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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romans 1 Apologetics
Spiegel takes on Paul case that disbelief spring forth from going against God created order. He did a brilliant job to show that " Atheism is not at all a consequence of intellectual doubts. Such doubts are mere symptoms of the root cause—moral rebellion. For the atheist, the missing ingredient is not evidence but obedience."

J. Budzisewski would...
Published 20 months ago by Prayson Daniel

versus
184 of 268 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All baseless assertion, no demonstration.
In this review I am only going to deal with the main thesis of the book. I am not going to deal with all the other issues he brings up concerning the rational merit of the arguments for or against Theism.

The main thesis of the book is that ALL atheists dont really disbelieve in God predicated on lack of evidence for, stronge evidence against, or both; but...
Published on February 25, 2010 by Andrew Atkinson


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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romans 1 Apologetics, January 15, 2013
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Spiegel takes on Paul case that disbelief spring forth from going against God created order. He did a brilliant job to show that " Atheism is not at all a consequence of intellectual doubts. Such doubts are mere symptoms of the root cause—moral rebellion. For the atheist, the missing ingredient is not evidence but obedience."

J. Budzisewski would concur with Spiegel that : "It’s a funny thing about us human beings: not many of us doubt God’s existence and then start sinning. Most of us sin and then start doubting His existence."

I will recommend this book to those who wish to view atheism from a Biblical point of view. This book does not offer case for or refute case against God but try to find the moral reason that ground disbelief in God.

It is different from other apologetics books I have read before, and I am glad to have come cross it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!!, February 12, 2014
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This review is from: The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Paperback)
James believes the rise in new groups of atheists is because of one or two factors. You may not agree with his diagnosis but it is certainly and interesting proposal. He summarizes the positions well on some of these guys. I have read this through several times and enjoyed it each time
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184 of 268 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All baseless assertion, no demonstration., February 25, 2010
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This review is from: The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Paperback)
In this review I am only going to deal with the main thesis of the book. I am not going to deal with all the other issues he brings up concerning the rational merit of the arguments for or against Theism.

The main thesis of the book is that ALL atheists dont really disbelieve in God predicated on lack of evidence for, stronge evidence against, or both; but that atheists dont believe in God because we are immoral and willfully deny it. He charges all atheist by default with not having intellectual integrity in regards to this issue.

I used to be a very strong Christian. I have read hundreds of books dealing with worldview issues(more books on the Christian side), and all the arguments pro and con concerning religion and Christianity. I ended up becoming an atheist about two years ago by examining the arguments the best I could. Intellectual integrity means A LOT to me, and for someone to charge all atheists and myself to necessarily not have intellectual integrity concerning this issue is offensive and just plain wrong and without foundation. The mistreatment, hate, and unwarranted prejudice of ideas that this books supports are incalcuable, and this saddens me. Why just single out atheists? Are the believers in all the other religions exempt from this charge? If his thesis includes all disbelievers in Christianity then 75% of the world would be included in this unfounded charge of immorality being the cause of disbelief in his God.

So what is the evidence for his thesis, and what is the evidence against it?

There is no more positive evidence for his thesis, then there is that disbelief in astrology, Zeus, Poseidon, Scientology, mormons magic underwear, and the millions of other Gods(and different versions of his own) is a result not of reasoned disbelief but rather is caused by immorality and willful denial of an overwhelming mountain of ironclad evidence that is close to being self-evident but is not quite so, in order to save are "free will".

He quotes certain Atheists saying they dont want "God" to exist, and for some reason he thinks that this indicates that most if not all atheist are this way. First of all, if wanting something to be so or not to be so, calls the belief or disbelief into suspicion; then all peoples religious beliefs and disbeliefs are in the same boat, because all Christians do and dont want both certain other gods as well as many versions of the Christian God to exist(such as calvins god). Secondly many atheist would prefer there to be a God, either way this does not preclude Christians or Atheists from basing their belief or disbelief in God on a reasoned consideration of the evidence.

He claims that many atheists disbelief is rooted in the absence of a Good father figure. Here he commits the fallacy of special pleading by cherry picking a group of famous atheists that apparently had no fathers or had a bad relationship with their own, and then he selects different famous theists who apparently had good fathers and good relationships with them. This does not work though, because out of the millions of atheists and christians there are many with both good and bad, absent and not absent, as well as ones with good relationships and bad ones with their father. Unless he can find samples that could represent the whole demographic of believers and unbeleivers, this is just baseless conjecture. Even if he could show this, it would still only show correlation not causation. The same goes for him and others saying they know some atheists that are "bad or immoral" therefore this indicates they all are. Every Christian knows Christians they consider immoral, does this mean this is the cause of their disbelief in the Muslim God, or that Christians tend to be more immoral then everyone else?

Atheist differ on whether there is good negative evidence against God or certain types of Gods, but all agree that there is not enough adequate positive evidence and/or reasons to justify Theism, especially full blown Christian Theism. Spiegel claims that the evidence for God is so overwhelming that someone must be deluded or immoral in order not to concede that God exists. This is odd to me, because the overwhelming majority of Christian theologians, philosophers, and everyday Christians all throughout history and presently were not and are not evidentialist(that you should proportion your beliefs in accordance with the evidence) and agree with the atheists contention, in so far that basing things off reason and evidence alone will not suffice in grounding and demonstrating Christian Theism to be the most probable over any and all alternatives. They would argue that you must leap beyond the evidence(and some would say even against evidence) and have faith. So does that mean that most Christians are immoral or willfully blind since they dont think there is ironclad evidence and or reason that could prove Christianity to be certain or even the most probable?

So what if you could show that Christians as a group were more moral then atheists? This still would not show that all atheists do not base there views on reason but instead disbelieve for non-rational or irrational reasons. Correlation does not prove causation. What if it could be shown that Catholics were more moral then Protestants, would this prove that protestants had their views because of their immorality and willfull disregard for following where the evidence leaded? Obviously not!

So what evidence is there on the moral status of both Atheist individuals and societies that are more atheistic? Here is what Luke(blogger who writes the blog common sense atheism) said about the issue of morality and secular societes.

"Christians often assert that religion is necessary to keep a society healthy, happy and moral. They say that a society without God would be immoral, loveless, and miserable. This is not just the position of Pat Robertson and Bill O'Reilly, or even just of mainstream evangelicals. It is even proclaimed by professional Christian philosophers like Keith Ward1 and John Caputo.

Until recently, this assertion could not be tested because all societies were deeply religious. Moreover, the first atheistic societies had atheism forced upon them by brutal dictators (Hoxha's Albania, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia), and thus were hardly models of a healthy society.

Only near the dawn of the 21st century did Planet Earth see a few societies of "organic" (unforced) atheism emerge: most notably, Denmark and Sweden.2 So, now that we finally have a natural experiment on the issue, does the data confirm or deny the claim that religion is necessary to maintain a healthy, happy and moral society?

Society without God (2008) is sociologist Phil Zuckerman's analysis of the societal and moral health of these two atheistic societies.

So, what do the data show about the health, happiness and morality of these non-religious societies?

The data could hardly be clearer. Denmark and Sweden rank among the most well-developed, wealthiest, most democratic, most free, most entrepreneurial, least corrupt, least violent, most peaceful, healthiest, happiest, most egalitarian, best educated, most charitable, and most environmentally compassionate societies in the entire world.

Well-developed
As of the 2008 United Nations' Human Development Report, which ranks nations on a measure of "human development" (long and healthy life, education, and standard of living), Denmark is 14th and Sweden is 6th. (In contrast, the 50 least-developed nations are all highly religious.) Another "summary" measure is The Economist's Quality of Life Index, which ranks Denmark and Sweden 9th and 5th in the world.

Wealthiest
Sweden and Denmark are ranked 17th and 18th in GDP per capita, according to the International Monetary Fund. In fact, the list of the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world is dominated by non-religious nations. Denmark and Sweden rank 3rd and 10th in financial satisfaction. Also note that among the 50 poorest countries on Earth, all are extremely religious.

Most democratic
According to World Audit, Denmark and Sweden are the most democractic nations on earth. The Global Democracy Ranking lists them at #1 and #3. The Economist's Democracy Index ranks them 1st and 5th.

Most free
The Heritage Foundation ranks Denmark and Sweden 6th and 11th on economic freedom. They rank 8th and 4th in freedom in decision making. Reporters Without Border ranks them 14th and 7th in press freedom, with Freedom House ranking them 3rd and 5th.

Most entrepreneurial
The World Economic Forum ranks nations by economic competitiveness, and nearly all the top spots are dominated by non-religious nations, including Denmark and Sweden. The same story holds for specific measures of entrepreneurship, for example Denmark and Sweden rank among the top 5 nations where it is cheapest to start a new business.

Least corrupt
Transparency International ranks Denmark and Sweden as the 1st and 4th least corrupt nations on earth.

Least violent
Denmark and Sweden both rank low in murders per capita. Both Fox & Levin (2000) and Fajnzylber et. al. (2002) found that all the nations with high homicide rates were extremely religious, and that the nations with the lowest homicide rates tended to be relatively non-religious. Good statistics on other measures like rape and violent crime are difficult to compile because nations measure crime differently, and such statistics are often more a measure of the effectiveness of a nation's justice system and a culture's willingness to report crimes than they are a measure of actual incidences of violence.

Most peaceful
Denmark and Sweden rank 2nd and 6th on the Global Peace Index, whose top ranks are dominated by non-religious nations.

Healthiest
Again, according to the 2008 Human Development Report, Denmark and Sweden are ranked among the top 20 nations on life expectancy, and are ranked 3rd and 4th for the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. UNICEF's 2007 State of the World's Children report ranks Denmark, Sweden, and the similarly non-religious Netherlands as the three best countries in the world concerning "child welfare" (their safety, education, and health). In terms of physicians per 100,000 people, Denmark is 14th and Sweden is 6th.

Happiest
Ruut Veenhoven, a leading researcher on world happiness, maintains the World Database of Happiness, a ranking of nations by happiness level. Denmark currently ranks 2nd (behind similarly non-religious Iceland), and Sweden ranks 8th. Another ranking has Denmark and Sweden tied for the 2nd happiest nations on earth. Only 5% of Danes and 4% of Swedes report being "not very happy" or "not at all happy." Nations with high rates of "organic" atheism do tend to have higher rates of suicide than highly religious nations, and this may be partially explained by their progressive policies about assisted suicide and a lack of religious taboos against suicide. That is, organically non-religious societies let people die how they want to die, rather than prohibiting people from taking their own life into their own hands. But the picture here is confusing. Though Denmark and Sweden do rank among the happiest nations on earth according to several studies, they also rank high in depressive episodes per capita. And yet, they rank 1st and 9th in life satisfaction!

Most egalitarian
According to the CIA World Factbook, Denmark and Sweden have the greatest income equality in the world. And once again we find that most of the most equal countries in the world are non-religious. And how about gender equality? Here, it should not surprise anyone that the list of most gender-equal nations is dominated by non-religious societies, including Denmark and Sweden, which also have the 2nd and 4th highest rates of women in positions of national political power (again, see the UN's Human Development Report).

Best educated
For literacy, Denmark and Sweden are, of course, at 99%. In terms of government investment in education as a percentage of GDP, Denmark and Sweden rank 8th and 12th. In terms of adults who have finished secondary education, they rank 5th and 7th. Also note that of the 50 countries with the lowest adult literacy rates, all are extremely religious.

Most charitable
Denmark and Sweden rank 5th and 1st in official development assistance as a percentage of Gross National Income. Ranked by percentage of population who are members of volunteer organizations, Denmark and Sweden are 16th and 8th.

Environmentally compassionate
According to the Climate Change Performance Index, Sweden is 1st and Denmark is 7th in terms of doing the most to improve environmental conditions. Yale's Environmental Performance Index ranks Sweden 3rd and Denmark 26th. Ranked by spending on pollution control as a percentage of GDP, these nations rank 8th and 13th. By percentage of of companies found to be environmentally sustainable, they rank 7th and 8th. Once again, a glance at such lists reveals that the top ranks are dominated by non-religious nations.

I repeat: Denmark and Sweden rank among the most well-developed, wealthiest, most democratic, most free, most entrepreneurial, least corrupt, least violent, most peaceful, healthiest, happiest, most egalitarian, best educated, most charitable, and most environmentally compassionate societies in the entire world.

Clearly, religion is not required to sustain healthy, happy, and moral societies.

For the theist, Zuckerman's book should be an eye-opener. For the atheist, Society without God is a warehouse of ammunition (facts, statistics, and sources) against claims that religion is a necessary ingredient for healthy, happy, and moral society.

By the way, none of this is meant to suggest that atheism causes healthy societies. The correlation between atheism and societal health merely debunks Christian claims that religion is a necessary ingredient in a healthy society. If there is a causal link between the two at all, I would suspect the reverse: that happiness, success, wealth, education, and security tend to open the door for an abandonment of superstitious crutches.

Notes:
1.In Defense of the Soul, pages 8-10. [']
2.Here, I'll reproduce Zuckerman's sources: Greely (2003) found that 34% of Danes and 26% of Swedes are theists. As for belief in a "personal God," Botvar ("Kristen tro I Norden" in Folkkyrkor och Religios Pluralism, 2000) found the numbers to be 20% and 18%, Bondeson (2003) measured 51% and 26%, Lambert (2003) measured 24% and 16%. According to Inglehart, similarly low figures are found for belief in life after death (30% and 33%), heaven (18% and 31%), hell (10% and 10%), sin (21% and 26%). Danes and Swedes also don't believe the Bible is the word of God (7% and 3%, according to Botvar), and they don't attend religious services (only 12% of Danes and 9% of Swedes attend chuch once a month, according to Inglehart). It should be noted that Norway is also one of the most non-religious nations on earth, and usually ranks similarly to Denmark and Sweden on measures of societal health. That Zuckerman didn't write a book about Denmark, Sweden, and Norway surprises me."

Here is a quote from Beit-Hallahmi in the book "The cambridge companion to atheism" summarizing research and statistics concerning atheists.

" We can say that atheists show themselves to be less athoritarian and suggestible, less dogmatic, less prejudiced, more tolerant of others, law-abiding, compassionate, conscientious, and well educated. They are of high intelligence, and many are committed to the intellectual and scholarly life. In short, they are good to have as neighbors."

There is no good evidence showing a correlation between immorality and disbelief. There is good evidence showing a correlation to the contrary. Exactly the opposite of what you should see if his thesis was correct. Even if you could show a correlation, it would still not demonstrate that immorality and willfull denial is the cause of people not believing in God or the Christian god, anymore then if you could show that people who disbelieved in the claims of Astrology were more immoral then people who did believe in astrology would prove that the cause of the their denial of astrology was caused by their immorality and willfull denial of the evidence.

For many atheists one of the reasons for rejecting the Christian God was not because they were immoral, but BECAUSE of their moral conscience. This is how many atheists see common theistic argument of the "know bible God know humane ethics" variety "we would not even have any ethical bases NOT to commit unwarranted gratitouse acts of genocide, rape, murder and things such as ; unless we worship and believe in the almighty morally perfect being who sanctions, commits, and or condones genocide, rape, murder and things such as". There are many good reasons to pick moral act a over b, and you need not an evil God in order to have those reasons.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different apologetic, December 9, 2013
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This review is from: The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Paperback)
The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (2010) is an interesting apologetic text by philosopher James Spiegel. Typically, apologetics books deal with arguments themselves whereas Spiegel's book examines atheism from the perspective of morality. Working from biblical evidence such as Romans 1, he contends that the reason individuals reject God is because of their immorality, which causes them to reject the clear evidence for God.

He begins by referencing the atheists themselves, such as Thomas Nagel who has said that he doesn't want God to exist. They are willing to accept wild theories rather than accepting the evidence for God. For example, both Francis Crick and and Richard Dawkins are open to the notion of directed panspermia, which is that life appeared because aliens planted it here.

He also argued that certain factors, specifically fatherlessness and immorality, predispose people to reject God. I suspect that these factors led to significant resistance to Spiegel's hypotheses, though probably for emotional, rather than logical reasons.

At the end of the book, he concludes with a short chapter on The Blessings of Theism. A common ploy from many of the new atheists is to talk about how theism is bad for society. Reality proves otherwise.

If you have an interest in why people think the way they do, this may be a good read for.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Who is the fool?, July 23, 2013
If the new atheists distinguished themselves from the milquetoast atheism that preceded them by their honing of a sharper rhetorical knife, James Spiegel's book The Making of an Atheist responds with the razor sharp edge of a Samurai sword. If the new atheists have specialized in sweeping assertions about the questionable rationality of Christians, Spiegel one-ups them with sweeping assertions about the morality of atheism. If the new atheists have berated Christians as a bit soft in the head, Spiegel returns the favor by leveling a charge of corruption in the soul.

Get it? The picture ain't pretty.

Atheism, says Spiegel, is not really an "intellectual movement". Rather, "It is little more than moral rebellion cloaked in academic regalia. The new atheists are blinded by their own sin." Atheism shirks an "objective assessment of evidence" because of "stubborn disobedience" and "willful rebellion". It is "the suppression of truth by wickedness, the cognitive consequence of immorality. In short, it is sin that is the mother of unbelief."

And that's just in the first few pages of the first chapter!

While Spiegel believes that, biblically speaking, atheist are fools, he stresses that this is not foolishness as mere ignorance. Atheists are not "simply obtuse or feeble-minded". Rather, they are in deep moral rebellion. He explains:

"When smart people go in irrational directions, it is time to look elsewhere than reasoning ability for an explanation. And Scripture gives us clear direction as to where we should look. Consider the psalmist's declaration that `the fool says in his heart, `There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1). The Hebrew term rendered `fool' here denotes a person who is `morally deficient.' And elsewhere in the Old Testament Wisdom Literature we learn of various symptoms of this moral deficiency. The book of Proverbs says `a fool finds no pleasure in understanding' (Proverbs 18:2), that `fools despise wisdom and discipline' (Proverbs 1:7), that `a fool finds pleasure in evil conduct' (Proverbs 10:23) and is `hotheaded and reckless' (Proverbs 14:16)." "It is not intelligence they lack so much as self-control and the right values."

Spiegel provides other scriptures to support his provocative thesis. For instance, he observes of Ephesians 4:17-19: "The root of the problem, apparently, is not a lack of intelligence but rather a hardness of heart that is itself caused by immoral behavior." He cites John 3:19-21, "men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil", and then observes:

"Note also Jesus' point that evildoers do not simply ignore or reject the light but actually `hate' it. If this is so, then we should expect some atheists to display a certain amount of bitterness and even rage toward the idea of God. And, of course, this is just what we find among many atheists, especially the leaders of the new atheism."

But the most important passage for Spiegel's provocative thesis is Romans 1:18-21:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

After quoting Romans 1 Spiegel concludes:

"In this passage Paul makes clear that the problem with those who don't believe in God is not lack of evidence. On the contrary, God has made His existence and attributes so `plain' and `clearly seen' from creation that belief is inexcusable. He also explains how, in spite of this, some reject the truth, specifically through immoral behavior."

A book like The Making of an Atheist is extraordinarily provocative, but it is really important in assessing it that we keep our wits about ourselves. A level head and a cool demeanor will serve us well if we are to weigh the extraordinarily robust thesis.

And that is the place to begin, with an appreciation of just how extraordinarily robust this thesis is. Spiegel seems to believe that anybody who fails to believe the proposition that God exists does so out of rebellion. I don't dispute that some people fail to believe this proposition out of some sort of rebellion (or at least with rebellion as a contributing factor). This should be no surprise for there are many things we can fail to believe at least in part due to our own rebellion. According to a popular story, certain Catholic church leaders and philosophers simply refused to peer through Galileo's telescope. Whether that happened or not, we all know that people can sometimes retrench in a position out of irrational obstinance, and the withholding of belief in God can certainly be an instance of that.

But it is quite another thing to suggest that failure to believe in God is always a matter of rebellion. Let's start by making it clear that Spiegel's moral rebellion thesis captures not only atheists but agnostics as well since on Spiegel's view anybody who fails to affirm that God exists is in rebellion. In "The night Dr. Z became an agnostic" I discuss a scenario of a Christian doctor who becomes an agnostic after witnessing moral horrors in the Congo. Does Dr. Z's move to agnosticism indicate moral rebellion? Spiegel requires us to think so.

Spiegel acknowledges the problem of evil, but he insists that it doesn't call theism into question. Instead, it only calls God's goodness into question. He writes:

"The objection from evil does pack some punch, and it is a genuine problem for theists. But it could never count as grounds for atheism. Even if successful, it only undermines certain beliefs about the nature of God. It does not--nor could any argument--disprove the existence of a world creator and designer."

"At most, evil should prompt us to reconsider what kind of God exists, not whether God exists."

This analysis is deeply flawed. For one thing, the problem of evil cannot be separated so neatly from arguments for a world-designer as Spiegel seems to suppose. From kluges to carnivores, the structure of the world suggests to many people that if there is a designer then he is either inept or malevolent. Whether they are correct or not, these are most certainly not hermetically sealed categories. The boundary between the problem of evil and arguments for design is porous indeed.

And it is difficult to fathom how Spiegel could offer a meaningful critique of Dr. Z's position. Who is to say that after attempting to repair the upteenth fistula due to a brutal gang rape, Dr. Z ought to have concluded "Maybe God isn't good" rather than "Maybe God doesn't exist"?

Even worse, Spiegel's proposed resolution of the problem of evil offers a very strange take on Romans 1. According to this analysis it would be rebellious to become an agnostic but it would not be rebellious to conclude that God exists and is malevolent like Shiva or Molech. I highly doubt Paul would have been satisfied with such an analysis of his own words.

Note as well that even Mother Teresa comes out as rebellious on Spiegel's analysis. You see, in her posthumously published journals we discovered that Mother Teresa frequently struggled with doubting the very existence of God. If such doubt is a sign of rebellion (as per Romans 1) then Mother Teresa was in rebellion against God. Essentially Spiegel has offered us a prosperity gospel when it comes to belief in God. Just as the conventional prosperity gospel chalks up sickness and poverty to a lack of faith, so Spiegel chalks up doubt and disbelief to the presence of rebellion. Perhaps this seems like a good idea when you're targeting the new atheists. But Mother Teresa?

So let's concede, pace Spiegel, that Mother Teresa did have some non-sinful doubts. What about other people? Might others have non-sinful doubts? Might others fail to believe God exists due to something other than sinful rebellion? The minute we concede this possibility the neat categories of Spiegel's analysis begin to erode.

This brings me to Spiegel's use of scripture which is little more than proof-texting. Many of the texts Spiegel cites talk about foolishness and rebellion generally and are not particularly germane to atheism. The texts that do seem to relate explicitly to atheism specifically are Psalm 14:1/53:1 and Romans 1. I address the Psalm passages in the article "Are atheists all fools?" (I also do so at more length in You're not as Crazy as I Think.) There I note that Psalm 14 and 53 are not really talking about atheists at all. Rather, they're talking about folks who purport to believe in God and then live inconsistently with their belief. So ironically enough, the Christian who quotes Psalm 14 to describe atheists may be oblivious to the indictment the text provides to that very Christian.

This is where things get awkward for Spiegel. You see, one would think that living consistently with one's Christian beliefs would involve commitment to the Golden Rule. And the Golden Rule would surely oblige a scholar to present the views of his interlocutors with the greatest nuance and charity. As you might have guessed, Spiegel does not present the views of naturalists (where "naturalist" is a particular kind of atheist) with the greatest nuance and charity. For example, he asserts that "naturalists only believe in physical facts" from which it follows that they can't believe in evil. This is a caricature of naturalism which presents a clear violation of the Golden Rule since Spiegel most assuredly would not like Christianity to be caricatured in this way. And by professing belief in God while failing to follow the teachings of Jesus, Spiegel places himself under the condemnation of Psalm 14:1, an ironic conclusion to be sure.

Of course, this isn't just a slight on Spiegel, for there isn't a Christian alive who consistently lives out the teachings of Jesus. We all live inconsistently with our beliefs, and when we do we find ourselves under the same condemnation that we apply to others.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Unctuously Offensive and Just Plain Wrong, March 21, 2013
This review is from: The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Paperback)
Let's start with the observation that atheistic nations tend to have strong social safety nets and progressive tax brackets (which lead to lower crime rates). Then we have the US, the most religious first-world nation with the highest teen pregnancy and murder rates.

To call his "reasons" as to why people leave Christianity "tenuous" is an overstatement. This tome abounds with arrogant, presumptuous assertions with nothing but the author's word and a handful of anecdotal examples (such as Bertrand Russel's issues with his father). Attempting to blanket his audience with claims and babble does nothing to shore up his case.

Now let's move on to a more global view, shall we?

Well-developed

As of the 2008 United Nations' Human Development Report, which ranks nations on a measure of "human development" (long and healthy life, education, and standard of living), Denmark is 14th and Sweden is 6th. (In contrast, the 50 least-developed nations are all highly religious.) Another "summary" measure is The Economist's Quality of Life Index, which ranks Denmark and Sweden 9th and 5th in the world.

Wealthiest

Sweden and Denmark are ranked 17th and 18th in GDP per capita, according to the International Monetary Fund. In fact, the list of the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world is dominated by non-religious nations. Denmark and Sweden rank 3rd and 10th in financial satisfaction. Also note that among the 50 poorest countries on Earth, all are extremely religious.

Most democratic

According to World Audit, Denmark and Sweden are the most democractic nations on earth. The Global Democracy Ranking lists them at #1 and #3. The Economist's Democracy Index ranks them 1st and 5th.

Most free

The Heritage Foundation ranks Denmark and Sweden 6th and 11th on economic freedom. They rank 8th and 4th in freedom in decision making. Reporters Without Border ranks them 14th and 7th in press freedom, with Freedom House ranking them 3rd and 5th.

Most entrepreneurial

The World Economic Forum ranks nations by economic competitiveness, and nearly all the top spots are dominated by non-religious nations, including Denmark and Sweden. The same story holds for specific measures of entrepreneurship, for example Denmark and Sweden rank among the top 5 nations where it is cheapest to start a new business.

Least corrupt

Transparency International ranks Denmark and Sweden as the 1st and 4th least corrupt nations on earth.

Least violent

Denmark and Sweden both rank low in murders per capita. Both Fox & Levin (2000) and Fajnzylber et. al. (2002) found that all the nations with high homicide rates were extremely religious, and that the nations with the lowest homicide rates tended to be relatively non-religious. Good statistics on other measures like rape and violent crime are difficult to compile because nations measure crime differently, and such statistics are often more a measure of the effectiveness of a nation's justice system and a culture's willingness to report crimes than they are a measure of actual incidences of violence.

Most peaceful

Denmark and Sweden rank 2nd and 6th on the Global Peace Index, whose top ranks are dominated by non-religious nations.

Healthiest

Again, according to the 2008 Human Development Report, Denmark and Sweden are ranked among the top 20 nations on life expectancy, and are ranked 3rd and 4th for the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. UNICEF's 2007 State of the World's Children report ranks Denmark, Sweden, and the similarly non-religious Netherlands as the three best countries in the world concerning "child welfare" (their safety, education, and health). In terms of physicians per 100,000 people, Denmark is 14th and Sweden is 6th.

Happiest

Ruut Veenhoven, a leading researcher on world happiness, maintains the World Database of Happiness, a ranking of nations by happiness level. Denmark currently ranks 2nd (behind similarly non-religious Iceland), and Sweden ranks 8th. Another ranking has Denmark and Sweden tied for the 2nd happiest nations on earth. Only 5% of Danes and 4% of Swedes report being "not very happy" or "not at all happy." Nations with high rates of "organic" atheism do tend to have higher rates of suicide than highly religious nations, and this may be partially explained by their progressive policies about assisted suicide and a lack of religious taboos against suicide. That is, organically non-religious societies let people die how they want to die, rather than prohibiting people from taking their own life into their own hands. But the picture here is confusing. Though Denmark and Sweden do rank among the happiest nations on earth according to several studies, they also rank high in depressive episodes per capita. And yet, they rank 1st and 9th in life satisfaction!

Most egalitarian

According to the CIA World Factbook, Denmark and Sweden have the greatest income equality in the world. And once again we find that most of the most equal countries in the world are non-religious. And how about gender equality? Here, it should not surprise anyone that the list of most gender-equal nations is dominated by non-religious societies, including Denmark and Sweden, which also have the 2nd and 4th highest rates of women in positions of national political power (again, see the UN's Human Development Report).

Best educated

For literacy, Denmark and Sweden are, of course, at 99%. In terms of government investment in education as a percentage of GDP, Denmark and Sweden rank 8th and 12th. In terms of adults who have finished secondary education, they rank 5th and 7th. Also note that of the 50 countries with the lowest adult literacy rates, all are extremely religious.

Most charitable

Denmark and Sweden rank 5th and 1st in official development assistance as a percentage of Gross National Income. Ranked by percentage of population who are members of volunteer organizations, Denmark and Sweden are 16th and 8th.

Environmentally compassionate

According to the Climate Change Performance Index, Sweden is 1st and Denmark is 7th in terms of doing the most to improve environmental conditions. Yale's Environmental Performance Index ranks Sweden 3rd and Denmark 26th. Ranked by spending on pollution control as a percentage of GDP, these nations rank 8th and 13th. By percentage of of companies found to be environmentally sustainable, they rank 7th and 8th. Once again, a glance at such lists reveals that the top ranks are dominated by non-religious nations.

Denmark and Sweden are also highly non-religious and left-leaning, liberal havens. There are no pushes for Intelligent Design or mandatory prayer in public schools, either.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Christian Review: An Essential Response to the New Atheists, November 11, 2013
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This review will provide a critical critique of James Spiegel's book The Making of an Atheist to fellow believers in the God of the Bible, the intended audience of the book. More specifically, it will articulate Spiegel's central thesis and an overview of each chapter will examine how Spiegel supports this thesis. This review will also highlight the significance of the book as a response to the New Atheism and emphasize the book's strengths and weaknesses.
Spiegel wastes no time describing the New Atheists' opposition to Christianity. At the beginning of the book, he cites the belligerent quotes of three prominent players in the movement. Sam Harris declares, "The biblical God is a fiction, like Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom most sane human beings now ignore." Christopher Hitchens said, "Religion poisons everything." Richard Dawkins calls God a "delusion" and labels Him "a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, blood thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." Spiegel points out that the only new thing these men offer the atheist position is their "degree of bombast" and a prose that "seethes with outrage." Though their intellectual arguments have been repeatedly rebutted by Christian and non-Christian philosophers and theologians over the centuries, they present themselves as having arrived at their conclusions by intellectual inquiry. Spiegel's central thesis contradicts this very idea.
Spiegel explicitly states, "I want to show that atheism is not ultimately about arguments and evidence." He elaborates further, "Atheism is *not at all* a consequence of intellectual doubts. Such doubts are mere symptoms of the root cause - moral rebellion. For the atheist, the missing ingredient is not evidence but obedience (emphasis his)." This is Spiegel's central thesis, that atheism is a consequence of moral rebellion and not intellectual doubt.
Before continuing, a possible objection already exists. Is this central thesis a false dilemma? Spiegel does use the phrase, with emphasis, "not at all" when denying intellectual doubts as a cause of atheism. To show that there is a false dilemma, however, one would have to show that there exists an additional third possible conclusion to the following two: (1) atheism is entirely the result of intellectual doubt, or (2) atheism is entirely the result of moral rebellion. Is there a third possible conclusion? Could it be both? Spiegel points to Romans 1:18 and 20 as evidence that conclusion (2) is universally applicable to all unbelievers and there exists no defense or justification for their "refusal to accept it." I agree with his conclusion. According to God's Word, there is no excuse for unbelief, and there is no false dilemma.
Spiegel sets out to support this thesis in the first chapter by demonstrating the errors of atheists' arguments. He gives the reader a definition of "atheist" for the sake of the book. He states, "To simplify my language in this book, I will use the term "atheist" to refer to anyone who does not believe in God. This allows me to just use the term "atheist" rather than repeatedly referring to "atheists and other non-theists" throughout our discussion."
Therein lays, in my opinion, the major flaw in the book. Is Spiegel's central thesis referring to disbelief in monotheism or the God of the Bible? Noteworthy is the fact that Spiegel capitalizes "God" in this quote. I took that to refer to the God of the Bible. Furthermore, there are forms of monotheism, such as deism, that also reject the God of the Bible. Would that not also be a rejection based on moral rebellion consistent with Romans 1:18 and 20? It would seem so, but Spiegel turns to the conversion of Anthony Flew from atheism to deism as an example of rational evidence persuading someone away from atheism. Spiegel says, "...Flew explains his reasons for recanting atheism and affirming the reality of God." There is that capital G again. I disagree with Spiegel on this point. Flew did not affirm the reality of God. He merely affirmed the reality of monotheism. His conversion is still a very valid point that supports Spiegel's central thesis as it is, but he could have been clearer about what Flew actually affirmed. Furthermore, I believe Spiegel's central thesis should have been more clearly that the rejection of the God of the Bible is the consequence of moral rebellion.
This disagreement aside, the first chapter does well to address the objections of atheists. Spiegel points out that "the common objection from evil does pack some punch, and it is a genuine problem for theists." He rightly goes on to explain that it is a blatant non-sequitur to conclude from this problem that there is no God; and it merely follows that, if true, the problem only undermines our beliefs about the nature of God. Spiegel also points to the deathblow to the atheists' positivism, self-refutation. He also offers a compelling argument that moral values and the belief that life is meaningful are "borrowed capital for the atheist." This is indeed a glaring inconsistency for the positivist.
Spiegel concludes the first chapter by ceding that atheists are correct in some of their common objections. There are hypocritical believers. There are morally complacent believers. Religion has been used "as a pretext for shoddy scientific methodology." Spiegel even adds two more complaints that he has encountered among those who have left the faith. First, there is the divisiveness of non-essential doctrinal matters. Second, there is "distaste for some believers refusal to admit mystery when it is clearly appropriate to do so." I agree that these are valid complaints. I also agree, as Spiegel points out, that they do not constitute reasonable objections to theistic faith. At most, they accuse us as believers, not the belief itself.
In chapter two, Spiegel, as previously mentioned, cites the conversion of Anthony Flew from atheism to deism. By illustrating the teleological arguments that convinced Flew, Spiegel aims to show the "irrationality of atheism."
I think Spiegel missed an opportunity to clearly level at least two additional powerful arguments for the existence of God. The cosmological argument and the moral argument are commonly compelling arguments. Not everyone finds the teleological argument compelling, though perhaps one of the others they would. I perceive that Spiegel's intention was not to provide an in depth argument for the existence of God. It seems that the brevity and curtness of his central thesis and its support are rhetorical tools. I think those tools served him well, but they would not have been compromised with these additional arguments. To be fair and clear, Spiegel does present components of the moral argument in other parts throughout the book. I am merely suggesting that this chapter could have included these arguments in a clear, and even syllogistic, way. If these arguments for the existence of God were in the book, and the central thesis was narrowed to refer to all non-believers in the God of the Bible, I would have rated this book with five stars. I believe these are its two major weaknesses.
Spiegel also elaborates, in this chapter, on a biblical diagnosis for atheism. He points first to Psalm 14:1, "the fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" Spiegel notes that the Hebrew word for "fool" used here denotes a person who is "morally deficient." Spiegel puts the quotation marks on "morally deficient," but does not cite a source for this claim. Because Spiegel's area of expertise is in philosophy and religion, and not biblical languages, I would expect him to cite a source for this. Minor and nit-picky perhaps, but important to me.
Despite that weakness, he goes on to illustrate the scriptural evidence of the cause for disbelief with compelling passages. Most compelling to me in support of Spiegel's central thesis was John 3:19-21. Here, Jesus emphasizes the role of wickedness in rejecting the Truth. Jesus even makes the point that evildoers do not simply reject the light, but actually "hate" it. Spiegel also accurately cites Romans 1:18-24, 28-29, and Ephesians 4:17-19 to support his thesis.
Chapter three was to me the most intriguing. Spiegel stands up three causes for atheism. He cites the work of Paul Vitz in Faith of the Fatherless to show that a look at the lives of numerous renowned atheists have shared a common link of having abusive, perverted, or absent fathers. Spiegel is quick to follow this with the point that having a defective father does not guarantee one will become an atheist. This psychological consideration is both compelling support for Spiegel's thesis and most intriguing to me.
Another cause that Spiegel points to is a self-serving depravity. He points to several leading intellectuals and their accompanying egotistical perversions as evidence that atheism is self-serving. For example, Karl Marx was fiercely anti-Semitic, unfaithful to his wife, and sired an illegitimate son whom he refused to acknowledge. Jean Jacques Rousseau sired five illegitimate children and abandoned them to orphanages, which in his social context meant certain early death. Ernest Hemingway was a pathological liar, misogynistic womanizer, and self-destructive alcoholic. These are but a few of the examples Spiegel cites. His point is taken from Intellectuals by Paul Johnson, which Spiegel describes as "a 342 - page historical exposé that recounts behavior so sleazy and repugnant that one almost feels corrupted just by reading it." Spiegel best makes his point when he quotes Johnson thus, "the works of these intellectuals were often calculated to justify or minimize the shame of their own debauchery." This is exactly what one should expect to find if one considers the scriptural truths previously cited.
The third cause Spiegel points out is the "will to disbelieve." This he gives as a subtitle to this section, playing on the words of William James' influential essay The Will to Believe, which he cites often. A quote of James best sums up Spiegel's point: "If your heart does not want a world of moral reality, your head will assuredly never make you believe in one." He brings up the quote from Thomas Nagel, which he introduced earlier in the book, as evidence for this position. Nagel said, "I want atheism to be true...It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and, naturally, hope that I'm right about 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." Nagel's moment of honesty strikingly confirms this part of Spiegel's support for his thesis.
Chapter four introduces us to a concept Spiegel calls "paradigm-induced blindness." Of the person who suffers from this, Spiegel says, "Their theoretical framework prevents them from seeing the truth, even when it is right in front of them." Spiegel cites Thomas Kuhn's book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, to illustrate that it is a naïve notion to believe that scientists are immune to confirmation bias. Using the illustration of geocentric beliefs verses heliocentric beliefs of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Spiegel asks, "Why couldn't those geocentrists, including both church leaders and scientists, see the truth?" This is an example of opposing paradigms. The centers of the two paradigms of theism and atheism are expressed by Spiegel when he says, "God is the center of the theist's worldview, and this colors his or her every experience and value judgment. On the other hand, the axis of a worldview without God is necessarily the self, and the atheist's values and personal experience are shaped accordingly."
This atheist paradigm naturally prevents one from seeing certain sinful practices as immoral. In turn, their repugnance at a "narrow" or "repressed" Christian ethic, especially regarding sexual morality, serves to reinforce their atheist paradigm. Add to the mix the noetic effects of sin, and paradigm-induced blindness becomes a vicious cycle that entrenches the atheist in blind disbelief. This total causal pattern, Spiegel dubs "the psychological machinery of self-deception."
I think Spiegel has presented a compelling case in this chapter. I further believe that the biblical concept of the noetic effect of sin strongly supports this conclusion. The atheist might charge that the same can be said about Christianity, that the Christian paradigm induces blindness. While I believe this is a weak argument, I wish Spiegel had taken the time to address that possible objection.
In the last chapter, chapter five, Spiegel makes a positive claim for "the blessings of theism." He makes the point that there is apologetic value in the life well lived, and that the most effective tools of persuasion are personal virtue and self-sacrifice. I agree that these are indeed effective tools for persuasion in regards to Christianity, which I think is Spiegel's point. Considering that Matthew 7:13-14 teaches us that the road is narrow and the gate is small that leads to eternal life, and few find it, I don't agree with this statement in general. The most effective tools of persuasion, in general, seem to be self-indulgence and the justification of immorality. Perhaps that is why the road to destruction is wider?
As importantly, Spiegel gives three reasons why virtue is beneficial to one who is already a believer. First, one avoids the deadening of the sensus divinitatis. Second, virtue prevents motives for willful disbelief. Thirdly, living according to a true paradigm has the power to enlighten, clarify, and sharpen one's experience of the world.
Spiegel also points out that, in addition to the benefits of hope in eternal life and relief by forgiveness of sins, we also have "the right to complain and the privilege to thank." Because negative emotions are often the first steps towards doubt and disbelief, the right to complain to God is important. Because offering thanks can be profoundly satisfying and a form of psychological release, thanking God is important. Furthermore, Spiegel claims that the failure to be adequately thankful can cause one to have a distorted perception of pride and autonomy. These are indeed beneficial and compelling because the atheist worldview is left with the challenge of showing how this is not the case, while seeming axiomatic.
Spiegel concludes this chapter, and the book, with an eye to the grace that God showed us. With a reminder that, while everything we do warrants God's judgment, He intervened when we did nothing to deserve it. This love is a matter of virtue and should be "the first and last order of business for any Christian."
Spiegel has provided the Christian with a concise and effective resource to respond to the intrepid hostility, baseless conclusions, and deceptive irrationality of the New Atheists. While there is room for improvement, and I do not think this book provides the complete essentials to equip the Christian to respond to intellectual objections of atheists, I think this is a must read for Christians confronted with New Atheism in our society. Spiegel has supported his central thesis, that atheism is the result of moral rebellion and not intellectual doubt, very well. At 128 pages, it is such a profoundly powerful message in a small package, that atheists are guaranteed to hate it.
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24 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 130-page Christian Pep-Talk, April 26, 2010
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Louis Ressler (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Paperback)
As a former philosophy student of Professor Spiegel's at Taylor University, I was naturally eager to read his latest book. I was especially full of anticipation seeing as I entered Taylor as a Christian, and by the time I graduated, my "descent" (or ascent, depending on one's viewpoint) into atheism had already begun as a result of intense doubt in the rationality of theism (not, as Spiegel baselessly asserts in his book, as a result of immorality and consequent impaired cognitive function). I had and continue to have a great deal of respect for Spiegel. He's got a great mind and even greater heart (although by his own claim I have no basis to make such a statement since according to him my naturalistic control beliefs preclude me from making any value claims). But this book does not do him justice as a philosopher. It is little more than a pep talk for weary-minded Christians: believers who have been worn down by the overwhelming cumulative evidence against the veracity of their religion. Spiegel's own penchant for Reformed Epistemology and it's "negative apologetics" approach serve him well for this task. In the end, I find one scholar's description of Reformed Epistemology to fit this book equally as well: "fundamentalism on stilts." I refuse to let this book supplant my positive experience with Spiegel as a professor of philosophy. I know what he was trying to accomplish with it and I believe he does. But I'm also hopeful for sincere philosophical discourse on the matter from Spiegel in the near future. I refuse to believe that he's completely forsaken the philosophical ideal of following the evidence--the cumulative evidence--wherever it leads.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read!, August 15, 2013
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This book logically shows that the atheist chooses his worldview not because of the evidence, but rather because of the influence of sin and of his choice of an immoral lifestyle
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41 of 65 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An Angry Theist, May 21, 2010
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Richard W. Field (Maryville, MO USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Paperback)
Spiegel attempts in this book to show that atheism stems from two sources: (1) lack of a good father figure, and (2) a desire to escape religious moral proscriptions. The only problem is that he doesn't establish either thesis at all, and engages in some extraordinarily poor argument along the way.

It would be two cumbersome to point out all of the various errors made in this book. Spiegel claims that atheists cannot live happy lives. The a priori assumption is that a belief in personal immortality is necessary to live a happy life. But this question cannot be settled on the basis of armchair reasoning, but requires some empirical justification. Spiegel offers none. I had to wonder whether Spiegel has ever known an atheist personally. I'm an atheist and can honestly say I'm not living a life of despair. Were the ancient Greek philosophers, many of whom did not accept any notion of personal immortality, living lives of despair? One might at least consult Aristotle on this.

Spiegel offers the fine-tuning argument in order to bolster his claim that the existence of God is quite obvious, and thus atheists must be willfully rejecting God rather than rejecting his existence on rational grounds, but he doesn't consider seriously or accurately the objections to the argument. The one objection he mentions is the notion of the multiverse view, seriously considered by contemporary physicists, that there could be many numerous universes. His response is that this has not been demonstrated. But he misses the point of the objection. The fine-tuning argument relies on an often unstated premise, viz., that there is only one universe, or at least significantly restricted number of universes. So long as the multiverse view is a possibility this premise remains unsubstantiated. The fine-tuning argument is thus in limbo.

But now, what is his evidence for his two main contentions cited above? A list of a few prominent atheists whose fathers died young or were bad fathers, and a similar rather limited list of atheists whose behavior, according to Spiegel's lights, was immoral. That's it! No social scientist would accept the legitimacy of this methodology. Spiegel is trying to argue a causative claim. His evidence on the basis of any legitimate methodology is insufficient to even establish correlation, let alone causation. (I say "by his lights" since his chief moral complaint is sexual immorality, involving sexual promiscuity, open marriages, and homosexuality. This is simply tendentious, since although there are religious grounds to objecting to these, a nonreligious person might very well find no reason for objection. If so such people are not trying to "escape" moral opprobrium by atheism.)

Along the way we get claims that are so completely unfounded that it is a surprise, at least to me, that they are raised at all. To clinch his claim that atheists are willfully rejecting religion Spiegel adopts a Calvinist notion of the "sense of the divine" or "sensus divinitatis." Somehow he thinks his readers should nod their collective heads to a notion that hardly comes from an unbiased source. And further claims become even more ridiculous. "Consequently, the most one can do is `struggle furiously' against the awareness of God and the fear it evokes. However, if the sensus devinitatis is universal and cannot be squelched, then how can there be atheists?" (106). Again, I must wonder whether Spiegel knows any atheists personally. For one, I will assure him that I'm not struggling mightily against any "sensus divinitatis." But the argument becomes even more absurd: "Even small children have a sense of the divine, even if the lack the linguistic or conceptual tools to effectively communicate this" (107). I think John Locke offered a sufficient argument against this in his objection to the doctrine of innate ideas. To put it simply, how in the world do you know this?

The arguments offered in this book are so bad that the question is begged as to why the author ever wrote it. One explanation is, of course, intellectual obtuseness. He simply was incapable of recognizing how bad his arguments were. I think a more charitable interpretation, however, is revealed in a passage that refers to a main source, the psychologist Vitz. " While some might be critical of any attempt to psychologize the phenomenon of atheism, Vitz notes: `We must remember that it is atheists themselves who began the psychological approach to the question of belief'. Turnabout, as they say, if fair play" (64). This is nothing but tit for tat. Unfortunately it is rather bad tit for tat. I must admit some degree of embarrassment that this book comes from someone whose chosen profession I share.

Signed,
An atheist who had a wonderful father, adopted atheism at the age of thirteen because I realized I had no reasons to believe theism, and whose sexual life has been, well, rather sedate.
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The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief
The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief by James S. Spiegel (Paperback - January 21, 2010)
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