50 Questions from Jim Spiegel: His 2010 Book “The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief”
Dr. James Spiegel first earned a B.S. in Biology in 1985 at Belhaven University, but then earned two graduate degrees in Philosophy: an M.A. at University of Southern Mississippi (1988) and a Ph.D. at Michigan State University (1993).
Today he is a tenured Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Taylor University, where he teaches courses in philosophy, ethics, history of philosophy, aesthetics, and philosophy of religion. He is also a prolific author, with some of his publications including ‘The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy’ (co-authored with Steve Cowan, 2009), ‘The Benefits of Providence: A New Look at Divine Sovereignty’ (Crossway Books, 2005), and his award-winning book ‘How to be Good in a World Gone Bad: Living a Life of Christian Virtue (Kregel Press, 2004).’
In this book from Dr. Spiegel, he argues that “perhaps we should consider the possibility that skeptical objections are the atheists’ façade, a scholarly veneer masking the real causes of their unbelief.” Atheists may insist that their unbelief is the result of impartial reasoning and an unbiased look at the evidence. But what if these arguments were a smokescreen – an exercise in self-deception? What if atheists’ will and moral compass were more responsible for their anti-theism?
Drawing on Scripture, psychology, philosophy, and case studies of the lives of famous atheists, Spiegel shows that atheism is a suppression of mankind’s inborn sense of God’s existence. Such anti-faith springs from moral rebellion against God’s ethical standards, and often the psychological trauma of a missing or defective father.
Dr. Chad Meister, Professor of Philosophy at Bethel College, gives this endorsement for Dr. Spiegel’s book: “Most of the work done today in response to atheism focuses on intellectual issues. James Spiegel has crafter a clear, crisp, compelling case that there are nonrational moral and psychological dynamics that lead to unbelief. Rooted in Scripture and argued with the precision of a trained philosopher, this powerful book is a must read for theists and atheists alike.”
Here are the 50 questions that Dr. Spiegel not only provides answers but also asks both atheists and theists to answer, with the page number where it is found in his book, and organized into 8 topics. Many of these questions are not new – but some of them are! And they are coming from one of the most respected analytical philosophical minds today. They are meant to be a challenge to atheists to examine the evidence for their unbelief, because it will lead any open-minded seeker away from atheism and take a closer look at theism and the Christian worldview.
USING REASON: FOLLOWING THE EVIDENCE
- Could the comments from Thomas Nagel, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, on their opposition to religious faith, have more to do with the will than with reason (p. 11)?
- What if, in the end, evidence has little to do with how atheists arrive at their anti-faith (p. 11)?
- Dawkins appeals to little green men as the creators of life on Earth, yet he calls theists delusional (p. 12)?
- What could inspire such silly thinking as Dawkins’ (p. 12)?
- How could an otherwise intelligent person propose this B-movie science fiction plot as a plausible theory (p. 12)?
- Both Paul (Romans 1:20) and King David (Psalm 14:1) show that atheists have no defense or justification for their unbelief. The evidence is there; they simply refuse to accept it. Why (p. 13)?
- Most, if not all, believers want there to be a God. So, does this even the score when it comes to the psychologizing of religious belief or the lack thereof (p. 13)?
- Am I using circular reasoning? Am I not assuming the truth of Scripture in trying to defend my Christian worldview, which includes the belief that Scripture is true (p. 14)?
ATHEISTIC ARGUMENTS, ERRORS AND INSIGHTS
- What is atheism (p. 21)?
- How does such atheistic unbelief arise (p. 24)?
- How do leading atheists account for their unbelief (p. 24)?
- Who can deny that pedophilia and ethnic cleansing are really evil (p. 25)?
- Why does God allow the world to go so wrong – where people suffer under the terrors of hurricanes, cancers, and one another (p. 25)?
- Naturalists have no grounds to call anything evil. Why (p. 27)?
- The side-of-the bus ad says ‘There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.’ Is it really possible, as the ad implies, to “enjoy your life” in the absence of God (p. 30)?
- Is genuine happiness feasible in a godless universe (p. 30)?
- Richard Dawkins: “I don’t feel depressed about it. If someone does, that’s their problem. Maybe the logic is deeply pessimistic; the universe is bleak, cold, and empty. But so what?” So what? Indeed, this is the question (p. 31).
- Can any sense of “goodness” be salvaged in the absence of God (p. 31)?
- Can human beings find sufficient motivation to live morally without religious belief (p. 32)?
- Does the concept of goodness even make sense in the absence of God (p. 32)?
- What could explain the fact that intelligent people appeal to such poor arguments to justify their rejection of God, especially given the dire implications (p. 35)?
- Does my daily conduct constitute a recommendation or denial of the beliefs I profess (p. 36)?
THE IRRATIONALITY OF ATHEISM
- For more than five decades Antony Flew had devoted his professional career to the denial of God. How could he possibly disavow his unbelief (p. 42)?
- What rational evidences so moved Professor Antony Flew (p. 42)?
- There is no doubt the regularities are observable everywhere in nature. But why are these laws constant (p. 43)?
- What explains the fact that we can count on nature to be uniform in these and hundreds of other ways (p. 43)?
- If the laws of nature are necessary for life, what makes them so (p. 43)?
- At the Big Bang, why did matter explode as it did (p. 45)?
- Why was there even matter to begin with (p. 45)?
- Why are the odds for a finely tuned universe so infinitesimally small (p. 48)?
- Dawkins seriously considers Francis Crick’s “directed panspermia”, as far-fetched and buck-passing as it is, since he ignores the question “where did the aliens come from” (p. 48)?
A BIBLICAL DIAGNOSIS
- If the evidence falls clearly on the side of theism, then how does one explain the phenomenon of atheism (p. 50)?
A SELF-DEFEATING WORLDVIEW
- The atheist who embraces naturalism must embrace Darwinism. But that means every aspect of human brain physiology and psychology was entirely fixed based on its survival value. But that means there is no necessary connection between the survival potential of a cognitive system and the TRUTH of the beliefs it produces. Does that even sound plausible (p. 58)?
- Atheism is a sort of suicide of the mind. What could be more futile than a worldview that undermines itself (p. 60)?
THE CAUSES OF ATHEISM
- Is there any relevance to the fact that these two atheists (Jodie Foster, George Carlin) grew up without a father (p. 63)?
- What about the new atheists? Do they confirm the “Defective Father” thesis (p. 68)?
- Why is the father relationship so important that its absence should create such an impediment to belief (p. 69)?
- How could Mead have erred so wildly in her depiction of Samoan sexual culture (p. 75)?
- What of the role of the will when it comes to atheism (p. 81)?
- David Plotz asked “How do I as a Jew cling to a God who seems to be so unmerciful so much of the time and so cruel so much of the time? That’s very troubling. Do I want such a God to exist? I don’t know that I do” (p. 85).
- Who wants to believe in an unmerciful and cruel deity (p. 86)?
THE OBSTINANCY OF ATHEISM
- We heliocentrists might think, “Why were they so stubborn? Why couldn’t those geocentrists, including both church leaders and scientists, see the truth?” (p. 95)
- How might these Kuhnian insights aid us in understanding atheists (p. 100)?
- Why is it that Paul (in Romans 1:20) says that no one has an excuse not to believe in God’s existence (p. 105)?
- Is it that the evidence for God is so clear that any reasonable person should infer that God exists and has certain qualities (p. 105)?
- If the ’sensus divinitatis’ is universal and cannot be completely squelched, how can there be atheists (p. 106)?
THE BLESSINGS OF THEISM
- What of unpleasant or harmful occurrences that have no human cause or where there is no means available to address the person responsible (p. 121)?
- To whom may one complain when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or when one’s home is destroyed by an earthquake or tornado (p. 121)?
- What complaint can be issued when a foreign nation attacks your homeland and brutalizes your family and friends (p. 121)?
- What about the natural blessings we enjoy (p. 123)?
- Whom do we thank for our good health, intelligence, and innate physical and artistic talents (p. 123)?
- What about nature itself in all its resplendent beauty – whom can we praise for it (p. 123)?
- Since excellence in human accomplishments motivates us to praise, how much more so with those things that far surpass human creation (p. 124)?
EXCERPTS FROM ‘THE MAKING OF AN ATHEIST’
- On pages 17-18, Professor Spiegel makes the statement that “Atheism is profoundly false. It is a misconstrual of reality at its most basic level…But perhaps most tragic of all is how deeply irrational atheism is – a form of irrationality that itself almost defies comprehension. The reality of God is manifest all around us, from 1) the vastness of our universe to 2) the micro-complexity of the cell to 3) the elaborate machinations in animal and plant physiologies to 4) the phenomena of human consciousness to 5) the existence of moral truths to 6) the existence of beauty to 7) the fulfillment of biblical prophecies to 8) the Person of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, atheism is not the result of objective assessment of evidence, but of stubborn disobedience; it does not arise from careful application of reason but from willful rebellion.”
- On page 22, Dr. Spiegel defines atheism: “Atheism literally means a rejection of theism. That is, an atheist is someone who disbelieves in God. The term is usually intended in the broader sense of rejecting all forms of belief in the divine. Atheists almost always reject belief in the supernatural. This means that atheists are almost always NATURALISTS. I will regard atheism in this book as equivalent to naturalism.”
- On page 45, Professor Spiegel challenges atheist Bertrand Russell for his response to the question ‘Why was there matter to begin with?’: “Russell (and many atheists since) prefer to answer the question by not answering it. The universe is a ‘brute fact’, they insist, and we are wasting our time inquiring how we got here. This is a particular attitude for someone such as Russell whose discipline is devoted to posing questions about everything. It is one thing for a scientist, as a scientist, to refuse to theorize on the cause of the universe, since this is really a question of metaphysics.
But a philosopher can, and in fact, must pursue this question. To refuse to do so is negligence. So while Russell and others might want to take their ball and go home before the metaphysical game begins, the rest of us must dutifully pursue this important ‘why’ question.
The reason it is proper to inquire about the source of the universe is that we know it had a beginning. As such, the universe demands a causal explanation, since whatever begins to exist has a cause.”
- On pages 51-53, Professor Spiegel answers the question ‘If the evidence falls so clearly on the side of theism, then how does one explain the phenomenon of atheism?’: “In light of the irrationality of atheism itself, the fact that many atheists are intellectually sharp suggests that something other than rational exploration is going on here. When smart people go in irrational directions, it is time to look elsewhere than reasoning ability for an explanation.And Scripture gives us clear direction as to where we should look. In Romans 1:18-23, Paul makes clear that the problem with those who don’t believe in God is not lack of evidence. On the contrary, God has made His existence and attributes so ‘plain’ and ‘clearly seen’ from creation that unbelief is inexcusable. He also explains how, in spite of this, some reject the truth, specifically through IMMORAL BEHAVIOR.
The evidential case for God is not ambiguous, according to Paul. Rather, the ‘wickedness’ of the unbeliever works to ‘suppress’ what is manifest in nature. Consequently, the unbeliever’s capacity for rational thought is compromised, and this leads to even more wicked conduct.”
- On pages 58-59, Professor Spiegel points to Alvin Plantinga’s ingenious argument showing why belief in naturalism can
never be reasonable: “If naturalism is true, then we have no reason to be confident that any of our beliefs are actually true, and this includes our belief in the truth of naturalism. In other words, if naturalism is true, then we have no reason to believe it is true. If ever there was a self-defeating worldview, this is it.”
- Professor Spiegel lists what he has found as the most significant causes for atheism:
- “Latent positivism = all knowledge must be verifiable by the senses (pg. 63)
- The objection from evil (pg. 63)
- ‘Defective father hypothesis’: broken/defective father relationships. I will propose that herein lies the explanation for atheism (pgs. 64-70)
- Brazen sexual promiscuity (pgs. 70-80)
- Personal rebellion: spurning faith is based in the will, not in reason (pgs. 80-87)”.