Certainly, there are many people who do not believe in a Supreme Being whom the Bible generally refers to as God or the Lord.  However, there is ample evidence that God, who is the central focus of the Bible, is an actual supernatural Being who is the Creator of the entire universe, including all forms of life.  [For reasons to believe that God really exists, click on “Evidence that God Exists.”  And, for evidence that God created the universe, click on “Origin of the Universe.”]

Regardless of what people believe about the existence of God, the Bible indicates that He deserves to be properly acknowledged.  And, several scriptures in the Bible indicate that people who choose not to properly acknowledge God are fools.

Before we consider specific biblical scriptures which indicate that people are fools if they do not properly acknowledge God, we will define the term fool.  According to Webster’s Dictionary, a fool as “a person with little or no judgment, common sense, wisdom, etc.”  In light of this definition, no normal person would want to be regarded as a fool.

Now we will focus on what the Bible says about people who choose not to properly acknowledge God.

[Note:  When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, except when we are quoting a source that uses a different translation.]

Psalm 14:1a: The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible explains this scripture, as follows:

The fool – The word “fool” is often used in the Scriptures to denote a wicked man. . . . [The Hebrew word that is translated as fool] is designed to convey the idea that wickedness or impiety is essential folly. . . .

Hath said – That is, has “thought,” for the reference is to what is passing in his mind.

In his heart He may not have said this to others; he may not have taken the position openly before the world that there is no God, but such a thought has passed through his mind, and he has cherished it; and such a thought, either as a matter of belief or of desire, is at the foundation of his conduct.

There is no God – The idea is that, in his apprehension, there is no such thing as God, or no such being as God. The more correct idea in the passage is, that this was the belief of him who is here called a “fool.”. . .

With regard to the same scripture, John Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible, says,

The fool hath said As the Hebrew word nabal signifies not only a fool, but also a perverse, vile, and contemptible person, it would not have been unsuitable to have translated it so in this place; yet I am content to follow the more generally received interpretation, which is, that all profane persons, who have cast off all fear of God and abandoned themselves to iniquity, are convicted of madness. . . . We commonly see that those who, in the estimation both of themselves and of others, highly excel in sagacity and wisdom, employ their cunning in laying snares, and exercise the ingenuity of their minds in despising and mocking God. It is therefore important for us . . . to know, that however much the world applaud these crafty and scoffing characters, who allow themselves to indulge to any extent in wickedness, yet the Holy Spirit condemns them as being fools. . . .

The Psalmist says that they speak in their heart They may not utter this detestable blasphemy. . . .  They may not plainly deny the existence of a God, but they imagine him to be shut up in heaven, and divested of his righteousness and power. . . .

Also, in regard to Psalm 14:1a, Adam Clarke Commentary explains,

The word [fool] is not to be taken in the strict sense in which we use the term atheist, that is, one who denies the being of a God. . . .

a. There have been some, not many, who have denied the existence of God.

b. There are others who, without absolutely denying the Divine existence, deny his providence; that is, they acknowledge a Being of infinite power, but give him nothing to do, and no world to govern.

c. 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 either to punish or reward.

John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible states in reference to the same scripture,

The fool hath said in his heart – This is to be understood . . . of a set of men, who justly bear this character; . . . who are fools in their morals, without understanding in spiritual things; wicked profligate wretches, apostates from God, alienated from the life of God; and whose hearts are full of blindness and ignorance. . . .

[there is] no God though they do not express it with their mouths, yet they would fain persuade their hearts to deny the being of God; that so having no superior to whom they are accountable, they may go on in sin with impunity. . . .

David Guzik’s Enduring Word Bible Commentary provides the following commentary regarding Psalm 14:1a:

a. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” – David looked at those who denied the existence of God and came to the conclusion that they are fools. The idea behind this ancient Hebrew word translated fool is more moral than intellectual. David did not have in mind those not smart enough to figure God out (no one is that smart); he had in mind those who simply reject God.

b. The fool has said in his heart – David not only found what the fool said to be significant; where he said it is also important (in his heart). The God-denying man David has in mind is not merely troubled by intellectual objections to the existence of God; in his heart he wishes God away, typically for fundamentally moral reasons.

Again, with regard to Psalm 14:1a, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible says,

A general verdict is passed on mankind. They behave like fools because they reject the idea of God as the one to Whom they are accountable. They have many gods, they worship idols who but represent aspects of creation, but in their hearts they reject the living God who speaks to them through the wonder of creation and through their consciences. They say that there is no such God.

‘The fool’ – This is rather describing the morally perverse person who rejects the idea of living a godly life. ‘Folly’ in the Old Testament is a term used to describe the person who behaves foolishly in that he forgets or misrepresents God or refuses to do His will.

‘In his heart’ – It is not his intellect that rejects the idea of God, but his will and emotions. He does not want to have to face up to God because of what it might involve in a transformed life. He likes living as he is.

And, Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible declares in reference to the same scripture,

The fool – i.e. the wicked man; for such are commonly and justly called fools everywhere in Scripture, and that purposely to meet with their false, yet, common, conceit of themselves, as if they were the only wise men, and all others were fools.

In his heart – i.e. in his secret thoughts, or within himself, being afraid and ashamed to utter it with his mouth. Not that it was his fixed and constant opinion and judgment, but this he saith by construction, because he heartily wisheth [sic] there were no God, and lives as if there were none.

The aforementioned Bible commentaries state or infer that Psalm 14:1a indicates that fools are not only people who do not believe in the existence of God, but also people who do believe in God but reject Him as the One to whom they are accountable for their behavior.

Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Gill states with regard to this verse of scripture,

fools despise wisdom and instruction  [Fools] do not desire the knowledge of God, and of his ways and worship, but despise it, make no account of it, but treat it with contempt; especially the knowledge of God in Christ . . .; they despise . . . the Gospel, and the truths of it; . . . they despise the Scriptures, which are able to make a man “wise unto salvation”; . . . and they are fools with a witness that despise all this; such fools are atheists, deists, and all profane and wicked men.

Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible says in reference to Proverbs 1:7,

Fools (atheists, who have no regard to God) despise wisdom and instruction; having no dread at all of God’s wrath, nor any desire of his favour. . . . Those who say to the Almighty, “Depart from us,” who are so far from fearing him that they set him at defiance, can excite no surprise if they desire not the knowledge of his ways, but despise that instruction. Note, Those are fools who do not fear God and value the scriptures. . . .

Pett provides the following comments with regard to the same verse of scripture:

[T]he foolish . . . do not fear YHWH [i.e., God] and . . . therefore despise . . . wisdom and instruction. They live their lives mainly heedless, through deliberate choice, of God and His ways. . . .

Also in reference to Proverbs 1:7, Poole states,

[Fools are] wicked men . . .; such as do not fear God.

[They] are so far from attaining true wisdom, that they despise it, and all the means of getting it. . . .

And, The Pulpit Commentaries says with regard to the same scripture,

[F]ools is to be understood . . . “to be perverse,” here properly designates the incorrigible, . . . and those who are unwilling to know God . . . refuse and despise wisdom. . . . [E]vil and depraved activity [are] expressed in the verb “despise”. . . .

The Bible commentaries that we have cited in regard to Proverbs 1:7 take the position that this verse of scripture indicates that fools are people who despise the wisdom that would enable them to understand the importance of fearing God (i.e., having reverential awe of Him).

Romans 1:21-22: [S]ince the creation of the world His (God’s) 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, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. . . .

With regard to this scripture, Barnes asserts,

Sinners of all kinds are frequently spoken of as fools in the Scriptures. In the sense in which it is thus used, the word is applied to them as void of understanding or moral sense; as idolaters, and as wicked. . . .

Gill, in reference to Romans 1:21-22, says,

Professing themselves to be wise – The learned men among the Gentiles first called themselves . . . wise men; and afterwards, to cover their wretched pride and vanity, . . . “Philosophers,” lovers of wisdom; but notwithstanding all their arrogance, their large pretensions to wisdom, and boast of it

they became fools – they appeared to be so; they showed themselves to be such in those very things they prided themselves with the knowledge of. . . .

With regard to the same scripture, Henry declares,

[Many of those who committed idolatry] did know God, and from what they knew might easily infer that it was their duty to worship him, and him only. Though some have greater light and means of knowledge than others, yet all have enough to leave them inexcusable.

The foolishness and practical wickedness of the heart cloud and darken the intellectual powers and faculties. Nothing tends more to the blinding and perverting of the understanding than the corruption and depravedness of the will and affections. . . . It has been observed that the most refined nations, that made the greatest show of wisdom, were the [most arrogant] fools in religion.

Likewise, in regard to Romans 1:21-22, Pett states,

Note that it was not that men did not ‘know’ God. . . . But what they did not want was to be controlled by Him in their activities and behaviour. Thus they closed their minds to the knowledge of God as He is, and refused to glorify Him as God. Note that it is seen as deliberate.

[These men] . . . set up images of earthly things, over which they could keep control and which they could manipulate, and they did it in order [to] worship these things. They sought to give an impression of wisdom. But in giving the impression of wisdom they became fools, something that was already recognised [sic] in Paul’s day. Men had been carried away by their own cleverness with the consequence that they had invented folly.

Guzik makes the following comments on the same scripture:

Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God – The problem is not that man did not know God, but that he did know Him – yet refused to glorify Him as God.

Professing to be wise, they became fools – Our rejection of God’s general revelation does not make us smarter or better. Instead, it makes mankind futile in their thoughts, and makes our foolish hearts darkened – and we become fools.

According to a consensus of the Bible commentaries that we have quoted in reference to Romans 1:21-22, people are fools if they know (or believe) that God exists, but choose not to give Him the glory that He deserves.


The Bible provides several perspectives regarding the types of people who are fools.  Such people are not only those who do not believe in the existence of God, but also those who do believe in God but reject Him as the one to whom they are accountable for their behavior.  In addition, the Bible indicates that fools despise the wisdom that would enable them to understand the importance of fearing God (i.e., having reverential awe of Him).  Furthermore, the Bible implies that people are fools even if they know (or believe) that God exists, but they choose not to give Him the glory that He deserves.