The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

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The psalmist David wrote: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" - Psalms 14:1 (ESV)

The writers of the Bible considered the existence of God to be self-evident and Moses simply wrote: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1).[1] See also: Atheists doubting the validity of atheism and Atheism and its retention rate in individuals

Psalm 14: 1: The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

See also: Bible verses relating to atheism and Atheism and the Bible

The psalmist David declared: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good." — Psalms 14:1 (ESV); Psalm 53:1 (ESV). See also: Atheism and morality and Atheist population and immorality. (It should be noted that the phrase "there is" is in italics in the KJV, denoting that it is not in the original Hebrew; thus, it can also be interpreted to mean "no God" as in "I have no need for God" -- as a person may say "no dessert" in refusing such. A person who declares no need for God, would be as much a fool as an atheist.)

The psalmist David also wrote "The heavens declare the glory of God..." — Psalms 19:1

In his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul declared:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse..." — Romans 1:19-20 (NKJV)

Biblical meaning of "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'"

See also: Atheism and evidence and Causes of atheism and Atheists and unreasonableness

The perverse and cruel atheist Marquis de Sade in prison, 18th century line engraving.

The Bible declares that the irreligious are corrupt. See: Atheism and morality and Atheist population and immorality

Got Questions Ministries declares:

Both Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 read, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Some take these verses to mean that atheists are stupid, i.e., lacking intelligence. However, that is not the only meaning of the Hebrew word translated “fool.” In this text, the Hebrew word is nabal, which often refers to an impious person who has no perception of ethical or religious truth. The meaning of the text is not “unintelligent people do not believe in God.” Rather, the meaning of the text is “sinful people do not believe in God.” In other words, it is a wicked thing to deny God, and a denial of God is often accompanied by a wicked lifestyle. The verse goes on to list some other characteristics of the irreligious: “They are corrupt; their deeds are vile; / there is no one who does good.” Psalm 14 is a study on the universal depravity of mankind.

Many atheists are very intelligent. It is not intelligence, or a lack thereof, that leads a person to reject belief in God. It is a lack of righteousness that leads a person to reject belief in God. Many people do not object to the idea of a Creator, as long as that Creator minds His own business and leaves them alone. What people reject is the idea of a Creator who demands morality from His creation. Rather than struggle against a guilty conscience, some people reject the idea of God altogether. Psalm 14:1 calls this type of person a “fool.”

Psalm 14:1 says that denying God’s existence is commonly based on a desire to lead a wicked life. Several prominent atheists have admitted the truth of this...

Belief in a divine Being is accompanied by a sense of accountability to that Being. So, to escape the condemnation of conscience, which itself was created by God, some simply deny the existence of God. They tell themselves, “There is no overseer of the world. There is no Judgment Day. I can live as I please.” The moral pull of the conscience is thus more easily ignored.

Trying to convince oneself there is no God is unwise. The point of “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” is that it is an impious, sinful heart that will deny God. The atheist’s denial flies in the face of much evidence to the contrary, including his own conscience and the universe he lives in.

A lack of evidence of God’s existence is not the true reason atheists reject a belief in God. Their rejection is due to a desire to live free of the moral constraints God requires and to escape the guilt that accompanies the violation of those constraints. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them . . . so that people are without excuse…Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…They exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:18–25).[2]

Northern Seminary declares:

Psalm 14 is almost identical to Psalm 53. The small differences occur because the words of the psalm will have been used in different contexts – like when we use a favorite hymn but add a verse for a special occasion. Both versions of this psalm have ended up in the Bible’s collection.

In each case, the psalm is about the stupidity and wickedness of those who ignore God and exploit people as if there would never be a day of reckoning. But, there is the assurance that God sees what is happening, acts on behalf of those who are hurt, and will one day bring his full salvation to those who trust and obey him.

The dominant theme is the folly of those who live without thought of God.

Psalm 14 may have one of the most dramatic opening verses of all psalms:

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (v.1)

There are two things to note right away.

First, the New International Version has a footnote for this verse, and it tells us that “fool” – which is the Hebrew word nāḇāl – means someone who is morally deficient. He’s not merely stupid, as if he can’t think straight. Rather someone described as nāḇāl is a fool like an adulterer or bank robber or embezzler. He’s not unintelligent, but he is wicked. There’s even a sense of defiance in the meaning, like a child who resents being told to tidy her room so instead switches on the TV or calls her friend, anything other than obey Mom or Dad. The kind of fool described in the psalm may be very clever, but does what is wrong and does it with defiance.

Second, we think of someone who says “there is no God” as an atheist, a person who denies God’s existence. That’s not the meaning here. This fool engages in practical atheism, not actual atheism.[3]

The Christian apologist Tom Gilson, after citing cases where atheists hold to views without sufficient evidence, quotes the prominent atheist Thomas Nagel who declared:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.[4]
The Conversion of St. Paul by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie, 1767.

Craig A. Evans wrote in an article entitled The Fool Says in His Heart, “ There is no God”: Atheism in the Bible and in Late Antiquity published in The City, which is a publication of Houston Baptist University:

What is the meaning of the bold assertion, “ There is no God”? Commentators rightly maintain that the statement is not a literal denial of the existence of God (or of gods), but a description of the wicked, who live and behave as though God takes no notice of human behavior. The respective contexts of Psalms 10, 14, and 53 support this interpretation. According to Psalm 10 the “wicked hotly pursue the poor ” and the “man greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord” (vv. 2, 3). The wicked man believes that God “will never see” his evil deeds (v. 4). Moreover, this man believes that he will never encounter adversity, but will get away with theft and murder (vv. 6, 8, 9). According to Psalms 14 and 53 the man who says there is no God is corrupt, is a liar, and never does good. It is no surprise that the Apostle Paul cites portions of these psalms in order to make his point that no human is righteous and that none seeks for God (Rom 3:10–12).

Similar thoughts are expressed elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. According to Psalm 73 the wicked ask, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” (v. 11). We find the same idea in the Prophets. Jeremiah declares : “ They have spoken falsely of the Lord, and have said, ‘He will do nothing ; no evil will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine’” (5:12), while in Zephaniah the Lord warns that he will punish men “who say in their hearts, ‘ The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill’” (1:12), that is, the Lord will do nothing in response to human behavior, whether to reward the righteous or punish the wicked. In short, the declaration “ There is no God” is an expression of practical atheism, of living as though God is distant and indifferent.

Early Jewish interpreters understood the declaration “ There is no God” the same way. This is seen clearly in the Aramaic paraphrase of the Psalter. According to this version (called the Targum), the thinking , “ There is no God,” implies the assumption on the part of the wicked person that “none of his thoughts are revealed before the Lord” ( Tg. Ps 10:4). In Tg. Ps 14:1 the fool’s declaration that “There is no God” is paraphrased to read, “ There is no rule of God in the land.” Though expressed differently, the same point is made in Tg. Ps 53:1, “ The fool has said in his heart that God does not punish him.”

Accordingly, the atheists of the Bible are those who believe God takes no notice of human behavior, either to reward or to punish. The wicked man, therefore, may do as he pleases. He need not fear that God will observe or take action against him. The fool’s assertion that “ There is no God” is not an expression of philosophical atheism but rather a reckless assumption that God takes no interest in human affairs.[5]

Franklin Graham stated:

The Bible tells us in several places that only the fool says that God does not exist.

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). That Scripture is repeated verbatim in Psalm 53:1, and the same sentiment is expressed in numerous other biblical passages.

Despite the witness of an ordered and remarkable creation (Romans 1:20) and the universal witness of an internal conscience, a growing number of influential people are blatantly and forcefully scorning and mocking the Christian faith and followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Entertainers like Bill Maher, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, British professor Richard Dawkins, and others have publicly promoted a brand of atheism that is openly hostile to Christians.

Interestingly, many of the proponents that seek to deny God can be increasingly found in academic circles, where atheists are warmly welcomed. Though they hold a variety of advanced degrees and are published in noted academic journals, the Bible clearly labels them “fools.”

As mankind refuses to acknowledge the supremacy of God, the Bible says that “professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). What may be highly esteemed among men can be pure foolishness to God Almighty. “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (I Corinthians 1:20).

In God’s infinite wisdom, the apparent “foolishness “ of the cross destroys the wisdom of the wise (I Corinthians 1:18). The glorious cross of our Savior, where He bore the sins of the world to satisfy the wrath of God and provide forgiveness to those who repent and believe on His Name, is the means the Lord uses to display His majestic wisdom.

For those who arrogantly declare that God does not exist and rail against any mention of His Name, the Scriptures declare all people everywhere will one day confess that indeed there is a God. The Bible tells us in several places that only the fool says that God does not exist. [6]

Biblical description of a fool

See also: Bible's definition of a fool

Sermons on "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

See also: Psalm 14:1 sermons

Commentaries on "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

See also: Psalm 14:1 commentaries

Adam Clarke's commentary on Psalm 14:1

Mike Bennett commenting on Psalm 14:1 wrote:

Adam Clarke’s Commentary identifies three groups who in differing ways deny God. “(1) There have been some, not many [his commentary was published in 1826], who have denied the existence of God. (2) There are others who, without absolutely denying the divine existence, deny His providence. (3) There are others, and they are very numerous, who, while they profess to acknowledge both, deny them in their heart, and live as if they were persuaded there was no God to either punish or reward.”[7]

See also: Adam Clarke Commentary - Psalms 14 (Entire Adam Clarke commentary on Psalm 14)

Atheism and foolishness

See: Atheism and foolishness (Articles and videos on why atheism is foolish)

Related quote: The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

See also: Atheism and naiveté/gullibility

It is often said, "A man who won’t believe in God will believe in anything."[8]

See also

External links


  1. Harr, Ken and Lisle, Dr. Jason (August 9, 2007). "Chapter 1: Is there really a God?" The New Answers Book. Answers in Genesis.
  2. What does the Bible mean when it says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’”?,
  3. [“THE FOOL SAYS IN HIS HEART, ‘THERE IS NO GOD’” – PSALM 14], Northern Seminary website
  4. 'Atheism and Evidence: Self-Defense Against Belief? by Tom Gilson
  5. 'The Fool Says in His Heart, “ There is no God”: Atheism in the Bible and in Late Antiquity by Craig A. Evans, The City (a publication of Houston Baptist University)
  6. ‘The Fool Has Said In His Heart—There Is No God’ By Franklin Graham, February 28, 2014
  7. Fool Has Said in His Heart, There Is No God
  8. When Man Ceases to Worship God, The Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton website