Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens, are known collectively as "The Four Horsemen of The New Atheism." Their self-anointed task isn't simply to convince people in the 21st century that God doesn't exist, but that faith is useless, detrimental, and even irrational. Dawkins, an English biologist, wrote a book entitled The God Delusion that went to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List in 2006 and remained there for a long time. The idea that God is irrational gets its roots in the theories of Sigmund Freud. (That's not to say all psychologists/psychiatrists are atheists or subscribe to his ideas). Freud's criticism of the belief in God is called The Projection Theory. According to this theory, God is a projection of our own unconscious desires. As Freud wrote in his book The Future of an Illusion, "...the terrifying impression of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection...which was provided by the father...Thus the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fears of the dangers of life."
It certainly doesn't help matters with Jorge Bergoglio telling us "Atheists go to Heaven," as these "New Atheists" seek to rob as many people of Faith as possible. The Vatican II sect is too busy spreading their own Modernist errors which lead to atheism; most of the credible challenges to atheism come from conservative Protestants. One notable exception is Dr. Paul C. Vitz, a Vatican II sect conservative psychologist. He published a book in 1999 and revised/expanded it in 2013 to address the New Atheists entitled Faith of the Fatherless, The Psychology of Atheism. His thesis (and book) is nothing short of brilliant.
Dr. Vitz, a retired professor of psychology at New York University and Senior Scholar at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences at Arlington, Virginia, received his PhD from Stanford University, and was himself an atheist until his late 30s. He performed an extensive study on all the major atheists, and came to a startling discovery; they had dysfunctional fathers! Freud's Projection Theory commits the genetic fallacy in logic. This occurs when you try to discredit an idea based on its origin. Even if belief in God came from an unconscious desire for a father-figure, this doesn't prove God non-existent. Perhaps the very reason we have such a desire is because Our Creator made it innate within us to seek Him out.
Dr. Vitz flips the Projection Theory on the atheists. He suggests to them that perhaps the reason they don't believe in God is precisely because He is seen as a loving Father, and they resent their own earthly fathers. This doesn't logically prove atheism false, but it certainly takes the wind out of the sails of their argument. Maybe it's not God that comes from a psychological "defect," maybe it's atheism! Nothing I could write in a short post could do justice to this book, which I hope you will seek out and read. Dr. Vitz develops a theory of his own, but too extensive for the purpose of this post. I will set out what he has to say about the New Atheists and give a brief snapshot of The Defective Father Hypothesis.
Defective Father Hypothesis
1. Dr. Richard Dawkins. Born in 1941, Dawkins is a retired biology professor from Oxford University in England. He hates all religion, but has an especially intense hatred of Christianity. He was an only child, born in Kenya to a father who worked in colonial agricultural service. Richard was happy in Kenya, but his father uprooted him while young to return to England. Dawkins was placed in a boarding school called Oundle, which was run by the Anglican sect. He was a good student with an interest in biology, and claims he was a "typical" Anglican until his twenties when he found a better explanation for the world in the teachings of Charles Darwin. Significantly, Dawkins had little contact with his parents, especially his father, once he began Oundle. He was sexually abused by one of his teachers; a pedophile with strong ties to the Anglican sect. This strong negative association with religion and fathers would set him up for his "atheistic conversion."
2. Dr. Daniel Dennett. Born in 1942, Dennett is a philosopher and cognitive scientist. He is co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and professor of philosophy at Tufts University, having obtained his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford. Dennett is perhaps best known for his book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomena (2006). He considers God as a meaningless idea generated by the human mind.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, young Daniel and his family moved to Lebanon during world War II, where his father was a counter-intelligence agent for the United States government. His father died in an unexplained plane crash in 1947, when Dennett was only five years old. Shortly thereafter, he moved back to the U.S. with his mother. Dennett has written in his autobiography, "In my youth some of my friends were the sons of eminent or even famous professors at Harvard or MIT, and I saw the toll it took on them as they strove to be worthy of their father's attention. I shudder to think what would have become of me if I had to live up to my father's actual, living expectations and not just those extrapolated in absentia by my friends and family." Dr. Vitz comments that this is odd. There is no sense of loss, and Dennett "shudders" to think what it would be like if he had a father growing up! Psychologically speaking, Dr. Vitz terms this an act of rationalization and denial.
3. Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens was born in 1949 and died in 2011 from complications due to esophageal cancer. He was an English-born journalist (later a U.S. citizen) best known for his attacks on religion, most notably, his work God is not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything (2007). He hated God because he despised the idea of a Supreme Being in control of everything. Hitchens was a libertarian, and considered God an obstacle to liberty. He came to reject God for other reasons as well. His father was cold, and aloof. He rarely spoke and was a Naval officer in England. Hitchens refers to his father as the "Commander," ostensibly due to his being head of the household, as well as his military rank.
His father sent him to boarding school from age 8 to 18, after which he attended Oxford. He had little interaction with his father, and the few positive words he had for him were his admiration for his military record fighting the Nazis. Hitchens' father admired athletic prowess, and Christopher disappointed him as he was small in stature and an intellectual. Hitchens was very close to his mother, Yvonne. When he was a twenty year old student at Oxford, his mother told him she was bored with his father and was having an affair with a former Anglican "priest," Reverend Timothy Bryan. Both had become followers of the 1960s New Age "guru" Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Shortly thereafter, for reasons not entirely clear, Hitchens' mother and Timothy Bryan had made a suicide pact, and died together at a hotel in Athens. Hitchens blamed his father and the religious ex-Anglican minister for the death of his beloved mother.
4. Dr. Sam Harris. Little biographical information is known of this neuroscientist born in 1967. He grew up in a secular home with a non-practicing Quaker father, and a non-practicing Jewish mother. He was an English major in college, and became famous when his book The End of Faith became unexpectedly popular. He went back to school and received a PhD in neuroscience to try and prove God a product of the human mind. Harris despises Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, but has an affinity for Buddhism. Harris may be an exception to the hypothesis of Dr. Vitz. However, if Harris has a "dismissing personality style" (which would account for his detachment from his past), he would be more prone to "impersonal force" religions (like Buddhism) as opposed to traditional forms of monotheism.
There is nothing new about the New Atheists in terms of real arguments, only in terms of their hostility towards God, and their quest to extirpate Him from society. Dr. Vitz writes a compelling account of abusive, weak, or absent fathers in the lives of most prominent atheists. Remember this the next time someone wants to attribute your faith to some "psychological defect." While the "Defective Father Hypothesis" and the "Projection Theory" do not refute or prove atheism from a logical viewpoint, Dr. Vitz gives us much food for thought.
How we are raised will have an impact on our inclinations towards right and wrong, good and evil, God and atheism. St. Joseph was held up as the standard for fathers to follow prior to Vatican II. Now, look at what the Vatican II sect has brought upon the world. Divorce and "remarriage" are at an all-time high, with adulterers allowed to receive the Novus Bogus "communion" cracker. Sodomites are getting "married" and raising children, while Bergoglio says, "Who am I to judge?" So-called "single mothers," once a social stigma, are now common place and are allowed to function as "lectors" and "Eucharistic (sic) Ministers." Those of us who were born during Vatican II have seen more dysfunction arise in families and society than ever before. I cannot bring myself to think what those who are raised in the current culture prepared by Vatican II (and moved forward by Frankie) will turn out to be.