Atheism, evolutionism and families

Analysis of a recent popular psychology article

by and Stuart Burgess

Published: 17 January 2013 (GMT+10)

A recent article by Bruce Grierson in Psychology Today, “The Atheist at the Breakfast Table”, shows dolls of Mom, Dad, Darwin and monkeys, and suggests that “nonbelievers [in God] are growing in number, but you might not know it because they may be in the next pew with their kids1 (italics added). In other words, the article restates what believers, especially creationists, have been suggesting for some time: that the evolutionary worldview is coming into popular culture so much that it is having an effect on the belief of many churches, parents, and children. From a Christian perspective, such an unbelieving and one-sided evolution-supporting trend is negative, especially for young people, and it can lead to unspiritual thinking and consequences in other areas of society, too.

For example, Grierson’s article exemplifies some common misconceptions by atheists:

(1) Atheists typically assume that they are open-minded, but they usually exclude even the possibility of a Creator, i.e. they are not. E.g., Julian Huxley famously said that “Modern science must rule out special creation or divine guidance”.2 Todd more recently admitted that he also believed that science excludes a Creator: “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic”.3

(2) They assume that they are ‘quiet’ and ‘non-fundamentalist’ people, when in fact their position is just as ‘loud’ and ‘fundamentalist’ (in the modern derogatory sense of intolerant and exclusionary4) as that of anyone! To essentially worship pleasure rather than God (2 Timothy 3) might seem to be a non-religious, non-fundamentalist position but it is actually an (atheistic) fundamentalist/dogmatic position. Furthermore, to ignore God (if He exists, which is the question at issue) is actually a very bold and provocative thing to do—not a quiet, reasonable thing.

(3) They assume that the majority of academics do not believe in God. However modern science encourages people to keep silent about God; scientists are not allowed to mention God or give Him glory in their research papers. And if a scientist does mention God, his career can be negatively affected. However, our personal experiences as academics are that there is very significant (but not articulated) sympathy for, e.g., intelligent design among academics in secular universities.

In general, Grierson seems to be trying to promote the misconception that creationists are unreasonable and in a minority. However the greatest scientists like Newton, Maxwell and Faraday were creationists and were not unreasonable. (Furthermore, creationists have not always been in a minority.)

Atheism not mainstream

THE STAKES FOR BELIEVERS AND THEIR CHILDREN: the authors’ children: such children are typically and unavoidably bombarded by evolutionist perspectives. THE STAKES FOR BELIEVERS AND THEIR CHILDREN: the authors’ children: such children are typically and unavoidably bombarded by evolutionist perspectives.
THE STAKES FOR BELIEVERS AND THEIR CHILDREN: the authors’ children: such children are typically and unavoidably bombarded by evolutionist perspectives.

This ‘Atheist at the Breakfast Table’ article (the title apparently referring to an atheistically and evolutionarily influenced child) points out that children are being subtly moved into more evolutionary and liberal beliefs through their public schools and the popular culture. Nevertheless, the article goes on to admit that in spite of promotion of atheism by people like the late Christopher Hitchens and his book, God is Not Great,5 such open activity has not endeared atheists to most Americans, at least: In fact, polls in that country apparently show that “dislike and distrust of atheists is more widespread than for any other identifiable group” [pg. 72 of the Grierson article]. Now, while believers need not dislike, and in fact desire to love non-believers through the power of Christ, there is some unintentionally implied positive news for them within the above quote: In spite of evolution’s almost unilateral domination of the educational system and its implication of no need for God, most people tend to distrust the non-believers who most forcefully promote atheism.

Strategy of many evolutionists who are atheists

Nevertheless, the article and its overall pro-evolution and non-believing perspectives also promote a strategy for nontheistic evolutionists, to help them convince people that currently believe in a Creator that He doesn’t exist: In essence, it suggests evolutionists should downplay any threatening aspects of atheism. Atheism is (at least according to the article) “not an adversarial position, just a position. There, in the vast middle of the religious spectrum, a space not occupied by fundamentalists of any sort, live tens of millions of atheists and agnostics, more or less quietly, mostly with their families. And their numbers are growing”.

But has there ever been anything threatening about atheism? E.g., are atheists really in the “vast middle of the religious spectrum”? Aren’t they really on one extreme end of the believing/non-believing spectrum? And wasn’t it atheistic and anti-creation thinking that undergirded the beliefs and actions of a number of the most dangerous extremists and mass murderers of recent times, such as Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and other fanatically materialist communists? (Also, Hitler and his Nazis believed that their deliberately evolution-based policies would promote society in a positive way, as Mein Kampf clearly indicates.) On the other hand, didn’t it require the world’s most believing Christian country, the United States (along with other Christian-background allies such as Britain) many tough years to defeat such ‘people-are-just-animals’ viewpoints, actions, and government regimes? Could there be historical reasons why many people distrust atheism and its desire for increasing numbers of supporters, influence and power?

Nevertheless, the article goes on to claim that “what nonbelievers most believe in is a gentle spirit of inquiry and open-minded investigation of options—which, as with [self-described atheist] Ross Harvey, may involve engagement with religious traditions” [such as Mr. Harvey’s apparent liking of religious ceremonies without himself believing in God; which may perhaps more accurately place him in another potential non-theistic category, that of a ‘neo-modern’6]. In any case, if such people want such open-minded investigation and discussion, why do they typically end up trying to force out all discussion of the possibility of creation as an option, even if it is based on an even-handed pro and con discussion of scientific evidences only (e.g. in public schools)? Is this open-minded?

The article also claims that “the place where atheists are found in the greatest concentration [is] the scientific community … especially tenure-track social scientists and natural scientists at America’s top research universities … [where] around 60 percent of these identified [themselves] as either atheist or agnostic … .That’s more than 10 times the proportion you’d find in a random slice of Americans but lower than you might expect, given that highly publicized surveys had previously pegged the percentage of atheists among top scientists at over 90 percent.” However, if the previous (and apparently now known to be mistaken) survey showed that “over 90 percent” at top research universities were atheists; but the new survey now supposedly shows that atheists plus agnostics are together only “around 60 percent” of such scientists; then perhaps the percent of top scientists who are atheists has dropped significantly in recent years; and/or one or more of such surveys have been mistaken (as somewhat admitted here in the article).

Mr. Grierson’s article goes on to say that within a group of self-identified atheists and agnostics in the sciences, almost one in five were part of a religious community or attending a church, temple or mosque “with some regularity”. Apparently, these unbelievers’ reasons for adopting some religious traditions were “highly rational”, such as some trying to reconcile their identities as scientists, non-believers, and spouses or parents; or trying to have a moral structure for their children, etc. This is commendable and all people, regardless of their current beliefs and rationales, should be (and generally are) made welcome in Christian churches, public dinners, guest speaker forums, etc. In fact at one time, many of us creation supporters were of one particular mindset (e.g. evolution and/or no God), but were at least somewhat open and willing to discuss reasons for what we believed with others. That in fact may represent a truly open and evenhanded, science-friendly meeting of minds.

Personal experiences

As an example of bias in “scientists are atheistic” suppositions, one of us (DO) recalls when I did my Ph.D. in the natural sciences at a major US research university in Georgia. In spite of my vulnerable situation, I trusted Jesus by daring to speak to and educate interested people on a scientific case against broad-scale evolutionary origins in my university classes (as well as in my own free time). What happened? I was given a very hard time by a number of professors, some of whom actively worked at getting me forced out of my Ph.D. program (in zoology). They eventually succeeded, but it appears that the Creator answered prayers anyway, because in the nick of time I was able to lateral into another similar program and got my degree (a Ph.D. in ecology). It was also clear from this that there was, and still is, significant anti-religious discrimination, even at major taxpayer-funded universities; but also that with the Creator’s assistance, outspoken Christians can be bold and prevail.

I got through my doctorate (by the Creator’s grace!) and now teach in the natural sciences at another major accredited university that grants numerous graduate degrees [Liberty, a Christian university]. Incidentally, when I was still in my secular doctoral program, I knew a number of other graduate students in the sciences who were also creationists at the same university as me, but they did not step out to say so publically, and they quietly received their Ph.D.’s and Master’s. Then a number moved on to teach and research in various accredited colleges, universities and scientific fields. Therefore it seems inaccurate as well as possibly anti-theistically biased for the article to subtly imply that creation supporters are not good and successful scientists (and frequently within secular academia).

Possible significance for current non-believers and ‘free thinkers’

Another key part of Grierson’s article is where the atheist/neo-modern mentioned above, Ross Harvey, explained why he became an unbeliever as a teenager: “One of [Harvey’s] Brethren [church denomination] leaders, backed into a corner by Harvey’s queries, admitted that, yes, by definition of church doctrine, Gandhi would be going to hell. That was enough for Harvey. He was out [of his former Christian belief] and became an atheist”.7

However, we would suggest that such questioning individuals need to reconsider such an issue in terms of scripturally consistent, traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs: Namely, that we are all considered sinners because we were conceived with the sin nature that passed down to us from Adam, the first man (and first wrongdoer). For Christians, the one exception was and is considered to be Jesus, the Son of God, who was the “seed of the woman” and conceived via a miraculous conception by God, instead of via a sin-bearing man. According to this view, we are all born into and live as wrongdoers and mortal beings because of our ancestry that traces back to the first fallen man, and because of our deliberately wrong choices afterward in our own lives. Therefore except for the perfect Saviour, we all (even Gandhi) deserve eternity in the place reserved for sinners who in their lifetimes do not agree to be spiritually cleansed by the sacrificial blood that was sacrificed on Christ’s cross.

Otherwise, we all go to the place in which we deserve to (and at least during life, desire to) continue to be separated from the perfect God (i.e., Hell). This may appear to be tragic, but it gives individual humans immense freedom to choose (at least from their perspective—see Ephesians 2:8 and 2 Timothy 1:9), and provides another perspective for us past or present ‘Atheists at the Breakfast Table’. This perspective provides a powerful answer regarding our broken universe and broken humans; yet one which seems historically to have provided the best environment not only for freedom and productivity, but also for the advancement of science itself.


We thank Dr. David A. DeWitt, Chairman of the Department of Biology and Chemistry and Director of the Center for Creation Studies; and Liberty University as a whole, for providing academic support for the authors to work on the above concepts, and in turn to hopefully help provide an alternative view for seekers.


  1. Grierson, B., The atheist at the breakfast table, Psychology Today, pp. 70–78, May 2012. Return to text.
  2. Huxley, J., Evolution, the Modern Synthesis, p. 457, Harper Bros. Publ., New York, 1942. Return to text.
  3. Todd, S.C., A view from Kansas on that evolution debate, Nature 401(6752):423, 30 September 1999. Return to text.
  4. See Grigg, R., Anyone for fundamentalism? Creation 30(4):15–17, 2008; and Darwinian fundamentalists … believe it, or else! Creation 15(3):4, 1993; Return to text.
  5. Hitchens, C., God is Not Great: The case against religion, Atlantic Books, London, UK, 2007. Return to text.
  6. Fabich, A.J., Time to abandon postmodernism: Living a new way, Answers Research Journal 4(1):178–183, 2011; Return to text.
  7. Ref. 1, p. 74. Return to text.

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Reader’s comments

Christopher J.
Carl Wieland cant believe in:
- That the amazing genetic system with its machine-like complexity made itself.
- That nothing exploded and became everything
- That all of mankind's yearning for purpose, morality and meaning arises from the random dance of atoms.

But he can believe in:
-Talking snakes.
-Talking donkey.
-that a Man lived inside a fish.
-that Super human force is canceled by haircut.
-That everything was created from nothing.
-That life without Jesus have no purpose at all
-that his beliefs are absolute and godly and that any other belief is just relative and vain.
Carl Wieland
Let me add comments in square brackets, repeating yours, Christopher.
Carl Wieland cant believe in:
- That the amazing genetic system with its machine-like complexity made itself.
- That nothing exploded and became everything
- That all of mankind's yearning for purpose, morality and meaning arises from the random dance of atoms. [He therefore believes in the, all-powerful, personal Creator God of the Bible as the only rational alternative, capable of supernaturally creating things in six days just as he revealed.]

But he can believe in:
-Talking snakes [Given the existence of God as revealed in the Bible, the existence of a spiritual realm as it also reveals, including fallen angels capable of speaking through a serpent, is not some fantastic thing at all].
-Talking donkey.
[Precisely because this same miracle-working Creator has revealed that, not capriciously, or frequently, but at one point in history for a very specific and carefully explained purpose, He caused such a phenomenon. It would have been instantly recognizable as a divine miracle precisely because donkeys don't normally do that, just as dead men don't rise. Some of the greatest minds in history have believed that, e.g. the scientist Isaac Newton. And so have some of the humblest. I am unfortunately not in any special category, the point is only that I have no problem believing that nor wearing your attempt at ridicule]
-that a Man lived inside a fish. [And given that God reveals that He specially prepared the fish, I would ask, what is difficult about that? This is the same God who conceived, designed and made the first of that fish's kind in the first place.]
-that Super human force is canceled by haircut.
[You are clearly referring to Samson. But the Bible does not imply that cutting hair weakens people, as if it is the norm, as does your caricature. The source of Samson's superhuman power was clearly God, i.e. supernatural.]
-That everything was created from nothing.
[But you have to believe that, too, unless you believe that the world is eternal--which would fly in the face of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The difference is that the atheist today holds that it created itself, i.e. a cause without an adequate effect, since nothing can create itself, since it has to exist before it can do anything. Whereas the Christian postulates an adequate cause.]

-That life without Jesus have no purpose at all

[I'm not sure where I said that, but certainly it would have no ultimate purpose. If there is no Creator God, then what would be the meaning of anything, apart from what one chooses to arbitrarily assign to life? That is not the same as saying it has 'no purpose at all'. Someone might choose to be content with simply having the purpose of surviving, or procreating, or whatever. Thus, it's not that a non-theistic view of life has 'no purpose', but no significant purpose, no ultimate meaning to life.]

-that his beliefs are absolute
[if they were not true, they would not be much use, and if they are true, then they are by definition, because of what they are, not relative, but absolute--not because I believe them, but because of who God is, knowable only from what He has revealed about Himself. So it all revolves around the Bible, front left and centre.] and godly [I am not sure what this is supposed to mean, since I don't see how beliefs (as opposed to people or actions) can be 'godly'. But I would suggest that once we know that there is a Creator God, it is important to try to seek Him out, i.e. what He wants us to do. He says that if you seek Him with all your heart, Christopher, you will find Him. That has nothing to do with me or my belief, and everything to do with what is between you and Him.] and that any other belief is just relative [If I believed it was not relative, then I would have to believe it was absolute, and therefore true. So by definition, the Christian faith would be untrue. By the laws of logic, A cannot be non-A, etc.] and vain. [The claims of Christ are very clear, and are presented as propositional truths in the Bible. If they are true, they are absolute, and absolutely true, and by definition other beliefs, sincere and worthy in their own right they may be, are negated. Alternatively, grant those other beliefs and the truth of Christianity is in vain. As the great Apostle Paul put it, if Christ did not truly rise from the dead (thus authenticating Christianity and the Bible), then our faith is in vain. It's interesting that Jesus Christ Himself seemed to go out of His way to highlight those parts of the Bible that people today try to mock believers with. He zoomed in on the Flood, for instance, and the miracle of Jonah and the great fish, which incidentally was a deliberate forerunner of and pointer to His coming death and resurrection, not some abracadabra thing.]
Andrew L.
Andrew Lamb
Garry G., you say that you are “charitable and an atheist” but maybe that makes you atypical—see Helping the needy with creation.
Bob S.
"Atheists typically assume that they are open-minded, but they usually exclude even the possibility of a Creator,"

You're right. I'm so close-minded I have completely ruled out any possibility of supernatural magic in the universe. I also refuse to believe in Easter Bunnies.
Carl Wieland
That's good, Bob. I also refuse to believe in six impossible things before breakfast, as Lewis Carroll's character put it:

1. The tooth fairy.
2. That the amazing genetic system with its machine-like complexity made itself.
3. That a fat man with reindeer delivers presents to millions of children.
4. That nothing exploded and became everything
5. A giant purple frog behind the moon
6. That all of mankind's yearning for purpose, morality and meaning arises from the random dance of atoms.

Have a great 2013!
B. O.
A few weeks ago I read a book that was written by a lady. In it she commented that she didn't believe in God. Then she went on to share that her friend and her went to a children's Christmas concert at a local church. She said she came away in tears because they had something special that they believed in that she couldn't have. Can someone explain this to me? What is blocking her from accepting this beautiful thing that brought her to tears?
Carl Wieland
Might be worth asking her. Odds on it's something to do with 'science', aka the evolutionary stuff that the entire culture is fed.
Garry G.
Has the writer every talked to an atheist? As a happy, well adjusted loving hard working family man, active in the community, charitable and an atheist, I would love the opportunity to sit and discuss my lack of belief and how its reflected in my life. Any takers?
Carl Wieland
I don't know about the writer, but I have a number of atheists in my family. And I've had numerous discussions with similarly moral representatives of that particular faith. As we've said on numerous occasions on this site, it's not that an atheist can't act morally (though the sociocultural norms by which that is judged are almost always a leftover from the rapidly depleting capital of our Christian foundations in the West) but that there is no objective basis for this. So it makes it all too easy for an immoral person (or immoral streaks in a moral person) to find justification. This is especially problematic when socio-ideological movements come into play, e.g. the way in which the Nazis justified, even glorified cruelty and 'hardness' by their anti-Christian, evolution-worshipping mindset. O, and in case you are tempted to come back with the usual apologetic from the myriad of websites that enjoy providing misinformation on this particular issue, please check out the documentation on on the subject as well as the book One Human Family: the Bible, science, race and culture (sample sections here).
Roland T.
This article is so true, and hits right at the heart of the issue.l

I have experienced first hand just what is mentioned here. If you're a Christian studying in a secular university/college, don't even mention your faith even once... or else... is the experience I've come away with. I've also lost "open minded" friends, simply because my beliefs were incompatible with their lack thereof.
Alan H.
I have always been amazed by how our 'free', 'open minded', 'tolerant', 'progressive' culture is founded on 'abuse', 'insult', 'fear', 'hatred', 'peer pressure' and threats to those who have different views. Or should I say certain views. What is also amazing is this new 'tolerance' invents new ways of enforcing viewpoints such as diversity. A way of shutting up your target group and giving a free pass to everyone else. Interesting in that diversity means accepting other cultures and viewpoints as equally valid unless that is the viewpoint is the one that 'diversity' was designed to silence in the first place. Where we get to is the exposure of the bankruptcy of the wisdom and philosophies of this age. Such as the contradictions of the absolutism of relativism (there are no absolutes everything is relative), the judgementalism of non judgementalism (how do you judge that you are being judged), equality and diversity (all views are equal and valid except the ones that are not). The wisdom of this age is just a thuggish power play with an elite who cannot be questioned as they have set themselves up as angels of light, knowing good and evil and dispensing the justice of a mob in the form of unchallengable consensus (that makes the joke out of diversity and is the enemy of the scientific method). Once we had the Enlightenment today it is the Endarkenment.
Robert S.
Even though the odds always seem against the Christian; the Christian should know that his God is still running the whole show.

"Since God moves and works all in all, he necessarily moves and works even in Satan and wicked man. But he works according to what they are and what he finds them to be, i.e., since they are perverted and evil, being carried along by that motion of divine Omnipotence, they cannot but do what is perverse and evil. Just as it is with a man riding a horse lame on one foot or on two feet. His riding corresponds to what the horse is. That is, the horse moves badly. But what can the man do? He is riding this horse together with sound horses. This one goes badly, though the rest go well. But it cannot be otherwise, unless the horse be made sound.
Here you see then that when God works in and by evil man, evil deeds result. Yet God cannot do evil himself, for he is good. He uses evil instruments, which cannot escape the sway and motion of his Omnipotence.
The fault which accounts for evil being done when God moves to action lies in the instruments which he does not allow to lie idle. Hence it is that the wicked man cannot but always ere and sin, because under the divine power he is not permitted to remain motionless, but must will, desire and act according to his nature. We are subject to God's working by mere passive necessity... he is incessantly active in all his creatures, allowing none of them to keep holiday... he cannot but do evil by our evil instrumentality, although he makes good use of this evil for his own glory and for our salvation."*

If people reject Christ's patient offer of salvation and remain unchanged instruments of evil, the fault is not God's but theirs alone.

*Erasmus and Luther: Discourse on Free Will, Continuum, p. 112, 113
graham P.
Good one. Great to see some psychology-related articles at last: Think of all those psych students who need to be saved..

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