New arguments against New Atheists

February 25, 2011 • 6:57 am

You can say this for religious apologists: they’re creative.  Just when you get tired of the same, endlessly recycled arguments against New Atheists, they come up with some new ones.  From Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine founded by Billy Graham, comes a piece by Jim Spiegel, “Unreasonable doubt.”  (Spiegel is a professor of philosophy at Taylor University, an evangelical Christian college in Indiana.)

Taylor has a beef about atheists: he thinks we’re largely an immoral bunch.  But, reversing the usual accusation that atheism causes immorality, he claims that immorality causes atheism.  (He has a new book called The Making of An Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief.)

How does this chain of causation work?  Spiegel cites the case of scholar Mortimer Adler, who, after a life of atheism, finally got baptized at 81.  According to Spiegel, Adler was an atheist simply because it was easier, quoting him as saying that being religious “would require a radical change in my way of life, a basic alteration in the direction of my day-to-day choices as well as in the ultimate objectives to be sought or hoped for …. The simple truth of the matter is that I did not wish to live up to being a genuinely religious person.”

Spiegel also cites the gospel of Paul:

Paul provides at least part of the answer in the same Romans passage, noting that some people “suppress the truth by their wickedness” (1:18). We all suffer from intellectual blind spots created by personal vices and immoral desires. To the extent that we succumb to these, we may be tempted to adopt perspectives that enable us to rationalize perverse behavior.

Those perspectives, of course, include atheism.  Spiegel also cites Alvin Plantinga’s ideas:

But some things can impede cognitive function, and sin is one of these. The more we disobey and give ourselves over to vice, the less reliable our belief formation will be, particularly regarding moral and spiritual matters.

He also claims that many historic intellectuals who rejected God had lives that were a moral shambles:

Historian Paul Johnson’s fascinating if disturbing book Intellectuals exposed this pattern in the lives of some of the most celebrated thinkers in the modern period, including Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Ibsen, Hemingway, Russell, and Sartre. In their private (and often public) lives, these Western intellectual stars were moral wrecks. Could their rejection of God—and, in particular, Christianity, with its exacting moral standards—have been entirely intellectual and dispassionate? Or might the same desires confessed by Nagel and Adler have played a role in their atheism?

I sense here some cherry-picking of data.  One could easily make a list of famous Christians whose moral lives were equally bankrupt.  But never mind.  For Spiegel, with his armchair psychologizing, has another theory.  It’s based on father rejection!

External factors may also hamper the natural awareness of God and contribute to a descent into atheism. In his book Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism, New York University psychologist Paul Vitz, a onetime atheist, examines the lives of the major atheists of the modern period, including Hobbes, Hume, Voltaire, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, Russell, and Freud. He found they had something in common: a broken relationship with their father. Whether by death, departure, abuse, or some other factor, the father relationships of all these well-known atheists were defective. Vitz also examined the lives of prominent theists during the same period (Pascal, Reid, Burke, Berkeley, Paley, Wilberforce, Kierkegaard, Schleiermacher, Newman, Chesterton, and Bonhoeffer, among others). In every case, he found a good relationship with the father or at least a strong father figure. . .

Life is too complex to make a hard and fast rule about such things. But at the least, it shows that there are moral and psychological dimensions to atheism, ones we cannot ignore. At most, it strongly suggests that atheists can be self-deceived, driven by a motivated bias to disbelieve in God.

I wonder if this applies to the New Atheists.  Well, I always got along okay with Dad, but of course Hitchens had a difficult relationship with his father “The Commander.”  Dawkins seems to have had a good relationship with his father, but what about Dennett and Harris?  The problem, of course, is that all of this is anecdotal.  What data there are don’t show any positive relationship between atheism and immorality.  Atheists are grossly underrepresented among America’s prison population, and there’s no evidence that atheist Scandinavia has become a moral cesspool.   What Spiegel really means by “immorality” seems to be “not accepting Jesus,” and of course that’s correlated with atheism!

But even if accepting Jesus as Your Personal Lord and Savior did keep you on the moral path, one can still ask, “Well, are Christian beliefs true?”  Most of us wouldn’t want to live a life based on lies, even if it they did make us more upright.  That’s just hypocrisy.  Spiegel is aware of this, and so he needs to provide evidence for God.  And here is how he does it:

As important as it is to remind atheists of the rational evidence for God, the real problem in many cases is moral and psychological in nature.  Such a suggestion is potentially offensive to unbelievers. But we still need to ask if it is nonetheless true. According to Scripture, the evidence for God is overwhelming. The apostle Paul says that “God has made it plain” that he exists; his “invisible qualities … have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20). And the psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (19:1). This naturally prompts the question: If the evidence for God is so abundant, then why are there atheists?

Yep, that’s the evidence.  It’s all in the Holy Book: “according to Scripture, the evidence for God is overwhelming”!  How can anyone write that with a straight face?  But if what religious books said counted as independent evidence for the existence of divine beings, then we also must consider the Qur’an, the Eddas, the Bhagavad Gita, and all those other books that give “overwhelming” evidence for different gods!

This dude doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for data.  It’s not the atheists whose thinking is warped—it’s people like Spiegel.

146 thoughts on “New arguments against New Atheists

  1. “This naturally prompts the question: If the evidence for God is so abundant, then why are there atheists?”

    I really wish guys like this wouldn’t use “prompts the question” or “raises the question”, when they really should be saying “begs the question”. Just pisses me off, I tell ya. 😉

    1. Spiegel: According to Scripture, the evidence for God is overwhelming.

      That’s one more reason we know that the scripture is bollocks. We just had a rabbi admit that the search was long, hard and fruitless, which was my experience as well.

      St Paul: “God has made it plain” that he exists; his “invisible qualities … have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20).

      The evidence from the natural world indicate that the “invisible quality” of god, if one existed, is that it’s completely indifferent to suffering. Such a god is hardly worthy of admiration, let alone worship.

    2. Not to mention the millions of different kinds of theism. If this stuff was clear, we’d have things like Columbus sailing to the Americas and discovering monotheism beat him there.

      1. Muslims count as honorary theists when Christians want to claim it is immoral people who are atheists. They don’t dare claim people become Muslims so they can sin.

        As soon as they are no longer needed, Muslims can go back to being followers of a false religion.

    3. No. Begging the question does NOT mean what you think it means. Begging the question means assuming the point, or circular reasoning. “God exists because the Bible says he exists. The bible is true because God exists.” That’s begging the question. When a fact seems to lead you down a path of question, that’s a prompt that raises questions in your mind.

  2. Maybe you were being sarcastic, but I guess I must have missed the part where there was a new argument. This sounds like the same old, “you’re an atheist because you want to sin,” “argument”.

    If I google for “atheists just want to sin” (in quotes) I get 899 results. Not a lot, but that’s a pretty specific phrase.

    1. If the evidence is so ‘obvious’ why are there (according to the World Christian Encyclopedia – 2001 ed) 38,000 different Christian sects? Because, to me anyway, if it were all that obvious we’d all pretty much agree.

      1. I’d go as far as to suggest that their are more sects than there are christians!
        Every hour of every day the ignorant waverers change their minds as to what constitutes their religious philosophies, as is convenient for the most trivial of situations.

  3. I’m not sure this qualifies as a new argument though. I have (anecdotally) come across arguments before along the lines of “you lot are just atheists so you can keep on having sex”.

    I can think of worse reasons, but there you go.

    1. Well, maybe I’ve missed this line of argument before, but I think what Spiegel is saying is not that people decide to become atheists so they can sin without fearing Godly reprisal. I think he’s saying that if you’re sinful and dissolute to begin with, that makes it easier for you to become an atheist, because your thinking is warped by your corrupt nature.

      1. What you’re saying might be true for some then. There may be theists that want to sin, so they stop believing. Of course, that doesn’t say anything about the believers that still do bad stuff, sometimes in the name of their beliefs.

        But he has no argument saying this must necessarily be the case for all atheists, so we still have people that realize the magic bearded sky fairy is a silly idea.

        1. That just makes no sense whatsoever.

          I know it’s not your argument, but to my ear, it goes something like this….

          “Look, I know that there is a god and he wants me to behave in a special way. And the consequences for not behaving in that special way are so dire that only a complete lunatic or a moron would disobey a direct order from the almighty. But I’m going to behave in that way anyhow. Because even though I believe in that god, if I cease to believe in that god, it disappears. Until after I’m dead, when I’m well and truly fucked.”

          Does any of that make sense? No.

          I think that has got to be the number one straw argument of all time.

            1. Daddy issues don’t make any sense either.

              I had just as much trouble with my father when I was a devout evangelical Christian as I did after I decided that I was deluded.

      2. This idea is pretty much straight out of Paul (e.g., 1 Corinthians 2:14) in that the “unsaved/unspiritual” person cannot understand God’s message, and that the devil (the god of this world) has blinded unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4). This was developed by Calvin into the doctrine that it was impossible for sinful man (i.e., everyone except regenerated Christians) to believe, except they be whacked with God’s overwhelming mojo.

        So, the reason you don’t believe is that you’re sinful.

        When one reasonably points out that atheists are no more “sinful” on average than Christians, the emphasis shifts to imaginary “sins” like intellectual pride, stubbornness, etc.

        1. Perhaps that’s why we never “feel” the god thing. We never get that feeling because we are different, so inherently sinful that we will never get it.

          1. But I have “felt” the “god thing”, so don’t say never. It is a sublime peace and nearly-magical sense of positivism, a “good vibration”. I would get these sensations, look forward to these sensations, on two occasions in my youth: while getting a haircut, and with a substitute teacher in class. My parents were only “closet atheists” but we never went to church beyond my age of five, so I cannot say it was a transfer of some training by the clergy. But the situation required to generate the “wash of good feelings” was (1) sitting motionless (2) being attended to or spoken to by another person (3) no requirement for you to say anything, physically move, or mentally process: truly, ‘zoning out’. This is basically the “Beta-wave” mental state and it is an inherent “feature” of the human brain program. Very easy to train yourself (if you so desire) to fall into that state. But, personally, I don’t pursue it much these past decades.

      3. Ah, but do the Holy Scriptures not tell us that all men (and women, of course) are born in sin? So those of us that choose atheism are doing it to justify remaining evil sinners, whereas those who become Christians are repenting their natural born evilness.

        Spiegel can’t have it both ways. Either all of us are born bad like the bible says and atheists are exactly the same as Christians before they make their choice; or else he is claiming that Original Sin is a Great Big Lie and God created some of us to be atheists.

        1. Remember how the Vatican was happy to double the number of deadly sins in 2008 – including ‘social injustice’ in the extra 7.

          This fellow should take the advice that his god gave to Ezekiel & eat his words 3:1-3 – they may be sweet to him but not to me.

    1. I’m pretty sure the smiley at the end indicates sasqwatch is simply having a laugh at the “begs the question has a different meaning” arguments out there.

    2. Thanks Steve. I was making a joke regarding a previous post where I was griping about (what I was taking as) an “incorrect” way of using the phrase “begging the question” (and was suddenly taken to task for being prescriptivist). I do know what it means.

            1. I figured that out from the comment you posted just after that one. But not, of course, before I’d replied to it.

              Never mind. [/Emily Litella]

  4. Suppose one were to promulgate the hypothesis that God is a projection of a human being’s inner dynamics, specifically relationship with one’s father as per Freud, for example.

    One of the predictions of such a theory would be that people who had a disastrous relationship with their fathers would tend to be atheists.

    So the facts cited by the apologists could be seen as supporting atheism!

    Of course, as you say, it’s all anecdotal.

    1. Of course, some of us had really good relationships with our fathers.

      I just bought mine a house so he could live nearer to me.

      Go figure.

    2. OK, Mr Spiegel, so we’re atheists because of our warped daddy issues.

      But is claiming you’re the special little snowflake child of the Father Of Space & Time and a Receiver of His Truth and will join the Father in eternal bliss after you die any better? Look at it one way & it’s pure, childish narcisstic fantasy; another way and it’s extreme overcompensation for never getting any hugs.

      Wow, this armchair psychology is fun.

  5. His evidence is overwhelming! Let’s break it down:

    1. The bible says the bible is true.
    2. The bible is true.
    3. Therefore, the bible is true.

    So nuanced!

  6. He actually cites a work by Paul Johnson?

    Paul Johnson is a devout Christian who none the less cheated on his wife for over a decade.

    The affair (and Johnson’s love of spanking) only came to light because his mistress became disgusted at the hypocrisy of his public pronouncements so at odds with his private habits.

    Still, at least he isn’t a filthy atheist, eh?

    1. I love hypocrisy, by which I mean to say, of course, that it is hypocrisy which most makes me want to commit violence against the perpetrator.

      Is there a biography of Paul Johnson to which you refer in your comment? I think I have to read it right away.

        1. Thanks so much!

          Just as I posted my comment upthread, I remembered that I have working fingers and Googled Hitchens’ article up for myself. It’s a deeply satisfying–and hilarious–read.

  7. And which did Hitler shut down immediately on assuming power in 1933 – was it churches or the Freethinkers Hall?

  8. ‘But some things can impede cognitive function, and sin is one of these. The more we disobey and give ourselves over to vice, the less reliable our belief formation will be, particularly regarding moral and spiritual matters.’

    Yes, masturbation makes you go blind.

    And sinners are just dumber than relgious people as their belief formation abilities are affected by sin.

    If you commit adultery, you are likely to believe that the world is flat, because you have sinned and that has affected the reliability of my belief formations.

    of course, I don’t believe this is true, which proves I have sinned.

  9. ‘nd the psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (19:1). This naturally prompts the question: If the evidence for God is so abundant, then why are there atheists?’

    look you stupid atheists.

    There are a LOT of stars.

    A huge number of stars.

    That means there is a god, because there are a lot of stars in the sky.

    I know this is true, and you would know it was true as well if you stopped stealing, taking drugs, having orgies every single day and most nights, and then lying about the orgies you have.

    These sorts of sins stop you looking into the sky and realising that there must be a god because there are a lot of stars.

    1. Bingo. I had no relationship with my father and that enabled me v early to see through the moaning nonsense of patriarchy. Many of my friends accepted the passive-aggressiveness behavior of their own fathers because they were fearful of rejection and being abandoned. I already was and you know what, it was just fine as he was a bastard. There were plenty of surrogate Dads ready to take his place–good people who encouraged me to be my own person.

      Atheists tend to be independent, emotionally and intellectually. Theists are wimps, always looking for Daddy.

      The atheists that have good relationship with their Dads and not just a relationship, are atheist because the good relationship signifies that their Dads encouraged them to be themselves.

      This garbage spewed by this idiot shows just how contorted and simplistic they are. Just put a pacifier in their gobs.

      1. Christians can’t identify a good father if he bit them on their arses–just look at what they think is good in the god the father figure they worship.

        1. A good father is like Abraham, willing to gut then roast his child because a voice told him to.

          As opposed to Hitchens, who said his reply would be “F*ck you!”.

  10. I’m continually amazed by these sorts of generalizations, all created in order to make the religious feel more righteous.

    I was born an atheist and stayed that way. According to this guy’s idea, I must have been a wicked sinning 7 year old (that’s the age when I realized other kids believed in a god and I didn’t) who just wanted to flaunt god’s rules, and therefore atheism was easier, right?

    Since we’re going all anecdotal, I was always a well behaved child. My parents never yelled or even grounded me. Luckily they were not religious at all. Perhaps all that atheistic sinfulness was passed down without me realizing it, making my immoral spiral into perpetual atheism inevitable.

    And I have a wonderful relationship with my father.

  11. The word that comes to mind is “insufferable”, as in ” Look class, behind that tapestry is a particularly insufferable Christian”.

    And then a cold shiver went through me. Imagine if it was a few hundred years ago, and this guy had the power to burn you at the stake. He IS the guy who would burn you at the stake. For your own good, of course.

  12. Does the sin exist outside religions? (sin, not evil.)
    @Steven Carr: in France, masturbation does not make you blind, but deaf. What?

      1. “Sin” is a religious concept.

        Defined specifically as “an offense against god.”

        So, no god = no sin.

        Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t cultural norms with regard to moral and/or ethical behavior.

        But without a god to offend against, the whole concept of sin goes right out the window.

        1. Merriam Webster has this

          Definition of SIN
          1a : an offense against religious or moral law
          b : an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible
          c : an often serious shortcoming : fault

          2a : transgression of the law of God
          b : a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

          just saying.

          1. In some languages, the word “mistake” is the same as for “sin”.

            In biblical Greek, the usual word translated as “sin” is hamartia or “missing the mark”, which was developed as a secular concept by Aristotle centuries earlier. The Bible just appropriated an older concept for religious purposes.

            However, the religious meaning of “sin” is the dominant one in English, and we should probably use a better word, like “mistake” or “moral wrong”.

          2. All of definition 1 seems to assume(presuppositional bias) the existence of a god.

            Just sayin’.

            Unless you redefine “sin” to mean “not picking up your socks”, I think my position is still the correct one.

            No god = no sin.

  13. Why does this always have to come down to sex? Why are the prohibitions on consensual sex in religion so much of a greater sin than say, starting a war, cheating people out of their hard earned money, lying to people, raping children, or any of the other terrible things that plenty of religious people have done and continue to do. Perhaps its okay, because they ask for forgiveness later. Still, the term “sinful” seems to be thrown around by religious people at everyone, and it has always bothered me, even as a kid, because they implied that even if you didn’t do anything wrong, you still could have done more to be better. Essentially the bar for sin is set so high no one could ever not be considered such (especially if you have Original Sin).
    So, maybe he should stop throwing that word around since it applies just as well to everyone that is religious as well.

  14. The “father rejection” idea isn’t exactly new. I heard of it as an explanation for atheism at least five years ago.

    1. Major chunks of Freudian verbiage is as stale as that chunk of bread I just gave to the birds in my gorgeous, spring-is-breaking-out garden. The very dropping of any Freudian terms is a red alert that there is mush in between the ears of said speaker.

    2. As it turns out, almost every generation needs to learn the same things all over again. If you combine this with someone thinking, “what can I write a book about that would capitalize on current debates and make me rich and famous and get interviewed and go on a book tour…”–bingo.

  15. I remember this “you’re an atheist because you hate your father” stuff on Dalnet’s #atheism back in ’98, around the time the Christians were convinced Y2K would reveal the Antichrist as a Linux-user. It was hilarious then (hi Dad!) and it’s funnier now with Richard Dawkins’ excellent obituary for his late father. It’s not new, but I’m always impressed how important-sounding religious people can make bad reasoning sound.

    1. “around the time the Christians were convinced Y2K would reveal the Antichrist as a Linux-user”

      Hilarious!! 🙂

  16. It is really beyond me how this man can expect anyone to take him seriously. An audience of medieval untutored peasants might have been inveigled to accept this nonsense at face value, but I doubt even they would have bought this hogwash.

    Too silly by half!

  17. For Spiegel, with his armchair psychologizing, has another theory. It’s based on father rejection!

    This psychobable isn’t new—I’ve seen references to this father nonsense since I can remember, and have even had joking conversations about it with my own dad.

    It would be interesting to attempt to trace the history of this nonsense.

    One relatively recent example in the literature is James Wood’s 2004 novel The Book Against God, which came out right before the “new atheist” (*spit*) meme began. Wood’s atheist protagonist Thomas Bunting’s actions are clearly depicted as a reaction against his Anglican priest father.

    I think that Wood deserves some credit alongside Sam Harris for breaking the ice on major publishing house books on atheism.

    1. Christians have told me that “father rejection” or not having a father or “father figure” is a primary cause of homosexuality.

      People like Spiegel frankly make my blood boil sometimes. These people are making scientific claims! But they don’t know fuck about science and they don’t give a fuck about science. The intellectual dishonesty (or flat-out stupidity) is breathtaking.

    2. Am I missing something? I just looked over the Amazon page you linked to and it looks to me like the books is pro-religious. As you say, it is an example of the Christian psychobable we’re talking about. So how does he deserve credit alongside Sam Harris?

      1. !

        Yes. “Believe it or not.*nbsp;  James Wood’s first novel, The Book Against God, is a quietly rich and clever dissection of the urge towards faith, says Galen Strawson”

        I recommend it, both for its atheism and its writing.

        1. Still don’t see what I’m missing. I read the review and saw nothing to suggest it takes the anti-religious view. Shall I just take your word for it?

          And if it is anti-religious, then how is it a “recent example in the literature”? Wouldn’t such an example have to be an actual specimen of the line of thought that Spiegel is expressing and not a critique of it?

          1. There is a century long literary tradition of atheists rebelling against their fathers.

            You’ll just have to read Wood and decide for yourself how he treats this tradition.

            Here are some clues: the protagonist’s name is “Thomas”, and the novel begins with the sentence “I denied my father three times, twice before he died, once afterwards.” This is not exactly suggestive that Wood is writing about the engagement of his gospel-named character with a living god.

            The real difference here is that Wood’s protagonist is literary and taken in part from both literary tradition and his own life, and that Spiegel is talking about real people and their lives, not literary representations.

            1. I guess I will have to just read Wood for myself.

              Those clues don’t help at all. Of course I see the biblical references but so what? They don’t say anything about whether Wood endorses the “father-hatred causes atheism” idea.

              1. Wood would have to be incredibly ham-fisted to write a novel explicitly about an atheist motivated by father-hatred with the intent of endorsing the notion of atheist motivated by father-hatred.

                Wood is not ham-fisted. But read him yourself and draw your own conclusions.

            2. I’ll put the book in my Amazon save for later list.

              It may sound ham-fisted to you but to me it sounds like exactly the sort of thing that might come a Christian apologist.

              1. Wood’s response here: “I am an atheist, and proud to call myself one … I wanted to do something a little different this time –i.e. to please neither believers nor non-believers. … I am on the side of Dawkins and Hitchens if I have to be, but I dislike their tone, their contempt for all religious belief, and their general tendency to treat all religious belief as if it were identical to Christian fundamentalism.”

                We may disagree with Wood’s various likes or dislikes about tone, but his opinions are hardly anti-atheist.

                I really recommend Wood’s Book Against God as an excellent, if subtle, atheistic novel.

                For those of you who believe that a frontal assault is always the preferred strategy, consider Leo Strauss’s observation about Machiavelli’s concealed blasphemies:

                A concealed blasphemy is worse than an open blasphemy for the following reason. By concealing his blasphemy, Machiavelli compels the reader to think the blasphemy by himself and thus to become Machiavelli’s accomplice.

                There are, indeed, very good reasons to temper one’s tone, or not, as necessitated by the circumstances.

  18. As you say Prof, “According to Scripture” – according to which scripture? Which god? grrrrrr

    Yet again a masculine bullying god not a female god or a god that gives a damn about that half of the population.

    How can people like him be so blind & bigotted?

  19. Bonhoeffer “Man has learnt to cope with all questions of importance without recourse to God as a working hypothesis”, & “Everyone gets along without ‘God’ and just as well as before” – Letters & papers from Prison.

  20. Yes, warped thinking. That is exactly the language I’ve been using to talk about religious thinking for a long time. There is no question that religious commitment warps your thinking. In any other area of their lives theists recognize their own arguments and reasoning to be specious.

    Beneath all of Spiegel’s babble lies nothing more than dogma about the relationship between morality and belief in god.

  21. I read this and I want to throw up.
    Imagine what the reaction would be like if you took out the word atheist, and replaced it with, you know, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, or even gay?
    It is incredible how rabid atheophobia is culturally. We are the last minority it is still politically correct to publicly excoriate.

    1. I take as a good sign.
      We are getting up their holy noses.
      The vehement over-the-top reaction is a sure sign that we are pose a very real threat to their toxic, parasitic power gangs.
      Their fellow thugs are not going to upset the gravy-train!

  22. “Could their rejection of God—and, in particular, Christianity, with its exacting moral standards…”




    I’ve always viewed xianity as having some of the loosest moral standards of any religion I know much about.

    And another thing: Why, oh, why do so many xians seems to think that the opposite of atheism is xianity?

    The arrogrance!

    1. What exactly are “Christianity’s” exacting moral standards? Some Christian sects have practiced plural marriage while others have violently opposed it; some contemporary Christian groups support same-sex marriage while others view it as an abomination; some Christians think that alcohol is evil whereas others use it in their ceremonies; some Christian denominations avoid technology as the work of the devil whereas others embrace it; some Christian groups think abortion is permissible whereas others think it is a grave sin; etc. etc. etc.

      So what exactly is the “Christian” moral standard?

  23. My dad lives 500 miles from me, but I’m driving up to see him next weekend to take him to a hockey game. I guess the christians would argue that this means I hate my dad, and yeah, that’s probably what it would mean..

    …if he hated hockey.

  24. Going out on a limb here…

    …I find most religious to be immoral. Whether it’s militant Islam, the Tea Party or the Catholic Church for example. With misogyny, murder, bigotry, pedophilia, hatred, selfishness, exploitation and greed that seems to accompany them and/or they fully endorse….I wouldn’t call them force of good in the world. And their ethics are such that no sane and reasonable person should ever acccept or want. Yet dispite their apparent immorality, they still believe. And argue and coerse others to believe, sometimes with the most extreme violence. How does this Jim Spiegel explain this?

  25. Paul provides at least part of the answer in the same Romans passage, noting that some people “suppress the truth by their wickedness”

    Well, a stopped clock is right twice a day. I have no problem with this statement.

    Of course, I’m sure Speigel and I have differing views of who’s suppressing what truth…

  26. As someone raised as a church going Christian, I object to the characterization that atheism is the easy path! Going along without question and doing what was expected is the easy path. I had to struggle to get clear of what I now see as religious neuroticism. It was a long and difficult path to atheism, fraught with self-doubt—a difficult upstream swim. Even after rejecting the church, for decades I could go no further than agnosticism.

    Finally arriving at atheism was attended with a marvelous feeling of liberation. It is true that a great deal of time released from ‘religious duties’ is now available to me for ‘sinful’ occupations (such as sleeping in on sunday mornings) and as a consequence my life is much more relaxed and enjoyable. But it is in no way true that I am attracted to atheism because it makes my life easier. I went through hell to sort out what I actually believe as opposed to what beliefs were imposed on me. Not an easy path at all.

    1. Yes, you’re right. It’s not an easy path at all for those of us from a strong religious background.

      I basically lost all my friends when I left Christianity, as well as my relationship with many family members. Luckily my wife stuck with me and became a freethinker about the same time I did.

  27. Ah, Christianity Today – the same rag that gave us the argument that even though Jesus said to love your enemies, he really meant that often it is quite alright to kill them whilst proclaiming to love them. sheesh

      1. HA! And yup 🙂 Having attended Goshen College [IN] and listening to the Mennonite theologians destroy this particular doctrine, I am always boggled at the twisted logic of the xians who accept such a thing as a Christian Just War.

        1. I know Goshen. I grew up in Fort Wayne.

          The medieval Just War is slightly different from the modern Just War theory, notably the absence of the crusading for christ clause. Not that the church has apologized for any crusade (only some of the excesses).

          1. Yes, “The Church” has a lot of apologizing to do; seems like the Lutherans finally got around to apologizing to the Anabaptists for cutting out their tongues and burning them at the stake in the 1500’s.

  28. Great, a new argument for gods and against atheism at the same time! Just as I was getting bored with the same old, endlessly repeating stuff that has been rejected so many times.

    “But we still need to ask if it is nonetheless true. According to Scripture,” … oh, oops, as fyre 1312 already noted, “this [old] drivel” is “a none[sic]-argument”.

    The same goes for the lead-in of parading around anecdotes as if it was data and a testable hypothesis. It all makes the newness a little blimp in the vastness of old dung.

  29. Maybe the converse is correct: delusional and ‘not too sharp’ ppl become Christians simply because it’s easiest for them. Maybe actually objectively looking for evidence is too difficult for the weak-minded…

  30. Adler died in 2001 and he was only able to ratioalize Christianity via the old Ontological argument. He said that, ‘the misteries of revelation were so incomprehensible (perfect?) that they must be true.’ Anyone hired to write for Christianity Today, a Billy Graham racist rag, and says the “incomprehensible” things he does must in his eyes make them true. How about examples of evengelists, especially Graham’s former sidekick, becoming atheists. He must have forgotten them.

    1. Adler made a big deal out of some mistake he thought he found in Kant’s refutation of one of the god “proofs” that allowed that proof to stand. I don’t remember the details.

  31. Has anybody mentioned Beethoven? His father beat the crap out of him routinely, and then he goes deaf from syphilis, and then he throws the preacher out on his deathbed. That proves it!

    Except for those popes dying of syphilis too. Not sure how that fits into the equation yet. I’ll have to report back.

    1. Actually, no one knows why Beethoven became deaf. There have been lots of explanations. Lead poisoning appears to be a strong favourite, as a preserved lock of his hair contains massive amounts. I seem to remember that in the film “Immortal Beloved”, it is suggested that Beethoven’s being beaten frequently about the head by his alcoholic father was the explanation. I haven’t come across this idea considered in detail. He drank heavily, too, and labyrinthitis has been suggested.

  32. They don’t understand us. This is just another attempt to rationalise our incomprehensible behaviour. Maybe something about believing does things to the mind, makes it impossible to see that some people simply don’t. Or maybe believers need believers, because there is doubt, after all. So we have to believe, too. Surely we believe, we must believe, we do believe, really: obviously, we’re just in denial!!

  33. Jim Spiegel’s argument that immorality causes atheism is very similar to one thrown at me by some proselytizing Baptists several months ago. One of the people in their traveling group determined that I was an atheist because I was gay since, naturally, one cannot be gay and be Baptist.

  34. Wow! The good ole xtian arrogance just flows and flows in Spiegel’s article.

    I wonder what grevious sin/s I had committed by the age of 12 when I first came to understand that the xtian god deserved the same reverence as Santa Claus,the “Easter” Bunny and the Tooth Fairy?

    And, in the last 57 years since,I have found nothing to change my mind.

  35. Just got around to reading this. Did anyone notice the “pearls before swine” remark? How offensive. Theology is a sinking ship when THIS tripe is the best they can come up with.

  36. Just got around to reading this. Did anyone notice the “pearls before swine” remark? How offensive… Theology is a sinking ship when THIS tripe is the best they can come up with.

    1. Sorry for duplicate comment. I was getting an error msg that I thought was bogus but it was just my comment being slow to load.

  37. Spiegel’s argument doesn’t explain those religious dissidents whose doubts, while in a state of piousness, proceeded their atheism. I suspect that this explains the provenance of many people’s exodus away from religion. It explains mine.

    These reasons are also another way to marginalize the cognitive aspects of atheism. One can’t be an atheist because they have reasons, they say, but must out of some kind of rebellion reject god a priori. And it isn’t even a necessarily kind of pernicious rebellion. If one is condemned because one finds atheism easier, even if it is an absurd reason for being an atheist, then I would question the moral faculty of the god who is doing the condemning. This is a good reason why atheists should speak out “vociferously”: if the reasons are sound, and perhaps even superior to the arguments for Christianity, then one can feel content in atheism and certainly can’t be accused of intellectual laziness, at least with a straight face. Christians are running out of reasons to explain away why atheists have such good reasons for their (un)beliefs.

    1. “…but must out of some kind of rebellion reject god a priori”

      You seem to be neglecting the huge number of atheists who have never been sucked in by the church’s stand-over tactics.
      I have never been even faintly religious in my entire life, and here in Australia, this class of atheist is the most numerous of those whom I have met.
      Are you able to clarify your point a little bit to include this bulk of my acquaintances?

      1. As an Aussie, most atheists I’ve met had to hack their way out of either a catholic or protestant early prison to free themselves. The fundy backgrounds are the worse of course. You would have to come from a highly educated class to escape the usual dogma.

      2. I didn’t mean to give that impression if I did. But you would have to convey in more detail exactly how I am excluding these types of people. Furthermore, in the part of the comment that you quoted, I’m talking about how religious people tend to view atheists. My reason for making the post is to say that it is much harder for a Christian to ignore those formerly pious people whom they cannot merely explain away and be dismissive toward; that lone example would seem to destroy the argument right there. Those who have always been atheists may be equally valid in their reasoning, and may equally be offended by Spiegel’s characterizations, but within the context of Jerry’s post, my point is focused on the formerly religious. It was not meant to be at the exclusion of other atheists.

  38. Hmm.

    One could easily make a list of famous Christians whose moral lives were equally bankrupt.

    Just for starters…

    Jim & Tammy Bakker
    Jimmy Swaggart
    Ted Haggard
    Robert Tilton
    Roy Clements
    Douglas Goodman
    Kent Hovind
    Paul Barnes
    Richard Roberts
    Oral Roberts
    Benny Hinn
    Pat Robertson

    Ken Calvert
    Helen Chenowith
    Newt Gingrich
    Mike Hintz
    John Ensign
    Bill Clinton
    Larry Craig
    John Edwards
    David Vitter
    Henry Hyde
    Bob Barr
    Bob Packwood
    Strom Thurmond
    Elliot Spitzer

    Religious Leadership:
    Wayne Bent
    Warren Jeffs
    L. Ron Hubbard
    Henry Lyons
    Sun Myung Moon
    Aimee Semple McPherson
    David Koresh

    Tomas de Torquemada
    Pope Leo X
    Pope Julius II
    Pope Alexander VI
    Pope Benedict IX
    Pope John XII
    Pope Stephen VI
    Pope Paul III
    St. Thomas Aquinas
    Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
    Thomas of Monmouth
    Martin Luther
    Slobodan Milosevic
    John Calvin
    Oliver Cromwell

    Paul Hill
    Scott Roeder
    Eric Rudolph
    Timothy McVeigh
    James von Brunn
    Nidal Hasan

    Mel Gibson
    Adolf Stoeker
    Charles Lindbergh

  39. This hits close to home as Spiegel was my advisor in college (I was a Philosophy major at Taylor University in the mid-90’s and have since left the faith).

    I read his book, which expands on the assertions laid out in the CT article. His motivation was to provide a counterargument to Freud’s and Dawkins’ scientific/psychological theories of religion. He’s trying to turn the tables on atheists by claiming that it’s they, not theists, who are deluded and have rejected faith not for intellectual reasons, but rather for psychological and spiritual reasons. He really doesn’t provide any new arguments per se against atheism (a small fraction of the book is dedicated to summaries of fine tuning and cosmological arguments). In the end it’s really no more than a theology of atheism, with the truth of Christianity assumed as basic. (Spiegel is a big fan of Plantinga and a proponent of presuppositional apologetics.) Thus since Spiegel’s “arguments” are primarily theological in nature, there’s not much for atheists to respond to. It’s really just a big theological pep talk for theists in the face of the ever-growing onslaught of the gnu atheists and scientific progress.

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