Is atheism the new opiate of the masses?

By Tom Quiner


A stranger washed my feet last night.

This unusual experience took place at the Holy Thursday service at my church last night. Just as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, we washed each others’ feet in remembrance of the relevance of His actions today.

In a short while, I’ll be back at church for the celebration of the Lord’s passion, better know as Good Friday. And then comes the most glorious event in the history of heaven and earth: Easter.

History turned on these three days, regardless of what one thinks of them.

American atheists evangelize with billboards

As I write these words, the American Atheists are holding a convention here in Des Moines, Iowa. I received a letter in the mail from them inviting me to attend, the price of attendance being $159 for non-members. They also ask for donations to purchase billboard space to evangelize their brand of faithless religion. The message displayed on their billboards read: “You KNOW there is NO GOD! We know you’re right!”

Such a leap of faith.

I can understand the agnostic who isn’t certain God exists. And I can understand those who make a leap of faith in their belief in God.

But in light of evidence in nature, in light of evidence in the cosmos, in light of the historical record, in light of revelation to man down through the ages, in light of philosophical logic, it takes a far bigger leap of faith to state with certainty that “we KNOW God doesn’t exist.” So, in a way, it really isn’t a faithless religion.

Fr. Robert Barron discusses the intellectual vacuity of the modern atheist movement in the video commentary above. Karl Marx famously said that religion is the “opiate of the masses.” Fr. Barron says he got it backwards, that atheism is the opiate of the masses, that it attempts, much like a drug, to mask our deepest longing.  And what is that longing?

It is our longing for God, our desire for something beyond the abilities of this world to satisfy.

Fr. Barron puts it this way. Our hunger for food isn’t a sign that food is a projection. Our hunger proves the reality of food, just as our hunger for God proves His reality.

Like man down through the ages, these atheists desire to practice their religion together and win converts.

Many people didn’t believe in Jesus two-thousand years ago, either. Tonight, we celebrate His unjust execution. Why use the word “celebrate?” Because it was necessary to reveal God’s glory.

I encourage each of us to stop and think seriously about these events, known as the Easter Triduum in the Catholic Church. We give up everything that our heart truly longs for if we discount the Easter miracle.

Be wary of the new atheism.  As Fr. Barron says, stop taking that drug and wake up.


  1. Michelle on April 23, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I’ve been waiting for this post ever since first seeing that billboard weeks ago. Well said, Tom- thank you!

  2. maxine bechtel on April 23, 2011 at 7:20 am

    AMEN, TOM! One thing the atheists can’t refute is the total transformation that a person experiences when one is “born again”, such as Jesus told Nicodemus, a high-ranked religious ruler of the Jews In John’s Gospel, Chapter 3. At the age of 19, I personally invited the Lord Jesus into my life and He imparted to me His Nature at which time I experienced the New Birth! At that time He forgave my sins and made me a “New Creature”! (2 Cor. 5:17) The Disciples and Apostles in Jesus’ day all experienced this great transformation, (except, Judas, who allowed Satan to control him and is still burning in Hell today,) where Satan and his angels will spend eternity as well! Sadly, all atheists will realize one minute after death that they have mistakenly scorned God and will fervently regret it all eternity! It’s our mission as believers in Jesus to make His Wonderful Salvation Plan known to all men while there is still time!

  3. liberalcrone on May 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

    But … I have no longing for a god. Don’t assume that everyone has one. Not everyone got the “belief in god” gene.