Atheism and Defective Fathers

Atheism and Defective Fathers

There seems to be a connection between atheism and defective fathers. If you were to make a list of the most famous atheists of all time, what would they have in common? Such a list would include Freud, Nietzsche, Hume, Russell, Sartre, Camus, Schopenhauer, Hobbes, Meissner, Voltaire, Butler, Wells, Feuerbach, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Stalin, Hitler, Diderot, and Marx. They all had in common that they had either no relationship to their fathers or a defective one.

A book that explores this is Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Paul Vitz. Vitz quotes Freud as saying: “Psychoanalysis, which has taught us the intimate connection between the father complex and belief in God, has shown us that the personal God is logically nothing but an exalted father, and daily demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious belief as soon as the authority of their father breaks down.”

It is essential to understand that just because you had a bad father doesn’t automatically mean you will be an atheist. But I have personally seen people who were mistreated or abandoned by their biological fathers and had a difficult time accepting the concept of a heavenly Father. It’s easy to see how there could be a connection between atheism and defective fathers. If all you know of “father” is someone who abused you, then any notion of a loving heavenly Father may be hard to accept fully.

In this day of single parents, fatherless children, and dysfunctional father figures, we can expect further growth in faith problems. The New Testament writers were aware of this and frequently addressed the need for fathers to have the strength to be the men God called them to be. “You fathers, don’t rouse your children to resentment, but raise them by letting the Lord train and correct them” (Ephesians 6:4). “Fathers do not fret and harass your children, lest they become discouraged and quit trying” (Colossians 3:21).

The biblical concept of a father is not that of an abusive tyrant, but a loving provider. Children can understand the spiritual father is one of love and care and compassion even if they have not had the best of experiences with their biological father. Thank God for Christian fathers.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

NOTE: Biblical quotes are from The New Testament from 26 Translations by Zondervan Publishing.

Real Fathers and Father’s Day

Real Fathers and Father's DayMore than 110 countries around the world set aside various dates to honor fathers. Today is Father’s Day in the United States. While I make a lot of jokes about how Father’s Day compares to Mother’s Day, I am keenly aware of the significance of being a Father. The Bible puts great emphasis on fatherhood. I’m not talking about the conception of a child, but rather the role of real fathers.

As a teacher, I found the existence of real fathers to be a rarity. At PTA meetings, the parents would follow their child’s schedule, and we teachers had 15 minutes to explain what we taught and how we conducted the class. Most of the time, the group I talked to, especially in my basic classes, was 100% women. In my AP Physics class, there would be a large number of men — real fathers. I am convinced that the fathers were one of the main reasons why the students were in my Advanced Placement class. In this day of single-parent families and blurred images of what a father should be, it is important to ask if the Bible message on fathers is legitimate.

My spiritual father was a man named Ward Sullivan. He was an elder in the congregation that I attended in South Bend, Indiana. Ward was always interested in what I was doing, and I could talk to him about anything. When I began the Does God Exist ministry, Ward was the only member of the congregation who encouraged and supported me. My ministry was alien to the experience of most people who had grown up in the Church. They thought it was crazy to talk about how we know there is a God and that the Bible is His Word because everyone should already know that. Ward kept saying to me, “Your heavenly Father knows what He wants you to do with your life, so do it and don’t worry about what mere humans think about it.”

My 41 years in the classroom convinced me that kids with real fathers who took an interest in their child’s life were at a huge advantage over kids without a father in their lives. God created us, and His instructions on what we need to grow up successfully have been born out over the centuries. Hat’s off to those of you who grew up successfully with no father image in your life. You are special and few in number.

On this Father’s Day isn’t it a wonderful thing that we all have a heavenly Father who cares about us, supplies our needs, and provides us with guidance in life? As I read about how God cares for us from the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24-34, it reminds me that God sets an example for real fathers by providing for us and caring about all we do.
— John N. Clayton © 2019