satisfied.
Practical atheists feel that their lives are their own business and that, unless they specifically call on him, God should respect that privacy. Only when a crisis comes is there some focused thinking about God and some kind of attempt to contact him.
The Bible tells us, however, that we actually owe God our very beings. If not for him, we would have no existence. It tells us that the reason we are estranged from him is because of our own choices and attitudes. It also gives us the incredible news that Jesus came to offer us forgiveness and re-connection with God. It promises us that, far from being indifferent to our need of him, God is eager to give us restored relationship and eternal life.
Another irony I have observed is that some of these practical atheists even attend church. I can only conclude that they have fallen into a confused logic, believing in God theoretically while living as though he were irrelevant. Either the God of the Bible exists or he does not. If he does not exist then, “..eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” If he does exist as the Bible describes him, then life has no real meaning without him and every aspect of our lives must be lived in light of who he is.