Don’t you just love the arrogance of Psalm 14…?

In a discussion with a christian recently, they brought up Psalm 14, as a “point” for their side of the debate…

Psalm 14 (King James Version)

1The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

2The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

3They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

At the time, my first reaction was to say that I was unaware we were allowed to use a book of fiction to make a point, and that I’d like to quote Harry Potter if he did not mind…

Obviously that did not go over well, but after a few minutes (long grueling minutes of banging my head repeatedly against a wall) he finally came to understand that I view the bible in much the same way as he would view the koran, Bhagavad Gita, Veda, and yes Harry Potter… So he eventually dropped quoting “scripture” at me, and settled into other arguments (which were equally ineffective, and which may be the subject of another post, not this one).

But it did make me want to take a further look at what he quoted (even though he only quoted a small portion, I’d like to look into it a bit further than he did).

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

A fool is defined as: a person lacking in judgment or prudence

We’ll start with this dictionary definition, “a person lacking in judgment or prudence”. This is seemingly one of the basis for Pascal’s Wager. Since you can’t “know” for certain, the prudent thing to do is to believe (as if somebody can truly believe something at will).

One way to define a lack of judgment or prudence might be to look at crime statistics and prison population. Despite the non-believers being roughly 15% of the US population, they make up less than 1/3 of 1% of the US prison population.

But there is a more commonly used version of fool, and that is somebody of lower intelligence. We can look at intelligence two simple ways, the first being based on IQ scores, and the second being to look at scientists, who are generally considered to be more intelligent than the general population.

In looking at IQ: Atheists scored 1.95 IQ points higher than Agnostics, 3.82 points higher than Liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than Dogmatic persuasions. While these numbers are not definitive proof, they certainly imply a correlation (if not a causation).

And when we look at scientists, among other things we notice an obvious trend.

Scientists & Atheism

They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

Among many others Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are both atheists. And yet the Gates Foundation, which both of them have contributed tens of billions of dollars each to, seems by any standard definition, to be doing good.

The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

This seems a bit repetitive, but let’s go another direction. Perhaps giving money is not “good”, let’s try another definition of good. Since we are talking about the christian bible, one might reasonable assume that references to god are specifically the christian god. So in reply, I give you: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. I think it would be difficult to find many people in history that have done more “good” than Mahatma Gandhi.


Now none of this had to do with arrogance, so where did I get the title from? Well it’s fairly simple.

If one states that only fools do not believe the same as then, and that the non-believers are incapable of doing good, they are implying that they are in fact both wise and good. And to back these assertions up, they have only a work of fiction.

I’d call that the absolute height of arrogance…

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About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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2 Responses to Don’t you just love the arrogance of Psalm 14…?

  1. Jason says:

    The problem I see with your interpretation of this passage of scripture is not with your logic or reason, but rather in your assumptions. I’d like to focus on your use of the word “good.” You are right to focus on this word because it does hold the center of the attention of this passage. But the question is can we use those definitions you’re using to accurately describe this passage? Are the definitions you’re using the same as the author of the passage? I think some perspective might help. First lets just say there is a God who is perfect. I’m not saying you have to accept this as true, but it is the basis for understanding our(Christians) point of view. Now a God who is perfect judges “Good” on a different scale than you or I would. God is good, and anything less than perfection is therefore not good. We have all made mistakes in our lives. We have all hurt people and messed up. Even if 99.9% of your life has been lived perfect, it can not be considered good by a perfect God. An analogy might help. If you have a glass of pure water, and 99.9% of it is pure, but one small droplet of raw sewage is dropped into the glass of water, would you want to drink it? A lifetime of good works can not undo the raw sewage of our past, no matter how much we may want it to. Just some thoughts I’d like you to consider.

    • Rodibidably says:

      The problem I see with your interpretation of this passage of scripture is not with your logic or reason, but rather in your assumptions.
      I don’t see any assumption of mine that you point out as flawed, but I have only read your reply once so far. Perhaps as I read through it again more carefully to respond, I’ll see what assumptions you are referring to.

      I’d like to focus on your use of the word “good.” You are right to focus on this word because it does hold the center of the attention of this passage. But the question is can we use those definitions you’re using to accurately describe this passage?
      Actually I think the first part of the passage is what most people refer to (the fool has said there is no god), but you are right, this passage can not be interpreted without continuing on and delving into the rest of the passage.

      Are the definitions you’re using the same as the author of the passage? I think some perspective might help.
      You are correct that it’s possible I am using the word in a different sense than the original author. The bible we have today is a translation of a translation of a translation, so it is very hard to understand the exact original meaning of many passages.
      But I would argue that having a difficult time finding the “correct” meaning is actually evidence that the book is not any more divine than Shakespeare
      or Harry Potter.

      First lets just say there is a God who is perfect. I’m not saying you have to accept this as true, but it is the basis for understanding our(Christians) point of view.
      For the sake of argument, I’m willing to accept this premise for this discussion. Although obviously it is not a premise I would actually agree with.

      Now a God who is perfect judges “Good” on a different scale than you or I would. God is good, and anything less than perfection is therefore not good.
      Would god being perfect and being the creator mean that everything he creates is perfect? If he can create imperfect things, is he not in fact perfect?
      For instance, if god created humanity, and humanity is not perfect, wouldn’t that mean god made a mistake when creating humanity?
      If he intentionally created us as imperfect beings, can he really judge us for our flaws, since he created those flaws? I am a computer programmer, and if I create flawed code, I don’t blame the code, I blame myself.

      We have all made mistakes in our lives. We have all hurt people and messed up. Even if 99.9% of your life has been lived perfect, it can not be considered good by a perfect God.
      So any one mistake in life is reason for punishment? Even if by design we are not capable of perfection? Perhaps that is ok by YOUR morals, but it certainly is not ok by mine…

      An analogy might help. If you have a glass of pure water, and 99.9% of it is pure, but one small droplet of raw sewage is dropped into the glass of water, would you want to drink it?
      The one difference is that in this analogy I (as god) would be the one who put the sewage in the water, and then I (as god) would “blame” the water for being impure.
      Do you not see the hypocrisy in such a scenario?

      A lifetime of good works can not undo the raw sewage of our past, no matter how much we may want it to. Just some thoughts I’d like you to consider.
      Here is my biggest problem with your view of this.
      If we are ALL flawed (believers and unbelievers alike) then WHY is this passage singling out non-believers and not just saying “all humans are fools”?
      The wording of this passage implies that non-believers are fools, and by comparison believers are NOT fools.

      Your view while interesting ignores this aspect.

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