Blame it on your father

Well, if you are an atheist, agnostic, humanist or naturalist, you can blame it on your awful father. (Apparently, we are we still in the decade of ‘It’s all mommy and daddy’s fault.’)

The book, Faith of the Fatherless, first published 15 years ago, has been reincarnated. I suspect the publisher thinks that, given the current rivalry between the religious and the nonreligious, there’s going to be plenty of attention from people like me who will inspire people who are not like me—or you–to run out and pick up a copy.

*Big sigh.*

The gist of the book is that a child who has an absent, abusive, distant, unloving, weak or neglectful father will grow up and reject god. I’m pretty sure this would include every father at some point in his parenting career. No father—or mother–gets through parenthood without making one or two or many mistakes that could be construed as unloving, weak or distant, whether those mistakes are real or simply perceived,

I know, I know. This whole idea is vapid and terribly insulting to us. We are flawed. We lack proper parenting.  We’re like god’s little runaways.  Blah, blah, blah. (“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”)

Keeping in mind that my goal as a nonbeliever is to promote peace, acceptance and understanding, I’m not going to insult anyone. I’m not interested in the war on atheism, religion or apathy. I’m not interested in war at all.

I do think, however, the following points are worth noting:

  1. When this book was first written, fewer than 4% of Americans identified as agnostic or atheist. Naturally, a handful of fatherless atheists represents a greater percentage compared to handful of fatherless Christians.
  2. Many Christians–no doubt a far greater number–grow up and have serious issues with their fathers: violence, abuse, neglect, estrangement. Whipping a child in god’s name or withholding medical treatment is no doubt abuse. Why haven’t these kids rejected god?
  3. Nearly 54% of black children live in households without fathers, yet according to Pew, “Compared with other racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are among the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, with fully 87% of African-Americans describing themselves as belonging to one religious group or another…”
  4. Priests, preachers and pastors supposedly have strong attachments to their heavenly father and role model, yet they abuse, rape and cheat. I’m sorry. That was kind of off-topic.
  5. In other countries, secularization has been accredited to enlightenment and modernization.
  6. This assumes that atheism is a bad thing. Many of us believe that skepticism and atheism are signs of people who are questioning and reasoning.

It seems to me that author Paul Vitz may actually be onto something that even he’s not aware of. Perhaps the lack of pressure from absent fathers means that a child has the freedom to think for him or herself. Release from dogma. Isn’t this what we hope our children can achieve: the ability to think for themselves?  In families where the father reinforces the idea of god and the tenets of his religion, children may be more likely to grow up as unquestioning followers.

Regardless, in perusing the table of contents, I noticed the author has ignored (probably intentionally) one very important person: Jesus Christ. Wasn’t the world’s most famous Jew abandoned by his distant, neglectful, deadbeat father?

Actually, haven’t all believers been abandoned and estranged from their heavenly father?

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27 responses to “Blame it on your father

  1. And of course, it’s my distant father’s fault that I’m gay. That one never goes away…

  2. And of course, it’s my distant father’s fault that I’m gay… There should be a TV game show, called “The Blame Game.”

  3. Yeah, it’s my father’s fault. Truly, sorta! My dad died when I was 11, and while I may have had questions about g(G)od anyway, his illness and death did have an affect on my beliefs. I grew up being told about the good guy god, ask and ye shall receive, etc. So I prayed that my father might live, because I needed him, my brother needed him, my mother needed him. I was confident in my prayers, but he died anyway.

    Later, when I had rationalized that god took him for a purpose, I told that to my mother, who (in her grief) promptly told me I was wrong and to never mention that again. Huh. So back to the drawing board to figure out why he had died.

    It truly was the beginning of my many, many questions about god, his existence, his purpose, etc. So there ya go.

    • @MelissaM I was thinking that it this book would not be fair to those who have lost a parent–as your story shows. I’m sorry that you lost your father at such a young age. Made you grow up fast. Was your mom a believer?

  4. Throughout most of Christian history, the very existence of Jews has been a fly in the ointment of Christ’s spiritual balm. “Why do they reject Jesus?” has been answered in various ways that all boil down to Jews are a threat to Christians. The existence of non-believers is perhaps an even bigger threat because so many of them at one time were believers and they cannot be lumped together as one race.

    So we will see the same kinds of arguments being dusted off and used against non-believers that were used against the Jews: bad parenting,manipulative spiritual leaders, a flawed psyche, greed, stupidity, stubbornness, arrogance, the devil’s agents, God testing good Christian folk, and people who are rejected by God. In fact, Jews were sometimes accused of being atheists by Christians because Judaism is a religious system based on deeds, not belief.

    And Matt aptly pointed out that these arguments were also used against homosexuals. I would add that they were frequently used against women who did not view themselves as existing only for the benefit of men.

    Deb, your comment about the author ignoring Jesus’ absent father is great. It takes a special kind of blindness to overlook how the founder of your religion fits the typology of those who reject it.

    • @Patti Great comment. I guess we’ve seen some of these arguments used against atheists already (possessed by the devil, stupid, arrogant…) As one point, didn’t “atheist” mean those who believed in god but rejected the doctrine of the RCC? I think I also read somewhere that “pervert” originally meant atheist. Have you heard this?

  5. Good points in the blog, Deb, and nice comments from others.

    I read the story that you linked, Deb, and I found this gem of insightful thinking from the publisher:

    “The rise of militant, evangelical, fundamentalist atheism in our time adds to the pertinence of this book,” Ignatius Press Mark Brumley explained.

    Oh dear …

    The words “militant” and “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” basically all mean “bad” to Roman Catholics today, but people in glass houses…:

    Militant: Crusades, anyone? Inquisition?

    Evangelical: the word comes from ευανγελιον (evangelion), and means gospel. So he’s saying the gospel is bad? Of course, to Roman Catholics, the word connotes Protestants with no central authority, i.e., no father figure like the Pope or Archbishop of Canterbury or Patriarch.

    The word “evangelical” has also become synonymous, I think, with “proselytizing.” Of course, when the RC church wasn’t proselytizing through militant means (see above) they were sending out all manner of missionaries to spread the good news, the gospel (which is apparently bad for catholics now?).

    Do atheists proselytize? Maybe some do, but let’s face it. This publisher and his readers are upset that atheists are speaking up and speaking out. And they equate that with the organized spread of religion on a massive scale (see the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, RC missions, Protestant missions, Islamic governments, etc.). To draw a link to our friend, Matt, and his post: atheists are supposed to be like homosexuals. It’s ok to be like we are behind closed doors, but don’t flaunt it in public, i.e., actually say you’re an atheist. And if you’re a happy, well-adjusted atheist, well then, definitely shut up, ‘cuz you’re making religion look bad.

    Fundamentalist. Atheism means no belief in gods without empirical proof. Fundamentalism is belief in god with no proof whatsoever.

    The book’s premise is an embarrassment and so is the publisher’s so-called reason for its republication.

    • @deosullivan3 Great points.

      I read that, too. I get really frustrated with the idea that atheism is some sort of enemy of the religious. No, we’re not at war. Atheism is not a “belief system.”

      I can’t believe that a publisher would even take this on again…Seems so lame. I guess we’ll see by the sales where the country is in acceptance of the Nones and nonbelievers.

      This is so true: “And if you’re a happy, well-adjusted atheist, well then, definitely shut up, ‘cuz you’re making religion look bad.” We’re not fearful, without purpose or unhappy….

  6. Oh Debbie,

    Religion has to have this type of response to abuse because it does not want to admit that it’s the biggest abuser of all.

    This argument of being “mad at God” because mommy and daddy didn’t love you goes even further back than the first print of said book. I remember when I REALLY began to struggle with my faith. (And I STILL continued being a Christian for another twenty years.) I was in my late teens and attended a Pentecostal Bible School. It was the early 90’s and I was seriously starting to doubt God’s existence. There were a few times when I stood around in the school’s break room in between classes and someone felt “led” to tell me “God wants to love you like a father”. Usually strangers did this and it always left me in tears.

    There’s an awful lot of enabling going on in the U S through Christianity. This whole idea of forgiving people is over the top. It makes churchy types feel good when others forgive them regardless of how many times they beat, humiliate, rape and manipulate children in their homes, schools and Churches. This book is proof of that. The author is ultimately telling his readers “God wants to love you like a father”. I’m sure he also implies that the abuse that we suffer is because “the world” is in a “fallen state”. Oddly enough, most of the abuse that is suffered by victims is at the hands of a religious person.

    The truth of the matter is a child should NEVER have to pray for God to save his or her mommy or daddy from suffering or dying. He or she should never have to pray for God to stop parents, priests, preachers and other religious leaders from abusing them and their siblings as well. My response to Christians who say that these things happen because God does not want to intrude upon the perpetrators’ freewill is this: “What about the victims’ freewill?”

    I was outed (as an atheist) over this past Christmas and found out about it a week or so ago. My parents know and made sure to tell all six of my sisters and their families. I had already told one of my sisters this past Thanksgiving. It was around that same time that our dad left her a message stating that I “needed deliverance”. Mind you, all seven of us suffered greatly at the hands of my parents’ abuse and severe neglect for many years. My parents even tried adopting two boys because my dad would become angrier and angrier with each daughter my mom had. They had two boys live with them (while I was at Bible School) for about half a year and they were taken away because my parents were reported to CPS (Not the first time BTW throughout our family’s history). Dad would get upset with the eight year old (my oldest’s age now) and would throw him into their pool naked. It was either this poor child or the other five year old boy (my youngest’s age now) that he would dress up as a girl around the house because he felt he was too “whiney”. And after all of this, I am the one who needs “deliverance”.

    Thank you, Mr. Vitz, for further enabling people like my parents, that’s all your book is about. You’re just like the military in their sexual assault videos. Instead of encouraging men to be kind and moral to other men and women in the military, you educate your sailors and soldiers that women are attacked because they didn’t have a “walking buddy” as they left their job at night.

    • Jeez, CHope. I’m really sorry to hear about your parents. Through this last year, I’ve come to know the troubles you’ve had with them. I just hope you have find some peace apart from them….

      • Hey Debbie, it’s actually a bit better now because now they know who I am. I haven’t contacted them in months and I’m okay with that. I’m at a point to where I am looking forward to starting over with my sisters. Its a lot of work, but at least they all know I’m an atheist now and that seems a bit liberating for me.
        I think this author is feeding the beast, not healing its victims. Then again, that’s I would expect from anyone supported by James Dobson. I actually believe that abused people are more prone to hold onto religion, not walk away from it. Leaving god behind is something that many people can’t bring themselves to do. So many need something and honestly believe it’s god. I was such a person for many years. The Church can say all they want, they may even say that they failed, but they won’t say God or the Bible failed. Doing so means they’d have to admit it was all a lie.

        • @Chope It’s good that you and your sisters are able to stick together and have a relationship.

          I agree. I think the author is “feeding the beast.” Religion targets those lowest on Maslow’s hierarchy, as evidenced by all the missionaries in the world’s poor countries.

    • Does deeply-held religious belief block the circulation of blood above the coccyx?
      It seems that the pious have created a parallel world in which they can project all their insecurities and doubts to the evil that is people unlike them.
      Claiming that people are rational ie. godless because they´ve had a distant father is just as justified claim as if I were to say that religious people are that because they are naive, fearful and unable to grow up to take responsibility. Or that they are idiots :)

  7. You made me smile. Personally, tho’ not quite an atheist (what do you call someone who posits a possible belief in deities, but thinks they generally don’t give a damn?)— I feel that whatever gods/goddesses may be are not generally interested in the hot mess of humanity, rather like another species generally ignores the next beast down the road. But your logic is one I am acquainted with, lol, because I’ve used it so often on missionaries.

    They have a great deal of trouble appreciating that I declare their Jehovah an abusive father and don’t want any of his promised pie in the sky. I get a serious case of burn every time some person is rescued from a disaster and stands there thanking “God” in the presence of the firefighters/police/whomever ACTUALLY saved their bacon!

    • @syrbal-labrys Would you be considered a deist?? You believe in an impersonal, hands-off or removed deity?

      Oh, yes, I know….Kind of funny that people thank god in the aftermath of the thing he caused–when they should be thanking the humans who saved them!

      • Possibly a poly-deist?! Can’t you feel the fundamentalists shuddering? LOL…but yeah if “He” is responsible for the good, He is also to blame…that “omni” bit bites both ways!

  8. Yay! Another thing my sister and I can blame our father for! Or should we thank him??? He is/was a horrible father. Emotionally, verbally and mentally abusive, sometimes even physically.

    My father has nothing to do with my lack of religious views. My enlightenment began when I attended the oldest and biggest, I think, Baptist University in the country (Deb, being in Texas, I’m sure you know which one it is). Being a confirmed Catholic at the time (against my will), I encountered so much hate and venom being disguised as “trying to save me” by a bunch of 18-22 year old know-it-alls (most of whom were hypocrites). It was horrible. At that time, I decided that organized religion was the problem. It causes most, if not all, of the wars in the world. It allows, even encourages, people to treat others as if they are lesser humans if they don’t subscribe to their beliefs or adhere to a ridiculous “set of rules”. At that point, I felt organized religion was the biggest problem with society.

    Then in my late 20s, I laughed at the ridiculousness of the LDS religion and Scientology. It was kind of a light bulb moment for me. ALL religions are ridiculous (in my opinion). In addition, our very good friends lost two babies (not miscarriage, they had to bury both of them) in less than a year and that was when I moved to the “dark side.” I couldn’t believe in a religion that is “led” by someone who would allow good people to lose their babies and allow horrible, unspeakable things to happen to children and babies. It’s all insane to me and none of this enlightenment was caused by me having a terrible father.

    I am just so happy I found this blog. When we had our first son, we struggled with whether or not we should baptize him. My husband wasn’t baptized and kids said crazy things to him when he was young (yes, don’t you love Texas?). We finally decided against it, mostly because it sounded like a beating. However, I continued to struggle with our decision to raise our boys without religion. Once I found this blog a year ago, I haven’t questioned our decision once. I know its the right one for us and it helps to know that there are others like us out there, especially since we’re not really “out”.

    • @dallasgrl First, I’m really sorry to hear about your father. No child should have to go through that kind of childhood. I agree that the god people worship is nothing at all like the reality–the children who die from disease, accidents or abuse/neglect. What all-powerful god would allow that?

      There is strength in numbers, and I appreciate you speaking up and letting me know you’re out there, too. It doesn’t feel as lonely. You know how it is in Texas. I know I’ve asked you before, but if ever want to get together with a few other moms from this blog, let me know. (You can email me at the kidswithoutreligion@gmail.com.) None of us are brainwashing our kids….

      • @Deb – I think that sounds like a great idea. Even though most of my friends aren’t religious nuts, they all still belive (at least I think they do). It does get lonely.

  9. My father was probably the most positive influence in my life, and he was a believer. He died when I was 33, and I’ve since realized that I’m not a believer. My children have been mostly raised without religion (even though we baptized them as toddlers – long story) and we lost their father when they were 5, 7, 9, & 9 years old. He was far from the typical “absent father” – quite the opposite, in fact. Does their lack of belief fall on him because he died, or does it fall on me because I lived and raised them? What about my father? He was present, yet I still don’t believe. I think that the presence or absence of a parent (father OR mother) has very little to do with your ultimate beliefs. There are so many people, on this blog and elsewhere, that were raised by 2 parents and a church, yet they still found their way out. There are just as many who had very little, if any, parental involvement, and are extremely church-y people. Great assessment, as always, Debbie!

    • @Theresa If you were religious, I just say, “Don’t ask questions. It’s not for us to know.” ;) I don’t think this book is in any way a scientific study. I think it’s just spreading the hate…Obviously, there are lots of atheists who had great role models for parents. And look at your kids–all great kids!

      • Oh, I think you’re being generous by saying it’s not scientific. I would tend to believe it’s just someone grasping at nothing and trying to make a buck off of people who will actually believe this crap. ;)

  10. Oh, brother. That’s all I have to say ;)

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