The Making of an Atheist – How Immorality Leads to Unbelief, James S. Spiegel
The title says it all, doesn’t it? How often have we atheists seen the strawman that we are nonbelievers because we do not want to be held accountable to a higher power for our actions? Sorry, but I hold myself accountable to myself, and I am one harsh critic.
It gets worse than the title, though. From the author’s website:
Sigmund Freud famously dismissed belief in God as a psychological projection caused by wishful thinking. Today many of the “new atheists”—including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens—make a similar claim, insisting that believers are delusional. Faith is a kind of cognitive disease, according to them. And they are doing all they can to rid the world of all religious belief and practice.
Christian apologists, from Dinesh D’Souza to Ravi Zacharias, have been quick to respond to the new atheists, revealing holes in their arguments and showing why theistic belief, and the Christian worldview in particular, is reasonable. In fact, the evidence for God is overwhelming, confirming the Apostle Paul’s point in Romans 1 that the reality of God is “clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NIV).
So if the evidence for God is so plain to see, then why are there atheists? That is the question that prompted The Making of an Atheist. The answer I propose turns the tables on the new atheists, as I show that unbelief is a psychological projection, a cognitive disorder arising from willful resistance to the evidence for God. In short, it is atheists who are the delusional ones.
Unlike Dawkins and his ilk, I give an account as to how the delusion occurs, showing 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. These and other factors I discuss are among the various dimensions of sin’s corrupting influence on the mind.
I’ve been told that The Making of an Atheist is a provocative book, but I didn’t write it to provoke anyone. I simply wanted to tell the truth about this issue. Anyway, since the new atheists are bold enough to trumpet their claim that theists are delusional, it seems appropriate that someone should be willing to propose that the opposite is true. As they say, turnabout is fair play. [Emphasis mine.]
While it is true about what Freud said about belief, Harris, Dawkins, et al do not make the claim that belief in god is a psychological disorder. When they use the word ‘delusion’ it is taken to mean ‘erroneous belief’ and not ‘mental illness’ as Spiegel thinks. And Freud’s views in general (including this one) have largely been discredited. His importance is in kick-starting psychoanalysis, but his views have been supplanted by evidence-based ones.
According to the author (a professor of philsophy at a little-known university in Indiana with no expertise in psychiatry and doesn’t even rate an entry in Wikipedia…), we are nonbelievers because we have “daddy issues”. The evidence for god is plain to see, according to Spiegel. One can only hope he actually presents said evidence in the book (I certainly am not aware of any evidence which I would consider slam-dunk for the existence of god(s), or even equivocal evidence, for that matter…), but I have my doubts it will be more than the bare assertion given above.
And this “turnabout is fair play” thing – what is this, a playground? What an infantile comment to make. It’s like PeeWee Herman, an adult, saying “I know you are, but what am I?” The difference is PeeWee is supposed to sound infantile and absurd. That’s the joke.
Am I prejudging the book? Indeed. From what I read, Spiegel is one of those “But they know, really know, in their hearts that god is real” kind of people. However, I can not possibly see how this is knowledge, but belief. And belief, even if it is believed so much that it seems like knowledge, isn’t knowledge. We can only attach confidence to what we call knowledge as being knowledge when it is independently verified. Till then, you can call it anything you want, but it ain’t knowledge.
I can also tell you what I expect Spiegel to give us in order for me to agree with him. Spiegel is not an expert in psychiatry (far from it), and expertise does count for something so long as one does not go so far as to fall into the Argument from Authority fallacy. But it is correct to take what a lay person has to say on a subject for which they have no expertise with a big grain of salt (okay, a big bag of salt) as compared to someone who has spent their whole lives studying the subject. I expect to see controlled studies (and more than one) not only showing an association between psychological trauma and atheism over believers, but a causal effect. Without any of this, my predisposition will be totally justified and the book will be nothing more than Spiegel’s baseless opinion, an opinion specifically designed to shore up his own biases.
One argument that theists like to pull is that Dawkins isn’t knowledgeable enough on ‘sophisticated’ theology (as if there were such a thing) to be able to pronounce judgements on them. But that is just so much bullshit. Dawkins does what theologists should be doing – testing their own hypotheses! Besides, Dawkins says it right in the book they love to attach this criticism to – he is going after the typical sky-daddy view of god that the vast majority of people have. It would be a verbose book indeed if he went after every version of god, including the so-called ‘sophisticated’ ones. (For Terry Eagleton, it’s apparently so sophisticated that he doesn’t seem able to answer what to me would be a simple yes-or-no question: does he pray? Eagleton seems to have outwitted himself with his own ‘sophistication’…), and I’m sure he firmly believed he sounded so erudite and witty when he was nothing of the sort. Dawkins (and others, like Physicist Victor Stenger) are far more qualified to perform hypothesis testing than these perveyors of sophistry.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Soviets declared rejection of communism a psychological disorder and institutionalized people on this basis. I see little difference. Neither has evidence going for it that I can tell.
I do plan on getting a copy just for the entertainment value, but I have little in the way of expectations.