Deep down, everyone knows

  • 31 May 2013
The Bible tells us that all men know God exists. It is ‘plain to them, because God has shown it to the things that have been made’ (Rom 1:19-20). Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God 'has put eternity into man's heart’ (Ecc 3:11).
However, because man doesn’t want to worship God, he suppresses what he really knows deep down. Like a parent of a naughty child who refuses to accept their child’s waywardness, they deceive themselves to only see and believe what they want to.
Joe Coffey, in Smooth Stones, presents 3 internal evidences for the existence of God: The Universal Concept, The Law of Human Nature, and the tendency toward Better Mental Health.
The Universal Concept
Every civilization that has ever existed on this planet has had a “God concept” as part of its core—from the Stone Age all the way to the present time. In that sense, belief in God is universal.
Take the culture here in the United States. Estimates are that between 86 and 96 percent of Americans believe in God. In his book God: The Evidence, Patrick Glynn says people are wired for prayer, and in America, 90 percent of women and 85 percent of men say they pray daily. Even more amazing, of the 13 percent of Americans who describe themselves as atheists, one in five report they pray every day!
Human beings have an appetite for God. It’s built in. And appetites always have a corresponding reality. I think it is safe to assume that our predominant tendency to some kind of belief in God is the result of an inner spiritual hunger—a hunger to know and relate to and commune with our Creator.
We do not hunger for that which does not exist. We hunger for food, or for knowledge, or for beauty, or for love, and those things exist. We can imagine something that doesn’t exist. We can imagine a world where we could hear the color orange—we just don’t long for it. We don’t have an appetite for it. We don’t write songs about it. We hunger for things that have a corresponding reality.
What is the corresponding reality for the worldwide spiritual hunger for God? The hunger that cuts across every culture, every people group, and every language for every civilization that has ever existed on the face of the earth?
The corresponding reality is God. For God has placed eternity in the hearts of men.
The Law of Human Nature
C. S. Lewis describes “our innate sense of right and wrong” in his book Mere Christianity. Lewis says that a basic law, an overarching ethic of a sense of fairness, seems embedded in every human being. You can call it a sense of justice. It is something we all recognize. If you want to test this hypothesis, find a place where people line up, like the grocery store. Take your stuff and then just cut into the front of the line. No matter what the people behind you believe, they will all communicate the same thing—that what you are doing is unfair. They’ll say, “Wait a minute! You can’t do that!” Everybody knows it is wrong, because we have this overarching ethic, a hard-wired understanding of what is right and what is wrong.
At the Nuremberg trials after World War II, when the Allies tried the Nazis for war crimes against humanity, they didn’t charge them with crimes against the law of Germany. What they said was, “You knew better, every human being knows better—you knew what you were doing was wrong.” They convicted the Nazis on the basis of this overarching ethic that all human beings recognize deep in their own hearts as true.
Where does that kind of logic come from? God has placed eternity in the hearts of men.
Better Mental Health
Sigmund Freud was not a fan of religion. He thought belief in God was a sign of a mental disorder, something he called Universal Obsessional Neurosis. He said God does not exist, and to truly believe in something that does not exist and to live by that belief is to break from reality—an illness that needs to be cured.
In one sense, Freud was right. If a person breaks from reality and believes in something that doesn’t exist, that belief will soon prove unhealthy—it will have a negative impact on his or her life. Let’s say I believe Martians are hiding in the walls of my house. At first, I merely hear noises, but as time goes on I will demonstrate a range of behaviors that become increasingly detrimental, like cashing in my life savings and moving to the desert. The further we distort or depart from reality, the unhealthier we become.
Is this what happens when people believe in God? Patrick Glynn provides evidence and a stunning answer to that question:
Ironically enough, scientific research in psychology over the past 25 years has demonstrated that, far from being a neurosis or source of neurosis as Freud and his disciples claim, religious belief is one of the most consistent correlates of overall mental health and happiness.
Study after study have shown a powerful relationship between religious belief and practice on the one hand, and healthy behaviors with regard to such problems as suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, depression, and perhaps even surprising levels of sexual satisfaction in marriage on the other.
In short, the empirical data run exactly contrary to the supposedly scientific consensus of the psychotherapeutic profession.
David B. Larson, MD, agreed. A psychiatrist trained at Duke who founded and directed the National Institute for Healthcare Research, Dr. Larson observed the same phenomenon and drew this conclusion:
If a new health treatment were discovered that helped to reduce the rate of teenage suicide, prevent drug and alcohol abuse, improve treatment for depression, reduce recovery time from surgery, lower divorce rates and enhance a sense of well-being, one would think that every physician in the country would be scrambling to try it.
Larson is saying that a belief in God results in all these things, so every physician in the country ought to prescribe it when you come in with a problem. Can you imagine your doctor saying, “Oh, listen, I’m going to operate. Do you believe in God? That will help with your recovery. And your anxiety and depression, too.”
I think Freud is right in one sense. If you honestly believe in something that does not exist, you will become less healthy and probably become mentally ill. Yet we have this mountain of evidence indicating that a strong faith in God results in better mental health. By Freud’s argument, wouldn’t that indicate that people who believe in God are not distorting reality because, in fact, God is real? There it is again.
God has placed eternity in the hearts of men