In responding to a Contemporary Christian musician who came out as gay, saying that she is convinced that God accepts her just as she is, Robert George draws on Plato, who said that there are three forms of atheism:
(1) Not believing that God or the gods exist.
(2) Believing there is a God, but he is not concerned with human affairs.
(3) Believing that there is a God who is concerned with human affairs, but he is “soft-spirited,” making no demands.
Dr. George believes that the third form of atheism is the greatest threat to Christianity and our civilization today.
From Robert P. George, Victoria Beeching and Plato’s Third Form of Atheism | Robert P. George | First Things:
I must confess to not having heard of Victoria Beeching before she made news by publicizing her sexual predilections. But the theology by which she proposes to justify her behavior and demand the approbation of her fellow Christians turns out to be far from new. Plato described and condemned it in his great final work, known to us as “The Laws.” There (at II: 885b4-9) he identifies three forms of “atheism” . . . (or what we might today call “godlessness” or perhaps “secularism”).
Plato’s first form of atheism is the denial of divinity itself—what we today usually mean by the term “atheism.” This is the idea that there is no God or are no gods. There is no supernatural reality, only the mundane. The second form of “atheism,” does not deny divinity. It supposes, however, that God or the gods do not concern themselves with human affairs. People today use the term “deism” as a label for this view. The third form of “atheism” accepts that there is a God and that God is concerned with human beings. But this “God” is soft-spirited and easily placated or appeased. He makes no stringent moral demands of human beings. He wants us to like ourselves and like him. So it’s fine with him if we do pretty much as we please, whatever we please. He is an “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.” divinity—the perfect deity for an Age of Feeling.
The mortal threat to Christianity today—and, I would venture to say, to Judaism and (in the West at least) Islam as well—does not come from Plato’s first and second forms of atheism, but from the third. Few believers are likely to be led astray by the arguments or personal example of Richard Dawkins, for example. Dawkins, after all, presents arguments; he doesn’t simply appeal to emotion. And the defects of those arguments aren’t difficult to see. Many believers, however, are being led, as Victoria Beeching has been led, into Plato’s third form of atheism—belief in an imaginary God made in the image and likeness of man, as man is conceived in the pseudo-religion of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism. It is a most convenient “God” who is always willing to say, “do whatever you feel like doing, darling; I love you just the way you are.”