I came across this article, which purports to be an exploration by a Christian philosopher into the root causes of atheism, but in the end is just a laundry list of ignorant statements about how the philosopher, James S. Spiegel, sees atheists.
I think it’s a great idea for Christians, and people of all religions, to look at the reasons behind why others reject their beliefs. If Christians listened to why atheists are atheists, it could help them to see the problems with their faith that need to be fixed, but it could also force them to challenge their own beliefs and see how strong their faith really is.
Spiegel has written a book called The Making of an Atheist, but based on the sampling that this article takes of his ideas, it amounts to a waste of time, as he hasn’t made any attempt to honestly represent atheists’ rejection of religious beliefs. This becomes obvious in the second paragraph:
“While atheists insist that their foundational reason for rejecting God is the problem of evil or the scientific irrelevance of the supernatural, the Christian philosopher says the argument is “only a ruse” or “a conceptual smoke screen to mask the real issue – personal rebellion.”
So rather than thinking about the problems with belief in God that atheists bring up, Spiegel conveniently dismisses these as a cover for what is really just rebellion. It’s an easy way for him to go on and make unfounded assertions about what atheists think, but it’s also insulting. My atheism has not arisen out of some desire to rebel against the beliefs I was brought up in, it’s simply a result of questioning whether my beliefs had any basis in reality.
God has made His existence plain from creation – from the unimaginable vastness of the universe to the complex micro-universe of individual cells, Spiegel notes. Human consciousness, moral truths, miraculous occurrences and fulfilled biblical prophecies are also evidence of the reality of God.
But atheists reject that, or as Spiegel put it, “miss the divine import of any one of these aspects of God’s creation” and to do so is “to flout reason itself.”
If “look around you, there are lots of complex things! Therefore, God” is reason enough to state that God’s existence is obvious, then fine. But that’s not good enough for an atheist. His evidence for “the reality of God” is pitiful.
Human consciousness? Doesn’t outlive the brain. Moral truths? They’re subjective, they change over time, and we certainly don’t gain any insight into moral truth from reading holy books. Miraculous occurences? Either explained by natural phenomena, or unexplained – which is not a synonym for “god did it”. Biblical Prophesies? If Spiegel spent a couple of hours reading criticisms of the prophesies made in the Bible, he would see how unconvincing they are.
This suggests that other factors give rise to the denial of God, he notes. In other words, something other than the quest for truth drives the atheist.
No, the quest for truth is good enough for me.
The explanation behind Spiegel’s ignorance of why atheists are actually atheists is that he is taking his reasoning from the Bible, rather than asking atheists. Seriously! Yeah that’s a good start, just ignore what atheists have to say and use a bronze-age book to support your pre-formed conclusion.
Here’s a face-palmer:
“There is a phenomenon that I call ‘paradigm-induced blindness,’ where a person’s false worldview prevents them from seeing truths which would otherwise be obvious.
“There is a phenomenon that I call ‘paradigm-induced blindness,’ where a person’s faith or religion prevents them from seeing truths which would otherwise be obvious.
What really bothers me about Spiegel’s characterization of atheists, and it’s a view held by a lot of religious people, is that he repeatedly insists that people become atheists when they want to sin:
Religious skepticism is, at bottom, a moral problem…”Atheism is the suppression of truth by wickedness, the cognitive consequence of immorality. In short, it is sin that is the mother or unbelief.”…Spiegel, who converted to Christianity in 1980, has witnessed the pattern among several of his friends. Their path from Christianity to atheism involved: moral slippage (such as infidelity, resentment or unforgiveness); followed by withdrawal from contact with fellow believers; followed by growing doubts about their faith, accompanied by continued indulgence in the respective sin; and culminating in a conscious rejection of God.
It’s really upsetting to me that people like Spiegel see atheists as just the dregs of society. He thinks that we’re all addicted to sinning and that our brains are so corrupted by it that we can’t believe in God. This prejudice against atheists is completely unfounded, and it’s a pathetic argument to make. I’m curious to see if he included any studies or statistics to back up his claims that atheists are immoral, but somehow I doubt that he has any.
This article also talks about how Spiegel thinks that having a defective father leads to atheism. To support this idea, he cites a paper called the Psychology of Atheism by Paul C. Vitz. The article says that Vitz has “revealed a link between atheism and fatherlessness.” What? I read the paper (here), and he hasn’t revealed anything! To briefly summarize, Vitz sees atheists as people who hate their fathers, and therefore want to rebel against their heavenly father.
There is no research, just examples of some atheists with daddy issues. It’s a straightforward question: “do atheists have worse relationships with their fathers than believers?” Why hasn’t Vitz done this study to back up his paper?
This is getting long so I’m going to wrap this up. Spiegel (and Vitz) have failed to demonstrate that atheism is a result of rebellion or immorality. They have made many claims but don’t support these claims with evidence. Evidence is what atheists require, and the lack of evidence for the Christian God or any other God is the real reason why the majority of atheists are atheists.
Spiegel’s claims about atheists are shallow, patronizing, insulting, and just plain wrong.