Hemingway and Atheism


The meme may seem a bit bold but read on. The meme is actually true.

When Ernest Hemingway said, “All thinking men are atheists,” That isn’t a rational statement. I’ll explain that in a minute.

The meme says, “Atheists can’t think rationally.” That’s true because of this: “They have no path to true premises. Rational thought requires true premises.”

“Atheists have no path to true premises.” This goes to the Münchausen trilemma which explains that every conclusion requires further proof. Of course, the Münchausen trilemma doesn’t take into account divine revelation. All truth comes from God, and only He can reveal truth. We, who follow Christ, receive true premises from Christ directly as He speaks to us through Scripture and every means mentioned in Scripture. When we go to sources other than Christ, we are in the same trilemma as the atheists.

“Rational thought requires true premises.” This just means that we can’t make up stuff and then prove our points using our made-up stuff.

Was Earnest Hemingway an atheist? No one knows. He did make this one remark, actually from a character in one of his novels, that atheists use to convince people that he was an atheist. Certainly, he was a man with intense reasoning problems. It seems that he considered himself to be a rational man. However, this statement, “All thinking men are atheists,” isn’t rational for several reasons.

First, everyone thinks, so his claim is false. Rational thought is another matter. Not everyone thinks rationally. Perhaps Hemingway meant “rational” rather than “thinking.” Perhaps he meant to claim that all rational people are atheists. Perhaps he didn’t express himself clearly. If that’s what he meant, it would still be an amazing claim.

The claim that all rational people are atheists is a universal positive. It claims to know something about every member of a class that Hemingway called “men.” Given the language of his day, this claim may well have extended to women since the word “man” or “men” was used for humankind. So, he claims to know something that applies to all people. His claim is vague. It doesn’t explain what he means.

Let’s assume that he’s not claiming to know about every thought of every person who has ever lived. If he claimed that, it would be a bridge too far.

He might be saying that there is something about not being an atheist that automatically prevents people from thinking rationally. Perhaps he’s claiming to absolutely know that God doesn’t exist. That would be a universal negative, and most atheists have realized how silly that claim is. If an atheist thinks he or she knows such a thing, that atheist is claiming to know everything about everything. Most atheists don’t want to try to defend that claim anymore.

Those of us who know God through Jesus Christ have ongoing experiences with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God leads us, teaches us, and corrects us moment by moment. Hopefully, we listen and yield in submission to our God. That’s what we’re learning to do. As we yield, the Holy Spirit changes us by degrees from glory to glory into the image of Christ. What God says is truth. Therefore, we can have true premises as long as we don’t add to His words or diminish any of His words.

He speaks through Scripture and every means mentioned in Scripture. The first chapter of Romans tells us that He speaks through His creation and reveals Himself to every person this way. The twelfth chapter of First Corinthians tells us that He speaks through us when we speak by the Holy Spirit. Think about that. Of course, we must yield to Him if we are to speak as oracles of God. We don’t always do that. Sometimes, we yield to the flesh instead.

What about those who don’t follow Christ?

Those who don’t follow Christ have no path to true premises. They can observe and think pragmatically. They can’t reason to rational conclusions that go beyond what they observe. So, they can observe and test to find out what works. God helps them even though they refuse to thank Him for it. Any truth comes from God and God imparts truth to them. They just fail to glorify God for it.

In this way, they can do practical science. They can make cellphones. They can build skyscrapers. They can survive.

They just can’t reason rationally about things like truth, the origin of the world, morality, or any other such thing. God does reveal His morality to them, so they know that they fall short of His glory. God reveals how He formed the earth in the beginning and set the stars in place by His power, but they reject His revelation. Because they fail to acknowledge and glorify God, they can’t see any difference between the revelation that comes from God and the vapors that their own minds make up. They can’t tell the difference between reality and make-believe.

When confronted with these problems, it’s common for ungodly thinkers to assert that their own minds are able to make up stuff that is automatically true because it seems to make sense to them. We won’t get into the reasons that their made-up stuff seems real to them here, but you can get the book, Reason, First Leg of the Journey at https://realreality.org/downloads/download-reason-first-leg-of-the-journey/. You can get that book FREE. That book explains how they become so deceived.

So, they think that whatever they make up is true. By the power of this made-up stuff, they claim to know that God doesn’t reveal anything to us who follow Christ. They have several variations on this theme. Sometimes they claim to know that God doesn’t exist. These are the ones who didn’t get the note about universal negatives. Sometimes, they claim that God can’t reveal anything to anyone, which is another universal negative. Sometimes, they claim that God can’t reveal truth in a clear way that would allow us to understand, which is another universal negative. They may come from the side of the weakness of the human mind (the human mind is indeed totally helpless when trying to find truth) and then conclude that God can’t overcome that. However, God is well able to overcome our problem and impart truth to us. He won’t do it against our wills. When we resist Him, He backs off, but He’s always there. He’s all-knowing, almighty, and can’t lie. What would stop Him?


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