Atheism Rooted in Search for Father?



There is an interesting study that has been released and can be found in detail in a new book that can be found on Amazon called Faith of the Fatherless by Dr. Paul Vitz. Certainly each person has a responsibility for their own actions and choices and the spiritual war that takes place behind the scenes for lost souls is not accounted for in this scenario, but from a Biblical view, this study may have merit, in my opinion. God refers to himself on many occasions as Abba Father, which roughly translates to “daddy” in our modern language. This is the role He wants His children to see Him in as He works in our lives and we approach Him.
Romans 8:14-16 New International Version (NIV)
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

This is an interesting relationship that God moves us into as His children, compared to the Old Testament God who could only be approached by the High Priest. If your relationship with your earthly father is how God intended it to be whereas you have open access, receive love and nurture, and have structured quality time spent with him then your view of God will be what it should be. You will be able to approach God and understand His love for you. Conversely, if you have an absentee father, lack of affection (hugs), and a broken relationship the chances are favorable that your view of God will fall in line with this disjointed view of your earthly father. God uses many events, roles and objects to help us understand Him. The relationships of family members to each other are integral in understanding God and how we relate to Him. It is easy to see how someone may translate their understanding of their interaction (or lack thereof) with their earthly father to the belief that there is no God. How could someone who has not experienced a true dad understand a heavenly Dad? It’s much like someone who lives in the desert trying to understand snow. Does snow exist? Is snow real? Of course it exists and is real, but having only experienced weather in the desert, a person from this region cannot comprehend the possibility of snow and may very easily determine that there is no snow. In this example, the lack of experience translates to disbelief much the same way that an individual who missed the daddy interaction may determine there is no God. The mind is designed to adapt to nature, nurture and surroundings. I’m not sure that science will ever be able to fully comprehend how the core processing unit of our brain works but a case can be made that the love or lack thereof from a father has a direct impact on a person’s view of God.

See the release on Faith of the Fatherless below:

What psychological factors could lead someone to become an atheist?

The question posed above is an interesting one since it is the opposite of what many atheists, such as Sigmund Freud and Ludwig Feuerbach, have asked about theists. Freud argued that theists believe in God out of a desire for an idealized father figure. Paul Vitz, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at New York University, turns this explanation on its head. Vitz, who was an atheist until his late 30s, presents his psychological analysis of atheists in “Faith of the Fatherless”. The Amazon “Book Description” summarizes his work as follows.

Professor Vitz argues that psychoanalysis actually provides a more satisfying explanation for atheism. Disappointment in one’s earthly father, whether through death, absence, or mistreatment, frequently leads to a rejection of God. A biographical survey of influential atheists of the past four centuries shows that this “defective father hypothesis” provides a consistent explanation of the “intense atheism” of these thinkers. A survey of the leading intellectual defenders of Christianity over the same period confirms the hypothesis, finding few defective fathers. Professor Vitz concludes with an intriguing comparison of male and female atheists and a consideration of other psychological factors that can contribute to atheism.

Professor Vitz does not argue that atheism is psychologically determined. Each man, whatever his experiences, ultimately chooses to accept God or reject him. Yet the cavalier attribution of religious faith to irrational, psychological needs is so prevalent that an exposition of the psychological factors predisposing one to atheism is necessary.

As noted above, Vitz’s analysis does not disprove atheism but it does provide an interesting response to those who summarily dismiss theism through psychological explanations; and especially for those who appeal to Freudian-type explanations.


2 responses »

  1. Interesting…
    But that doesn’t make it true.
    Jean paul sartre, HP lovecraft and many other outspoken atheists all grew up without their fathers, but a lot of people who are christians did too.

    • I agree, L.A., that although not verified truth, this is an interesting concept. Certainly not every atheist can claim father issues just as not everyone who gets lung cancer has been a smoker. I do believe though that, for the majority of people, the influence you experience in your formative years have a long lasting impact on how you view, life, love and faith. Just an observation and interesting topic.

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