Posts Tagged ‘Atheism’

Penn Jillette, of the Penn and Teller comedy magic duo, named the  Bible as one of his six favorite books in a column for “The Week.” Anyone who reads all of it will  become an atheist, Jillette asserts.

Besides entertaining audiences with his friend Teller (born Raymond Joseph  Teller), Jillette is well known for being outspoken about his atheist and  libertarian views.

“If you’re considering becoming an atheist, read the Bible from cover to  cover,” Jillette wrote. “No study guides, no spins, just read it. Sometime  between when God tells Abraham to kill his son and when Jesus tells everyone to  put him before their families, you’ll be an atheist.”

Jillette’s other five favorite books were also tied in different ways to his  atheism.

Herman Melville‘s Moby Dick is Jillette’s favorite book, which  he views as an allegory about a foolish search for God because “the white whale  is God, and Ahab is wasting his life chasing God.”

A book about World War II “proves there’s no God” and a book about the “green  revolution” describes people “doing God’s work, because God isn’t going to.”

Jillette has also written books about atheism, including God, No!: Signs  You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales and Every  Day is an Atheist Holiday!: More Magical Tales from the Author of God, No!,  which was released this month.

Jillette and Teller are both libertarian in their political views and fellows  with Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Though Jillette views about God differ from Christians, he has spoken admiringly and respectfully of Christians. He has  also said that his interactions with Christians have been mostly positive.

In a  YouTube video that went viral three years ago, Jillette criticized  atheists who argue that Christians should not share their faith with others.

“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize,” Jillette said, “I don’t  respect that at all.

“If you believe that there is a Heaven and a Hell, and people could be going  to Hell … and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it  would make it socially awkward, … how much do you have to hate somebody to not  proselytize?

“How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is  possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a  doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, … there’s a  certain point where I tackle you, and [everlasting life] is more important than that.”


According to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, almost one in three Americans under the age of 30 doubt that God exists, while, in contrast, the figure for Americans over the age of 65 is less than one in ten. Could there be a connection between the fatherlessness of this younger generation and their struggles with faith? According to a theory called “the psychology of atheism,” the answer might well be yes.

But first, some caveats. 1) There are many reasons why people struggle with the issue of faith, so it would be wrong to think that “one size fits all.” 2) The highest percentage of fatherlessness is found in the African American community, and yet African Americans tend to be more religiously oriented than other population sectors. 3) It cannot be denied that a large portion of contemporary American Christianity is often superficial, hypocritical, and powerless (in terms of radical life transformation), and these serious defects certainly account for some of the faith struggles experienced by American young people. That being said, it is important to probe the connection between fatherlessness and faithlessness.

In 1999, New York University professor Paul C. Vitz, a former atheist himself, wrote a book entitled Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism. In it, he argued that the absence of a father or the presence of a defective father (say, a weak, cowardly father or an abusive father) often played a major role in the development of the atheism of the child (or grownup). A similar argument was made by journalist John P. Koster, Jr., in his 1989 book The Atheist Syndrome.

To be clear, these authors are not denying that atheists claim to have strong, rational reasons for their atheism. Instead, Vitz and Koster argue that what lies at the root of atheism is often the lack of a solid father figure, thereby allowing unbelief to become dominant later in life (or even in childhood).

According to Vitz, “an atheist’s disappointment in and resentment of his own father unconsciously justifies his rejection of God,” a theory Vitz developed while reading the biographies of well-known atheists. He calls it the “defective father” hypothesis.

Under the category of “Dead Fathers,” Vitz lists famous atheists like Nietzsche, Hume, Russell, Sartre, and Camus; under “Abusive and Weak Fathers” he lists Hobbes, Voltaire, Freud, and Wells, among others. He then compares their stories with the stories of theists like Pascal, Wilberforce, Kierkegaard, Chesterton, Buber, Barth, Bonhoeffer, and others, before reviewing apparent exceptions to his theory.

Speaking of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Vitz notes that her son, William, “claims that he did not know why his mother hated her father so much – but hate him she did. In the opening chapter of the book, he reports a very ugly fight in which O’Hair attempted 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.’” Does this remind you of her desire to eliminate God from American life?

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “I have absolutely no knowledge of atheism as an outcome of reasoning, still less an event; with me it is obvious by instinct.” As a young boy, Nietzsche was very close to his father, who was a pastor, but he died shortly before Nietzsche’s fifth birthday, having suffered the previous year from a brain disease.

In his early teens, Nietzsche wrote about the agony he experienced when his father died, noting that, “In everything God has led me safely as a father leads his weak child. . . . Like a child I trust in his grace.” So, for the teenage Nietzsche, God was just like a loving father.  Unfortunately, Nietzsche also remembered his father as weak and sickly, and it was this image, Vitz claims, that Nietzsche “also associated, naturally enough, with his father’s Christianity. . . . It is therefore not hard to view Nietzsche’s rejection of God and Christianity as a rejection of the weakness of his father,” a father who abandoned him by death when he was but a little boy.

As for H. G. Wells, he was raised by an irresponsible and often absentee father (named Joe) and by a mother whose faith collapsed when her 9-year-old daughter died suddenly from appendicitis two years before Wells was born. Vitz notes, “Whether it was Joe the father or God the Father who gave no answer seems to make no difference to Wells, because for him both were equally absent.”

Describing his mother’s faith struggle in his autobiography, Wells wrote, “My father was away at cricket, and I think she realized more and more acutely as the years dragged on without material alleviation, that Our Father and Our Lord . . . were also away, playing perhaps at their own sort of cricket in some remote quarter of the starry universe.”

Returning to our day, the U. S. Census Bureau reports that as of 2011, one third of American children are growing up without their biological father, and over the last 50 years, the number of babies born to unwed mothers has jumped from 5 percent to 40 percent.

Could it be, then, that there really is a connection between the lack of fathers and the lack of faith among young Americans?

Michael Brown

Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries. He hosts the nationally syndicated, daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire, and his latest book is The Real Kosher Jesus.

A new billboard campaign by the Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason in Idaho is turning heads by suggesting that there are millions of atheists out there and urging people to “join the club” – reflecting a growing movement among atheists in the U.S. looking to “come out of the closet” about their non-belief.

  • Treasure Valley CoR billboard asking "Are you Good without God? Millions are."
    Treasure Valley CoR billboard asking “Are you Good without God? Millions are.”

Two new signs put up in Caldwell feature two related messages over a backdrop of a sun rising over a valley, and read: “Are you good without God? Millions are” and “Don’t believe in God? Join the club.”

“Well, it’s just to let people know, especially the closet atheists, that you are not alone,” Art Rigsby, a local atheist shared with KBOI2-TV. “There are millions of people who do not believe in God.”

“The point of our ongoing nationwide awareness campaign is to reach out to the millions of atheists and agnostics living in the United States,” shared Fred Edwords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason. “Such non-theists sometimes don’t realize there’s a community for them because they’re inundated with religious messages at every turn. We hope our effort will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren’t alone.”

The Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason is an alliance of six atheist, freethought, humanist and skeptic organizations that have joined forces in the greater Boise area. The coalition shares on its website that it will celebrate the launch of its billboards by marching in the 4th of July parade on Wednesday.

“Being visible is important to us, because, in our society, atheists and agnostics often don’t know many people like themselves. Moreover, if traditionally religious people can be open about their views, why can’t we be open about ours?” Edwords asked.

A number of members of the community who have seen the billboards have expressed disagreement with their messages, but say they respect the group’s right to freedom of speech.

“No, I’m not cool with it, but they have the right to say what they want,” said Elizabeth Weaver.

“The only thing I can do is love them, and pray for them,” added Stefan Constantine

Atheistic billboards have been on the rise in the country in the past year, with a recent one put up by a secularist organization last month in Dallas encouraging Catholics to “Quit the Church.” The campaign was in response to the Roman Catholic Church‘s opposition to the contraception mandate that requires religious institutions to offer insurance for birth control.

The event was expected to be the “largest gathering of the secular movement in world history,” a “massive rally” that could provide “a sort of ‘Woodstock for Atheists,’ a chance for atheists to show their power in numbers and change their image.” But when pre-rally hype gave way to reality this past Saturday on the Mall in DC, the results were hardly earth-shattering, let alone movement-making and message-sending (especially to politicians, part of the targeted audience of the so-called “Reason Rally”).

The crowd that turned out for this drizzly Saturday was estimated at between 8,000-20,000 (I have seen atheist reports, however, that put the number at 30,000), which is actually less than some American mega-churches draw every week in their Sunday services.

There were blatantly sexist speakers at the rally, like Bill Maher and Penn Jillette, but their presence was justified by atheist bloggers like Hemant Mehta, who explained that, yes, these men “have their faults, but they amplify our way of thinking more than just about anyone else.” Therefore, Mehta explained, it is still worth having them speak because “we need big-name celebrities to attend. . . . This isn’t just about spreading science and atheism. This is about drawing attention to our movement. This is about getting media attention.”

If that was the goal, the event certainly fell short of its mark, as the Reason Rally Facebook page complained about the lack of media coverage while the Drudge Report didn’t even mention the rally in its weekend news coverage, finding items like this more newsworthy: “Hippies head for Noah’s Ark: Queue here for rescue aboard alien spaceship. Thousands of New Agers descend on mountain [in France] they see as haven from December’s apocalypse.” (It looks like the hippies are living out their legacy while the atheists are still waiting for their “Woodstock” moment.)

Prof. Richard Dawkins was one of the keynote speakers, calling on the faithless not only to reject religious beliefs but also to “ridicule and show contempt” for religious doctrines and sacraments, including the Eucharist (Holy Communion). (In keeping with this, he once referred to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a “submissive cosmic doormat.”) Yes, such are the enlightened sentiments of one of the self-styled “brights” – a self-defeating designation if ever there was one – and we can only imagine how beautiful the world would be if the Dawkins’ mentality ruled the day. (Sarcasm intended.)

And while it is true that “the brights” are still trying to figure out the origin of life, physicist Stephen Hawking has now explained how the universe began without God, stating in his book “The Grand Design,” “Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.” Yes, nothing (which is really something) created everything! How did we miss that for so long?

As pointed out by Oxford mathematician and scientist Dr. John Lennox (unfortunately, not one of “the brights”), “The main issue . . . is that gravity or a law of gravity is not ‘nothing’, if [Hawking] is using that word in its usual philosophically correct sense of ‘non-being’. . . . If, therefore, we say ‘X creates X’, we imply that we are presupposing the existence of X in order to account for the existence of X. This is obviously self-contradictory and thus logically incoherent – even if we put X equal to the universe! To presuppose the existence of the universe to account for its own existence sounds like something out of Alice in Wonderland, not science.” (From his book “God and Stephen Hawking.”)

But I digress from the main topic at hand, namely the “Reason Rally.” Perhaps the most illustrative part of the day was the talk given by 16 year-old atheist Jennifer Alquist, who successfully fought to have a prayer banner removed from her Rhode Island High School. Hailed as a hero at the rally, she wanted everyone to know that if she could bring about change, anyone could.

And what, exactly, was so offensive about the prayer banner? It contained these words, written with the encouragement of school leadership almost 20 years ago:

Our Heavenly Father.
Grant us each day the desire to do our best.
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically.
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers.
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.
Teach us the value of true friendship.
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.


If only those values were inculcated in our schools across America! What a dream that would be. But for the atheists, if those values are associated with God on a banner, then they and God must go.

Atheist David Silverman, one of the event organizers, stated before the gathering that, “We’ll look back at the Reason Rally as one of the game-changing events when people started to look at atheism and look at atheists in a different light.”

I believe he was right. From here on, we’ll probably look at them with more pity.

Tags:                 Religion            ,                                    Faith and Family            ,                                    Faith            ,                                    DC            ,                                    Atheists
Michael Brown

Michael Brown

Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and is the author of 20 books. He has served as a professor at a number of seminaries and hosts the nationally syndicated, daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire.

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Ps 14:1 NKJV

The atheistic fool. It’s said, “An atheist can’t find God for the same reason a thief can’t find a policeman.” Sometimes pride is at the core of atheism. Without a God, you become your own God, which means there’s no higher power than yourself! But the God of the Bible proves His existence in three ways: (1) Creation. Many people are in prison today who weren’t caught at the scene of the crime, and no one actually witnessed the crime. What proved they did it? Fingerprints! DNA! Creation carries God’s fingerprints and DNA. “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name” (Isa 40:26 NLT). (2) Calvary. In creation you see God’s power, at the cross you see His love for you. In creation you see His hand, at the cross you see His heart. (3) Conscience. “Gentiles…even without having heard it… demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right” (Ro 2:14-15 NLT). Conscience is like having a Bible in your soul; no one was born without one. Voltaire, the French atheist, said, “It took twelve fishermen to build Christianity. I will show the world how one Frenchman can destroy it.” After Voltaire died, the home in which he had lived became Europe’s most famous Bible distribution center. Bottom line: Voltaire is dead; our God lives! Atheism is the greatest gamble of all. After all, what if there is a God and you stand before Him one day?