Atheism and Fatherhood

“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” 

– Pope John XXIII

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I posted the following on Facebook the other day:

OWS

Someone responded by suggesting that the lack of a godly father might leave certain individuals searching for a substitute – in the form of government.

This immediately brought to mind previous studies that I’ve read showing a link between fatherlessness and atheism. (Atheism and statism often overlap, but that’s a topic for another day. It’s interesting to note, however, that political liberals are far less likely than political conservatives [55% versus 82%] to accept the statement, “God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.”)

According to a large-scale Swiss study published in 2000, “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.” The statistics are pretty eye-opening. In families where both parents were regular churchgoers, 33% of children grew up to become regular churchgoers. In families where the mother was a regular churchgoer and the father was nonpracticing, only 2% of children grew up to become regular churchgoers. In families where the father was a regular churchgoer and the mother was nonpracticing, 44% of children grew up to become regular churchgoers.

In “Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism,” Dr. Paul Vitz (a professor of psychology at NYU, with a Ph.D. from Stanford) makes a case for the “defective father hypothesis”. He begins by looking at the biographical information of the world’s most influential atheists – past and present – essentially asking what they have in common. What he finds is that nearly all of them experienced broken relationships with their biological fathers (whether through death, conflict, abandonment, or abuse). Furthermore, “a survey of the leading intellectual defenders of Christianity over the same period confirms the hypothesis, finding few defective fathers.”

faith of the fatherless

This observation isn’t limited to famous atheists, either. The following excerpt is taken from the chapter “Atheists: A Psychological Profile” in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (HT Triablogue and Wintery Knight):

“In representative surveys of the U.S. population in the 1970s and 1980s, the unaffiliated were found to be younger, mostly male, with higher levels of education and income, more liberal, but also more unhappy and more alienated in terms of the larger society (Hadaway and Roof 1988; Feigelman, Gorman, and Varacalli 1992)…

Findings regarding those who come from religious homes and then give up religion show that they have had more distant relations with their parents (Hunsberger 1980, 1983; Hunsberger and Brown 1984). Caplovitz and Sherrow (1977) found that the quality of relations with parents was a crucial variable…

Does losing a parent early in life lead one to atheism? Vetter and Green (1932–33) surveyed 350 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, 325 of whom were men. Among those who became atheists before age twenty, half lost one or both parents before that age. A large number in the group reported unhappy childhood and adolescence experiences.”

atheism

While these statistics are sobering and saddening, they shouldn’t be surprising.

Many of the basic claims of Christianity (the existence of God, original sin, etc.) can be deduced and defended using reason alone. However, as Thomas Aquinas argues in Summa contra Gentiles, there remain certain Christian teachings (the doctrine of the Trinity, for example) which must be accepted by placing faith in the authority of Scripture. On an even more basic level, accepting Christianity entails having faith (that is, confidence) in the authority of God the Father.

For obvious reasons, this sort of confidence might come less naturally to someone who grows up without a trustworthy father figure.

And this is exactly why Christians need to engage in – rather than withdraw from – shaping our culture. This is why we need to defend the institution of marriage by opposing no-fault divorce laws. Put bluntly, a country where only 64% of children live with married parents is going to be less receptive to evangelism than it otherwise could be.

Planned Parenthood: “Nothing Unhealthy” about Promiscuity

Planned Parenthood recently posted an eye-opening Q&A on Tumblr in response to the question, “Is promiscuity a bad thing?”

“Unfortunately some ‘promiscuous’ women are judged in a negative way by society. But ‘promiscuous’ men are more accepted in society, which is totally unfair.”

I sympathize with the gender disparity. I really do. I personally try to be as judgmental as possible toward promiscuous men.

“So ‘promiscuity’ is a word that can refer to a whole variety of different sexual behaviors. But in general, it’s a word that’s used to judge or shame people. And, again, it’s a term that’s most often directed at women.”

Most often directed at women. Got it.

“Since the number of sexual partners you’ve had doesn’t say anything about your character, your morals, or your personality – or about anything at all really– there’s nothing bad or unhealthy about having a big number of sexual partners.”

The first half of that sentence is downright perplexing (apparently the choices you make – and the actions you take – don’t say anything at all about you). The second half is a non sequitur. Even if it were true that promiscuity is morally neutral, that doesn’t tell us anything at all about the health effects of promiscuity. Swimming with piranhas doesn’t make you a “bad person,” per se, but it can still leave you with a few missing appendages.

As far as most progressives are concerned, there’s only one reason why someone might oppose promiscuity. In order to avoid the grave sin of “slut-shaming,” they happily turn a blind eye to…well…

neil-degrasse-tyson

Sorry to rain on everyone’s parade, but it turns out that having a large number of sexual partners does lead to unhealthy side effects. Just read this study. And this one. And this one. And this one.

Having multiple sexual partners before marriage has also been linked to higher rates of infidelity and divorce.

And also, “super gonorrhea” sounds scary.

“…if you feel satisfied with and confident about your sexual decisions, you have nothing to worry about –”

Oh, word?

“– even if someone calls you or your behavior ‘promiscuous.’ And that’s also a good reason to hold off on judging or gossiping about other people’s sexual history, too.”

The “hold off on gossiping” part is okay, I guess.

It just seems strange to be getting a lecture on manners and civility from an organization that once produced a cartoon depicting an abstinence educator being drowned in a trashcan and a pro-life activist being decapitated by a giant condom:

From a business perspective, this Q&A article makes financial sense. More promiscuity = more unintended pregnancies = increased demand for abortion. And as it turns out, Planned Parenthood relies on abortions for the lion’s share of their clinical revenue.

Quotes on Religion, Philosophy, and Politics

This is a collection of quotes that I’ve recently posted on the WSJ Facebook page.

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“Isn’t it ironic that after 70 years Russia wants God back while we are trying to kick him out?”

– Ravi Zacharias

“Worldly wisdom thinks that love is a relationship between man and man. Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between man-God-man, that is, that God is the middle term.”

– Søren Kierkegaard

“In argument about moral problems, relativism is the first refuge of the scoundrel.”

– Roger Scruton

“We have the worst of both worlds: a Prohibitionary State that gives license to all kinds of evil, but that regulates and restricts actions that are not evil, to manage the chaos that results from the license.”

– Anthony Esolen

“For all of higher civilization’s recorded history, becoming a man was defined overwhelmingly as taking responsibility for a family. That notion — indeed the notion of masculinity itself — is regarded by feminism as the worst of sins: patriarchy.”

– Dennis Prager

“A God who did not abolish suffering–worse, a God who abolished sin precisely by suffering–is a scandal to the modern mind.” 

– Peter Kreeft

“If there is any verse that you would like left out of the Bible, that is the verse that ought to stick to you, like a blister, until you really attend to its teaching.” 

– Charles Spurgeon

“It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity…as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth human nature of the means to exalt itself above human frailty.”

– Francis Bacon

“The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books – a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.”

– Albert Einstein

“While sitting on the bank of a river one day, I picked up a solid round stone from the water and broke it open. It was perfectly dry in spite of the fact that it had been immersed in water for centuries. The same is true of many people in the Western world. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity; they live immersed in the waters of its benefits. And yet it has not penetrated their hearts; they do not love it. The fault is not in Christianity, but in men’s hearts, which have been hardened by materialism and intellectualism.”

– Sadhu Sundar Singh

“A new philosophy generally means in practice the praise of some old vice.”

– GK Chesterton

“Pride is a poison so very poisonous that it not only poisons the virtues; it even poisons the other vices.”

– GK Chesterton

“He is only a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of the Conservative.”

– GK Chesterton

“Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity–liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative. Liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God…. Liberalism regards Christ as an Example and Guide; Christianity as a Savior. Liberalism makes Him an example for faith; Christianity, the object of faith.”

– J Gresham Machen

“The modernist – the extreme modernist, infidel in all but name – need not be called a fool or hypocrite because he obstinately retains, even in the midst of his intellectual atheism, the language, rites, sacraments, and story of the Christians. The poor man may be clinging (with wisdom he himself by no means understands) to that which is his life. It would have been better that Loisy should have remained a Christian: it would not necessarily have been better that he should have purged his thought of vestigial Christianity.”

– CS Lewis

“Indecency is not wild and lawless. The danger of indecency is exactly that it is tame, dull, direct, inevitable; a mere law in the members. It is automatic evil. Pride makes man a devil; but lust makes him a machine.”

– Malcolm Muggeridge

“… children are simply human beings who are allowed to do what everyone else really desires to do, as for instance, to fly kites, or when seriously wronged to emit prolonged screams for several minutes.”

– GK Chesterton

“What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”

– CS Lewis

“Any restoration of persons to the divinely intended norm of being valued as image-bearers will threaten a social order that promotes marginalization of the vulnerable. Healing is always destructive in some way. To declare that persons with disabilities are part of the divine moral norm (that they ‘count’) or to claim that the unborn deserve a right to life even though such does indeed impede the free choice of the mother is to challenge a social order that discounts the validity of humans. Such discounting of individuals usually occurs in order to maintain or to establish power and control by taking advantage of the socially weakest.” 

– James R Thobaben

“I want Atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are Religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

-Thomas Nagel

“Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that’s a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I dont like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way this country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.”

– Cormac McCarthy, “No Country for Old Men”

“It is a characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy. Humanity in a crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives. Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much self-accusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves by which to measure their times.”

-Fulton J Sheen

“For true pleasure, the price is paid before it is enjoyed. For false pleasure, the price is paid after it is enjoyed.”

-Ravi Zacharias

“I hope no reader will suppose the ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions – as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in…When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.”

– CS Lewis