The greatest enemy of God in Scripture is Satan. He is the dragon, the serpent who has waged war against God from of old. He and the other fallen angels (the demons) are not atheists. They know God exists, and they hate God. Because they hate God, their entire existence is one of defying God. And here is where we see something worse than atheism.
For as long as there has been sin, there have been atheists, those who deny God. Christians today sometimes think that atheism is a new phenomenon, something that began to exist in the twentieth century. Those who have studied some history might push the date a little farther back, perhaps to the Enlightenment. But atheism is much older than that. We encounter it even in the pages of the Old Testament. The psalmist, for example, speaks of the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1).
Atheism is certainly much more culturally acceptable today than it might have been one thousand years ago. We do, in fact, see a change in the West with the spread of Enlightenment philosophy. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, men such as Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud represented an atheism come into its own. In our own day, the new atheists (who are much less philosophically aware than the old atheists) have popularized the philosophy of the fool.
Because atheism is so widespread today, Christians often view atheism as the worst possible sin. Certainly, it is sin and it is foolish, but is it the worst possible sin? Is there anything worse than atheism? I would like to suggest that there is.
Consider the following comments from the book of James: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19).
To those who are boasting that they believe in God while living lives that indicate the opposite, James is effectively saying: “You believe in God? Good for you! But so what? Demons believe in the existence of God too. It isn’t going to help them, and it isn’t going to help you who live like demons.”