Tag Archives: Childhood

James Spiegel explains what really causes atheism

I spotted this sample chapter from James Spiegel’s new book “The Making of an Atheist” at Apologetics.com.

Here’s the part I found the most interesting:

The eminent twentieth-century historian Paul Johnson describes his Intellectuals as “an examination of the moral and judgmental credentials of leading intellectuals to give advice to humanity on how to conduct its affairs.” Thus begins a 342-page historical expose that recounts behavior so sleazy and repugnant that one almost feels corrupted by reading it. Most disturbing are not necessarily the details of the sordid lives described by Johnson but the fact that the subjects are often regarded as intellectual heroes. Not merely successful people of letters in their day, they were scholars whose influence was, and continues to be, felt worldwide. They mastered their crafts as novelists, poets, playwrights, and philosophers and set forth ideals and values for ordering society.

So for most readers it comes as a bit of a shock to learn that so many leading intellectuals were self-serving egotists,whose ostensible interest in humankind generally was belied by their callous disregard for those nearest and dearest to them, especially familymembers.

The upshot of Johnson’s book is that not only do many leading modern intellectuals fail to live up to their billing as moral visionaries, but their moral perversity should cause us to question the legitimacy of their ideas. This is because one’s personal conduct impacts one’s scholarly projects. And, as Johnson shows, the works of these intellectuals were often calculated to justify or minimize the shame of their own debauchery.

Among the diverse vices that characterize the intellectuals studied by Johnson, brazen sexual promiscuity is the one recurring theme. So it is not surprising that most of these men explicitly rejected the Judeo-Christian worldview. Indeed, many of their scholarly and creative works openly challenged the values of this tradition, which condemns the sorts of lascivious behavior that dominated their lives.

Aldous Huxley, another significant modern intellectual, had much to say on this point. In the following quote he refers to a nihilistic worldview, but this could as easily be supplanted by Marxism, Sartrean existentialism, or Shelley’s vision of a religion-free society:

For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation.The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality.We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.

Elsewhere in this same essay, Huxley is even more candid:

Most ignorance is vincible ignorance.We don’t know because we don’t want to know. It is our will that decides how and upon what subjects we shall use our intelligence. Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless.

As Paul Johnson argues, the philosophical systems and social ideals of many modern intellectuals were decided by their will to be immoral, not their quest for truth. They wrote the books they did to suit their personal lives, not vice versa.

The interesting point from the sample chapter here is that for atheists, the sin comes first, especially sexual sin. Now, pretty much everybody has some trouble with sin. No one can be perfect all the time. But atheists try to lie to themselves and others by re-imagining the world in such a way as to remove God as moral lawgiver. And it doesn’t matter how far they have to go to speculate, assume or imagine their way out of reality. If they have to deny the big bang, they will. Deny the fine-tuning, no problem. The origin of life? Aliens did it. The resurrection? Unknown identical twin of Jesus. It’s brute facts all the way down.

Consider this quote from an honest, respectable atheist philosopher named Thomas Nagel:

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)

They don’t want to admit that they are doing anything wrong, and they don’t want to be bothered by God’s design for them. They don’t think there is any way they ought to be other than “happy”. Their new alternate universe allows them to do whatever they want (however destructive) while trying to make themselves happy for a few years apart from God. And their new moral standard requires that everyone call that selfishness “good”, or else. And finally, if anything goes wrong, then the government is right there with someone else’s money to fix it, so they never feel any shame or guilt.

Related posts

Interview with Jim Spiegel on “The Making of an Atheist” book

Interview here at the EPS blog.


Why might there be a tendency among some Christian philosophical critiques of atheism (or any other worldview for that matter) to under-represent or downright avoid how the sinful tendencies of the human heart figure into the formation of a worldview?

One reason for avoidance of this issue might be a concern for decorum.  I suppose it could appear unseemly or offensive even to suggest, much less to present as a thesis of a book, that a person’s lack of belief in God is, at bottom, a form of rebellion.  And I must admit that at times I felt uncomfortable writing the book for this reason.  However, the fact that it is a clear biblical truth compelled me to write it anyway.  But I was careful to be as generous and winsome as I could manage, given the subject matter.


How does one become “entrenched” in an atheist’s mindset?

In my book I expound on two aspects of this process, which explains something of the obstinacy of atheists.  There is a phenomenon that I call “paradigm-induced blindness,” where a person’s false worldview prevents them from seeing truths which would otherwise be obvious.  Additionally, a person’s sinful indulgences have a way of deadening their natural awareness of God or, as John Calvin calls it, the sensus divinitatis.  And the more this innate sense of the divine is squelched, the more resistant a person will be to evidence for God.

You say that right living contributes to the perseverance of faith. How is that perseverance related to Christian virtue and the “cognitive health” that it brings?

Just as sinful thoughts and behavior corrupt us cognitively and warp our perspective on the world, obedience and virtue benefit us cognitively in a number of ways.  Not only do we avoid the intellectual warping and deadening of the sensus divinitatis that sin causes, but Scripture also makes clear that God grants special insight and wisdom to those who obey him (cf. Ps. 19:7, Ps. 25:9; Pr. 1:4, Pr. 11:2).  So you might say that the life of Christian virtue enhances our ability to think and reason, especially about moral and spiritual matters.

I can hardly wait to read this book so that I can get some guidelines for dialoguing with atheists about how they formed their worldview. Is this really how atheists formed their view?

Friday night fun: The Wintery Knight’s favorite music

One of the longest running series of games in the history of video gaming is the Castlevania series. In the games, the Christian hero squares off against vampires and other monsters using holy water, crosses and a flaming whip that can be upgraded to become more powerful. I played these games as child as far back as 1987, before many of you kids were even BORN!

But the appeal of the music from the series is still strong for me. The later games in the series often re-use or remix the original themes from the earliest games, especially the most ancient and famous songs like “Vampire Killer” and especially “Bloody Tears”. So it’s not surprising for people to listen to a soundtrack today that sounds similar to the music from 20 years ago!

Here is the main theme of the hero Leon from Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (2003):

And a few of my favorite themes from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (2005).

Abandoned Castle:

That one makes me think of how Christians have abandoned the university to the secular left, and now it’s in ruins with truth nowhere to be found.

And, Machine Tower:

Levels where the hero is inside a giant clock tower are extremely popular in Castlevania. Clock towers were first introduced in Castlevania I in 1987.

And here is one more from Curse of Darkness, Mortvia Aqueduct:

This is a very suitable theme for driving at night. I have a strange habit of working in cities far from home, and it is not at all unusual for me to work a full day and then drive 12 hours to my parents’ house all night and arrive at 7 AM the next day. I consider it very heroic because I love my sports car and driving at night with the top down under the stars is so much fun. Especially if you drive fast, like I do!

My favorite theme of all is the “Theme of Simon” from Super Castlevania IV. Here is the original theme from 1994 from the Super Nintendo with a more modern 2007  remix tacked on at the end. The Super Nintendo was the first video game console I ever owned, because we were very poor when I was growing up.

It is also fun to learn to play them yourself on the piano. One video of someone playing Bloody Tears on the piano has over 1.2 million hits on youtube. (Bloody Tears is a theme from the first Castlevania ever, “Haunted Castle”, which was an arcade game that you played for 25 cents in a real arcade!). I remember this theme from the first Castlevania game I ever played, Castlevania II. So this is really a blast from the past for me… this is my childhood.

Castlevania music extremely popular in Japan and live bands even perform them. Here’s an orchestra playing a remix of the most famous Castlevania song, from level 1 of the first Castlevania console game ever made (for the Nintendo Entertainment System). It’s called “Vampire Killer”. It transitions into the level 3 theme “Wicked Child”. Then finally into a battle theme from the fight with Dracula.

I actually had a friend who used to play Castlevania II with me when we were kids. One day we rented Castlevania I, just for fun, and when we heard the level 3 theme “Wicked Child”, we were both amazed. I was actually able to keep the theme in my head and recognize it many years later when I found a rendition of it online. I think the scenery of walking across a crumbling castle ledge outlined by a giant yellow moon really stuck in my mind. Ever since seeing that, I have been a real night owl. I used to study all night in university and sleep during the day.

And of course you buy all the CD with the soundtracks from the games, even in North America! I can whistle many of the songs for my bird and he really loves listening to me whistle them. He is as old as the games themselves and has been hearing these songs from me for over 20 years! (Although I haven’t played any of the games since high school, I still care about the music!)

Looking back now, it was probably remarkably important for me to have good, heroic music to listen to as an alternative to sappy contemporary Christian music and godless, hedonistic, popular music. I think that men need to see themselves as heroic in order to actually engage in heroic deeds. Good music helps. A lot.

Dr. Jean Twenge takes on narcissism in today’s children

Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D
Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D

A female Christian social studies professor railing against narcissism? Sign me up!

The podcast is here.

Here’s her bio:

Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and the author of more than 40 scientific journal articles and book chapters. She received a BA in sociology and psychology, and an MA in social sciences from the University of Chicago in 1993 and a Ph.D. in personality psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1998. She then completed a postdoc in social psychology at Case Western Reserve University.

We need more like her. A lot more!