Interview with Jim Spiegel – Part One

It’s a pleasure to welcome Jim Spiegel to Cloud of Witnesses to answer some questions about his recently released book, The Making of an Atheist.

I will post the second half of the interview tomorrow, and as mentioned last week, I will collect a few follow-up questions from these posts for Jim to respond to.  So, we welcome your questions related to the book or the interview.  In addition, everyone who posts a question will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of The Making of an Atheist.

* * * *

Chris Reese: What prompted you to write The Making of an Atheist?

Jim Spiegel: As I’ve followed the new atheist movement and Christian apologists’ responses to atheists’ arguments, I’ve been dismayed at the lack of attention to the moral-psychological roots of disbelief. Since this is so heavily emphasized by the biblical writers, I thought someone needed to address it. Also, I wanted to confirm an intuition shared by many Christians who read the new atheists—that their books are more the product of anger and bitterness than an even-handed, dispassionate look at the facts.

CR: What has the response been so far to the book and website?

JS: The response has been largely positive. In fact, I have never received so many encouraging notes from strangers who wrote to thank me for writing the book. But there have been some negative responses as well from some atheists and agnostics who insist that their rejection of God has been purely an intellectual matter.

CR: Many atheists will be offended at the thesis of your book. What would you say to an atheist like this who claims he grew up in a basically normal home and is a decent person, but just doesn’t feel there’s good evidence to believe in God?

JS: I would note that growing up in a basically normal home doesn’t preclude moral rebellion. And regarding those who insist that they are morally “decent,” I would be curious as to what they mean by this. Before I was a Christian there were many things that I considered to be morally permissible—from sexual promiscuity to resentment and certain forms of revenge—which I now recognize to be immoral and even distorting of one’s perception of reality. The fact that a person passes his or her own test for moral decency is hardly reliable as a gauge for their actual virtue.

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3 thoughts on “Interview with Jim Spiegel – Part One

  1. Pingback: Blog Tour for The Making of an Atheist | Wisdom and Folly

  2. Chris,
    Sorry, but I’m going to post a second question if that’s okay (the previous question is in the other post’s comment thread).

    Jim,
    It seems to me that in various beliefs, both simple and major, that often the head follows the heart. Augustine, Edwards and various other Christian theologians have emphasized the role of desire in leading someone to hold certain beliefs. I’ve wondered if this might be what Luther had in mind with his statements such as “reason is the devil’s whore.” Would you mind discussing the role of desire in the life of the mind? Thanks.

  3. Yes , well, before I was an atheist there were many things that I considered to be morally permissible— from homophobia to misogyny and certain forms of psychological manipulation —which I now recognize to be immoral and even distorting of one’s perception of reality. The fact that a person confuses an arbitrary set of received nostrums with genuine moral decency is hardly reliable as a gauge for their actual virtue.

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