I got into a discussion last night with one of my friends, that eventually drifted into the judgement of God, and rejecting the truth. It started with a critique of the Left Behind series, in that the authors approach the human condition in that everyone knows the Truth: some accept it, some reject it.
That's not the human condition. Many people I know who don't hold to a particular belief structure do so because they find that belief structure is equivalent to 2+2=5. In no way can that be construed as rejecting any sort of Truth. That mathematical equation wouldn't even be in the running. And if someone honestly holds that the Truth is equal to that mathematical equation, then it's the height of injustice to punish them for not holding to that equation.
She then mentioned the Romans passage 1: 18-23, specifically focusing on how all will be without excuse. She had no idea how this worked in terms of someone who never heard of Jesus or read the Bible, but since it was in the Bible and she held the Bible to be true, that statement had to be true as well.
Now, I'm not deeply familiar with the layout of the world 2,000 years ago, especially when Paul was spreading Christianity to the Gentiles. So I could be off on this, and if someone who knows more could enlighten me, that would be great. But I think the "no excuse" idea doesn't quite hold up anymore, in the sense of how it's used with rejecting Jesus.
For one thing, I think that Paul's idea of the world was much smaller than what we have today (well, okay, I don't think this, that's obvious. No one then would imagine how big the world was, or that there were people across oceans -- if they even knew what an ocean was). But for Paul, if his concept of the whole world was pretty much the Roman Empire and some surrounding areas. If Christianity had been introduced to all those areas, and Paul thought only those areas were "the world." However, like I said, I'm not familiar with the geographical knowledge of that time frame, so this entire example may be invalid.
Second, this verse is tied to the idea of finding God in creation. "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he made." We know a lot more about the nature of this world, this universe, and just the act of creation compared to 2,000 years ago. What I find very interesting is that I read somewhere that 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences are atheists. If in fact creation is one of the best ways to see this divine nature, wouldn't the people who are most familiar with the creative process be leading the charge in claiming God's existence?
Third: There's a verse in chapter two about how those outside the law are judged by the law written in their own heart. And I see the "no excuse" verse reflecting that idea a lot more than I see it reflecting the idea of someone rejecting Jesus rejects the truth. To me, the no excuses seems to focus a lot more on worshiping created things, suppressing the truth, and ungodliness and wickedness. For an example, who is the ungodly -- someone who holds the right beliefs and is cruel, or someone who says the right beliefs cannot be the truth, and is kind even to his/her enemies? The person who is kind acts in such a way because she knows, in her conscience, that is the right thing to do. The "no excuses" seems wrapped around the idea of people know how they should behave, and those described in this verse are those who consistently don't behave the right way. This entire verse seems to be about those who are actively suppressing the truth, and deliberately acting in such a way as to applaud such suppression. But those are not the same people who would find a certain belief structure as 2+2=5. There's no suppressing the truth there. (I also find it interesting that in chapter two in regards to the verse of being judged by one's moral compass, Paul makes a mention of those outside the law judged by their thoughts, which "will accuse or perhaps excuse them. It just seems more and more likely that the idea of having no excuse was in relation to a specific group of people, and not applied across the board).
Fourth: the idea of rejecting God has always been a complex notion for me. I think it's easy to reject ideas or notions of who God is. I think it's a lot harder to reject God as God. Say there's a former fundamentalist who flat-out says s/he rejects Jesus, and is now an atheist. As a fundamentalist, this person was legalistic, cruel, and pretty much didn't follow the basic commands as laid out by Jesus. However, this person had the doctrines nailed down (no pun intended). Now as an atheist, the person does live by those basic commands. The person is much kinder, demonstrates more compassion, listens, does try to love every person s/he meets -- has that person rejected God? If anything, I would say that the former fundamentalist has embraced God, through repentance of a legalistic viewpoint. What happened is that the FF looked at the prior lifestyle and said that whoever or whatever God is, it's not the entity as presented by that lifestyle. Can it then be argued that the person has in fact rejected God? Or has that person rejected a false concept of the truth?