"... and they say, 'The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.'” (Psalm 94:7 ESV)
There are atheists and then there are atheists. There are those who philosophically deny the existence of God. Men such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who suppress the truth of God's glory as revealed in all of creation since the dawn of time (Romans 1:18-21) and more importantly reject the Word revealed to men, are atheists in this sense. They have erected elaborate arguments and campaign against the ignorant and foolish theists and Christians. For Dawkins and Hitchens it is all-out war.
However, there is an atheist of a different stripe as described here in Psalm 14 and Psalm 94. It is a practical atheism. This God-denier acknowledges that there is a God and he would never publicly say what Dawkins and Hitchens say. In his heart, though, this same atheism is the worldview and standard operating procedure. This closet atheist has somehow convinced himself that the God of the universe does not see or does not care or is not able to call men and women to account for evil done in this life. So he lives without restraint or immediate fear of reprisal. Because of this, the psalmist pours out his complaint before God: "They [the practical atheists] pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage. They kill the widow and the sojourner,and murder the fatherless..." (Psalm 94:4-6 ESV) and "...they are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good" (Psalm 14:1). Through Scripture we see that the Lord does intervene on behalf of His people, showing them mercy, and He will "bring back on [the practical atheists] their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the LORD our God will wipe them out" (Psalm 94:23 ESV). We could very well say that this form of atheism is more foolish than the academic form because the practical atheist knows there is a God and yet pretends just the opposite is true. His life is a farce.
What about the Christian, the one who has fully embraced the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is there ever a time in which he acts the part of the atheist? The answer is a resounding "yes." Every time he gives into temptation, he buys into the lie of the God-denier found in these Psalms. Worse yet, in his heart-of-hearts, the believer, in his temporary state of unbelief, announces that right now, in this moment of temptation, Jesus Christ is not enough, He is not my all-in-all, and I need something more. Martin Luther said, “To be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing” because “the sin underneath all sins is the lie that we cannot trust the love and grace of Jesus and that we must take matters into our own hands.”
Growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior means that we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and that He is changing our desires and appetites so that we long for Him and we trust His loving care more and more. Fortunately for us, the Holy Spirit is gradually removing this residual atheism from our lives. One day when we are face-to-face with our Lord, our faith will be sight, the work will be done, and we will emphatically proclaim, "You are truly all we need!" For now, may our prayer be the same as King David: "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1 ESV).