Beliefs Culture Ethics

Did your absentee father make you an atheist?

Painting of a father and son playing soccer on the beach.
Painting of a father and son playing soccer on the beach.

Photo courtesy of paintings via Shutterstock

Painting of a father and son playing soccer on the beach.

(RNS) A once-popular book that links atheism with shoddy fathering is getting a second life with a new publisher, thanks, in part, to the rise of nonbelief in the United States.

Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism” by Catholic psychologist Paul C.Vitz posits that “intense atheists” throughout history — Nietzsche, Voltaire and Madalyn Murray O’Hair — had absent or rotten fathers. This, he argues, damaged their ability to form a relationship with a heavenly father.

Vitz also holds that many notable believers — Renaissance man Blaise Pascal, anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce and Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, among others — had great relationships with their dads, and were therefore more able to build relationships with God.

“We need to understand atheism has a lot to do with our emotional attitudes towards life, other people and a lot of other things,” Vitz said from his office at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, a Catholic graduate school in Arlington, Va. “I think that is an important thing for atheists and believers alike to take into consideration.”

Paul C. Vitz, author of "Faith of the Fatherless", photo courtesy of Carmel Communications.

Paul C. Vitz, author of “Faith of the Fatherless.” Photo courtesy of Carmel Communications.

And consider it they have. When the book first appeared in 1999, it polarized critics. The religious media loved it. New Oxford Review, a Catholic publication, described it as “an engaging analysis of psychological factors in religious belief and disbelief.”

But the atheist and humanist media did not swoon. Skeptic magazine panned it as “insulting to those of us who came to a point of non-belief as the result of careful study and consideration.”

Still, the book struck a chord, especially among Christian groups who saw the collapse of the traditional family as a threat to their beliefs. Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based Christian ministry, used Vitz’s findings to promote its outreach to fathers, and he was cited by a host of Christian psychologists and scholars.

So why revise the book?

A lot has changed since 1999. For one, the first decade of the 21st century saw the rise of the so-called “New Atheists” — outspoken critics of religion such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, whom many contemporary atheists credit for swelling the ranks of nonbelievers.

"Faith of the Fatherless" by Paul C. Vitz, book cover courtesy of Carmel Communications.

“Faith of the Fatherless” by Paul C. Vitz, book cover courtesy of Carmel Communications.

And their ranks have swelled. According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who are atheists and agnostics has grown from 3.7 percent to 5.7 percent from 2007 to 2012, and the overall number of those who say they have no religion has grown from 11.6 to just under 14 percent in the same time period.

“The rise of militant, evangelical, fundamentalist atheism in our time adds to the pertinence of this book,” said Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, the Catholic publishing house that has reissued the book.

“Some atheists try to equate atheism with rationality. Vitz’s book shows that atheism, like many belief systems, has significant irrational elements.”

Vitz said he wanted to revise the book not only to include the New Atheists, whose family relationships he scrutinizes (Dawkins was sexually molested by a clergyman, a subject he has discussed before), but also because there was new research about atheists and attachment theory (generally, they didn’t get much of it) and atheists and autism (many autistic people are also atheists, the book claims).

As he did in the first edition, Vitz makes an important point — the book does not try to prove or disprove the existence of God. Rather, its goal is to examine some of the “irrational” underlying reasons some people become atheists.

“I am certainly not predicting that every atheist is the result of one hypothesis, much less mine,” he said. “I am just saying there is a tendency for more things to go together than you’d expect normally,” like atheism and a poor relationship with one’s father.

The reaction to the book, again, has been polarizing. Christians love it — Paul de Vries, president of New York Divinity School, a Protestant school, praised it as “one of the most profound books in the empirical psychology of religion.”

But atheists are less enthusiastic. “I have a spectacular relationship with my father and consider him to be the most admirable man I’ve ever known,” wrote JT Eberhard, an atheist blogger for Patheos. Many of the comments on his review are unprintable.

Vitz, a Catholic who identified as an atheist in his youth, acknowledges there are exceptions to his theory. He identifies a big one in his book — Sam Harris, a New Atheist who hit the best-seller list with “The End of Faith,” has an apparently healthy relationship with his father, too.

“The best answer I have to explain that is I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t studied them (the exceptions) enough.”


About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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  • I think the absence of any holy father may have contributed to my Atheism. It has always been hard for me to believe in things which don’t exist.

  • “The best answer I have to explain that is I don’t know,” The most honest quote from this Catholic psychologist I’ve read.
    I would like to see the data he used to draw this conclusion, if it even exists. Although I would fit in with his pattern of non-believers, I also have 8 siblings with the same father, and all of them are believers.
    I suspect that his conclusions came straight out of the very orifice on which he sits. Nuff said.

  • Interesting point to mention here is that the last 3 popes were raised by strong fathers. In fact, Pope John PauI II was raised mostly by his father after his mother’s early death. Pope Benedict’s father was a strong anti-Nazi at a dangerous time in Germany. And Pope Francis’ father moved his family from Italy to Argentina because of his strong opposition to Mussolini’s fascism.

  • My favorite hobby is not collecting stamps. I’m pretty sure it’s because one of my aunts once told me that stamp collecting sucks.

  • My dad’s presence in my life actually made me doubt my faith more, since he disagreed with my mother about the details of religious practice/faith and often would conveniently apply and not apply certain parts of his beliefs in life based on what was convenient for him. That isn’t why I became an atheist, but it planted the seeds of doubt that I later pursued until I ended up the happy atheist that I am.

  • Did my absentee father make me an atheist? No. My very much in my life, loving father who taught me all about mythology and helped me understand that Santa, the tooth fairy and the biblical Jesus are beautiful stories but still myths, made me an atheist.

  • I have a great dad.
    We went skiing every winter for years.
    He gave me an awesome childhood. I thank him for it all the time.
    He Took me to church every Sunday.

    He’s 70 and he raised me in a close-knit church. We prayed with my grandmother for decades.

    But we have both changed our minds as we have aged. We are a family of Atheists – and we have never been closer or happier than we are now.

    Nobody I know in New England believes in god anymore. Weird water in the bible belt – that’s all I can say.

  • —Having a father or not has no bearing whatsoever in the fact of atheism. Atheism is based on Logic. Not once in the history of the world has anyone brought forth any evidence to support the claim that gods exist. Fathers have nothing to do with this logic.
    There has never been even a smidgen of evidence to support the claim that gods exist. Therefore, we must reject the claim. It’s very simple. It’s logic.

  • It’s not a tool that’ll hold up to scrutiny. Poverty is often linked to absent fathers* and neither appear to have decreased religiousity among Blacks or poor Whites in the U.S. *I myself, am poor (relatively speaking) and Black, but was raised primarily by a good father. I’m also an atheist.

  • “Some atheists try to equate atheism with rationality. Vitz’s book shows that atheism, like many belief systems, has significant irrational elements.”

    If this is indicative of the logic used in the rest of the book, it fails miserably. To not believe in something which has no proof is rational…to believe in something with no proof is irrational. And no, “existence” alone is not proof of god, since we have no control group for nonexistence.

    Tell me, is it rational to believe in big foot, unicorns, or the tooth fairy? Would I be called irrational to not believe in them?

  • Someone ought to inform Vitz of two things:

    1) The plural of “anecdote” is not “evidence.

    2) The primary reason most atheists don’t believe in deities is not their relationship with their father, but their relationship with logic and reason. There’s simply no good reason to think that any sort of deity exists, and many good reasons to consider them as mythical as dragons and unicorns.

  • “Catholic psychologist Paul C.Vitz posits that “intense atheists” throughout history — Nietzsche, Voltaire and Madalyn Murray O’Hair — had absent or rotten fathers.”

    Thanks for pointing out that Vitz is a Catholic first, and a psychologist second. It explains a lot.

    I’m an “intense atheist” myself, and this backhanded attack on my defenseless, deceased father galvanizes my disgust with Catholicism and my belief that humans are better people when they don’t spend their lives sucking up to gods.

  • Sheister Vitz, if you got statistical data, show it. If not, then drop these attacks on fathers and atheists.

    Just when you though the Catholic church couldn’t sink any lower.

    Sad to see.

  • I am another example of proof that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with parenting: both my parents are very christian-religious and they’ve always been there for me, even encouraged me to live with them some again to save me money before I have a lot as a 26 year old. But regardless, the best thing I’ve learned in my Research Methods class is that correlation does not equal causation!

  • Most fatherless children will in FACT levitate to some form of “having a father” as they do in religion simply because of being “fatherless”. It’s called the father wound. Christianity has always thrived on the poor of the earth and feeding off of thier “issues” whether it be poverty. abuse, violence……it has served as a “refuge” that trades the illusion of a sky captain for a safe haven that really does nothing for dealing with their issues. Someone should tell this “psychologist” about the study of gay couples who parent children. The study found the children turned out to be more balanced than children raised by no same sex couples. What do you think of that Mr. Psychologist?

  • Maybe they can do a study on pedophile priests and how celibacy is not a normal state for humans and how the church policy actually contributes to priests who play with ;little children. Even something about how the policy contributes to priests unable to form adult relationships.Now that would be beneficial.

  • As a person who was raised in a ‘born again’ evangelical church, I assure you it wasn’t my father who inspired my atheism. As a matter of fact, the only resentment I harbor for him is the fact that he subjected me to religious endoctrination. Once I reached the age of reason I was very quickly able to dismiss all of it as fairy tales. Noah’s arc? Jonah and the whale? Parting the Red Sea? Talking Snakes? Incest? Torture? Slavery? Misogyny? Bigotry? Mine of this could be the reasons? Personally I feel like people who subscribe to religions are of a lower intelligence level. How can you have both a high intelligence and rationalization skills, yet believe such nonsensical age old stories? I feel sorry for folks who are bound by such far fetched babble.

  • I’m a single father and my daughter, after reaching 15, now lives with me. The reason she is an Athiest like me is because she has been taught rational thought.

  • Its funny that most all of the comments on this article are from atheists who say that their father was present.
    I too, had a present, loving father who taught me rationality and the scientific method. I came to the conclusion that the god of the bible is not rational and not all loving and most definitely not worth worshiping.
    When we teach children how to think for themselves instead telling them what to think or believe, society will be better off and the world will be a better place to live.

  • So I suppose this means that Catholics have a poor relationship with their mothers, then? Because obviously if their mothers were present in their lives, then they would have had a much easier time having a solid relationship with the Goddess. The fact that they can’t is naturally indicative of their upbringing and the quality and presence of the feminine role in their lives, right?

  • Craptacular–I think you missed the most important part of the quotation “like many belief systems, has significant irrational elements.” I certainly hope Vitz would apply this thought to Catholicism too.

  • What this author is forgetting is that with any study, there’s a significant gap between correlation and causation. Since he’s pointing out that athiests’ beliefs coincide with an unstable relationship with their fathers by using only a few famous public figures, his claim is total confirmation bias. Several factors can contribute to athiesm, so it’s completely anecdotal.

  • What lead to my atheism wasn’t an absentee father. My father was there my entire life taking care of me and trying his best to teach me to be a good man. What did it was the lack of answers that religion offered that made sense to a critically thinking mind. That’s pretty much consistent with every atheist.

    Nothing against you guys and girls believing in God – go for it, if it gives you something to do to fill in that spot of whatever it is that I don’t have/don’t want, then go for it. As long as your religion isn’t used to decide the rights of others, then you could worship a bottle of sprite for all I care.

    One last thing though. It would really be nice if you would stop treating Atheists like we’re mentally ill. We’re (usually) not. We just don’t believe in stuff that can’t be measured, recorded, and confirmed through a consistent form of observation.

  • I have a great relationship with my Dad. My three kids and I have a great relationship. I’m involved with their lives on a daily basis, etc. etc. I am an atheist. They are all atheists. We are all happy, well adjusted individuals.

    The logic used to reach these conclusions seems to be based on a small sample set. More extensive studied have found atheists to have strong families and to be generally well adjusted.

    We get along just fine in our family without sky faeries. But keep talking to yourself and your imaginary friends if it makes you feel better.

  • Even IF one could prove a correlation between a poor or absent father and increased liklihood of atheism, this still proves little. Correlation does not equal causation. Besides, there seems to be no claim even of a correlation here, but rather, complete and utter generalizations, cherry-picking some of the most hated men in philosophy to support your argument, while appealing to respected believers in their field (ironically, including Pascal, who’s “wager” is a laughable and easily refuted argument).

    Sorry, nothing to see here, besides prime material for feeding the believer’s confirmation bias. Dubious claims of “militant atheism” and “atheism is a belief system with many irrational elements” only prove the bias and lack of understanding of logic on the author’s part. Atheism is not a belief system. Atheism isn’t even a “thing”, it is a lack of something. It is a lack of belief in deities. It would be like making sweeping claims about all people who don’t speak French or who don’t collect stamps. It’s nonsense.

  • My dad was always around and was great. He still lives right down the road from me. I’m an atheist. My wife’s father was an abusive drunk that left her mom for another woman. My wife is a Christian. See, I have anecdotes too.

  • Give me a break. This is just more nonsense by people with extreme religious views to make phony claims against atheists. Somehow people are atheists because of “emotional damage”.

    Add that with the ridiculous claims that atheists lack morality and are somehow untrustworthy and you have what amounts to a campaign of character assassination.

  • Having a bad, untrustworthy, nasty, or dogmatic father may help people think for themselves; they are less likely to accept a worldview from someone they can’t trust, more likely to use evidence and not myth as their guide.

  • Does anyone find it ironic that a Catholic priest cited Richard Dawkin’s atheism as the result of being abused by a PRIEST? Is he trying to say that priests are the cause of atheism?

  • Has there ever been a father more absent than the imaginary god of the Christians? A deity that doesn’t intercede, doesn’t communicate and provides no proof of his supposed existence whatsoever? It’s hard to fathom a more specious and hyperbolic position in defense of Christianity than to claim a paternal relationship to it’s primary figure, sans self-delusion.

  • my father was a good man, and a minister–I became an atheist because I found religion to be so much drivel

  • Richard Dawkins was not molested by a clergyman; he was molested by a teacher. He has never said he was molested by a clergyman.

  • I don’t believe in gods because I don’t believe in magic. The whole idea is just silly. Do you still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, too? I can’t believe that in the 21st century human beings haven’t outgrown this bs.

  • Christians who lie about other people and cast aspersions on their character and psychology deserve “bashing”. Same goes for people who take justified criticism to equal prejudice

  • My absent father made no difference to my beliefs. I got plenty of opportunity to be a Christian from some very intelligent and well-educated nuns. But as a girl, it made no sense to me that ‘God’ would be a male, a father. Clearly, females are creators of life. This was so obvious so early in my life, I do not remember taking any church teachings seriously once that logic presented itself.

    AND THEN, a nun, in teaching us about the Inquisition, said: The inquisitors could not change the beliefs of many truly pious souls. Belief, like love, comes from within. No one can tell you what you believe. You come to that understanding by your own thoughtful work. So, taking seriously my ‘thoughtful work’ I came to the conclusion that gods and religion are man made constructions.

  • What utter nonsense. I had a typical big 1950s large American, religious, church on Sunday, family. Father was there, mother was there, extended family, was there, everything was traditional and sappy/happy. Out of us sprung one atheist, one gay person, , one drug addict, and a priest. The rest just average, run of the mill Christians. Let’s hear your theories on that.

  • Why is any critique of Christianity “bashing?” IMO, bashing would be insult, and I haven’t insulted you or anyone. But then, due to Christianity’s historically privileged position in U.S. discourse, I can see where Christians see any kind of criticism or even inquiry to be inherently insulting. Since “disbelief” merits eternal torture from their deity, how can we expect them to view disbelief as anything less?


  • So anyone who doesn’t agree with christians must be psychologically damaged? And they accuse atheists of being arrogant.

  • My Ordained Catholic Deacon father was very involved in my life.

    My path to atheism began when my questions could not be answered without using the Bible to “prove” why the Bible was correct. Even as a child, I required more than circular reasoning to appease my curiosity.

    Research and logical thinking brought me the rest of the way to the happy atheist I am today, but thanks for making the effort to categorize us all as miserable beings with missing daddies. I know how categorizing makes dehumanizing so much easier.

  • I have a large assortment of old cameras that I have collected over the years. I suppose it’s because my cranky old grandfather once asked me: “Where do you picture yourself in the future?”

  • My father was very much a part of my life. I had deep respect for him and I miss him now that he is gone. He raised us all as Catholic and was quite devout himself. My atheism came from watching people use religion to abuse others and to otherwise put down or destroy others “in the name of god”. I noticed even as a kid that the “most worthy” were also the ones who had power and agreed with the other powerful ones about what they thought was right or wrong. If you weren’t powerful, wealthy, good looking, “proper” brain dead sheep who would automatically do what you were told, then you were a disgusting outcast that was only worthy of notice in order to be disdained and marginalized. It hasn’t changed much since then, most religious people are some of the most arrogant and bullying monsters I have had the misfortune to know. The only “god” who could take pleasure in that kind of fellowship is not one I want to worship. How could I believe in a “good” god who encourages his worshippers to torture, torment, hate and otherwise destroy others? If there is a god out there, I’m not sure its a good one. Frankly, I dont think there is one… those humans are,quite capable of being evil all by themselves. The fact that they make into to their religion is what proves to me there is no god.. if there was, such evil creatures wouldn’t be walking around the planet doing such evil in “his” name.

  • My mother died when I was 15. Prior to that, my parents had been divorced and I lived with my mother and sister, visiting my father once a month, all major holidays and summer break. I was very religious, Christian, before my mother died. After she died I went to live with my father full-time. It was through his influence I found the freedom and acceptance to explore my skepticism. There is a chance had my mother lived I would not have become an atheist. So, my experience is the exact opposite.

  • My father has a strong influence in my life and still look to him sometimes for advice and counsel. I became an Athiest because after grasping the nature of cortical thinking I rejected the concept of a god. It was that simple. When will god worshipers realize that the arguments for the existence for gods are shallow.

  • I agree it won’t hold up to scrutiny. The problem is, that it won’t, will have no effect on believers. They like the message, and will trumpet it to the heavens … especially because a psychologist came up with it, and they think his credentials grants the idea veracity. They’ll bludgeon every atheist they ever meet with it.

  • I was raised in a Lutheran family. Went to church every Sunday and Wednesday in Lent. I was in all church choirs, baptized and confirmed. Had a father present who I loved and respected.
    HOWEVER, I am a huge science geek and anthropology nut. I believe in science. I do not believe in a text that NO original document exists. A text that has been rewritten to suit the needs of mostly men. A text written by men about a man/men they have HEARD of.
    I do believe Jesus did exist as a human being. But not a deity.
    All religions even ancient poly theistic religions, Christianity, and Islam have a lot of the same stories rewritten. Coincidence? No not at all. They all stemmed from each other.
    I do not believe there is a heaven or a hell. I do not believe there is an all knowing God. I believe in evolution as that at least has science to back it up.
    There is a reason the Bible is sold in the Fiction section.

  • My father was a good man and was there all my life growing up. I was raised and confirmed Lutheran, and believed God existed. But by the time I reached my mid-teens, I began to question whether God was real or just make-believe like all the other gods. (Zeus, Ra, Odin, etc.) By my early twenties, I concluded that man created God in his image, not the other way around. I rejected the idea that any gods existed. I became an atheist.

    I think a much more interesting topic for Vitz’ book would have been this: What was Abraham’s relationship with his father, and how did it influence Abraham to invent his “God the Father”?

  • Nope, guess again. Father was a strong presence and role model. He’s more of an agnostic and will get all wishy-washy at points about how there might or might not be prime mover, etc. I didn’t have any of his religious upbringing to rebel against, so religion just has not been applicable at all to my life, and standing outside of the fishbowl and looking in, I just don’t understand the appeal that fairy tales have for grown up humans…

  • Ignorante hate literature is being republished because atheists are more numerous and vocal. Where’s the surprise in that?

    The same thing happened after 2008, republican…I mean, repulsive racist hate literature was republished after Obama was elected, along with many death threats. No doubt at least one…individual will assume that I support Obama by saying that. I don’t.

    Those who challenge corrupt and biased systems are never appreciated by those who benefit from the corruption and bias.

  • If there is any kind of truth to this assertion about atheism and absentee fathers I think that you can say that a person with one less authority figure to tell them what they need to know would seem to be the kind of person who learns to think through things to get answers on their own. Such people as these “father-figureless” folks would more likely to fit the bill of the typical non-believer/non-religious person. They would likely be less easily lied to or led down an illogical path because they developed an empirical approach to problem solving early in life.

    I read a review that indicates that the author acknowledges that a person being atheistic is likely multifactorial – but the whole concept misses the point.
    *Non-belief in a complex system of stories and abstract spiritual concepts is not a disease that one somehow catches or contracts*
    …it’s how we are born. Belief in any particular spiritual construct is a learned thing reinforced by parenting and society.

  • Let me see: Christians refer to their god as “Father”, and that god is nowhere to be seen… what was that about “absentee fathers” again?

  • Yeah, I noticed that too. Surprise surprise, atheists don’t like been told about the reason behind atheism, or one of them at least.
    Has anyone actually read the book?.

  • I had a great relationship with my father which only ended when he died unexpectedly at age 50. He was active in the Methodist church, but I always felt the family’s religion was under my mother’s care. I left religion only when, as an older adult, I began examining Christianity (I was on the board of a Presbyterian church at the time) and found it … falling apart under my gaze. It made no sense! I became a Humanist, and have been one for nearly 20 years now. I won’t be going back.

  • Noreen,
    If you’re so invested in science backing evolution up, which evolutionary theories HAVEN’T been debunked? Please use your own personal research. Thanks.

  • Quite frankly his hypothesis doesn’t hold water. Not on my personal scale, nor in any grander scale. May I remind the guy that the absolute majority of the European population (~720 million people) is more or less indifferent to religion for instance, does he really suggest that all of these have ‘a bad relation’ however that is defined, with their father?!

    Believe it or not, it is quite possible to love your parents (both of them) and not have to check in your brain at the same time.

  • Look to the middle left side of your keyboard. There are two buttons. One is the caps lock key and the shift key. Remember where they are located.

  • I came from a very religious and loving family. I think the divergent religious paths my parents took (Episcopalian father, Evangelical mother) made me start to question it all and do research. My quest for knowledge eventually brought me to atheism. It’s the only “belief” system that allows for updates as information in acquired. Still have my loving mother and was at my father’s bedside as he drew his last breath. Three out of six children are non-believers, and many more grandkids as well. My children (all adults now) celebrate life and truth together.

  • You do not have the mind of Christ.Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus! Unless you repent of your missing the mark ,you will perish!
    The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.The fool has said in his heart that there is no God.Walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.You have been blinded by the Prince of darkness and you need the Prince of Peace.There is no peace to the wicked!God is Love!

  • Its like you are trying to prove Mike Santoro correct with your ramblings.

    One step away from brandishing a cross like someone in an old vampire film and telling him, “Back, evil spawn of Satan, atheist!!!”

  • Given the conclusion, is there a reason to bother?
    Given the responses here, it is obvious the guy is full of crap.

  • WOOOW! “Here, let me pelt you with a handful of biblical regurgitations”

    Rita, we’ve heard it all before. If you literally believe that the church doesn’t have enough presence and we all just “missed out” on your holey buybull, you’re very wrong. You don’t even know this person, but you spew judgments and even tell him what to do with his genitals. Are you out of your mind!?

  • I have the same issue with my two brothers. I’m ever in awe of how these guys with whom I spend the best days of my misspent youth could have come to the conclusion that there is a shred of truth in religion.

  • What are you talking about? Evolution is THE established theoretical foundation upon which all modern biology, zoology, and anthropology rests. It’s not just a hypothesis, but an established explanation of speciation. As a theory, it is subject to modification to accommodate new evidence. Religion, on the other hand, must constantly give ground and recede before the advance of knowledge, leaving only ignorant adherents.

  • I think you’re on to something, John. Perhaps we would all be better off WITHOUT strong fathers. All the atheists I know are better people than any of the Christians I know.

  • Relax. They’re just preaching to the choir. If not this, then there will be some other contrived BS for them to hang their hats on.

    The important thing is to emulate the behavior you wish to elicit in others. And hopefully one day the religious leaders will look around to find no one is following.

  • Tell me, does it strike you as not-so-subtly racist that the cover of the book depicts a black kid? Is this an allusion to the myth of the absent black father?

  • I consider myself a strong father in my household and I am proud to have raised three very independent, thoughtful, and wonderful atheist children.

  • Are you actually listening to yourself? You’ve just regurgitated the most irrational claptrap imaginable.

  • I think the book makes total sense. If your father does not beat the S** out of you for not being Catholic enough, you’re nearly bound to become an atheist.

  • It really doesn’t matter what sort of parents one had, whether caring or abusive. Just as religion has nothing to do with morality, parenting has nothing to do with atheism.

    People who are forcibly indoctrinated into religion become atheists because of intelligence and curiosity, things that are anathema to blind belief. It’s why religions (and parents under threat of “hell” by their religion) use emotional and physical coercion to prevent children from questioning the religion. Religion can’t withstand testing, so religious types try to prevent questioning.

    Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. The cat was killed because it was curious.

  • Me too John. What surprises people is how close we were and how little we disagreed. How one lives is more important that one’s theological speculations. If your God cannot approve of this, then he is a monster.

  • Look up Ravi Zacharias on Youtube please. He talks at many prestigious Universities in America. Hope that helps my friend.

  • I think I’m going to write an article like this. I’ll call it, “Did your relatively low IQ make you a Christian?” And then I’ll act surprised when Christians are offended by it.

  • So the fact that my father died an early death is the reason I’m an atheist? Uhhhh…….. What? As far as I can remember, my dad was ( and still sort of is) a big part of my life. I didn’t even know what religion was until AFTER he died, when my mom started taking me to church every Sunday. And honestly, I enjoyed it. It felt like it helped me get through his death ( and as a child at the age of 6 I needed the help). Like most of the people who commented it wasn’t until my mid teens that I started questioning everything, and when I came to the conclusion that “god” probably doesn’t exist. If he does, whooo we were wrong the Christians, Catholics etc. were right. If he doesn’t, whatever I’ll just continue on with my life, plain and simple.

  • The plural of anecdote is not evidence. But if you want to compare anecdotes then you can simply read the comments on this article. I even have my own: My father is a very caring individual and did his best to raise me to become a good man, which I would like to think I am. He is also a very religious person and did his best to raise me in his faith. Unfortunately for him I don’t buy into the self-delusion that is faith and instead require evidence. If he had any evidence to support his belief then I would also believe in his god – he doesn’t and neither does anyone else. If you want to talk about absentee fathers then you need look no further than the christian god. The “holy father” is absent and unknowable. He is not here to provide comfort or guidance himself and has never taken an active hand in anyone’s life. Doesn’t eve bother to send verifiable messages. Once again it seems that the truth is, incredibly, the reverse of what the believers claim. How people can delude themselves so much is beyond me.

  • Correlation does not mean causation. My brother who is 4 years older and I both went through the same experience when our father left my mom when we were 14 and 10 respectively. It was not until my early 20’s that I found the courage to question all I’d been told by my family and the curch on the topic of god. Over a period of roughly 10 years or so I gradually moved away from my indoctrinated beliefs and did some critical thinking about whether god was real or lived in my imagination. I came away realizing god was an invention.
    Meanwhile my brother got his degree in theology and became a pastor (then realized he could not raise the family he wanted so he went back to school and became an investment manager). He is devoutly religious. Why? I don’t think it has much to do with our father leaving but rather a deep seeded fear of there not being anything after death combined with no felling of purpose without a divine creator handing down objective meaning.

  • I was raised in a secular home and at only turned to religion after my dad left at 13. It took me nearly 20 years to get out from under Christianity’s thumb and finally start my life in a healthy manor.

    Sure, I come from a fatherless home but religion, worldviews and, because some people believe the same about it, are far too complex to put down to a single event.

  • I am an Atheist and my father was absent. I think the argument in this article is true to some extent.
    I envy those who believe in God. They do not have to worry about what comes after death and whether or not their actions are right or wrong, so long as they follow the teachings of the bible. I wish I had the walk-through guide to life that those that believe do. But I don’t. Why would I ever question such a comfort? Where is the motivation in questioning the existence of God and face the possible isolation from my community?
    I don’t think most of us question religion from rational starting point. I think we are motivated to do so first by our emotions. In fact, anything that we question I think starts with emotion and then we attempt to rationalize it through logic and evidence; thus we are all biased.
    An atheist might hate the idea of God because it’s safer to hate the father figure of God than it is to hate the real father. This might be the motivation to question or the bias towards Atheism.
    However, here is the KEY point: Being biased doesn’t mean that your arguments or evidence that you use to justify your position are wrong.
    Just because an atheist may be biased towards being an Atheist does not mean he is wrong in his belief (agnosticism is the only strictly scientific position) in the non-existence of a God.

  • Well perhaps he is talking about people like me. My father was absentee. I am the sterotypical Latin kid from the projects of the bronx, NY.

    Not that I didn’t have great male role models, but not a “father”. To compensate, mom was VERY active in the church. I was a very fundamental evangelical protestant. I “felt” close to my heavenly father. Then, I started studying. I thought that I should probably know the answers to the “hard’ questions, if I wanted to pursue being a pastor.


    I am not only an atheist, but I am an anti-theist. Thanks dad for not being there. You’re absence liberated me from delusions.

    And many people are correct. Go to an affluent community and count how many churches there are. Go to the hood and compare. Religion preys on the weak, the defeated. They give you this speil about how, although your are the best thing created, you are basically worthless. They use your status in society as proof or your waywad ways. If and when you come to your senses, they put you through the ringer.

    Oh you were never a true christian
    you cannot do it alone
    guilt guilt guilt.


  • that is such an honest comment. I took much comfort in the Judeo Christian’s God claim that He was the father to the fatherless. I became a Christian and have found it to be intellectually and emotionally fulfilling….funny how the same problem can bring about a very different choice in humans:)

  • There is really no such thing as an atheist, All humans naturally deify anything or anyone that fits their latent god-archetype well enough to suit their world view. A megalomaniac, for example, deifies their own ego. They don’t need to believe in God, they are God in their own mind. Other people deify political leaders, parents, or even celebrities. God is truly everywhere!