The Psychology of Atheism – A Study of Masked Anguish

Paul Vitz – The Psychology of Atheism (MP3 Audio)

Link above is a long audio presentation by Paul Vitz, author of Faith of the Fatherless – The Psychology of Atheism (hat tip Atheism is Dead). This is an excellent presentation in which Vitz presents an historical account of psychology’s history regarding psychological underpinnings of religion. However, the main thrust of the presentation is discussing psychological aspects of atheism. Vitz discusses his theory in a compassionate and caring manner, and also discusses his own experiences as an atheist and the experiences of his wife.

Atheistic Materialism-Flee from the Truth at all Costs

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).

Over at Uncommon Descent, there have been some interesting discussions about a) atheism and morality1,2 and b) physicalism.3,4 What you will find with almost all atheists is a retreat from materialism where it undermines 1) morality, and 2) rationality or freedom to evaluate evidence in a non-deterministic way. Often the retreat is accomplished by pseudo-spiritual methods (e.g., appeals to quantum mechanics, Buddhism, humanism, nature worship, or just by simply stating “I don’t believe that beliefs are fully physically determined”).  In other words, they want materialism in all ways that allow them to deny God’s existence, but reject it in the areas in which it undermines their credibility.  None of this is terribly surprising.  Were they to examine these issues in a logically consistent manner, they might have to question their atheism.  Belief in God is often very threatening to many atheists in part because of problems with commitment and difficulty yielding to authority.

All of the posts below were written by Barry Arrington.

1. Bleak Conclusions

2. Materialist Concede that Holocaust was Permitted if Materialism is True

3. Materialist Poofery

4. Emergence Redux

Atheists are 'good' people.

Psychology Today has a hit job on religious beliefs, which is not surprising given their love for Darwin and all things atheistic.(1)

Despite a widespread perception that religious people should behave more ethically in general, researchers find little evidence that religious people either think or behave more ethically (1). One study, found that atheists were significantly less likely than religious students to cheat on an exam (2).

Psychologists find that religious belief stunts moral development, because it commits people to a dogma, or formula, rather than working out ethical solutions for themselves (the highest stage of moral development known as post-conventional morality).

Fundamentalist religions may undermine moral reasoning. People who “know” that they are saved, may be relatively unconcerned about who is hurt by their actions in this world. A Roper survey found that after being “born again,” people are more likely to drive drunk, use illegal drugs, and engage in illicit sex (3).

I’m not much on comparing people morally, because the Bible teaches that the notion of a good person is a myth. However, one must consider the agenda of the atheist writing this article on Psychology Today. Yes, I make that prediction even though the author did not state his position on God. The author engages in cherry picking–picking out only that research which supports his position. He did not even consider that governmental systems based on atheist philosophy have resulted in the most catastrophic loss of human life in history.(2)

What the author is trying to do is to say that religious folk are psychologically immature and don’t know how to engage in moral reasoning, whereas, atheists are more developed, psychologically and intellectually. I’ll just briefly include some research that is counter to the claims of Dr. Barber:

1). Religious beliefs is associated with lower levels of delinquency and drug/alcohol use in adolescents
2). Religious beliefs are associated with increased self-control. This is a comprehensive review article on decades of research. Other notable findings included are that religious beliefs result in increased lifespan (25-30%), less likely to use drugs/alcohol at all ages and engage in more health promoting behavior, have higher levels of psychological well-being, more likely to stay married and be more satisfied with the marital relationship, and is associated with higher grade point averages.

Does this sound like psychological immaturity or stunted moral development? Not in the least. Here’s to hoping that Dr. Barber will do a little more homework the next time he decides to write a hit job on religion.

(1). Are religious people more ethical in their conduct? Psychology Today, N. Barber, 4/09

Some Applause for Richard Dawkins

You never thought you would hear me say something like this, but I’m saying it now. Richard Dawkins deserves some credit for his most recent book, A Devil’s Chaplain. Now, I haven’t even read the book, and probably won’t unless I can find a used copy somewhere. But, I just wanted to give Dawkins his due credit for the title of his book, because this is truth in advertising. I’m guessing that he wants Christians to hate him, and feels he is poking them with this type of book and title. But really, I do have some compassion for Dawkins. A person does not have the intensity of emotions he has on a topic without a great internal struggle of some sort.

Creation on the Web has a review of his most recent tome, and there are some interesting quotes from the review:

Dawkins’ sermons fall apart under close scrutiny, and further, he never even considers deeper philosophical problems underlying his method of argumentation. When Dawkins talks of religions fomenting wars, how does he know on a naturalistic basis that there is anything at all undesirable about war?16 How does he know that there is anything inherently good in ‘truth’? In fact, as Alvin Plantinga has shown,17 there are reasons to doubt whether human thought is even capable of corresponding to reality within a naturalistic framework—the ultimate reductio ad absurdum of naturalism.18

As the late Greg Bahnsen noted,

‘One does not decide whether to form some epistemological viewpoint and theoretical basis for certainty or not; he simply chooses whether he shall do it self-consciously and well.’19

Dawkins has an epistemology. He believes that he is capable of knowing true information by means of the scientific method, but he is entirely without a foundation in naturalism for such a belief. Christians who presuppose Scripture, on the other hand, have epistemological warrant for belief in efficacious reason and science, on the grounds that God is logical and made an orderly universe.20 Small wonder, then, that Dawkins avoids the subject and prefers a surface-level polemical approach. The biblical apologetic not only can withstand his individual ad hoc ‘empirical’ arguments, but even undercuts his entire basis of argument by showing that in order to have a reason to trust reason itself, we must presuppose the God of Scripture.21

Some of the reasoning here is similar to things we’ve discussed previously on this blog.  One can sincerely hope that his intense disdain for all authority, other than materialist science, can soften with time.  All things are possible with God.

Source: Secular Sermons.  Creation on the Web.

A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part XXI

And then did we decide, that the Universe could be teeming with aliens. Sure, we decided that a planet must have the right mass, be the right distance from a star, have the right atmosphere, the right material composition, and the ability to sustain water.(1)

That’s somewhat unlikely, so we decided to say that life might exist on planets with very different conditions, and so might be quite prevalent in the Universe (praise Science).  So, we do now admit that the distance from a star does have some importance.  Too close, things do melt.  Too far away, things do freeze.  Then did we discover that the Earth could be only 5% closer to the Sun without becoming like Venus, but one of us, in 1993, did calculate that the Earth could keep from freezing up to 1.7 times its current distance from the Sun (praise Science)!(2; Sorry our link goes to Shell.  Perhaps it didn’t originally). So, we admit that perhaps a planet’s mass does have some bearing.  Mars is in the ‘Goldilocks Zone,’ but don’t look at it.  Plus, the Earth’s natural cycle does involve volcanoes that release CO2, that keeps the planet warm (praise Science—hate the automobile–do ignore the recent cold).  The pattern of subduction of carbon into the Earth’s crust has kept the Earth’s climate stable for the last 4 billion years (please do now ignore our recent assertions about the wildly variable climate in the past).

So, one of our great fellows noted:

‘”I’ve been kind of twisting the knobs so that they’re different from Earth, but they all have the same mass as Earth,” says Spiegel, who was at Columbia University in New York when he carried out the work.’

So, the mass and distance do seem somewhat important, but we did simulate the tilt and combined with a greater spin rate, we did discover that

“When this large axial tilt was combined with a rate of rotation three times Earth’s, the summers became warm enough for ice to temporarily melt around the pole facing the star (see diagram). This meltwater was only sustainable when the planet rotated faster than the Earth, as the centrifugal force created made it harder for air to flow from the poles to the equator. This trapped heat at the illuminated pole.”

So, then did one of our own argue that we should not think in terms of habitable or inhabitable, but we should consider “fractionally habitable.” Because we do now know that even the Earth is not 100% habitable (praise Science).

So, we are optimistic about the future, and we did title our article, “Why the Universe may be teeming with aliens,” we’ll go right on ahead and print this quote later in the article for those who do keep reading needlessly.

‘”I don’t think we really understand how or why the Earth has been habitable in its history and what the excursions from habitability really were,” he says, “and until we do, it’s hard to be anything but sceptical that some of these models are really going to inform the search.”‘

So, we do end our article (praise Science), with:

‘There is always the chance that the search for liquid water on the surface may be missing the point. What if exotic forms of life could thrive where there is no liquid water at all – swimming around in lakes of liquid methane on Saturn’s frigid moon, Titan, for example? “One should not rule out the notion that a kind of life or organised chemistry could exist in that kind of liquid,” says Lunine. “Let’s cast the net broadly.”‘

So, we do now know that casting the net broadly would not be wrong (praise Science), and let us wish a Happy New Year to SETI.

(1). Why the universe might be teeming with life, NewScientist.

Is there a Dawkins?

This is an issue that has been weighing on my mind recently.  I found a video that addresses the question: Does Dawkins exist?

Does referencing the Creator inhibit science?

Many materialists (atheists and theistic evolutionists most often) argue that materialistic philosophy is key to scientific advancement. If any ideas of Creationists are allowed to even be referenced, then scientific progress will halt and people will die. There will be mass and widespread calamitous events, and we will return to the Dark Ages.

Mphuthumi Ntabeni at The Southern Cross writes:

Newton, Faraday, Maxwell and Copernicus referred to the Creator in their scientific writings. No one accused them of being unscientific because of that. There’s no rule that compels science to have a materialist outlook, it’s just an incident of history. (1)

I have yet to see any evidence that convinces me that scientific progress will be inhibited in any way by referencing notions of a designer or even God. Nor have I seen any evidence that is not just as easily explained from an ID or even a Creationist perspective as compared to a naturalistic evolution perspective. So far, I see Creationism as having the most explanatory power and ID as focusing on narrow range of observations and scientific phenomena. Both ID and Creation Science are scientific disciplines.

I must also say that I have yet to see how the theory of naturalistic evolution, on a macro scale, has ever contributed to applied science. The concept of abiogenesis has not contributed to applied science. The Big Bang Theory has not contributed to applied science. In short, the notion that Godless science leads to progress has no legs to stand on. Perhaps it will evolve those legs in the next several billions of years, but I won’t be holding my breath.

(1). My case for intelligent design, The Southern Cross, Mphuthumi Ntabeni, Nov. 9, 2008