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.
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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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…”
- 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.
- In other countries, secularization has been accredited to enlightenment and modernization.
- 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?