Atheists don’t exist.
by Kyle Idleman
Phew, I’m glad that’s out there. Now, before you head to the comment section to remark on my ignorance, hear me out.
When you subtract the religious language, worship is the built-in human reflex to put your hope in something or someone and then chase after it. You hold something up and then give your life to pursuing it. If you live in this world, then, sooner or later you grow some assumptions concerning what your life is all about, what you should really be going after. And when you begin to align your life with that pursuit, then, whether you realize it or not, whether you call it that or not, you are worshiping.
To be clear, when I say worship, I’m not talking formal, organized religion involving robes, rituals and really old music. When someone answers the question of worship by saying, “I’m not the religious type,” he or she is missing the point. If that person is a member of the human race and comes fully equipped with mind, body and emotions, then it follows that the individual is, in fact, a worshiper. It’s factory-installed, standard equipment—not a buyer’s option.
Worshiping is what human beings do, right alongside breathing and eating and thinking. We identify things we want, both good and bad, and then we make sacrifices to get them. From the time we’re born and introduced to milk, we are forever pursing what we think will satisfy our appetites.
If you are a human being, you worship something. Whatever or whoever you worship is by definition your god. It has the highest place of importance in your life. It may be sex, food, success, money, entertainment, a spouse, a friend, or it may actually be God—but we all have something in our lives that trumps all others when it comes to the value we give it. Just one look at our calendars and checkbooks can give us all a pretty good idea of where we put our priorities and what we’re ultimately worshipping.
The end result, of course, is that our lives begin to take the shape of what we care about most. We each make the choice to worship, and then at some point we discover that the choice makes us. The object of your worship will determine your future and define your life. It’s the one choice that all other choices are motivated by.
Philosopher Peter Kreeft puts it this way: “The opposite of theism is not atheism, it’s idolatry.” In other words, everyone is going to worship a god. We were created to be worshipers, as birds were created to fly and rivers were created to flow. It’s what we do. The question then, is who or what will be the object of your worship? Here are a few questions that might objectively reveal your god:
What is the area of your life where you are most disappointed? An area where there is a disproportionate amount of disappointment reveals where we have put our hope. Show me what you have put your hope in and I’ll introduce you to your god.
Where do you go for comfort when life gets hard? Maybe you open up the fridge for a little comfort food or you stop by and pick up a six-pack on the way home from work. Maybe it’s in the arms of stranger.
Where do you make financial sacrifices? Where your money goes shows what god you are worshiping. The Bible puts it this way “where your treasure is there your heart will be.”
What are your passions? How we spend our time has a way of showing us what we are most passionate about.
How do you introduce yourself to others? However we define ourselves and whatever we find our identity in reveals what god we are living for.
All of us, regardless of religious affiliation, worship some aspect of our lives. From my research and experience as a pastor, the most common things we worship are money, success, entertainment, sex, food, achievement, romance, family, and most of all—ourselves.
Life presents us with infinite worship choices. There are lots of options, with one exception: the option to opt out. There is no box for “none of the above.”
I don’t believe in atheists because religious or not, everyone chooses and worships a god.
Ok, now you can comment.
Kyle Idleman is the teaching pastor of the nation’s fourth largest church, Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., and the author of several books, including Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart and Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus.