Author Topic: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?  (Read 2246 times)

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Offline flapdoodle64

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Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« on: June 14, 2012, 10:18:45 AM »
I know the Bible talks a lot about idolators, heretics, blasphemers, worshippers of false gods, etc.  I think the Bible probably condemns anyone who denies the holiness of Yahweh, and those who fail to worship Yahweh.

But does the Bible specifically address the issue of a person who lacks belief in any god whatsoever?

Does the Bible acknowlege the possibility of a human who thinks all gods are imaginary? 

I think the injunctions against idolators and heretics and blasphemers are not enough.  Because we know historically at the time of the Bible's authorship, the human audience mostly existed in a polytheistic world, a world of many gods and goddesses.  Therefore as a parameter for this thread, I think we need to be more specific than just the condeming anyone who does not worship or believe in Yahweh, because likely the author was referring to those who believed in non-Yahweh gods. 

Also, how about the Koran and the Book of Mormon? 

This is a genuine question, I really want to know the answer.









Online Zankuu

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2012, 10:42:29 AM »
Like you said, most verses in the Bible target the wickedness of worshipping other deities, but there are a couple about "unbelievers" in gods:

Pslam 14:1 says atheists are vile and incapable of doing good.
Revelations 21:8 groups atheists with wizards and murderers saying they will burn.

As for the Koran, I've read most of it and it's hard to get through a Sura without finding something about how horrible nonbelievers and infidels are, why they deserve death, and nice little instructions on how to torture them. For example pouring boiling water down their throats. If you want specific verses you'll have to wait until I get home so I can open it up.

I've never read the Book of Mormon so I can't help you there.
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2012, 11:42:00 AM »
This verses may be taken as applying to atheists, but I imagine that the belief in gods was roughly 100% in Iron Age Palestine.

2 Thessalonians 1:8 "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:"

It certainly does not apply to Jews, as they do "know God" but although it may also apply to those who worship "false gods". it is more likely that it is aimed at those without any particular belief as Paul is pretty thin on 'false gods'.
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Offline flapdoodle64

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2012, 02:32:27 PM »
Yeah, I think there might be some ambiguity regarding those 'who do not know God'...not sure we can be 100% certain that refers to atheists or those who worship other gods.

Also, the Psalm where it castigates to those who say there is NO God: Is making the assertion that NO god exists really atheism?  I guess there are some atheists who assert that NO god exists, but most that I know simply say there is no reason to believe in god, that the existence of god is by definition unknowable, that Yahweh and all other human created gods are impossible things, etc. 

(But I have to admit: when I was a theist, I thought that atheists were indeed people who ran around asserting that NO god exists.  It wasn't till I was free a few years till I realized that an atheist was someone who simply lacked belief.  I think it is a ploy of theists to depict atheists as kind of mirror-image religionists, so as to make us look as absurd as them...)

The reason I am posting this topic is that I wonder if religionists try to keep the concept of atheism outside the realm of 'thinkable thought.'  Per Scott Burchill:

"setting the intellectual boundaries within which 'legitimate' ideas can be 'freely' expressed. According to Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky, these boundaries are most effective when they are implicit and presupposed, and rarely when they are openly dictated by the state. According to Chomsky, 'a principle familiar to propagandists is that the doctrine to be instilled in the target audience should not be articulated: that would only expose them to reflection, inquiry, and, very likely, ridicule. The proper procedure is to drill them home by constantly presupposing them, so that they become the very condition for discourse'.

"The presuppositions then act as the framework for 'thinkable thought' instead of being assumptions which deserve critical evaluation. The debates and dissent which we believe characterise our freedom are permitted and even encouraged, but within tightly prescribed and largely invisible boundaries, leaving us with the satisfying impression that our societies are 'open' and 'free'. As Milan Rai argues, 'we can no longer perceive the ideas that are shaping our thoughts, as the fish cannot perceive the sea'...Defining the spectrum of permitted expression is a highly effective form of ideological control."

http://www.zcommunications.org/the-limits-of-thinkable-thought-by-scott-burchill

So far in this thread, we have relatively few verses which might be construed to directly mention atheism, and one verse depicts atheism in a highly distorted fashion.   

The Bible is a big book, supposedly complete, at least for purposes of Christianity. 

Yet it mostly seems to avoid discussing the question: 'What does someone do once he starts to figure out that god is just a fairy tale?'

I grew up as a preacher's son, attending church every week.  I don't ever recall any sermons or Sunday school classes where this question was addressed:

'Why do we think the stories in the Bible are any more true than other mythological stories from non-Hebrew nations?'

Or:

'What if we're wrong?'

Offline bertatberts

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2012, 02:34:22 PM »
< snip> But does the Bible specifically address the issue of a person who lacks belief in any god whatsoever?< snip>This is a genuine question, I really want to know the answer.
The answer to your question is No.

However these are the only scripture that actually use the term unbelievers, in the Greek and the English version of the NT. Others scriptures may imply unbelief, such has Graybeards 2 Thessalonians 1:8 quote, but these actually use the English word or the Greek equivalent. However unbelievers even in these instances could also mean people who believe in other deities. Not necessarily atheists.
    Luke 12:46 KJV   
    1 Corinthians 6:6 KJV     
    1 Corinthians 14:23 KJV 
    2 Corinthians 6:14 KJV
These use the term unbelieving, again in the Greek and English versions.
     Acts 14:2 KJV     
    1 Corinthians 7:14 KJV   
    1 Corinthians 7:15 KJV     
    Titus 1:15 KJV   
    Revelation 21:8 KJV
And finally these use the term unbelief.
    Matthew 13:58 KJV
    Matthew 17:20 KJV   
    Mark 6:6 KJV   
    Mark 9:24 KJV   
    Mark 16:14 KJV 
    Romans 3:3 KJV
    Romans 4:20 KJV
    Romans 11:20 KJV   
    Romans 11:23 KJV     
    Romans 11:30 KJV
    Romans 11:32 KJV
    1 Timothy 1:13 KJV
    Hebrews 3:12 KJV   
    Hebrews 3:19 KJV
    Hebrews 4:6 KJV
There doesn't appear to be any references using those terms in the OT
And please note I’m using an original Greek lexicon and The KJV, not one of the several thousand of different versions, which have been written since. With all their extrapolations and additions.
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Offline Nick

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2012, 02:47:10 PM »
Unblief could just be not believing in Christianity.     I would think an atheist would be pretty rare at that period of history.
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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2012, 03:23:44 PM »
My Muslim students say that pagans and animists should be forced to convert to Islam because they have no religion. Christians and Jews at least have a religion, and should not be forced to convert. They can't even imagine someone who really has no religion.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Nam

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2012, 03:47:38 PM »
If you go to http://biblegateway.com and go through some of the newer versions you'll find a few, perhap (if I remember correctly), that state "non-believer(s)", I don't remember but perhaps The Message says something about atheists; but that could've been in the notation section.

-Nam
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Offline flapdoodle64

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2012, 04:05:08 PM »
I think Nick is right in that atheists would have been extremely few in numbers at the time of the authorship of most of the Bible. 

Yet Plato, 400 years before Jesus, does discuss atheists. 

Even considering athesists were likely as scarce as a black rhino is today, it's kind of strange that god didn't tell his stenographers to write about the problem some more, so that when the New Atheists came along in 2000 years, there would be something to guide people.  Unless the instructions are to just pour the boiling water down their throats, and that's all people need to know. 
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 04:11:19 PM by flapdoodle64 »

Offline Nam

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2012, 04:12:03 PM »
Yes but the definition of atheist back then isn't the same as it is today. I mean one could believe in a deity back then yet still hold the title "atheist".

-Nam
A god is like a rock: it does absolutely nothing until someone or something forces it to do something. The only capability the rock has is doing nothing until another force compels it physically to move.

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Offline jetson

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2012, 06:04:00 PM »
Speaking liberally on the term atheist, the first atheist was very likely in place mere moments after the first god claim.  - Jetson, 2012

Offline flapdoodle64

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2012, 06:19:43 PM »
Yes but the definition of atheist back then isn't the same as it is today. I mean one could believe in a deity back then yet still hold the title "atheist".

What was the definition of atheist back then?  I genuinely don't know it.

Offline Quesi

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2012, 06:47:05 PM »
I think it is a great question. 

I don't think that in biblical times, it would have been possible to not believe in some deity.  I mean, SOMEBODY had to create the flat earth and poke little holes in the canopy overhead to create the little stars. 

Gods were the only explanations for how these things came to be. 

There were different gods, and different explanations, but at such a primitive stage of scientific discovery and understanding, I don't see how an absence of belief in some god or supernatural force could exist. 

Offline magicmiles

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2012, 07:21:39 PM »
I think Roman 1:20-21 provides an answer, although it could be argued that there is a difference between the concept of God and actually believing this concept.
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Offline BaalServant

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2012, 04:35:15 AM »
I think Roman 1:20-21 provides an answer, although it could be argued that there is a difference between the concept of God and actually believing this concept.

It doesn't need to be argued that conceptualizing something doesn't imply a necessary belief in its reality.  Think about Russel's Teapot for a moment.

Regarding the verse you're citing, are you unfamiliar with the concept of context?

Romans 1:22, 23:

"22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles."

This is a clear example of the bible equating 'godlessnes' with not believing in a version of the bible god.  This doesn't need to be argued, either.  It's obvious if one is making an honest investigation.
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Offline Fiji

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2012, 05:07:47 AM »
I concur with nogodsforme wrt the quran.
The quran recognises 4 types of people.
1) the surrendered ie. the Muslims
2) christians, they're wrong and they'll burn in hell for denying the quran
3) jews, they're wrong-er than christians and according so some suras, they'll burn more than christians (how exactly does one 'burn more'?) ... other suras make no distinction in punishment
4) the unbelievers, they're the wrongest of all and again, will burn most according to one sura or the burn the same according to another.

It's quite clear from context that 'unbeliever' refers to pagans and animists (in particular, Arab pagans). It's one of the many places that clearly show that the quran was written by someone with knowledge ONLY of the Middle East. Buddhists, Sikh, Confusians, Atheists ... none of these were known to Muhammed and they aren't mentioned in the Quran.

These days, Muslims tend to make the distinction between, 'people who believe in SOMETHING' and Atheists. Atheists are now the worst burners (we've been relegated to a new category 5).
But, just going by the quran itself ... no, Atheists are not specifically mentioned.
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Offline Quesi

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2012, 07:26:49 AM »
I concur with nogodsforme wrt the quran.
The quran recognises 4 types of people.
1) the surrendered ie. the Muslims
2) christians, they're wrong and they'll burn in hell for denying the quran
3) jews, they're wrong-er than christians and according so some suras, they'll burn more than christians (how exactly does one 'burn more'?) ... other suras make no distinction in punishment
4) the unbelievers, they're the wrongest of all and again, will burn most according to one sura or the burn the same according to another.



I know that I have said this here before, but I just have to say it again.

I live and work in a neighborhood with a huge Muslim community, and quite frankly, I hear over and over again from Muslim friends, neighbors, professional colleagues, etc., (who assume that I am Christian) that we "all believe in the same God."

In my professional capacity, I work with immigrants and refugees who are facing huge transitions in their lives.  I cannot count the number of times someone facing a frightening or exciting transition says "Please pray for me."  To which I usually respond "You will most certainly be in my thoughts" or "I know you have the strength to get through this." 

As an adoptive mom, I cannot count the number of times per month that a Muslim taxi driver or bank teller or mom on the playground tells me that I will "spend eternity at the right hand of god" because that is what the Quran says about adoptive parents. 

I also get Christmas cards from Muslims.  With pictures of the baby Jesus on them.  Muslims love the baby Jesus.  In fact, the Quran has a lot more about the baby Jesus than the NT.  They have him talking in full sentences at a ridiculously young age and defending his virgin mother and whatnot.

I agree with nogodsforme about pagans.  At least in my community, in which most of the Muslim residents are South Asian, many Muslims in my neighborhood really cringe about Hinduism, because it is pagan.  And they really don't like paganism.  But they still show up in huge numbers at the local Diwali festival, because they like the food and the music and the big Diwali sales at the local luggage and electronic stores. 

Offline Fiji

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2012, 08:32:55 AM »
I also get Christmas cards from Muslims.  With pictures of the baby Jesus on them.  Muslims love the baby Jesus.  In fact, the Quran has a lot more about the baby Jesus than the NT.  They have him talking in full sentences at a ridiculously young age and defending his virgin mother and whatnot.

ooooh, and then some ... Sura 19 has Jesus talking to his mom ... from inside the womb!
Which, at the time I first read it, seemed tremendously silly to me, but since then, I've come across this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirikou_and_the_Sorceress ... "Drawn from elements of West African folk tales ..."
So, that had me going hmmm ... I wonder if the two stories are connected somehow. Did the quran influence these West African folk tales or was it maybe the other way around?
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Offline Nam

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2012, 08:37:25 AM »
Yes but the definition of atheist back then isn't the same as it is today. I mean one could believe in a deity back then yet still hold the title "atheist".

What was the definition of atheist back then?  I genuinely don't know it.

I'm on the phone at the momewnt, I can't look it up for you; but there has been many definitions. I would suggest you try wiki, or go where I like to go: Cornell or Michigan (online) Making of America -- just put in one of those two colleges into google and MOA or Making of America and they have journals, magazines, books etc., dating back to the 18th century. And in the search engine at one of those places, just put "atheist" or variations, and it'll give you titles, with page listings, click on the page listing, and read what is said about "atheists", and in that you'll find different viewpoints of what people thought atheist was defined as.

I read something about Plato once saying that he was an atheist 'cause he believed in only one deity rather than many. That's just one example.

-Nam
A god is like a rock: it does absolutely nothing until someone or something forces it to do something. The only capability the rock has is doing nothing until another force compels it physically to move.

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Offline Nam

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #19 on: June 15, 2012, 08:43:39 AM »
I concur with nogodsforme wrt the quran.
The quran recognises 4 types of people.
1) the surrendered ie. the Muslims
2) christians, they're wrong and they'll burn in hell for denying the quran
3) jews, they're wrong-er than christians and according so some suras, they'll burn more than christians (how exactly does one 'burn more'?) ... other suras make no distinction in punishment
4) the unbelievers, they're the wrongest of all and again, will burn most according to one sura or the burn the same according to another.

It's quite clear from context that 'unbeliever' refers to pagans and animists (in particular, Arab pagans). It's one of the many places that clearly show that the quran was written by someone with knowledge ONLY of the Middle East. Buddhists, Sikh, Confusians, Atheists ... none of these were known to Muhammed and they aren't mentioned in the Quran.

These days, Muslims tend to make the distinction between, 'people who believe in SOMETHING' and Atheists. Atheists are now the worst burners (we've been relegated to a new category 5).
But, just going by the quran itself ... no, Atheists are not specifically mentioned.

I was told by a Muslim once at http://omanforum.com that all people who are not Muslim, are not just infidels but as well as the vile atheist. I've heard that pitch from a Christian cousin of mine, as well, about those not her particular Christian denomination (Southern Baptist) that everyone is an atheist even if they say they believe in a god, they are still atheists because they believe in a false one.

-Nam
A god is like a rock: it does absolutely nothing until someone or something forces it to do something. The only capability the rock has is doing nothing until another force compels it physically to move.

The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously - Humphrey

Offline Quesi

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #20 on: June 15, 2012, 09:14:17 AM »

ooooh, and then some ... Sura 19 has Jesus talking to his mom ... from inside the womb!
Which, at the time I first read it, seemed tremendously silly to me, but since then, I've come across this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirikou_and_the_Sorceress ... "Drawn from elements of West African folk tales ..."
So, that had me going hmmm ... I wonder if the two stories are connected somehow. Did the quran influence these West African folk tales or was it maybe the other way around?

Interesting.  I'd bet the West African folk tales pre-date the Quran.   At work right now, but I'll try and stop by later because I am VERY interested in how pre- monotheistic beliefs blended into both monotheistic beliefs and practices. 

Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #21 on: June 15, 2012, 02:26:45 PM »
Muslims, like many Christians, think that making unbelievers (people other than Christians and Jews) convert to Islam is saving them from a horrible fate. So forcing them to convert is not a bad thing-- it is like giving a child a shot to prevent a disease that might kill. People fight and resist being forced to convert, just like a child may fight and resist getting a shot. But later, when they understand, they will be grateful.

It is such a paternalistic and superior attitude. As if you can force what happens inside someone's mind! I guess they figure that the converted person may not really believe but they will raise their kids in the true faith and they will not have a choice.

Historically, that is what actually happened when Muslims conquered areas. Most people (except pagans) were not forced to convert to Islam, but the kids grew up in an Islamic environment and knew nothing else.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Brakeman

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #22 on: June 16, 2012, 09:10:10 AM »
I thought that atheists were indeed people who ran around asserting that NO god exists.

I, for one, know that no god exists.  If you'll join my flock and tithe 10% of everything your family owns, I'll gradually reveal it to you too.  ;)
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #23 on: June 16, 2012, 01:55:55 PM »
Yes but the definition of atheist back then isn't the same as it is today. I mean one could believe in a deity back then yet still hold the title "atheist".

-Nam
No, this is not true - atheist = he who is without gods; he who has no belief in gods. So if you do not accept the Anuki or the Blue God of Ghana, or The Emperor of Japan, etc. as a god (in the same way that you did not believe in the supernatural) then you are an atheist. That said, the word atheist is relatively modern:

(Bonus information:

[?1555   Coverdale tr. Hope of Faythful Pref. f. iiiv,   Eate we and drink we lustely, tomorow we shal dy. which al ye Epicures protest openly, & the Italian atheoi.]
1571   A. Golding tr. J. Calvin Psalmes of Dauid with Comm. Ep. Ded. 3   The Atheistes which say..there is no God.


Note that although the word derives from "without god", because the word was coined in Christian Europe, the god referred to was the Christian deity but it does apply to, say, Indians, etc., who don't believe in Vishnu, etc., and the others who are sensible enough to deny the supernatural.)
« Last Edit: June 16, 2012, 02:01:10 PM by Graybeard »
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Offline burnish

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #24 on: June 22, 2012, 04:21:07 AM »
I know the Bible talks a lot about idolators, heretics, blasphemers, worshippers of false gods, etc.  I think the Bible probably condemns anyone who denies the holiness of Yahweh, and those who fail to worship Yahweh.

But does the Bible specifically address the issue of a person who lacks belief in any god whatsoever?

Does the Bible acknowlege the possibility of a human who thinks all gods are imaginary? 

I think the injunctions against idolators and heretics and blasphemers are not enough.  Because we know historically at the time of the Bible's authorship, the human audience mostly existed in a polytheistic world, a world of many gods and goddesses.  Therefore as a parameter for this thread, I think we need to be more specific than just the condeming anyone who does not worship or believe in Yahweh, because likely the author was referring to those who believed in non-Yahweh gods. 

Also, how about the Koran and the Book of Mormon? 

This is a genuine question, I really want to know the answer.

Psalm 53:1

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

Online Zankuu

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #25 on: June 22, 2012, 05:01:11 AM »
Psalm 53:1

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

I know you're new here, so I don't want you to catch too much flak with your answer to this question, but would you say you agree with this verse that atheists are corrupt and incapable of doing good?
Leave nothing to chance. Overlook nothing. Combine contradictory observations. Allow yourself enough time. -Hippocrates of Cos

Offline burnish

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #26 on: June 22, 2012, 05:35:40 AM »
Just to note, I wasn't trying to make a statement with this verse;  was just answering the question posed in the OP.

I agree with it to the extent that it agrees with this statement in Isaiah 64:6

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Which is to say, that what humans try to do on their own strength will always be inadequate, and tending towards sinfulness, if not total depravity.  Which is not to say that atheists, or anyone else, are incapable of doing good deeds, loving their children, cleaning up after their dogs, etc.  We're all endowed with a conscience which tells us right from wrong.  However, the natural man is incapable of pleasing God in any respect.  Our works themselves are not a factor in determining our favor with God;  just as your work at the orphanage isn't going to get you off the hook for grand theft auto.

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #27 on: June 22, 2012, 05:39:19 AM »
burnish, lay off the blanket statements. You don't know everyone on Earth, and it is condescending, arrogant and stupid to assume that you do.
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Offline burnish

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Re: Does the Bible ever talk specifically about atheists?
« Reply #28 on: June 22, 2012, 05:45:55 AM »
burnish, lay off the blanket statements. You don't know everyone on Earth, and it is condescending, arrogant and stupid to assume that you do.

I'm not saying that I know everyone on Earth.  I am assuming that God does know everyone on Earth, and that the bible is His authoritative word on the condition of man, and everything else.