Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Human Fathers, Our Heavenly Father and Atheism

I teach a seminar course for upper level students in which the topic changes from year to year. This year's topic was "The New Atheism in Historical Perspective" and we read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens' God is not Great. We also read Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity in parallel with Hitchens and Scott Hahn's and Ben Wiker's Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God in parallel with Dawkins. But the most of the course time was spent on Edward Feser's The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism.

I decided to offer this course because I was curious about the whole "New Atheism" phenomenon and wanted to investigate it systematically. But I was disappointed by the low caliber of the writing and thought of these people. Dawkins is an embarrassment to Oxford University and Hitchens seems to have written his book while drunk. They have no intellectual seriousness whatsoever. Dawkins, for example, spends a total of three pages (!) refuting the proofs for the existence of God summarized in the Summae Theologia and thinks that Thomas was stupid enough not to have thought about the problem of infinite regress. His most profound thought is that it does not good to posit God as the Creator because then the problem is who created God?

Anyway, the only interesting question is why people spouting such nonsense can sell a million copies of such bad books and the answer has to do with what kind of society we have become in late modernity. Whatever motivates people to tell pollsters that they are "No Religion" or self-identify with the "New Atheists" it has nothing whatsoever to do with reason or logic. For answers to why so many people are interested in atheism, we must look elsewhere.

I offer this theory: broken families and children growing up
fatherless causes an increased rate of atheism in society.

I think there is a profoundly important relationship between fatherlessness and child abuse (actually, abandonment is really a form of abuse in itself) and atheism. As divorce rates rise and fathers increasingly leave the home, as parents don't even marry in the first place, and as single women or lesbians seek to have children by sperm donation without even intending to have a father in the home - children in our society are increasingly growing up without fathers. The hard left feminist ideology that says that fathers are optional is itself abusive and harmful to children and society in general. It is an antisocial idea that ought to be rejected and scorned by anyone concerned for children and their well-being.

God has made humans very helpless when we are first born and we depend on our parents for a long time before we are sexually mature and able to go off on our own. During this long period of 12-18 years our identity is formed at first almost exclusively and progressively less exclusively by our parents. The parents get the first and foundational shot at influencing a child's outlook on life, sense of security, identity and relationship to God.

Parents form and shape children's mental health, physical health, moral health, and spiritual health. Parents contribute powerfully to the sense of overall well-being a child has as a turbulent and then as a fully-mature adult.

Fathers play a unique and crucial role in the development of children. They represent security, protection and discipline and children crave and need the approval of their fathers. If children do not get these things from their fathers they will suffer the consequences. Often a child's first image of God is that God is like a father - but not just any father - his or her father. God's intention is that a child experience love, protection, approval, discipline, intimacy and joy from their human fathers as a step toward coming to know their Heavenly Father.

But if the human father is a self-absorbed, bullying, inconsistent, abusive father, this natural process is short-circuted. And when a father is absent, it is even worse. Even the worst fathers often have some redeeming characteristics but the absent father is not even a bad father, he is no father.

I believe that children who are abused by inadequate, sinful and selfish human fathers have a much harder time trusting God than others. And I believe that absent fathers in particular contribute to a child growing up finding it difficult to trust God.

There is very little actual atheism in the world. Most so-called atheists are actively rebelling against the God they supposedly don't believe in! Most so-called atheists hate the God the don't believe in - how can such atheism be taken at face value? Much of what our society calls "atheism" or "secularism" is actually people in rebellion against God or angry at God. And since their image of what God is like has been formed and shaped by abusive, angry, selfish or absent human fathers their atheism is understandable and predictable.

I believe that atheism is bound to grow more and more in a society in which the family is being shaken to its foundations by cultural Marxism, second-wave feminism and the hedonistic individualism that characterizes the Left. Atheism is not the problem per se; it is a symptom of the problem and it is a sad testament to the misguided quest for freedom from restraint in the name of a romantic, Utopian individualism that is so dominant in our culture.

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