The Making of an Atheist

The website for Christian philosopher James Spiegel’s newest book, The Making of an Atheist, is now up here.  I had the pleasure of editing this volume and I believe it will be a helpful resource – and probably a source of some controversy.  Part of Spiegel’s aim is to make the case that

atheistic rejection of God is precipitated by immoral indulgences, usually combined with some deep psychological disturbances, such as a broken relationship with one’s father. I also show how atheists suffer from what I call “paradigm-induced blindness,” as their worldview inhibits their ability to recognize the reality of God manifest in creation.

For those in the Reformed tradition – especially in terms of Reformed or presuppositional apologetics – this analysis will sound familiar.  For those who adopt a more evidential-oriented apologetics, this viewpoint may feel foreign or uncomfortable.  However, most of us who are steeped in the evidential tradition have probably not taken non-rational factors seriously enough in dealing with disbelief.  I came away from the book much more convinced that the will and psychological dispositions play as important a role in choosing to believe or disbelieve as rational factors.

The book doesn’t officially release for a couple of more weeks, but I would be interested in hearing responses and reviews from those who read it.

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9 thoughts on “The Making of an Atheist

  1. Hi Fleance

    Thanks for the remarks. I think depth psychology will also be needed to try to understood why some people feel the need for God while others don’t. Of course, even Freud understood the need for “transcendence” in humanity in general, but he was a pessimist and influenced by Schopenhauer. It could be that a pessimistic atheist feels that such “transcendence” is an illusion, some sort of make-believe produced by our minds, and therefore it is not worthwhile bothering about such things.

    Jung, on the other hand, partly Protestant and partly Catholic in his beliefs, at least according to what he wrote, or expressed in close relationships with scholars like Father Victor White, felt that God was necessary, however he looked at everything, including religion, from a psychological point of view.

  2. Hi Chris

    There can be no doubt that the book is a valuable addition to the topic, however only part of the reasons are given. Why? Because there are people who are mentally sound, have suffered no traumas, are good and honest, and just don’t believe in God. These things are relative.

    One also can not forget that Buddha was an atheist and founded a world religion successfully, although he based many things on elements derived from Hinduism. But this “way” also has its problems. Buddha is said to have told listeners who asked him questions he could not answer that they were wasting time on speculation instead of concentrating on how to get out of the karmic ladder!

    Thanks for raising the issue. More discussion is needed.

    • Hi Louis,
      Thanks for those observations. I agree, there’s more exploration to be done on this topic. I would argue though that in light of Romans 1, disbelief in God is an aberration, or a malfunction of someone’s proper cognitive functioning. Of course, as you mention, lots of people look very normal on the outside, although they manifest this malfunctioning — which is the result of the Fall and other malforming factors in one’s family or cultural environment.

  3. I’m with morse. I know that this view of atheists is necessary in order to prop up the erroneous concept that atheists reject god even though they know in their hearts that god is real. Well, we don’t know that. Sorry. Belief – no matter how extreme – is not knowledge, even if it feels like it.

    Now I have to get back to the orgy before the hash runs out.

    • Hi S. A.,
      I appreciate your sense of humor. The human psyche is complicated and it’s hard to sort out what all goes on in the process of forming beliefs. I think you’re right that most atheists don’t secretly believe that God exists, but also openly maintain that He doesn’t. But I think there are inclinations inside of us that we can dismiss or ignore or misinterpret — or become callous to. In my view, God has designed us to come to the conclusion that He exists, but this inner (and often subtle) awareness can become distorted in a variety of ways. As I mentioned to Morse, the Bible describes this as the human condition, so we’re all born with the tendency to rebel against our Creator. So, we’re all in the same boat until we’re willing to look to God and respond to His invitation to accept His rescue.

  4. “I also show how atheists suffer from what I call “paradigm-induced blindness,” as their worldview inhibits their ability to recognize the reality of God manifest in creation.”

    Once you provide actual evidence of the supernatural then you will really have a topic for a book worth reading. Until then, just the same old arguments that has been told thousands of times over.

    • Hi Loop,
      He does go over some theistic arguments in the book, although that’s not really the book’s focus. But, since we’re on the subject, here’s a few that could be mentioned: the existence of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, the existence of moral values, the existence of consciousness, and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

  5. “atheistic rejection of God is precipitated by immoral indulgences, usually combined with some deep psychological disturbances, such as a broken relationship with one’s father.”

    So his book is essentially a rehashing of the bigoted stereotypes that have existed about atheists for years? Nice.

    • Hi Morse,
      Thanks for weighing in. I’m sorry if you’re offended by the premise of the book. But, Scripture does describe the human condition in these terms. In fact, not just atheists, but all of us are born separated from God because of original sin and then our own personal choices to turn away from Him. I’ve been on both sides of the aisle (I wasn’t a Christian until I was 13), and I remember feeling very rebellious against anyone or anything that might interfere with my personal autonomy — including God or religion. Unfortunately, my personal autonomy had/has the tendency to run over other people and make very poor judgments about what’s right and wrong. That’s the rebellion we’re all a part of until we’re born again. Lots of atheists are good and decent people, but all of us fall short of God’s perfect will, and the only remedy is a divine Savior.

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