Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Daddy Issues

I have come to the conclusion that if you have, or have had, a father, you have daddy issues, and if you have, or have had, a mother, you have mommy issues.

I have come to this conclusion because I haven't talked to anyone- atheist, believer, don't care- that doesn't have parental issues. Why is that? Because parents are people like you and me, and despite their heroic status in the minds of little children, they screw up. Parents lie, break promises, lose their tempers, speak thoughtlessly- because that's what people do.

My point is that it is ridiculous to say that parental issues cause atheism, though you see it all the time.

In the book, Spiegel notes that many well-known atheists share the
experiences of having lost fathers when they were young, or have fathers that
were alcoholics, abusive or "defective" in some other way.

Among celebrity atheists, both Jodie Foster and George Carlin lost their
fathers when they were young. Spiegel also cites research by New York University
Psychology Professor Paul C. Vitz who found a significant link between
fatherlessness and atheism. In his book, "Faith of the Fatherless," Vitz lists
influential atheists who as children experienced the death of their fathers:
Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. He also names
atheists such as Thomas Hobbes who had weak or abusive fathers. Spiegel notes
that Professor Daniel Dennett's father died in a plane crash when the boy was 5
and Christopher Hitchen's father was distant and his mother killed herself in a
suicide pact with a lover when Hitchens was 24 years old.

So, we have a dozen people who had weak (I don't even know what that means), abusive or absent fathers and who were also atheists. Ergo . . . nothing. I've read dozens of testimonies from believers who had abusive or absent fathers. How can the same thing cause both atheism and theism? It boggles the mind.

What proof of this is there? Why, the Bible, of course!

"This doesn't prove that every atheist necessarily is the product of bad
father relationships, or that's a necessary condition for atheism, but it's very
suggestive and I'd see it as one significant, causal influence," Spiegel says.

From the standpoint of scripture … the basic idea is that God – as our
heavenly father – is mirrored by our earthly father. And so when that
relationship is broken, it has a kind of psychological influence on our approach
to God."Exploring the "biblical diagnosis" of atheism, Spiegel argued it
involves a "hardening of the heart" (Ephesians 4:18) and the suppression of the
truth by wickedness (Romans 1:18). And although a broken relationship with one's
father is often involved in this process it's often combined with a form of
rebellion - resentment, hatred, vanity, unforgiveness or pride.

I love the way Spiegel weaves together psychology, a scientific field that uses scientific principals, and Bible quotes. He doesn't offer any proof of his assertions whatsoever besides Bible quotes and negative words- resentment, hatred, vanity, unforgiveness or pride. (Theists, naturally, must be grateful, loving, humble, forgiving and, um, humble.)

"The hardening of the atheistic mind-set occurs through cognitive malfunction
due to two principal causes," Spiegel wrote. "First, atheists suffer from
paradigm-induced blindness, as their worldview inhibits their ability to
recognize the reality of God that is manifest in creation. Second, atheists
suffer from damage to the sensus divinitatis, so their natural awareness of God
is severely impeded. Both of these mechanisms are aspects of the noetic effects
of sin. This combination of factors amounts to a deadly cognitive cocktail when
it comes to religious belief. However, thankfully, even the atheist is not
beyond reach of the redemptive power of God."

Cognitive malfunction, huh? So my brain is broken if I don't believe in god. Good to know will punish me forever for having the divine equivalent of aphasia. "Paradigm-induced blindness"? Big words don't actually make you right, you know. "Sensus divinitatis", damage to? Hmmm . . . so I suppose you can produce MRIs or PET scans showing damage to my sensus divinitatis? Yeah, I didn't think so. Besides, if my sensus divinitatis were existent and damaged, why would I go to hell for not believing? That would be like sending someone to hell for being blind or deaf. And dibs on "deadly cognitive cocktail" as a band name. Or possibly a weapon in the next Fallout.

Yeesh. If you want to know why an atheist is an atheist, ask the atheist. Nobody else can tell you, certainly not some Christian apologist with a fetish for big, scientificey words.


  1. My dad's awesome and my mum's fantastic. My sister's pretty damn cool too.

    No abuse, no neglect, no tragic deaths in my youth.

    [and yes, I constantly appreciate how incredibly lucky I am to be able to say that - though it hasn't particularly set me up well to deal with traumatic events in my adult life]

    Still don't believe in gods and would submit that growing up without a father-figure would be a likely prelude to believing in a all-powerful super-daddy who's always there for you. Seem at least as likely as what this eejit's bleeting about.

  2. sensus divinitatis sounds kind of dirty. I like it!
    My dad left when I was about three, and was replaced by an abusive alcoholic. I have faith. OK, not the "right" faith or religion, but apparently my sensus divinitatis wasn't damaged. Heh. What an awesome phrase.

  3. Maybe in your case your sensus divinitatis is dirty, Leigh. ;)

  4. Sensus Divinitatis?

    That words got too many syllables. I at first read it as "Sensus Divinatis", before realising that there was a third i.


    The shorter version mustn't have sounded sciency enough for them.

    Anyone else noting the standard "hardened the heart" and "suppression of the
    truth by wickedness"? Ray Comfort's favorite verses. It's an utterly generic evangelical screed dressed up in long words.

  5. Funny. My father wasn't distant or weak and is certainly alive. And I'm pretty sure that I used to have one o' them senses of the divine, or at least I thought I did.

    Yet, here I am, one o' them terrible non-theists. I wonder what horrible thing happened to me.

  6. @ Geds - maybe your sensus divinitatis got shot off in the war?

    Man. That really does sound dirty...

  7. Yeah, my parents (and step parents) mostly gave me bad experiences. I never had a father until I confronted him last year. You're right, we all have parent issues. I don't know anyone who doesn't have parent issues. My children will eventually have issues with me too. We are human for better or worse.

  8. Well there could be some sort of correlation, not that there is any evidence of it. In a way it makes sense,children of single parent homes and definitely children of ausive homes have to learn to deal with reality much earlier than their peers. It would make sense that an early toughening and self sufficiency would give one a resistence to Christianities patriarchal fairy tales.

  9. My parents have been the best you could ask for. However, I can see why there can be a relationship.

    Having a traumatic experience as a child, immediately brings up the question "How can God do this?". Once you ask that basic question, (especially as a younger kid), the probability of you disbelieving in God would definitely rise, IMO.

  10. I do believe in God, but I still think that is a crazy idea. However, I adopted my oldest two daughters at 8 and 9 years of age after they were removed from their birth mother because of horrific abuse. I imagine they have more mommy and daddy issues than most. After all, there were the birth parents, at least three sets of foster parents, and the adoptive parents. Are there enough big words in the world to make sense of why they think or act in any certain way at all?

  11. Ryk said it- there might well be a statistically valid correlation here, but that doesn't show anything whatsoever about the existence of God. You might just as well say that since there is a well-documented correlation between higher education and atheism, that proves education is the work of the Devil. Of course, some people do say that.

  12. I'm in my 60s now, am certainly no genius, was certainly no prodigy, but my atheism started at age five.

    Definite parent issues, but that didn't have anything to do with it unless it was to actually follow their admonition to "think for yourself" "look closely" at what was happening and to listen to the things that were said. Don't take them at face value.

    It has to do more with looking around and starting to discover that ice cream cones are hollow, math and school isn't fun, the policeman/teacher really isn't your friend, and that santa and the easter bunny aren't real and actually seem to occupy the same parameters as one's parent's deity of choice.
    One also notices that when the words "for your own good" or some such are mentioned, it is more the interests of the mentioner that will be served than any good for YOU.

    In my experience, if you go through a war and any "sensus divinitatis", vestigal or complete,
    ISN'T shot off, you really weren't paying attention.


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at