In the case of God’s revelation, man encounters something ominously threatening which is traumatic. The memory of conscious knowledge of the trauma is not maintained in its lucid threatening state but is repressed. It is “put down” or “held in captivity” in the unconsciousness. That which is repressed is not destroyed. The memory remains though it may be buried in the subconscious realm. Knowledge of God is unacceptable to man and as a result man does his best to blot it out or at least camouflage it in such a way that its threatening character can be concealed or dulled. That the human psyche is capable of such repression has been thoroughly demonstrated in a multitude of ways. The critical factor, however, … is that the knowledge is not obliterated or destroyed. It remains intact though deeply submerged in the unconscious.
In the substitution-exchange process, the repressed knowledge manifests itself outwardly in a disguised or veiled form. The original knowledge is threatening; its disguised form is much less threatening. . . . In theological terms, what results from the repression is the profession of atheism either in militant terms, or its less militant form of agnosticism, or a kind of religion that makes God less of a threat than he really is. Either option, atheism or religion, manifests an exchange of the truth for a lie.
— R. C. Sproul, If There Is a God, Why Are There Atheists? A Surprising Look at the Psychology of Atheism (Minneapolis: Dimension Books, 1978), 76-77.