Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Why do famous atheists believe that God does not exist?

Here’s a lecture by New York University professor Paul Vitz to explain a connection between atheism and fatherlessness:

Here’s an article by Paul Copan (related to the lecture) which points out how father presence/absence and father quality affects belief and disbelief in God.

Excerpt:

Seventh, the attempt to psychologize believers applies more readily to the hardened atheist.It is interesting that while atheists and skeptics often psychoanalyze the religious believer, they regularly fail to psychoanalyze their ownrejection of God. Why are believers subject to such scrutiny and not atheists? Remember another feature of Freud’s psychoanalysis — namely, an underlying resentment that desires to kill the father figure.

Why presume atheism is the rational, psychologically sound, and default position while theism is somehow psychologically deficient? New York University psychology professor Paul Vitz turns the tables on such thinking. He essentially says, “Let’s look into the lives of leading atheists and skeptics in the past. What do they have in common?” The result is interesting: virtually all of these leading figures lacked a positive fatherly role model — or had no father at all.11

Let’s look at some of them.

  • Voltaire(1694–1778): This biting critic of religion, though not an atheist, strongly rejected his father and rejected his birth name of Francois-Marie Arouet.
  • David Hume(1711–76): The father of this Scottish skeptic died when Hume was only 2 years old. Hume’s biographers mention no relatives or family friends who could have served as father figures.
  • Baron d’Holbach(1723–89): This French atheist became an orphan at age 13 and lived with his uncle.
  • Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72): At age 13, his father left his family and took up living with another woman in a different town.
  • Karl Marx(1818–83): Marx’s father, a Jew, converted to being a Lutheran under pressure — not out of any religious conviction. Marx, therefore, did not respect his father.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche(1844–1900): He was 4 when he lost his father.
  • Sigmund Freud(1856–1939): His father, Jacob, was a great disappointment to him; his father was passive and weak. Freud also mentioned that his father was a sexual pervert and that his children suffered for it.
  • Bertrand Russell(1872–1970): His father died when he was 4.
  • Albert Camus(1913–60): His father died when he was 1 year old, and in his autobiographical novel The First Man, his father is the central figure preoccupation of his work.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre(1905–80): The famous existentialist’s father died before he was born.12
  • Madeleine Murray-O’Hair (1919–95): She hated her father and even tried to kill him with a butcher knife.
  • We could throw in a few more prominent contemporary atheists not mentioned by Vitz with similar childhood challenges:
  • Daniel Dennett (1942–): His father died when he was 5 years of age and had little influence on Dennett.13
  • Christopher Hitchens (1949–): His father (“the Commander”) was a good man, according to Hitchens, but he and Hitchens “didn’t hold much converse.” Once having “a respectful distance,” their relationship took on a “definite coolness” with an “occasional thaw.” Hitchens adds: “I am rather barren of paternal recollections.”14
  • Richard Dawkins (1941–): Though encouraged by his parents to study science, he mentions being molested as a child — no insignificant event, though Dawkins dismisses it as merely embarrassing.15

Moreover, Vitz’s study notes how many prominent theists in the past — such as Blaise Pascal, G.K. Chesterton, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer — have had in common a loving, caring father in their lives.16

Here are some corrections to the list:

1) Voltaire was not an atheist but a deist who rejected claims of the Bible’s inspiration, like Paine. Voltaire’s aphorism, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him,” far from being the cynical remark it is often taken for, it was meant as a retort to the atheistic clique of d’Holbach, Grimm, and others.

2) David Hume’s religious views remain uncertain. He never said he was an atheist. A gentle skeptic suits him more.

3) Bertrand Russell was an agnostic.

Not only is there that anecdotal evidence of a psychological explanation for atheism, but there is also statistical evidence.

Excerpt:

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goesupfrom 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

[...]In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.

Basically, anyone who doesn’t have a benevolent, involved father is going to have an enormously difficult time believing that moral boundaries set by an authority are for the benefit of the person who is being bounded. The best way to make moral boundaries stick is to see that they apply to the person making the boundaries as well – and that these moral boundaries are rational, evidentially-grounded and not arbitrary.

By the way, isn’t it interesting to note that Barack Obama also grew up fatherless and has issues with God and morality.

 

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mary Eberstadt: why Christians should promote policies that strengthen marriage

Here’s an interesting post about a new book by Mary Eberstadt. The post is written by historian Benjamin Wiker.

Excerpt:

As the West has become increasingly secularized, the loss of faith has coincided with the destruction of the natural family. The sexual revolution, higher and higher rates of divorce, cohabitation, same-sex marriage—all have combined to make life-long man-woman marital unions an increasing rarity.

Clearly, the rejection of God has led to a rejection, or radical redefinition, of the family.

But in her How the West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt bids her readers to look at things from the other end as well. The “decline of the natural family” in the West is not only the effect of the loss of faith, but the cause as well: “the ongoing deterioration of the natural family has both accompanied and accelerated the deterioration in the West of Christian belief.”

Briefly put, “family decline…helps to power religious decline.”

One affects the other because the two go together, argues Eberstadt, like the spiral ladder of the double helix. The fortunes of family and faith correlate, and causation goes both ways. Across the board, regardless of social status or income, the religious tend to have more children than the secular-minded. And the more children a couple has, the more likely they are to go to church.

But that means, of course, that those who are most secular are least likely to have children, and those who are unmarried and/or have no children are least likely to be religious.

That correlation explains the precipitous decline in the birth rate for the most secularized countries of Europe, but allows us to see it in a new light. It is not just that secularization has led to plummeting birth rates in Europe. Europe’s demographic collapse is actually speeding up its secularization.

This is not a correlation that exists only in recent history. The French Revolution gave the West the first self-consciously secular government at the end of the 1700s, and one of its first revolutionary acts was to liberalize its marriage laws. But what people may not realize, was that France was the first country in Europe to experience a decline in fertility rates within marriage, and an increase in cohabitation and illegitimacy, decades before the French Revolution. In the early 1700s, over a half century before the Revolution, illegitimacy was only at 1%, but by the storming of the Bastille, which ushered in the Revolution, France’s illegitimacy rate had climbed to 20% overall, with a 30% rate in the boiling pot of Paris. The French Revolution’s successful attack on Christianity, and the consequent secularization of France, was, in part, the result of the prior erosion of the family.

We see the same pattern in the UK, argues Eberstadt. “In Britain…the decline in births started a century later [than in France] at the very height of Victorian England,…Bit by bit…the same family trends already established in France—fewer births, more divorces, more out-of-wedlock births—also began reshaping the world of Britain. By our own time, over half of all children in Britain are born to unmarried people, and the fertility rate stands at 1.91 children per woman.” Not surprisingly, Britain’s churches are, like those of France, largely empty.

In the Scandinavian countries, like Sweden, where marriage rates are lowest, and divorce, cohabitation, and single-family households, and out-of-wedlock births are the highest, we find the greatest degree of secularization.

The obvious lesson we must draw, says Eberstadt, is “Vibrant families and vibrant religion go hand in hand.”

America is no exception. On the positive side, the baby boom after World War II brought with it a kind of “boom” in religious practice in the US.

But the negative side of the correlation between family and faith is now more evident. Eberstadt quotes the findings of sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, “The recent history of American religion illuminates what amounts to a sociological law: The fortunes of American religion rise with the fortunes of the intact, married family.”

Now here’s the part that I think is interesting. When you walk into a church, you will find very little, if any, education about the kinds of policies that cause marriages to actually not happen or actually break up.  The trouble is that most pastors are so focused on reading the Bible, and only the Bible, that they have no idea what sorts of policies and incentives cause people to not marry or to not stay married. In order to know that, they would have to be reading outside the Bible, in the scientific literature, and then communicating that knowledge to their flocks to get them to make better decisions and to vote more intelligently.

I think that we need to read more widely in order to know how to reach our goals (promoting marriage, in this case) in a practical way. What can we say to people to show them how to get to marriage? What decisions should they be making now, in order to be ready for marriage later? What policies should we be supporting to nudge people towards marriage? What policies should we be against that make it easier for people to dispense with marriage?

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

New study: the effects of declining marriage rates and lower salaries for men

First, let’s remember that Obama’s massive trillion dollar stimulus program was designed to help women, not men, even though men had a higher unemployment rate than women when it was enacted.

Christina Hoff Sommers explained it in the Weekly Standard.

Excerpt:

A “man-cession.” That’s what some economists are starting to call it. Of the 5.7 million jobs Americans lost between December 2007 and May 2009, nearly 80 percent had been held by men. Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan, characterizes the recession as a “downturn” for women but a “catastrophe” for men.

Men are bearing the brunt of the current economic crisis because they predominate in manufacturing and construction, the hardest-hit sectors, which have lost more than 3 million jobs since December 2007. Women, by contrast, are a majority in recession-resistant fields such as education and health care, which gained 588,000 jobs during the same period. Rescuing hundreds of thousands of unemployed crane operators, welders, production line managers, and machine setters was never going to be easy. But the concerted opposition of several powerful women’s groups has made it all but impossible. Consider what just happened with the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

[...]The National Organization for Women (NOW), the Feminist Majority, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and the National Women’s Law Center soon joined the battle against the supposedly sexist bailout of men’s jobs. At the suggestion of a staffer to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, NOW president Kim Gandy canvassed for a female equivalent of the “testosterone-laden ‘shovel-ready’ ” terminology. (“Apron-ready” was broached but rejected.) Christina Romer, the highly regarded economist President Obama chose to chair his Council of Economic Advisers, would later say of her entrance on the political stage, “The very first email I got . . . was from a women’s group saying ‘We don’t want this stimulus package to just create jobs for burly men.’ ”

[...]Our incoming president did what many sensible men do when confronted by a chorus of female complaint: He changed his plan. He added health, education, and other human infrastructure components to the proposal. And he tasked Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, Joseph Biden’s chief economist, with preparing an extraordinary report that calculated not only the number of jobs the plan would likely create, but the gender composition of the various employment sectors and the division of largess between women and men.

Romer and Bernstein delivered “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan” on January 10. They estimated that “the total number of created jobs likely to go to women is roughly 42 percent.” Lest anyone miss the point, they added that since women had held only 20 percent of the jobs lost in the recession, the stimulus package now “skews job creation somewhat towards women.”

But in the lower quintiles, women can do a lot better for themselves and their children by getting married before having children. The second income makes a big difference. But what if men’s incomes go down, and their unemployment rate goes up?

The left-leaning Atlantic explains how it works.

Excerpt:

The good news, trumpeted in Women’s Work,the latest report from the Pew Economic Mobility Project, is that dramatic increases in women’s labor-force participation have boosted the “financial security and mobility” of millions of families across America since 1970. The bad news is that growing economic opportunities for women have not translated into more family income for poor and working-class families at the lower end of the income ladder.

[...]What accounts for the paradox that women’s income is rising across the board yet family income is falling for the bottom 40 percent of families? Mainly, to paraphrase [feminist] Hanna Rosin, the end of marriage and men in working-class and poor communities across the nation, coupled with the fact that maternal labor-force participation has plateaued since the 1990s. That is, a dramatic retreat from marriage, declines in men’s employment and income, and a leveling off of maternal labor-force participation have all combined to limit the income available to lower-income families, and to offset the increases in women’s income documented in this new report.

[...]One reason that lower-income families are losing economic ground is that gains in women’s income have been offset by declines in marriage among the poor and working class. As the figure below indicates, more than half of these families are headed by just one parent—typically a single mother. Lacking the income of two parents, or the income of a father, these single-parent families are much less likely to reap the benefits of increases in income that have accrued to today’s working women.

[...]Another major factor holding back families financially in the bottom 40 percent are declines in men’s income. Consistent with Rosin’s thesis, which argues that many men in the United States are seeing their economic fortunes erode, the graph below indicates that men’s personal income has fallen across most groups, but particularly among working-class and poor men. So, one more reason that family income has declined for poor and working-class families is that husbands and boyfriends have less dough to put on the table than they once did. This is particularly important because, even today, as the Pew report notes, men’s wage rates in couple-headed families are almost “twice as important as those of their female partners for boosting family income.”

So if you want to help poor women, here are two things that you should do. First, you should help men get better educations so they can get good-paying jobs, even at the low end of the job market. Second, we should be encouraging women to marry in order to get that second income (or only income, if it’s high enough) in order to help make ends meet. Unfortunately, the Democrats are opposed to both.

 

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Gallup polls show that men are more pro-life and more pro-marriage than women

Note: in this post, I will be addressing the views of young, unmarried women, who tend to be more liberal than married women. Married women are not being targeted in this post, because their views tend to be more pro-life and pro-marriage.

First, abortion. The latest Gallup poll shows that men are far more pro-life than women. Men are strongly pro-life by a margin of 8 points, 50-42. Women are more pro-abortion by a margin of 1 point, 47-46.

Second, marriage. Polls show that men are far more pro-marriage than women.

Excerpt:

A new national poll points towards a gender gap over same-sex marriage.

According to new numbers released Monday morning from Gallup, 50% of Americans say same-sex marriages should be legal. But break it down by gender, and 56% of women say same-sex couples should be legally allowed to marry, but only 42% of men feel the same way.

In addition, exit polls from the 2008 and 2012 elections revealed that about 70-80 percent of young, unmarried women voted for Obama, whose views on abortion are somewhere to the left of Kermit Gosnell. And Obama supports gay marriage. Men are more likely to vote conservative than young, unmarried women, especially married men.

Now some of you may find this data about men being good very surprising. According to many people these days, all young men do is look at porn, order in pizza and leave the boxes scattered around, play video games, binge drink, live in their parents’ basement, underperform at school, and fail to find jobs so they can man up and marry these pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage women. None of this bad performance is caused by institutionalized feminism, or the effects of feminism on the family. It’s all just bad, bad men being bad – so were are told. But somehow, despite reports that all men are losers, they seem to have better views on abortion and marriage than women.

What does it mean?

Think about what it means that a young, unmarried woman is pro-abortion.

Being pro-abortion means that a men and women should be allowed to have recreational sex before marriage, and then if a baby is conceived, then they should be able to terminate that unwanted pregnancy, and send taxpayers the bill. Pro-life doctors and nurses who don’t want to perform the procedure must be forced to do it, lest the selfish grown-ups feel offended. Pro-life organizations who don’t want to offer abortion-inducing drugs as part of their medical insurance must be forced to provide it, lest the selfish grown-ups feel offended. Pro-life taxpayers who don’t want to pay for the recreational sex risks of others must be forced to pay for them, lest the selfish grown-ups feel offended.

Now suppose a man is considering marriage to a young, unmarried woman. It’s likely that she supports abortion, given what polls show and what exit polls show. Now if a woman thinks that it is OK to kill an innocent unborn child in order to avoid being burdened with that child’s needs, even though she consented to the recreational sex that produced that child, then should the man marry her? I think that a man should not marry such a woman. After all, if a woman is willing to kill a baby in order to protect her happiness, then she will certainly divorce her husband to do the same. Husbands are much less innocent than babies.

Now think about what it means that a young, unmarried woman is pro-gay marriage.

Being pro-gay marriage means that two men and two women should be able to adopt children away from one or both of their biological parents and raise them. Churches who don’t want to perform the wedding ceremonies must be forced to perform the wedding ceremonies, lest the selfish grown-ups feel offended. Christian companies that don’t want to treat gay couples as married must be forced to treat gay couples as married, lest the selfish grown-ups feel offended. Christian taxpayers who don’t want to pay for the next generation of children to be indoctrinated to believe that marriage can be between two men or two women must be forced to pay for government to indoctrinate children to believe in redefined marriage, lest the selfish grown-ups feel offended.

Now suppose a man is considering marriage to a young, unmarried woman. It’s likely that she supports gay marriage, given what the polls show and what exit polls show. Now if a woman thinks that it’s OK to deprive a child of a mother or of a father and expose children to a notion of marriage that deprives them of stability, sexual faithfulness and permanence, then should the man marry her? I think that a man should not marry such a woman. After all, if a woman is willing to deprive a child of a mother or a father and of the interaction between a man and a woman cooperating in marriage, then she will certainly be willing to deprive any children she has with him of his presence, since she already believes that fathers are expendable and that the selfishness of adults trumps the needs of children.

The way forward

What can we do to fix young, unmarried women so that they are more pro-life and more pro-marriage, like men already are? Well, men are pro-life and pro-marriage because we read pro-life and pro-marriage books and because we watch debates on abortion and marriage. Men like to focus on things like logical arguments and scientific research. Men like to see pictures of the different development stages of unborn babies and read research papers about how same-sex marriage harms children and how welfare policies encourage women to have babies out of wedlock. Men are not inclined to decide moral views based on feelings, peer opinions and popular culture. In order to make young, unmarried women more pro-life and more pro-marriage, we should try to introduce them to more books and debates and scientific evidence, so that their views will change based on what is true, not based on feelings and peer pressure and cultural trends.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do atheists have a lower divorce rate than Christians?

In the comments, an atheist was arguing that atheists have a lower divorce rate than Christians, so I thought I would re-post this USA Today article from 2011 about that.

Excerpt:

It’s been proclaimed from pulpits and blogs for years — Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America.

But some scholars and family activists are questioning the oft-cited statistics, saying Christians who attend church regularly are more likely to remain wed.

“It’s a useful myth,” said Bradley Wright, a University of Connecticut sociologist who recently wrote “Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told.”

“Because if a pastor wants to preach about how Christians should take their marriages more seriously, he or she can trot out this statistic to get them to listen to him or her.”

The various findings on religion and divorce hinge on what kind of Christians are being discussed.

Wright combed through the General Social Survey, a vast demographic study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that Christians, like adherents of other religions, have a divorce rate of about 42%. The rate among religiously unaffiliated Americans is 50%.

When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38% of weekly attendees.

[...]Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, agrees there’s been some confusion.

“You do hear, both in Christian and non-Christian circles, that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to divorce and that is not true if you are focusing on Christians who are regular church attendees,” he said.

Wilcox’s analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35% less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.

Nominal conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20% more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated.

“There’s something about being a nominal ‘Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life,” Wilcox said.

Here’s a quote from an Oklahoma State University study that confirms the Wright and Wilcox conclusions:

History of Divorce and Religious Involvement

Those who say they are more religious are less likely, not more, to have already experienced divorce. Likewise, those who report more frequent attendance at religious services were significantly less likely to have been divorced. This pattern of findings held using various analytic techniques that test which variables differentiate persons who have been divorced from persons who have not been divorced, while controlling for other variables that might affect the interpretation of the data, such as age, age of first marriage, income, and gender. When both the global rating of religiousness and the item assessing fiequency of attendance at religious services are entered into the same analysis, the attendance item remains significantly associated with divorce history but the global religiousness item does not. This suggests that a key aspect of how religious faith affects marital relationships may be through involvement with a community of faith.

So, please do bookmark this information for the next time you hear an atheist make this argument. Obviously, you can’t expect people who are not serious about their religion to be bound by the moral duties imposed by that religion. People who attend church regularly are probably more serious about their religion, and also probably more informed about what their holy book says. If their holy book is the Bible, then there are few options for divorce.

An article from Focus on the Family by Amy Tracy explains when divorce is allowed according to the Bible.

God is very clear, however, that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He also says, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). According to the New Testament, there are two justifications for divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).

So divorce is not something a Bible believing Christian can do for frivolous reasons, unless he wants to be in rebellion against God.

The future of marriage in the church

In my own case, I learned about chastity and sobriety and courting outside the church, and in my case that means that I am still a virgin, that I don’t drink more than a beer a year, and that when I like a girl, I court her. I do think that people in the church are generally more moral than people outside the church, but that’s more because of convention rather than conviction. I don’t think it’s going to last, in other words – it’s more like a hangover. Church is not the place where reasons and evidence are given that help people to resist peer pressure when they enter hostile environments, like the university. And often, parents are too busy working to understand the issues and communicate them to their children.

I’ve never been in a church where they explained the hormones that are released during sex that cause you to bond to the person you’re having sex with. You would have to look in books or listen to lectures in order to understand the problem with having sex with someone you are not committed to – how it causes you to hold back your emotions for fear of a break-up. The church doesn’t have much to say about the social effects of single motherhood by choice or the effects of gay parenting on children. Nor do they have any positive vision to offer men about how they can serve God by marrying carefully.

Christians who participate in a church community will adopt some of these values, especially if they stay clear of popular culture, the university, etc. Especially if they don’t work in a very secular environment, like a high-tech company or in Hollywood. But unless Christian communities get serious about grounding their values in evidence, I wouldn’t expect this situation to go on, and you can already see young people falling away from church in record numbers when they get to university as a result of this refusal to engage. We’re doing well now, but we should move to secure our gains.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

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