As the statements of the two Huxleys suggest, the reason many atheists are drawn to deny God, and especially the Christian God, is to avoid having to answer in the next life for their lack of moral restraint in this one. They know that Christianity places human action under the shadow of divine scrutiny and accountability. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans 2:6-8, “For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but to those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.” We read in the book of Revelation 21:8: As for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death:’ The implication of these passages—and there are many more like them—is that death does not bring extinction but accountability.

Here I must pause to note a feature of Christianity that has not escaped the attention ofmost atheists. Christianity is a religion of love and forgiveness, but this love and forgiveness are temporal and, in a sense, conditional. Christian forgiveness stops at the gates of hell, and hell is an essential part of the Christian scheme. While the term gospels means “good news” these books also contain warning messages to prepare us for ultimate judgment. This is a reckoning that scripture says many people are extremely eager to avoid. As John 3:20 puts it, “everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” The point here is not that atheists do more evil than others, but rather that atheism provides a hiding place for those who do not want to acknowledge and repent of their sins.