Friday, April 9, 2010

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief, by James S. Spiegel: A Refutation


For the last several years I've made it my mission to refute various books by christian apologists, such as Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker's Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God and David Aikman's The Delusion of Disbelief. [1] I've decided to write a refutation of James S. Spiegel's book The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief, published by Moody Publishers in 2010.

I'm going to use this introduction to point out errors in his introduction and then I'm going to begin with my chapter by chapter critique.

In the introduction Spiegel says the following, making his purpose clear:
"I want to show that atheism is not ultimately about arguments and evidence [...] These comments by [Thomas] Nagel, as well as those above by [Sam] Harris and [Richard] Dawkins, reveal strong emotions. Could it be that their opposition to religious faith has more to do with the will than with reason? What if, in the end, evidence has little to do with how atheists arrive at their anti-faith? Perhaps we should consider the possibility that skeptical objections are the atheists' facade, a scholarly veneer masking the real causes of their unbelief - causes that are moral and psychological in nature." [2]

The comments Spiegel refers to are the following, which I will comment on because I do not think they reveal what he thinks they do.

Of Harris, Spiegel quotes him as saying, "The biblical God is a fiction, like Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom most sane human beings now ignore." [3]

This comment by Harris is not in any way emotional. It is simply a fact. How Christians can sit there and argue that their god is real while the cemetery is filled to the brim with dead gods who are no longer worshiped and believed in because people see them as obviously imaginary.

Of Dawkins, Spiegel partially quotes that most famous line from Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, where the first sentence in Chapter 2 is how the God of the Old Testament is "a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." [4]

Once again, this comment is simply a fact. The god of the Old Testament is indeed all these things. Just read the bible and see for yourself! Second, the comment as stated by Dawkins himself in the Preface to the paperback edition of The God Delusion, was meant to be humorous:

"Contrast it [a quote by the British Member of Parliament Horatio Bottomley who in 1915 recommended that German waiters be physically assaulted] with the opening sentence of Chapter 2, which is the passage most often quoted as 'strident' or 'shrill.' It is not for me to say whether I succeed, but my intention was closer to robust but humorous broadside than shrill polemic. In public readings of The God Delusion this is one passage that is guaranteed to get a good-natured laugh, which is why my wife and I invariably use it as the warm-up act to break the ice with a new audience. If I could venture to suggest why the humour works, I think it is the incongruous mismatch between a subject that could have been stridently or vulgarly expressed, and the actual expression in a drawn-out list of Latinate or pseudo-scholarly words ('filicidal', 'megalomaniacal', 'pestilential'). My model here was one of the funniest writers of the twentieth century, and nobody could call Evelyn Waugh shrill or strident [...] Book critics or theatre critics can be derisively negative and gain delighted praise for the trenchant wit of their review. But in criticisms of religion even clarity ceases to be a virtue and sounds like aggressive hostility. A politician may attack an opponent scathingly across the floor of the House and earn plaudits for his robust pugnacity. But let a soberly reasoning critic of religion employ what would in other contexts sound merely direct or forthright, and it will be described as a 'rant'." [emphasis mine in bold] [5]

Finally, Spiegel quotes philosopher Thomas Nagel:

"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 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." [6]

After reading this passage in context in Nagel's The Last Word (1997) it does appear that he is describing a feeling he had, though he calls this fear "irrational." (131). I will discuss this quote later on.

As for Spiegel's remark that, "the possibility that skeptical objections are the atheists' facade, a scholarly veneer masking the real causes of their unbelief - causes that are moral and psychological in nature" sounds to me like a case of projection and illogical thinking.

Next, he quotes Dawkins from a radio interview on NPR on March 28, 2007 [7] as saying, "If it were ever shown that life on this planet was designed...then I would must have been some extraterrestrial intelligence, perhaps following Francis Crick's...suggestion of 'directed panspermia'...that life might have been seeded on Earth in the nose cone of a rocket sent from a distant civilization that wanted to spread its form of life around the universe." [8]

After quoting Dawkins Spiegel says, "Dawkins appeals to little green men as the creators of life on Earth , yet he calls theists delusional? What could inspire such silly thinking? How could an otherwise intelligent person propose this B-movie science fiction plot as a plausible theory? It certainly indicates that something other than a rational, dispassionate review of evidence is at work behind the thinking of Dawkins and the new atheists." [9]

While reading this passage I had a feeling Dawkins was being taken out of context (as does happen often!) just as he was when giving the same answer to the same question in that shameful mockery of a "documentary" Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. After listening to the radio show at the web address Spiegel cites, it's clear he is once again being taken out of context and my gut feeling was confirmed. The host asked Dawkins the following question:

"In trying to investigate the probability that a god exists through the lens that you have, which is evolutionary biology, you say, 'Any creative intelligence of sufficient complexity to design anything comes into existence only [as] the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution.' In other words what you're saying there [is] if there was a being as intelligent as God, that God would have had to emerge at the end of evolution, not the very beginning of it."

Dawkins was not arguing that is how he believes the origin of life got started! He was saying, that if life was discovered to have been designed, given the fact of evolution (which Spiegel conveniently leaves out), and that things obviously start out simple and often evolve to ever greater complexity, the only thing that could have "designed" life would be another evolved species, which we usually call "aliens."

That was a complete misrepresentation by Spiegel. Dawkins has written at great length about the possible origin of life and even devotes the entirety of chapter six in his book The Blind Watchmaker to it, where he discusses the statistical probabilities and describes the gradual process of natural selection acting upon organisms causing them to get more and more complex. And he never mentions aliens! What he also doesn't tell you is that in the interview Dawkins describes Crick's theory as a "slightly joking suggestion."

Following this blunder, the author makes another as he attempts to cite various biblical passages arguing that "evidence is not the atheist's problem" and that "atheists have no defense or justification for their unbelief." [10] Spiegel argues that "The biblical message is that there are moral dynamics involved in the abandonment of faith [...] what one believes about the world is always deeply impacted by one's values [...] According to the Bible, God's existence is clearly evident in creation, while atheism is the product of moral corruption." [11]

To any clear thinker, citing the bible to somehow prove your point is a complete waste of time. It is true that what one believes does impact one's actions; one only has to look at the history of religion to see this in action. Spiegel cannot turn this argument back around on atheists. Atheism is simply the lack of a belief; it lacks any sort of ideology. Therefore atheism cannot corrupt anyone or cause influence. But religion comes with all kinds of beliefs that often cause people to harm and even kill others. [12] As I've explained elsewhere, both christians and atheists are in the same boat morally to some degree, though I argue that atheists are in a better position morally. [13]

Near the end of the chapter Spiegel says, "Immorality hampers our ability to reason correctly, especially regarding moral and spiritual matters. And the more a person indulges in sin, the more his or her mind is corrupted, sometimes even to the point that one's awareness of God is deadened." [14]

Earlier, Spiegel argues that people do not "neutrally observe the world, gathering facts purely and simply without any preferences or predilections. [...] People are inclined to believe according to their desires; we tend to believe what we want to be true. [15]

Later on he argues, "[Thomas] Kuhn's claims, although controversial nearly half a century ago, are widely accepted among philosophers these days. His insights are helpful in explaining the resistance to evidence that people display in various contexts." [16]

I would agree that many peoples' views of the world are influenced by their own experiences, biases, religious beliefs, etc. How could they not when these things do have such influence in our lives? However, science, while there have been some issues with stubbornness to accept a new theory because of some attachment to a pet theory, most of the time scientists are highly objective, and weigh the evidence at hand and come to a conclusion, no matter how unsettling or new. It's the evidence that counts. It's not bias that there is abundant evidence proving evolution; it's not bias that scientists haven't found any evidence for an immaterial realm; it's not some 'attachment' to 'materialist' thinking; that's just what the evidence tells us.

Spiegel continues, "This includes the atheist's resistance to the evidence for God that is observable in nature. From their own writings, I think it's fair to say that Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, no less than Thomas Nagel, do not want there to be a God. [...] Their atheistic paradigm has ensured that they see no trace of God, despite the fact that His fingerprints can be seen everywhere in the world." [17]

Near the end of the chapter Spiegel writes, "The truth is that atheism is profoundly false. It is a misconstrual of reality at the most basic level. So it is no surprise that atheism as given rise to such harmful ideologies as Marxism and nihilism. [18] But perhaps most tragic of all is how deeply irrational atheism is - a form of irrationality that itself almost defies comprehension. The reality of God is manifest all around us, from the unimaginable vastness of our universe, with its hundreds of billions of galaxies, to the breathtakingly complex micro-universe of individual cells, to the elaborate machinations in animal and plant physiologies and the diverse ecosystems they comprise. To this list we could also add the phenomenon of human consciousness, moral truths, and the existence of beauty, mystical religious encounters, miraculous occurrences, and fulfilled biblical prophesies."

"To miss the divine import of any one of these aspects of God's creation is to flout reason itself. Yet this is precisely what atheists do, and it points to the fact that other factors give rise to the denial of God. Atheism is not the result of objective assessment of evidence, but of stubborn disobedience; it does not arise from the careful application of reason but from willful rebellion. Atheism is the suppression of truth by wickedness, the cognitive consequences of immorality. In short, it is sin that is the mother of unbelief." [19]

Clearly, the author has not read very carefully the writings of the New Atheists! He wishes to project his own issues of being unable to carefully weigh the evidence regarding god, while ignoring everything the New Atheists have stated in their writings about why they see no evidence of a god! Dawkins' The God Delusion had two entire chapters about why he thinks the god hypothesis is "almost certainly" false. There are countless examples in print as well as on the internet of the rationale atheists give for their disbelief. Even I've written extensively about it. [20] There is even a term in psychology that refers to this phenomenon: intellectual attribution bias, where people view their own beliefs as being rationally motivated, while others' are due to emotional reasons. There is also clear evidence that we are pattern-seeking animals and this easily explains why so many believe they see some kind of design, or patterns in the world even when they're not really there. These experiences and beliefs are easily explained by psychology. [21]

The reasons that atheists discount the supposed "design" in the world, aside from the psychological predisposition to see design, is because (as I will prove in the second chapter) the claims of "design" are not actually of carefully crafted design at all. After all, when one looks at nature things are not all that well designed in the first place, which is another reason atheists, and scientists, realize that it was the imperfect 'designing' done by natural selection that created all of life. Examples of bad 'design' include the presence of vestigial organs, such as the appendix, which is a left over from a previous ancestor, that can get clogged and infected, and cause death. Some species of plants, which today are completely male and female, still have remnants of small and non-functional pistils (female parts) on the male flowers, and stamens (male parts) on the female flowers. Another serious problem for design proponents is the fact that the humans' airway intersects with the path which food takes to go to the stomach. This can cause people to choke on food and if not dislodged can result in death. Birth defects, caused by the imperfect copying processes of DNA can sometimes result in serious or life-threatening issues. Does this sound like good 'design' to anyone?

That introduction sounded more like a damn sermon than any form of rational argument. Thus far, the author has only been able to find one actual quote claiming what he argues about atheists disbelieving for emotional reasons. Let's see what the author has in store for chapter one.

Chapter 1: Atheistic Arguments, Errors, and Insights

In this first chapter Spiegel begins with a brief discussion of the many bus ads that have been cropping up in America and Europe, such as "There's Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life" and "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake." [22]

Later on in the chapter Spiegel argues that these ad campaigns raise some "interesting questions." He says:

"First, is it really possible, as the first ad implies, to 'enjoy your life' in the absence of God? Is genuine happiness feasible in a godless universe? Given the atheist's belief that there is no afterlife and, therefore, no enduring value or meaning to anything we do in this world, it is difficult to see how any person's life could be truly 'happy'. If only utter destruction and loss of all conscious existence awaits us, then this is grounds for despair, not happiness." [23]

After the preceding paragraph, he quotes Bertrand Russell as looking this "gloomy implication of [the atheists'] worldview" in the eye and quotes him from his essay titled A Free Man's Worship from the collection of his essays called Why I Am Not a Christian. [24]

Yes, in 1903, when this essay was written, Russell did believe this, but as the editor explains in my copy of Why I Am Not a Christian, Russell abandoned many of these beliefs later on in life, and expressed a more positive outlook in a newer essay titled What I Believe in 1925. [25] And in What I Believe, Russell makes statements such as the following:

"Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting." [26]

"It is we who create value and our desires which confer value [...] It is for us to determine the good life, not for nature - not even for nature personified as God." [27]

"Science can, if it chooses, enable our grandchildren to live the good life, by giving them knowledge, self-control, and characters productive of harmony rather than strife." [28]

Spiegel also quotes Richard Dawkins as saying, about the fact that nature is indifferent and owes us nothing: "I don't feel depressed about it. But if somebody does, that's their problem. Maybe the logic is pessimistic; the universe is bleak, cold, and empty. But so what?" [29]

After quoting Dawkins Spiegel says: "So what? Indeed that is the question. Pessimism? Bleakness? Despair? Those don't sound like descriptors of an enjoyable life [...]". [30]

The point is that we choose our own purposes in life; the universe does not give us purpose; we give ourselves purpose and meaning. It is not handed to you as is done with religion. You have to seek it out yourself, which I think it much more satisfying and meaningful. A godless worldview is not in any way a meaningless view. It's simply one that doesn't come packaged with a view for you to adopt; you must find one for yourself and perhaps many theists are just lazy and don't want to bother with seeking out a purpose for themselves, other than what their religion has given them.

Following that discussion, Spiegel continues with saying, "The American Atheist ad slogan [...] raises another critical question. Can any sense of 'goodness' be salvaged in the absence of God? This question, in turn, can be further broken down in terms of two other questions, one practical and the other theoretical: Can human beings find sufficient motivation to live morally without religious belief? And even more fundamentally, does the concept of goodness even make sense in the absence of God?" [31]

Well of course humans can be moral without religion and without belief in a god! Just look at the many countries that have some of the highest levels of secularism and non-believers in the world! Places like Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, United Kingdom, etc. are home to some of the most prosperous and generous individuals. To quote Phil Zuckerman:

‭"‬A comparison of highly irreligious countries with highly religious countries,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬reveals a very different state of affairs.‭ ‬In reality,‭ ‬the most secular countries‭ ‬-‭ ‬those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics‭ ‬-‭ ‬are among the most stable,‭ ‬peaceful,‭ ‬free,‭ ‬wealthy,‭ ‬and healthy societies.‭ ‬And the most religious nations‭ ‬-‭ ‬wherein worship of god is in abundance‭ ‬-‭ ‬are among the most unstable,‭ ‬violent,‭ ‬oppressive,‭ ‬poor and destitute‭ (‬Zuckerman,‭ ‬2006‭)‬.‭" [32]

‭"Countries with high levels of atheism are also the most charitable both in terms of the percentage of their wealth they devote to social welfare programs and the percentage they give in aid to the developing world. The dubious link between Christian literalism and Christian values is belied by other indices of social equality. Consider the ratio of salaries paid to top-tier CEOs and those paid to the same firms' average employees: in Britain it is 24:1; in France, 15:1; in Sweden, 13:1; in the United States, where 80 percent of the population expects to be called before God on Judgment Day, it is 475:1." [33]

‭Many other studies prove that non-believers can be just as moral, if not more so, than believers.

‭To quote Michael Shermer:

‭"Not only is there no evidence that a lack of religiosity leads to less moral behavior, a number of studies actually support the opposite conclusion. In 1934 Abraham Franzblau found a negative correlation between acceptance of religious beliefs and three different measures of honesty. As religiosity increased, honesty decreased. In 1950 Murray Ross conducted a survey among 2,000 associates of the YMCA and discovered that agnostics and atheists were more likely to express their willingness to aid the poor than those who rated themselves as deeply religious. In 1969 sociologists Travis Hirschi and Rodney Stark reported no difference in the self-reported likelihood to commit crimes between children who attended church regularly and those who did not. In 1975 Ronald Smith, Gregory Wheeler, and Edward Diener discovered that college-age students in religious schools were no less likely to cheat on a test than their atheist and agnostic counterparts in nonreligious schools. Finally, David Wulff's comprehensive survey of correlational studies on the psychology of religion revealed that there is a consistent positive correlation between 'religious affiliation, church attendance, doctrinal orthodoxy, rated importance of religion, and so on' with 'ethnocentrism, authoritarianism, dogmatism, social distance, rigidity, intolerance of ambiguity, and specific forms of prejudice, especially against Jews and blacks.' The conclusion is clear: not only does religion not necessarily make one more moral, it can lead to greater intolerance, racism, sexism, and the erosion of values cherished in a free and democratic society." [34]

‭Another study done by Gary Leak and Brandy Randall in 1995 and published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion "found that those who score high on the Right-Wing Authoritarianism scale have several tendencies. They are likely 'to aggress against unpopular or unconventional groups, feel morally superior and self-righteous,' and 'possess a mean-spiritedness that is coupled with vindictiveness.' They often take 'secret pleasure' when others experience misfortune and appear prejudiced toward out-groups.'" [35]

‭At the closing of the chapter ‬Spiegel writes:

"We have seen that the standard atheist arguments are deeply flawed [to be discussed next - Ken] and that, furthermore, atheism undercuts the foundation for goodness and a meaningful life. What could explain the fact that intelligent people appeal to such poor arguments to justify their rejection of God, especially given the dire implications? As I will show in subsequent chapters, the answer lies in the realm of moral psychology. However, it is important to note that there are aspects of atheists' complaints that are reasonable and should be affirmed, even though they fall short of justifying atheism." [36]

The arguments that Spiegel thinks are reasonable are the problems of hypocrisy, when "[t]heists of all kinds have acted in ways inconsistent with their confessed moral standard." [37]

He also agrees that "atheists are correct in noting that religion has often been used as a pretext for shoddy scientific methodology. We need to avoid the God-of-the-gaps mentality, which is the impulse to appeal to God whenever there is a gap in our scientific understanding. This is sheer intellectual laziness. Inferences to astrophysical or biological design should be made only informedly and cautiously, when the possibility of any naturalistic explanation can be ruled out." [38]

Spiegel, in defense of his religious belief upon this list of charges, argues that "[t]he above complains should prompt us to reconsider the way we theists engage in our moral, theological, and scientific practice. While they do not constitute reasonable objections to theistic belief per se, they are penetrating critiques of certain things people do in the name of God. In other words, these arguments accuse us of theistic malpractice. [...] It should be duly noted that the fact that there is such a thing as theistic malpractice is, in a sense, a confirmation of the Christian doctrine of sin. That there would be abusers of religion and Christianity in particular is just what we would expect if the Christian worldview is true." [39]

I am glad that the author isn't simply trying to dismiss these criticisms as some theists do, but his argument that the bible confirms our 'sinful' nature is absurd. In reality, science has confirmed that human beings are both good and bad, and certainly not purely inherently evil in any way. [40]

It's also amusing that Spiegel would actually say that a "God-of-the-gaps mentality" is 'intellectually lazy' because he is showing himself to be a hypocrite. The entirety of the next chapter is an appeal to either the gaps in our knowledge or bad arguments for design that have long since been refuted.

Earlier, the author discussed a few arguments that the new atheists cite, particularly Harris and Hitches, and those are the problem of evil and the "scientific irrelevancy of God." He continues:

"It is important to consider these concerns, and in doing so we will gain a better understanding of the atheist mind-set and the rational props with which they mask their rebellion. [...] Again, I will subject these arguments to criticism not because I think the theism/atheism debate really boils down to a contention over evidence, but rather to show that something other than the quest for truth drives the atheist." [41]

As for the problem of evil, the author argues that "the most popular theodicy appeals to free will and the notion that we human beings have no one to blame but ourselves for our sin and suffering. [...] So evil is our fault, not our Creator's. We act immorally of our own violition, and all of our suffering (from human malice to natural disasters) is the consequence of those choices - if not our own, then someone else's - ultimately tracing back to the first humans who brought about the fall." [emphasis mine] [42]

This argument is ridiculous and heartless. So, according to this author the over 200,000 innocent people who died in the recent earthquake in Haiti on January 12th, 2010 is their fault? [43] Of course, the bible also contradicts this crazy idea of original sin when in Deuteronomy 24:16 it says: "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin." (NIV) The bible is clearly explaining how each mans' sin is their own responsibility and no one else's.

Finally, he says the atheists' claim that god is not relevant in scientific matters. The author doesn't specify what his complaint is so it's hard to tell what he means by this. Does he possibly mean that atheists believe that science is not in a position to answer questions about god? On the contrary, the new atheists argue that, given god's attributes, he should be detectable by the methods of science. Even Richard Dawkins expresses this view in The God Delusion:

"The God Hypothesis suggests that the reality we inhabit also contains a supernatural agent who designed the universe and - at least in many versions of the hypothesis - maintains it and even intervenes in it with miracles, which are temporary violations of his own otherwise grandly immutable laws. [...] [T]hose scientists who subscribe to the 'separate magisteria' school of thought should concede that a universe with a supernaturally intelligent creator is a very different kind of universe from one without. [...] The presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question, even if it is not in practice - or not yet- a decided one." [44]

Later on the author argues that "God and other concepts of the supernatural are not necessary for a complete worldview, says the naturalist. In defense of their view, naturalists often appeal to an important rational guideline called Ockham's razor. Also known as the principle of parsimony, Ockham's razor says that when attempting to account for some phenomenon, the simplest hypothesis, other things being equal, should be preferred. Well, says the naturalist, theism is more complicated than naturalism. Theists needlessly add God and other supernatural entities to their worldview, so it should be rejected in favor of naturalism, which is more simple and elegant (not to mention more intellectually fashionable)."

"Initial appearances notwithstanding, Ockham's razor does not favor naturalism. Other things, as it turns out, are not equal. Naturalism can explain neither the existence of the cosmos nor its vast instances of design (again, to be discussed in the next chapter). Nor, as we've already seen, can naturalism account for values of any kind." [45]

On the contrary, as I will show in the next chapter appearances of design can be explained by naturalism and the "origin" of the cosmos isn't as big of a problem as he claims. Most scientists nowadays take the position that the universe is likely eternal, such as Neil Turok and Paul J. Steinhardt, authors of the book Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang. And, as I've discussed before, naturalism can account for values. [46]

Spiegel ends this discussion with a quote from Holmes Rolston: "Science is never the end of the story, because science cannot teach humans what they most need to know: the meaning of life and how to value it...After science, we still need help deciding what to value; what is right and wrong, good and evil, how to behave as we cope. [...]." [47]

Again, science can explain most of these things, and as I noted earlier, each person decides what meaning and purpose they want to give to their own lives. It is true that science cannot answer all questions, and I haven't seen anyone make such a claim, nor did Spiegel quote any of the new atheists or a scientist who makes such a claim, but the fact is that many questions can be answered through the scientific method, such as the origin of morality and altruism. [48]

Chapter 2: The Irrationality of Atheism

This chapter begins with a short discussion about Antony Flew, the once leading atheist philosopher, who in 2004 declared that he has become a Deist. As I've mentioned in my review of Scott Hahn & Benjamin Wiker's book Answering the New Atheism, I think it is disgusting that so many theists are touting Flew as some kind of proof as to the intellectual credence of their beliefs. What theist apologists don't tell you is it seems that Flew is suffering from acute memory problems due to his old age, or perhaps some kind of pathology. Either way, Flew doesn't seem to believe in any personal god, but an impersonal creator god, the kind a Deist would believe in. This is also hardly any reason to celebrate for theists. Some christian apologists seem to have taken advantage of an elderly man whose memory is badly failing him and he can't seem to remember all of the reasons for his previous disbelief. The book that is partially credited to Flew, There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, didn't even seem to contain much of anything written directly by Flew at all. It seems that Roy Varghese, the author and editor of several books about God and science, was the main author and wrote the vast majority of it, so who can be sure if the words attributed to Flew are even true, or accurate? Even if Flew was convinced of some creator god that doesn't make theists' beliefs true in the slightest. We also have here yet another christian relying purely on an argument from authority, which is no proof of anything. [49]

Next, the author begins his discussion of the three main reasons Flew changed his mind, touting them as reasons for belief in god:

1. The laws of nature.
2. The existence of the cosmos.
3. The presence of life. [50]

Spiegel argues the first point:

"Consider the first of these facts - that nature obeys laws. Many folks do not realize that the laws of nature themselves need an explanation. But they do, because laws of nature are really nothing but regularities in the way matter behaves in space. [...] These regularities are observable everywhere in nature. About this there is no doubt. But why are these laws constant?" [51]

First of all, these "laws" do not place restrictions on the behavior of matter. In reality, they are restrictions on the way physicists may describe that behavior. [52] As for why many of these "laws" are constant, that's not exactly accurate. It seems that many numbers have been manipulated to make these constants seem extraordinary. Some examples are irrelevant. Victor J. Stenger says, "Many of the examples of fine-tuning found in theological literature suffer from simple misunderstandings of physics. For example, any references to the fine-tuning of constants like the speed of light,c, Planck's constant, h, or Newton's gravitational constant, G, are irrelevant since these are all arbitrary constants whose values simply define the system of units being used. Only 'dimensionless' numbers that do not depend on units, such as the ratio of the strengths of gravity and electromagnetism are meaningful."

"Some of the 'remarkable precision' of physical parameters that people talk about is highly misleading because it depends on the choice of units. For example, theologian John Jefferson Davis asserts, 'If the mass of of neutrinos were 5 x 10 - 34 instead of 5 x 10- 35 kg [kilogram], because of their great abundance in the universe, the additional gravitational mass would result in a contracting rather than expanding universe.' This sounds like fine-tuning by one part in 10- 35. However, as philosopher Neil Manson points out, this is like saying that 'if he had been one part in 10- 16 of a light year shorter (that is, one meter shorter), Michael Jordan would not have been the word's greatest basketball player [...]'"

"One of the many major flaws with most studies of the anthropic principle coincidences is that the investigators vary a single parameter while assuming all the others remain fixed. They further compound this mistake by proceeding to calculate meaningless probabilities based on the grossly erroneous assumptions that all the parameters are independent [...]"

"Physicist Anthony Aguire has independently examined the universes that result when six cosmological parameters are simultaneously varied by orders of magnitude, and found he could construct cosmologies in which 'stars, planets, and intelligent life can plausibly arise.' Physicist Craig Hogan has done another independent analysis that leads to similar conclusions. And, theoretical physicists at Kyoto University in Japan have shown that heavy elements needed for life will be present in even the earliest stars independent of what the exact parameters for star formation may have been." [53]

According to Gordon L. Kane, and associates, "In string theories all of the parameters of the theory - in particular all quark and lepton masses, and all coupling strength - are calculable, so there are parameters left to allow anthropic arguments [...]" [54]

Even Stephen Hawking's more recent studies seem to cast doubt upon the fine-tuning argument. "He proposed that our universe is much less 'special' than the proponents of the Anthropic Principle claim it is. According to Hawking, there is a 98 percent chance that a universe of a type as our own will come from the Big Bang. Further, using the basic wave function of the universe as a basis, Hawking's equations indicate that such a universe can come into existence without relation to anything prior to it, meaning that it could come out of nothing." [emphasis in original] [55]

Furthermore, this argument is circular because if the properties that caused this form of life to arise in the first place did not exist we wouldn't be here to begin with! This hardly proves any sort of god.

Next, Spiegel argues that, "[e]ven more basic than the laws of the universe is the fact that there is a universe at all. The now well-established scientific fact that the universe had a beginning is a powerful pointer to divine creation. Astrophysicists tell us that about 15 billions years ago - give or take a few billion years - all of the matter of the universe was condensed into a single, infinitesimal point. Then...BANG (or perhaps BOOM, no one is quite sure which), the matter exploded at roughly the speed of light, and the universe has been expanding ever since. This Big Bang theory essentially affirms the biblical idea that there was a beginning to space and time [...]The reason it is proper to inquire about the source of the universe is that we know it had a beginning. As such, the universe demands a causal explanation, since whatever begins to exist has a cause." [56]

Spiegel clearly hasn't kept up with the scientific literature on this subject because first of all, the big bang was not an "explosion", but a rapid expansion. [57] Secondly, science hasn't proposed a beginning of time starting with the big bang. It seems it was a misreading (on purpose or not) of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, among other inaccurate sources. [58] From the big bang it does not follow that the universe could not be eternal, as many scientists now agree, such as Neil Turok and Paul J. Steinhardt, as I noted previously, who propose a theory of an eternal universe in which there is an infinite number of "bangs" and "crunches," occurring one after the other.

The last two arguments the author makes use of is the fine-tuning of the universe, which I already answered, though here he makes a few specific claims about some of these alleged cases of fine-tuning, and the origin of life.

Spiegel notes three ways in which the universe is fine-tuned:

1. The expansion rate of the Big Bang had to be accurate to within one part in 10-55. Any slower and the universe would have collapsed. Any faster and there would be no stars or planetary systems.

2. The force of gravity had to be accurate to within one part in 10-40. Otherwise, stars could not form, and life would be impossible.

3. The mass density of the universe had to be accurate within one part in 10-60. Otherwise, life-sustaining stars could not have formed. [59]

Because of my lack of knowledge of physics, I will cite Victor J. Stenger's rebuttals that I can find for two of these three claims.

As for the expansion rate of the universe, "[t]his has an easy answer. If the universe appeared from an earlier state of zero energy, then energy conservation would require the exact expansion rate that is observed. That is the rate determined precisely by the fact that the potential energy of gravity is exactly balanced by the kinetic energy of matter."

"Let me try to explain this in detail so that, once again, it is clear that I am merely stating a simple fact of physics. Suppose we wish to send a rocket from Earth to far outside the solar system. If we fire the rocket at exactly 11.2 kilometers per second, what is called the escape velocity for Earth, its kinetic energy will exactly equal the negative of its gravitational potential energy, so the total energy will be zero. As the rocket moves away from Earth, the rocket gradually slows down. Its kinetic energy decreases, as does the magnitude of its potential energy, the total energy remaining constant at zero because of energy conservation. Eventually when the rocket is very far from Earth and the potential energy approaches zero, its speed relative to Earth also approaches zero."

"If we fired the rocket at just under escape velocity, the rocket would slow to a stop sooner and eventually turn around to return to Earth. If we fired it at a slightly higher speed, the rocket would keep moving away and never stop."

"In the case of the big bang, the bodies in the universe are all receding from one another at such a rate that they will eventually come to rest at a cast distance. That rate of expansion is very precisely set by the fact that the total energy of the system was zero at the very beginning, and energy is conserved."

"So, instead of being an argument for God, the fact that the rate of expansion of the universe is exactly what we expect from an initial state of zero energy is a good argument against a creator. Once again, we have no fine-tuning because the parameter in question is determined by a conservation principle, in this case conservation of energy." [60]

As for the mass density of the universe, "[t]he answer is the same as the previous case. The mass density of the universe is precisely determined by the fact that the universe starts out with zero total energy." [61]

Near the end of Spiegel's discussion of the alleged "fine-tuning" of the universe, he writes, "The fine-tuning argument for God is strong and getting stronger, as the astonishing precise balance of physical constants is continually clarified by science. For many folks, such as Antony Flew, the inference to God has become irresistible. But Flew's third major reason for abandoning atheism is perhaps the strongest of all - the impossibility of life emerging spontaneously from non-living matter. [...] Life cannot have started at all without a creator. In this sense, natural selection needs God." [62]

This quote clearly shows the illogical nature and hypocrisy of the author, since earlier he cautioned theists about putting too much stock in the design argument until such time as a natural explanation could be ruled out. [63] Scientists are still working on the origin of life problem, and we may figure it out in the future, but Spiegel's appeal to god is nothing more than a "god of the gaps" argument. The author is obviously not following his own advice. And, as Stenger demonstrated science is not finding that the fine-tuning arguments are getting stronger. Most of them are misunderstandings of physics.

Spiegel also appeals to other "problems for atheism", such as the "emergence of consciousness and the reproductive capacity of organisms (especially sexual reproduction). There are also the traditional criticisms of Darwinism, including the lack of intermediate fossil forms in the geological record, problems in accounting for the emergence of flight (in no less than four classes of organisms - insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals), and diverse instances of irreducible complexity in biological structures and functions." [64]

I find it funny that he makes use of many of these long discredited arguments, such as where consciousness comes from, since there have been scholarly books written about the subject proposing ideas about this. [65] The same goes for sexual reproduction, in which "[m]any hypotheses have been proposed for the evolutionary advantage of sex (Barton and Charlesworth 1998). There is good experimental support for some of these, including resistance to deleterious mutation load (Davies et al. 1999; Paland and Lynch 2006) and more rapid adaptation in a rapidly changing environment, especially to acquire resistance to parasites (Sá Martins 2000)." [66] I am shocked (well, given the lack of scientific knowledge of the author I guess I'm not surprised) that he would cite the supposed lack of intermediate fossils when there is an abundance of them that anyone can examine, such as Tiktaalik roseae, which is an intermediate form between fish and amphibians. [67] As for the long discredited idea of irreducible complexity, Kenneth Miller demolished many such examples in his classic book, Finding Darwin's God. [68]

Chapter 3: The Causes of Atheism

In this chapter, Spiegel makes his objective clear for this chapter: "Is there any relevance to the fact that [comedian George Carlin and actress Jodie Foster] grew up without a father? Some recent research strongly suggests that there is. In this chapter we will look at evidence for the claim that broken father relationships are a contributing cause of atheism. We will also consider evidence that immoral behavior plays a significant role in motivating views on ethics and religion. We will see how desires often drive a person's beliefs when it comes to such issues, and I will propose that herein lies the explanation for atheism." [69]

In order to make his case Spiegel cites two main works: Paul C. Vitz's Faith of the Fatherless (1999), which aims to argue that loss of a father figure is a contributing factor in choosing atheism, and Intellectuals by Paul Johnson, which is an "examination of the moral and judgmental credentials of leading intellectuals" and recounts many individuals' immoral behavior, some of them "are often regarded as intellectual heros." [70]

Paul Vitz cites 20 atheists for his case (I found his book on, and I was able to find Intellectuals at Google Books and Johnson only cites twelve people. In The Making of an Atheist, Spiegel only cites nineteen individuals who he claims are immoral. When you read the book the majority of these "immoral" acts are simply sexual promiscuity! He accuses Margaret Mead of being immoral simply because she had a sexual fling with a fellow scientist in Ruth Benedict. [71] Of course, Spiegel's point is that many times these individuals are influential on society and can therefore influence society with their immoral behavior. Mead is one example he uses to prove his case, though it seems he has painted a distorted picture of the story. Yes Mead's findings on the Samoan girls was inaccurate, but I don't think she had an agenda. Even the author Spiegel cites, Derek Freeman, who pointed out the faulty research with Mead's findings, said that Mead's belief (inherited from her mentor Franz Boas) that human nature is shaped by the environment tarnished her research, and that she seemed to have been duped by a few Samoan hoaxers, and "had she been more rigorous and quantitative in her research she would have discovered this fact before going to press with what became the all-time anthropological best-seller - Coming of the Age on Samoa." [72] This had nothing to do with Mead's personal sexual practices or beliefs! She simply had a notion about human nature and didn't do thorough enough research. If she had, she likely would have seen her initial findings to be false.

He also brings Alfred Kinsey into the discussion and argues that his immoral sexual practices influenced his research and he ended up suggesting that certain sexual practices were more common than they actually were. [73] This does not seem likely. From what I've read, Kinsey undertook a very large project to learn all he could about human sexuality by interviewing more than 18,000 people, and even hired a staff to help with the massive number of interviews. [74] He was doing what any good scientist does: Gather as much data as possible before coming to a conclusion. It also seems to be peoples' overreaction to Kinsey's studies, rather than his methodology or results which, for the most part, seems accurate, and was the cause of so much uproar. "In a 'Last Statement' dictated two weeks before his death, Kinsey noted with some bitterness the human foible of bias that seems to enter into the evaluation of human moral behavior. He bemoaned the fact that his strongest detractors were his fellow scientists, who had found difficulty 'in facing facts of human sexual behavior with anything like objectivity.'" According to Michael Shermer, part of the problem was religion. "Such reactions are not surprising considering the political climate of 1950's McCarthy-era America. Protestant ethics forbidding sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage were bumping up against the realities of human nature. As Kinsey noted, men's and women's sexual drives do not arrest themselves while awaiting the delayed marriages of modern culture. [...] Kinsey was labeled a communist and moral subversive." [75] It also seems highly unlikely that Kinsey's data was unreliable since "in the 1970s Paul Gebhard removed all suspect data (e.g., pertaining to prisoners and similar respondents), and recalculated significant sets of figures against results given by '100 percent' groups. He found only slight differences between the original and updated figures." [76]

As I noted in a post about religion, atheism and well-being, it's been demonstrated again and again that many religious individuals score high on the Right-Wing Authoritarianism scale, and these people are more likely to "aggress against unpopular or unconventional groups, feel morally superior and self-righteous." [77] Clearly, this is Spiegel's issue in condemning these peoples' personal lives. Of course, Spiegel's main issue is his illogical belief in some kind of absolute moral standard, which does not exist. Some do disagree, but I think relative morality is the only kind of morality there is, though that doesn't mean we can just do whatever we like. We still have a responsibility to those around us and there are methods of sorting out the morals of each society without religion, which is just another form of relative morality anyway, so theists' constant appeals to some ultimate morality is nothing but a pipe dream. [78]

And to argue that immorality is a source of atheism is just absurd when one looks at all of the studies I cited in the review of the last chapter which prove atheists are just as, if not more, moral than than theists! It's also been proven that religion can cause people to act immorality.

Even when he is well aware of the reasons atheists give for their disbelief he wishes to paint them with the 'you lost your father, therefore you're an atheist' brush, as he did with Jodie Foster. He quotes her as saying, in part, "[...] there is no direct evidence [for God], so how could you ask me to believe in God when there's absolutely no evidence that I can see?" [79] and claims that because she lost her father, along with a handful of other atheists, that's why she refuses to believe! It's crazy. She just stated her intellectual reasons right there and he ignores it in favor of his pseudo-psychological explanation.

This handful of individuals is clearly not representative of atheists at large, and such a limited study of non-believers cannot possibly tell us anything about atheists in general. Combined, Spiegel's examples to prove his case was an unimpressive 38 individuals! Spiegel's lists of atheists who had a bad relationship with their fathers, or dead fathers, was taken almost verbatim from Vitz's book. Out of the twenty atheists Vitz cites, Spiegel used seventeen, leaving out John Toland, Richard Carlile, and Robert Taylor, whom Vitz labels as "minor atheists." Out of the approximately 268 million atheists in the world [80] a mere 38 individuals as a sampling is, needless to say, a massively poor study and cannot possibly give any insight into the motivations of atheists in general. In addition it's clear the author's religious biases tarnished his objectivity.

With the sheer number of atheists in the world, it's insane that Spiegel wishes to claim that immorality and an absent father figure are reasons for atheism with only an extremely limited number of examples. For each subject, atheists who lacked a father figure, and immoral atheists, he only cited nineteen people! As far as Kinsey's findings, it's insane that Spiegel accuses him of influencing society; the practices he took note of were already taking place; it's not as if his study all of a sudden catapulted society down a black hole of sexual perversion! These things were already happening! It's just that Kinsey's research brought it out in the open and people had a negative reaction to it due to the climate of the times.

While Spiegel's failure at showing that atheists disbelieve for emotional reasons with his horrible methodology and sample size, there are several examples of theists who have begun to believe for emotional reasons; even some large studies which show that religion is often taken up for emotional reasons.

For example, it seems that famed christian apologist, Lee Strobel, became a christian because of his wife's conversion, and sought to rationalize that change of belief with his one-sided study of apologetics, namely, intelligent design. Chris Hallquist writes:

"[S]ome prominent Christian figures - notably Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell - have risen to fame by painting self-portraits in which intellectual considerations dragged them kicking and screaming into belief. Notice what they're doing: they’re essentially claiming to be Christian versions of Lukeprog et al. But if you look at what Strobel says in his pre-Case for… book Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary, you get a somewhat different picture: Strobel started going to church because his wife wanted him to, found it emotionally moving, and then started reading Christian apologetics to assure himself it was all true. It’s unclear Strobel read any non-Christian books in his 'journalist’s investigation...'" [81]

The same for several other christian apologists, such as Josh McDowell, [82] Craig Keener, [83] Lionel Luckhoo, [84] and William Lane Craig. [85]

As for studies showing that religion is often taken up for emotional reasons, there was a study done in 2008 which demonstrated that "making people think about events they had no control over radically increased their belief in God, but only when that God was presented as a controlling God. What's more, this happened because people who were made to feel like they had no control actually increased their belief that the Universe was not actually random." [86]

What we have is much more solid evidence that theists actually do often believe for emotional reasons, while atheists usually don't. Spiegel was only able to cite a single atheist who seemed to disbelieve for emotional reasons and that was Thomas Nagel (though he did say this was "irrational"), while I've been able to cite a few christian apologists and a large study which linked anxiety as a reason people often believe in a god.

Chapter 4: The Obstinacy of Atheism

The author sums up his goal for this chapter thusly:

"In this chapter I will discuss some ways in which a person may become locked in the atheistic delusion, specifically through the influence of worldview and the corrupting impact of sin on the mind. Both factors deaden the person's natural awareness of God, thus reinforcing the will to disbelieve and entrenching the atheist in his perspective." [87]

"[...] [H]ow might these Kuhnian insights aid us in understanding atheists? For one thing, the atheistic paradigm has its own standards for truth, many of which pivot on their naturalist conviction that only the physical world exists. Necessarily, they will reject as false and perhaps even as irrational nonsense all references to miracles, souls, divine authority of Scripture, or personal experience of God." [88]

"Those who see the world through the lens of a false or distorting paradigm suffer from what I call paradigm-induced blindness. Their theoretical framework prevents them from seeing the truth, even when it is right in front of them. In a sense this condition is more pernicious then simple ignorance, because the person labors under the illusion of enlightenment and clear-sightedness." [89]

"When one's worldview is naturalism, paradigm-induced blindness naturally prevents one from seeing certain sinful practices as immoral, particularly in the sexual sphere. And those who affirm Christian sexual standards will necessarily appear foolish or absurd to the atheist. In turn, their incredulity and repugnance regarding the 'narrow' or 'repressed' Christian sexual ethic serve to reinforce their will to disbelieve and further entrench them in the atheist paradigm." [90]

First of all, atheists do not disbelieve due to their beliefs about sex, or their desire for more freedom in sexual matters. As I noted in my review of chapter one, atheists are just as moral as believers, and I've yet to hear of an atheistic scandal to cover up the horrible and grotesque rape and molestation of young boys! That is one result of this "Christian sexual ethic" that religion sometimes tries to foist upon people. Priests become so sexually repressed, their natural sexual urges get the best of them and they end up doing some very disturbing things. [91] It is the sexual repression that should be released and is what is distorting their thought process and causing them to act in that way. Or there could just be a ton of homosexual child molesting priests, though with the sheer numbers of them it seems more likely to me that their unnatural sexual repression is a large cause, and there is some research that confirms this hypothesis. [92] And don't forget some churches' stance on the issue of abortion. Their 'ethic' is sometimes so strong, the religious authorities cannot even think compassionately and logically when an innocent nine-year old girl is raped and gets pregnant and rightfully gets an abortion. But the churches' stance on abortion is so rigid that they excommunicated everyone who supported the abortion! [93]

In sum, something should not be considered "immoral" that is done with another party's permission, including sexual practices.

The author argued, "When one's worldview is naturalism, paradigm-induced blindness naturally prevents one from seeing certain sinful practices as immoral, particularly in the sexual sphere." With most of the examples given earlier, being a little promiscuous is not necessarily a bad thing - so long as the individual is not cheating on their partner while in a monogamous relationship. But, even some very devout individuals commit such acts, such as Ted Haggard, who was married at the time of his homosexual sexual encounter. Can anyone say hypocrite? [94]

Earlier, the author said, "[T]he atheistic paradigm has its own standards for truth, many of which pivot on their naturalist conviction that only the physical world exists. Necessarily, they will reject as false and perhaps even as irrational nonsense all references to miracles, souls, divine authority of Scripture, or personal experience of God."

These standards are put in place to ensure reliable results, a hallmark of the scientific method. Second, there has yet to be any solid evidence proving any sort of supernatural realm. [95]

And it is not any kind of bias against the supernatural that causes atheists to deny the bible, or miracles, or souls, but the lack of evidence for such things! That is a theme that this author has been unable to grasp throughout this entire book. His arguments about design have been shown to be false; there is no evidence of the supernatural, and even his precious bible is in no way divine, or inspired. In fact, it shows itself to be entirely created by man with its barbaric passages, with examples of rape and incest (2 Samuel 13:11-14), infanticide (Hosea 13:16), murder (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), the murder of those who do not worship this author's god (Deuteronomy 13:7-12), and even murder by the author's very own god (Exodus 12:29-30).

Earlier, the author said, "Those who see the world through the lens of a false or distorting paradigm suffer from what I call paradigm-induced blindness. Their theoretical framework prevents them from seeing the truth, even when it is right in front of them. In a sense this condition is more pernicious then simple ignorance, because the person labors under the illusion of enlightenment and clear-sightedness."

I'm sorry, but this is the precise problem with theists - especially creationists and proponents of intelligent design (such as Spiegel)! Without any proof, they wish to subscribe evolution to acts of god, and to do this their tactics vary from outright lying (or perhaps in some cases it is simply a case of confirmation bias; they want to find holes in evolution and so they quote-mine a multitude of scientists as supporting some of their outlandish claims, when it reality the scientist doesn't agree with them) [96], distorting, or lying, about scientific facts [97], and just plain having their facts wrong, as Spiegel has done continuously throughout his book, whether through plain old ignorance, or willful ignorance. It doesn't much matter which; either way, they're still wrong.

In a section of chapter four titled "Paradigms and Different Worlds", the author says, "The nineteenth-century German scholar Friedrich Max Muller once had a debate with a houseguest about theology in nature. Exasperated at his friend's views, Muller declared, 'If you say that all is not made by design...then you may be in the same house but you are not in the same world with me.' This well describes the feelings of people on both sides of the theism/atheism divide. People on both sides wish that the other would [...] wake up to the reality of their true condition. Although Muller was using a figure of speech, there is a sense in which people with such contrasting worldviews do dwell in different worlds. Their radically different perspectives make it seem so anyway." [98] Later on, he says, "[T]heists and atheists do, in a sense, live in different worlds. God is at the center of the theists' 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." [99]

This sounds so very familiar. I wrote about this claim about different world views back in 2007 after reading an article in Skeptic magazine about Ken Ham's Creation Museum [100] called Soloman's House: The Deeper Agenda of the New Creation Museum in Kentucky, by Stephen T. Asma. [101] As I said in the blog post [102] about the article,

"Each side claims that this is a 'battle over world views', but I don't think so. I wouldn't call what the religious believe a 'world view'. I see it as accepting reality, and denying reality. I don't see how you can have two 'views' of reality...of facts. Well, in some cases you can, of course. Is the shirt a light red, or pink, for example. But, as far as scientific facts (as far as evidence is concerned) is the earth round, or flat? Is the earth four and a half billion years old, or is it six thousand? Is there supernatural phenomenon, or isn't there? These are facts, some are more reliable depending on evidence, but it's only logical that with new information, you change your views on things. That's the only way you can logically do it.

These people are looking at the world through distorted lenses. They only see what they want, and if the evidence doesn't point to what they want, they either flat out deny it, or make some rationality about what that evidence says. Take dinosaurs for example. According to Ken Ham, dinosaurs died in the biblical flood along with many other animals, yet the evidence flat out contradicts this. Never has there been a dinosaur fossil mixed in with fossils of humans. They claim that all they do is look at the same evidence as real scientists; just come to different conclusions. But this is completely false. What research can they point to that they have done? The dating methods prove an old earth, yet they deny this, based on nothing more than scripture. That's not science, that's religion dogma."

And that is completely true. Atheists are not the ones who are letting themselves become blinded, it's the author and every other christian. How do I know this? As I've noted already, I've demonstrated how his arguments and beliefs about the bible, evolution, the alleged "fine-tuning" of the universe, etc. are false. It is he who is being afflicted with, what he calls, "paradigm-induced blindness". If his "world view" was even remotely true his beliefs would be more in line with the facts we have about the world but that is not the case.

At the end of the chapter Spiegel sums up his argument:

"The hardening of the atheistic mind-set occurs through cognitive malfunction due to two principal causes. First, atheists suffer from paradigm-induced blindness, as their worldview inhibits their ability to recognize the reality of God that is manifest in creation. Second, atheists suffer from damage to the sensus divinitatis, so their natural awareness of God is severely impeded. Both of these mechanisms are aspects of the noetic effects of sin." [103]

I've already shown that the author is the one suffering from "paradigm-induced blindness", and all of his "design" arguments have been shown to be false. As for his claim that "[W]e all are endowed with 'a certain understanding of...divine majesty.' Our sense of the divine is intellectually active, naturally leading to the formation of beliefs about God, such as regards His power, wisdom, knowledge, and goodness. It also gives rise to various beliefs about right and wrong, as the sensus divinitatis is closely related to conscience, which is a moral response to this awareness of God." He also argues that, "[e]ven small children have a sense of the divine [...]" [104]

As I've shown in my piece, Against the Gods, [105] our supposed "awareness" of god is not actually of any specific being, but a vague sense of "something out there", and a multitude of gods, demons, fairies, angels, etc. Children must be taught about religions' god/s. These beliefs are simply a result of natural selection, as evidenced by the fact that these experiences can be triggered by stimulating various parts of the brain. If certain parts of the brain are removed, religious experiences can dramatically lessen. [106] That proves they are coming from the brain; not from any outside source. As far as morality, that is easily explained by evolution, and morality evolved long before religion. [107]

As I've shown throughout this review, it is Spiegel, and other theists, who continuously ignore facts, and distort science for their own ends. If the christians' views about the world were true, there would surely be some evidence of this that was both factual and logical. Unfortunately, this has yet to be seen. Instead, their arguments continue to be found fraudulent and wrong, full of misunderstandings and errors. If their beliefs were even half right their so called evidence wouldn't be riddled with so many problems. And we're once again back to the fact that atheists disbelieve for rational reasons. Something the author is obviously in denial about, even when those reasons are right in front of his face. Another case of his own "blindness" and hypocrisy.

Chapter 5: The Blessings of Theism

This chapter is pretty much summed up by the title, though this chapter seemed pretty preachy...not to mention wrong. Spiegel begins by noting an article by Times Online writer Matthew Parris titled, As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God. In it, Parris argues that when he was a boy the christian missionaries brought much better services and happiness to the land than the secular organizations that (at least at the time the article was written) he saw on a return trip many years later that currently helped the people.

I would agree that missionaries sometimes do some good things, though regarding their proselytizing, unlike Parris, I think good things can be done without that. It also makes me wonder if missionaries would even help if they weren't allowed to preach and attempt to convert the natives.

The fact is, as with all religion, it depends on what facts you look at, and regarding missionaries they do not always do good work. AIDS is still a problem in Africa and yet it was the religious beliefs of the president at the time that caused it to get out of hand in the first place! Then on top of it, you have missionaries preaching about the sin of condom use! Regarding the country of Malawi, where Parris talks about missionaries it was religious beliefs which was largely responsible for the uncontrollable outbreak that took place:

"Malawi was under the rule of President Banda for thirty years starting in 1964, during which time little attention was paid to the escalating AIDS crisis. His puritanical beliefs made it very difficult for AIDS education and prevention schemes to be carried out, as public discussion of sexual matters was generally banned or censored, and HIV and AIDS were considered taboo subjects. Between 1985 and 1993, HIV prevalence amongst women tested at urban antenatal clinics increased from 2% to 30%."

"In 1994, following protests and international condemnation, Banda agreed to relinquish power and Malawi became a multi-party democracy. President Bakili Muluzi took office and made a speech in which he publicly acknowledged that the country was undergoing a severe AIDS epidemic and emphasized the need for a unified response to the crisis. Freedom of speech was re-established and political prisoners were released, creating a more liberal climate in which AIDS education could be carried out without fear of persecution." [emphasis mine] [108]

Even missionaries are not always the best thing for a country.

In Rwanda priests, nuns and even bishops were indicted and a great many were convicted (by war crimes tribunals) for being directly responsible for the senseless slaughter of thousands of innocent Tutsis. One priest even burned down his own church to kill hundreds of Tutsis who had taken sanctuary there. Two priests were sentenced to death in 1998 for their roles in this genocide and two Benedictine nuns who supplied gasoline for the burning of Tutsi civilians sheltered in their church fled to Belgium where they were later convicted of complicity to murder.

“Sister Maria Kisito, who received 12 years, and her Mother Superior, Sister Gertrude, who received 15 years, were convicted of aiding in the slaughter of some 7,000 people who sought refuge at their convent in southern Rwanda. Prosecutors argued that they called in Hutu militiamen to drive people out of the convent knowing they would be killed, and later provided gasoline that militiamen used to set fire to a garage in which about 500 Tutsis had taken refuge.” (Washington Post, June 9, 2001)

After James Cook's visit to Hawaii in 1778 christians came in and stole their land.

The missionaries did everything possible to destroy the ethnic Hawaiian culture, from banning all Hawaiian religious practices, walking barefoot, and even banning a faultless sport like surfing. Christians [according to the Hawaiians] are said to have introduced the mosquito into Hawaii in the hopes that this would force the natives to wear more clothes. Only in modern times has pride in Hawaiian art, song, dance and religion been revived.

In Burma and Thailand the american baptist Paul Lewis sterilized more than 20,000 Akha Hill Tribe women in Burma’s Eastern Shan State alone. This was done secretly, and blood was stolen from these women for resale, taken during the sterilization procedure. More than 3,000 of the women died.

“There would be no traditional practices, songs, or dances at all now, possibly something would be allowed at Christmas. The woman who practices the traditional knowledge and medicine for the village was stopped. She was told that it was evil and that she could no longer treat people’s illnesses. In the name of their religious beliefs, and quite in contradiction with the spirit of those beliefs, the missionaries are eradicating Akha culture in village after village." [109]

Later on in the chapter, Spiegel makes a comment I find ironic: "If God is real, then whatever helps the mind to grasp reality will also support faith in God." [110] Hardly. One of the best methods of finding out about our world is science, and science sure hasn't found any facts that lead to a god.

The author continues with his already demolished argument about atheists and immorality preventing belief: "A vicious or immoral person has a motive to reject vital truths that condemn his or her lifestyle. So the less vice in one's life, the fewer ulterior motives one will have to disbelieve such truths, whether they concern ethics or the reality of God." [111] I've gone over this enough, though I found another comment I again found ironic: "The general point about the influence of behavior on cognitive health suggests some practical applications. For one thing, we must keep in mind that our reading and entertainment habits affect the way we think about the world, so we must be critically aware of those aspects of our lives." [112]

Why do I find this to be ironic? Because in a study done in 2009 titled Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?, by Benjamin Edelman, it found that "people who live in states with high church-attendance rates buy as much Internet pornography as their more secularized counterparts -- but they are less likely to subscribe to an adult website on Sundays."

Edelman noted that, "[t]his analysis suggests that, on the whole, those who attend religious services shift their consumption of adult entertainment to other days of the week, despite on average consuming the same amount of adult entertainment as others." He also found online porn more prevalent in states whose residents tended to express more conservative religious views in studies, such as agreeing with the statements, "I never doubt the existence of God" and "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behavior." [113]

As far as atheists being more "vicious", once again, studies rule that out as well:

"Ventis (1995), after surveying the literature, concludes that the nonreligious are psychologically healthier than religious individuals and hypothesizes that this may be related to 'a sense of personal competence and control, self-acceptance and self-actualization, and perhaps open-mindedness and flexibility.'" [114]

This pretty much concludes what I have chosen to cover in this chapter. As I said, it's rather preachy and there really isn't anything else I feel I must respond to. However, I will comment on one last thing in this chapter. The author says, "It is often noted, both by scholars and laypeople, that the life of faith brings many emotional benefits [one of which is] the right to express our complaints to God. [...] In addition to praising God and making requests, we may complain to Him about things that disturb or harm us. [...] Thus, we enjoy the right to complain about bad service in a restaurant or a neighbor who plays music loudly [...] But what of unpleasant or harmful occurrences that have no human cause or where there is no means available to address the person responsible? To whom may one complain when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or when one's home is destroyed by an earthquake or tornado? [...] For the atheist, complaints of any kind are useless and even absurd in such circumstances. Malignancies and natural disasters 'just happen' - they are the cards that 'nature' deals you, and you simply have to accept them and move on as best you can. [...] In contrast, in these cases the theist does have a right to complain - to God." [115]

This is a completely irrational argument. Though, as the author noted previously, to him and his (might I say distorted and wrong) worldview, it makes sense and is true. Of course, again, the facts are not on his side. I also wanted to point this passage out because it seems to me to be another form of hypocrisy by the author. This sounds like an emotional reason for belief, when he is accusing atheists of having emotional reasons for their disbelief. Well, once again, it seems that the author has admitted one of the emotional reasons for his belief; that of complaining and as I noted in the previous study, the feeling that he has some control in his life; that he has someone to complain to, which is a large cause of belief.


It was the author's bold claims that caused me to want to buy this book and see what his case was made of. I had read an article by Paul Vitz [116] a number of years ago that made the same claim about the lack of a father figure being a cause of unbelief and I didn't think much of it since I knew I had stopped believing for rational reasons and so had every other atheist I had encountered. I figured it was just more apologetic nonsense, and I was right. I was curious what Spiegel's argument was, and as it turns out, he just borrows heavily from Vitz's so called evidence. As I've demonstrated, it is Spiegel who seems to believe for emotional reasons, theists are not necessarily more moral than atheists, and according to some studies, atheists seem to take the lead as far as morality goes. The author's arguments from design were easy to refute (thanks to Victor J. Stenger) and once again, this was another book by a christian apologist that completely failed in its mission.

Finally, I must say that I absolutely love the mock cover I gave this book (click here to see the original). It sums this book up perfectly. Speaking of my mock book covers, I also really liked the one of Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker's Answering the New Atheism (Here is the original). These guys just make it too easy!


1. To date, including this one, I've written a total of six complete reviews rebutting the arguments of various Christian apologists. The other five are as follows: The Evidence Bible: Irrefutable Evidence for the Thinking Mind and God Doesn't Believe in Atheists: Proof that the Atheist Doesn't Exist, by Ray Comfort; The Truth Behind the New Atheism: Responding to the Emerging Challenges to God and Christianity, by David Marshall; The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, by David Aikman; and Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God, by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker.

I should note that I've also written two other reviews (though incomplete) which are of The New Answers Book, by Ken Ham and other Contributers, and The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, by Vox Day, a.k.a. Theodore Beale. The reasons I didn't finish them was because, with the first, the arguments were so ignorant I just wasn't able to stomach their idiocy any longer. As for the second, the author pours on vitriol like it's going out of style and that really annoyed me. Another reason was because, while flipping through the book, the arguments seemed to be the same ones I've since refuted on my blog and I didn't feel like reading his long diatribe to get to the bad arguments and refuting arguments I've already exposed (such as the claim that atheism is what drove and influenced the Communists). Another problem was that I was reading the PDF version on my computer and I realized that it's very difficult (at least for me) to read books on a computer screen. After reading a few chapters my eyes began to hurt and I had a hard time wanting to continue. All of these factors contributed to my deciding to stop with the review. But I did review a total of two chapters, along with a few arguments at random I read, and pointed out some historical, logical, and factual inaccuracies.

2. The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief, by James S. Spiegel, Moody Publishers, 2010; 10-11

3. Ibid.; 9

4. Ibid.; 9-10

5. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Mariner Books, 2006, 2008; 16-17

6. The Making of an Atheist; 10-11

7. The interview can currently be heard as of this writing at This part of the interview occurs at approximately 20 minutes and 19 seconds into the program.

8. The Making of an Atheist; 11-12

9. Ibid.; 12

10. Ibid.; 12-13

11. Ibid.; 13-14

12. As just one example, take the murder of abortion doctors by christians. Because many christians believe that life begins at conception they feel morally obligated to kill those who choose to perform abortions. Many more examples can be found in my refutation of David Marshall's book, The Truth Behind the New Atheism, in my review of chapter eight.

13. You can read my reasons and arguments at my blog: Christian Apologists Just Don't Understand Morality, Parts 1 & 2.

14. The Making of an Atheist; 14-15

15. Ibid.; 13

16. Ibid.; 15-16

17. Ibid.; 16

18. So many theists make this argument, and everyone of them are flat out wrong. Marxism did not arise out of atheism; but a mixture of 19th century economists, political scientists, philosophers, and historians, from Adam Smith to Immanuel Kant, and yes, even christianity itself, as laid out in Robert Service's book, Comrades!: A History of World Communism. In fact, as I noted in my review of David Aikman's book The Delusion of Disbelief the bible lays out commands for a communal existence and many christians believed in communism, such as Thomas Aquinas, long before Marx or Engels came upon the scene. And as for the claim that nihilism is a result of atheism is flat out wrong. See footnote 13 and my blog post Well-Being, Atheism, and Religion.

19. The Making of an Atheist; 17-18

20. Please read my posts: Against the Gods: Arguments Against God's Existence and Evidence Against the Supernatural, Part One and Part Two.

21. Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, by Michael Shermer, Times Books, 2006; 38-40

22. The Making of an Atheist; 19-20

23. Ibid.; 30

24. Ibid.; 31

25. Why I Am Not a Christian and other essays on religion and related subjects, by Bertrand Russell, edited by Paul Edwards, Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 1957; 104, 48

26. Ibid.; 54

27. Ibid.; 55-56

28. Ibid.; 86-87

29. The Making of an Atheist; 31

30. Ibid.; 31

31. Ibid.; 31-32

32. 50‭ ‬Reasons People Give for Believing in a god,‭ ‬by Guy P.‭ ‬Harrison,‭ ‬Prometheus Books,‭ ‬2008‭; ‬296

33. Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006; 46

34. The Science of Good & Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule, by Michael Shermer, Henry Holt, 2004; 235-236

35. This study and others can be found in a collection of studies I wrote about called Well-Being, Atheism, and Religion.

36. The Making of an Atheist; 34-35

37. Ibid.; 35

38. Ibid.; 36

39. Ibid.; 38

40. Altruism in Primates and Humans

41. The Making of an Atheist; 24

42. Ibid.; 25-26

43. - accessed 4-2-10

44. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin, 2006; 58-59

45. The Making of an Atheist; 28-29

46. Christian Apologists Just Don't Understand Morality, Parts 1 & 2

47. The Making of an Atheist; 29-30

48. Altruism in Primates and Humans

49. Is Antony Flew an Unwilling Pawn in Several Theists' Power Play?

50. The Making of an Atheist; 42

51. Ibid.; 42-43

52. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, by Victor J. Stenger. Prometheus Books, 2007; 129

53. Ibid.; 145-149

54. Did Man Create God? Is Your Spiritual Brain at Peace with Your Thinking Brain?, by David E. Comings, M.D., Hope Press, 2008; 272

55. Ibid.; 272

56. The Making of an Atheist; 44-45

57. The Talk Origins Archive/Index to Creationist Claims, Claim CE441 - accessed 4-4-10

58. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, by Victor J. Stenger, Prometheus Books, 2009; 169-171

59. The Making of an Atheist; 46

60. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason; 94-95

61. Ibid.; 95

62. The Making of an Atheist; 47, 49

63. Ibid.; 36

64. Ibid.; 50

65. One such example is Daniel C. Dennett's Consciousness Explained.

66. The Talk Origins Archive/Index to Creationist Claims, Claim CB350 - accessed 4-4-10

67. The Talk Origins Archive/Index to Creationist Claims, Claim CC200 - accessed 4-4-10

68. Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, by Kenneth R. Miller, Harper Perennial, 2007; 131-164

69. The Making of an Atheist; 63

70. Ibid.; 70

71. Ibid.; 75-76

72. The Science of Good & Evil; 87

73. The Making of an Atheist; 76-77

74. The Science of Good & Evil; 245

75. Ibid.; 247-248

76. The Kinsey Reports; The Wikipedia entry cites Kinsey: A Biography, by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Pimlico, 2005; 285

Other evidence that brings this accusation of faulty methodology and personal feelings of 'immorality' creeping into his research into question are letters; one by Dr. Kinsey to a graduate student who was a homosexual at the University of Chicago. This letter clearly shows Kinsey's tolerance and scientific objectivity in not judging anyone he gathered a sexual history of and allowing the data to speak for itself:

"I am of the opinion that you are not particularly interested in meeting me, and whether your reasons, they are definitely wrong. If you have heard correctly, concerning my study in Chicago, you must have learned that I am absolutely tolerant of everything in human sex behavior. It would be impossible to make an objective study if I passed any evaluation pro or con on any sort of behavior or on the behavior of any person." [...] [emphasis mine]

Here is a letter from Dr. Lowell Reed to Dr. Robert Yerkes about Kinsey's study and methodology:

"I was very much impressed with his undertaking and the spirit in which it is being done. From the point of view of quantitative science, I think he is doing an excellent job. His methods of taking the observations are objective to an astonishing degree when one realizes the complexity of the problem he is undertaking. [...] I found his statistical approaches sound in general.... My impression of the project in general was very favorable indeed [...]" [emphasis mine]

Here is one letter by Kinsey to Reverend Joseph E. Haley, from the Department of Religion at Notre Dame:

"I thoroughly agree with you that it is not the function of a scientist to make moral evaluations, and I strongly feel that a scientist is not qualified to work out moral codes. There is a statement in the introductory pages of our book to that effect, and the conclusion of the book comes back to a similar statement in the last paragraph of the final chapter. We have tried very hard to report the objective fact...and have repeatedly emphasized throughout the book that interpretations of these facts must be left to others. [...]" - Dr. Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research, by Wardell B. Pomeroy, Harper & Row, 1972; 78, 81, 303

77. Well-Being, Atheism, and Religion

78. Relative Morality and the Social Contract

79. The Making of an Atheist; 61

80. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason; 23

81. There is no Lee Strobel, by Chris Hallquist, February 17, 2010 - accessed 4-5-10

82. What I know about Josh McDowell, by Chris Hallquist, October 14, 2007 - accessed 4-5-10

83. Re: There is No Lee Strobel, by Nicholas Covington, February 21, 2010 - accessed 4-5-10

84. Ibid.

85. The Christian Delusion:‭ ‬Why Faith Fails,‭ ‬edited by John Loftus,‭ ‬Prometheus Books,‭ ‬2010‭; ‬87

86. Anxiety Over Loss of Control Can Increase Belief in God...and Government

87. The Making of an Atheist; 91

88. Ibid.; 100-101

89. Ibid.; 102

90. Ibid. 102-103

91. Catholic sex abuse cases - accessed 4-8-10

92. Does Religion Cause Sex Crimes?

93. The Lucifer Effect: Catholic Church Edition

94. Ted Haggard -accessed 4-8-10

95. Evidence Against the Supernatural, Parts One and Two

96. The TalkOrigins Archive's Quote Mine Project - accessed 4-8-10

97. The TalkOrigins Archive's Index to Creationist Claims - accessed 4-8-10

98. The Making of an Atheist; 91-92

99. Ibid.; 101

100. Creation Museum - accessed 4-8-10

101. Skeptic magazine, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2007, pg. 12

102. It's A Battle Over "World Views"...Or Is It Really?

103. The Making of an Atheist; 114

104. Ibid.; 107

105. Against the Gods: Arguments Against God's Existence

106. Ibid.

107. The Science of Good & Evil; 31-64

108. HIV & AIDS in Malawi - accessed 4-9-10

109. The Truth Behind the New Atheism: A Refutation

110. The Making of an Atheist; 117-118

111. Ibid.; 118

112. Ibid.; 119

113. Study: Churchgoers like porn, but don't buy it on the Sabbath - accessed 4-9-10

114. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, Edited by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2007; 306

115. The Making of an Atheist; 120-121

116. Truth Journal: The Psychology of Atheism, by Professor Paul C. Vitz - accessed 4-9-10