It's Father's Day again and a hearty Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. I think we can all agree that fathers have a very powerful effect on the upbringing of children. As my pastor noted this morning, imagine if you walked outside and you saw a giant man, 20 feet tall that can pick up up with one hand. You would be in awe of such a person. Dads are like giants in that way to their young children, so the sway that they have over them during their formative years is considerable.
In the book Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism, author, psychology professor and former atheist Paul Vitz researches the influence of the father figure upon the most influential atheists of the past several centuries. The results are quite interesting...
Obviously, there were prominent atheist thinkers who didn’t loose their fathers at an early age. Thomas Hobbs, Jean Meslier, Voltaire, Jean d’Alembert, Baron d’Holbach, Ludwig Feuerbach, Samuel Butler, Sigmund Freud and H.G. Wells all spring to the author’s mind. Still, when one takes a closer look at the biographical evidence, as Vitz does, we find more disturbing patterns. All of these renowned secularists came from homes with weak or abusive fathers. Again, is this just purely coincidental?
As the reader ploughs through the defective father hypothesis, one wonders how famous Jewish and Christian intellectuals were raised. Do they have any family secrets? Surprise, surprise: we find that 21 of the prominent theistic thinkers came from relatively healthy backgrounds! Blaise Pascal, for instance, was home-schooled by a dedicated father and flourished as an outstanding mathematician and erudite religious writer. Similarly, Moses Mendelssohn, the renowned Jewish scholar, spoke against materialism and fought successfully against punitive German legal traditions and customs. His father was instrumental in nurturing a strong sense of justice within him. Alexis de Tocqueville, Soren Kierkegarrd, G.K. Chesterton and Abraham Heschel are also recognised for their rich lives and contributions, which stemmed from their father-son relationships."
"Vitz warns about over-simplification, and recognises that there are a multitude of factors that explain or determine how we develop. However, the fact that so many atheists have similar background does make for an intriguing hypothesis. And the details Vitz provides are quite revealing. Consider but a few examples.
- H.G.Wells was contemptuous of both his father and God. He wrote this in his autobiography: “My father was always at cricket, and I think [mum] realized more and more acutely as the years dragged on without material alleviation, that Our Father and Our Lord, on whom to begin with she had perhaps counted unduly, were also away: playing perhaps at their own sort of cricket in some remote quarter of the starry universe”.
- Jean-Paul Sartre’s father died when he was just 15 months old. Throughout much of his adult life he mentions fathers, and denigrates fatherhood. His philosophy promotes the idea that man can become God, that we are self-made men. More than one biographer has noted his obsession about fathers and his atheism may well tie in to his own absent father.
- According to her son (who later became a Christian), Madalyn Murray O’Hair intensely hated her father. In his memoirs, he records an ugly fight in which she tried to kill her father with a ten-inch butcher knife. She failed but screamed, “I’ll see you dead. I’ll get you yet. I’ll walk on your grave!” Her son says he does not understand why she so hated her father. "
Might some of the skeptics that peruse these pages please take the time this Father's Day to try to become closer to the Father?He is waiting to hear from you and your experience with him would be like another son who sought out his father after a long period of estrangement..."So he went at once to his father. While he was still at a distance, his father saw him and felt sorry for him. He ran to his son, put his arms around him, and kissed him. Then his son said to him, 'Father, I've sinned against heaven and you. I don't deserve to be called your son anymore.' "The father said to his servants, 'Hurry! Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let's celebrate with a feast. My son was dead and has come back to life. He was lost but has been found.' Luke, Chapter 15