Saturday, March 06, 2010

James Spiegel Answers Questions About The Making of an Atheist

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to UnbeliefJames Spiegel, author of The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief, answers a few questions about his book. Below are the questions and James’ responses.

brian_g asked:
You mention Romans 1, as supporting your thesis. Don’t you think that Paul was talking about Paganism with their nature gods as opposed to atheism? “They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.” (Rom. 1:23). This sounds like a description of the paganism in Paul’s day rather than atheism.

James Spiegel responds:

Yes, Paul does seem to be referring to paganism and idolatry in v. 23, but that seems to be an illustration of his primary point about the suppression of the truth of God by wickedness  (v. 18) and where this ultimately leads.  The progression seems to be as follows:  people indulge in sin, which creates guilt and a will to refuse to acknowledge God, even to the point of denying what is obvious about God from creation (v. 20).  And the irrational extreme of idolatry (what could be more irrational than worshipping things that humans have made?) simply illustrates how foolish we may become when denying such basic truths.

Luke Nix asked:
With the way that you characterize the process (solely from the intro), it seems that unbelievers’ rationality and freedom to choose to believe both lessen as they act more against God. Its almost a continuum that gradually moves from “free will to choose God” to “determined not to choose God (by previous choices, of course).” First, is my characterization anywhere near correct? Second, if it is, what implications (if any) does this have for an apologist in determining who to engage?

 James Spiegel responds

I do think that all humans have significant moral freedom but that the freedom to choose God (to repent and trust in Him) must be enabled by the Holy Spirit.  This is not just a Calvinist idea but Arminians would affirm something like this as well with their doctrine of prevenient grace.  So this means that the apologist should always recognize that it is God who must change a person’s heart, though he sometimes uses evidences in this process.  And I think you’re correct in noting the continuum of hard-heartedness that is observable in people.  So when it comes to deciding whom to engage with arguments, we do need to exercise discernment.  Some will only be aggravated by arguments, while others are genuinely hungry for them, and a simple presentation of evidence can knock down the final barrier to faith.  But I think most Christians can get a sense of where a person lies on this continuum after a few conversations about God and religion.  Still, it is a good idea to pray for wisdom here.

James J. Barlow asked:
I find the premise of this book very intriguing, and have often wondered about it myself. Recently I have read and heard about research in this area that is starting to turn the tables on what scientists may have wrongly concluded (that belief in God is irrational). How much recent scientific work were you able to include in the research for your book? Thanks.

James Spiegel responds:

I only make passing reference to psychological studies that confirm how behavior impacts belief.  For the most part I develop my account of atheism (what I call the biblical account) based on Scripture, moral psychology, history, and some philosophy of science.  Since my publisher wanted the book to be very concise I wasn’t able to delve into too much detail in each of these areas, but whole volumes could be devoted to each area as they relate to unbelief.  And, in some cases, such books have already been written (see Paul Vitz’s Faith of the Fatherless, Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals and E. Michael Jones’s Degenerate Moderns).

Have more questions for James Spiegel? He has 12 more blogs to go on his BLOG TOUR. Check out his website and blog as well. You can also read the book for yourself.

Be sure to peruse the other books by James Spiegel:
The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy
How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad: Living a Life of Christian Virtue
Gum, Geckos, and God: A Family’s Adventure in Space, Time, and Faith
The Benefits of Providence: A New Look at Divine Sovereignty
Faith, Film and Philosophy: Big Ideas on the Big Screen
Hypocrisy: Moral Fraud and Other Vices
The Beatles and Philosophy
Bob Dylan and Philosophy
God Under Fire


  1. Ex N1hilo March 6, 2010

    For most atheists, nature IS their God. As her children, they are share in her divinity. It's not much different than the paganism that the biblical writers confronted.

    Rejection of the transcendent, personal Creator and Judge, who has made himself known to all human beings, is at the heart of the fall and is the universal condition of men since. There are a plethora of expressions of this condition. Atheism and paganism are two peas in a pod.

  2. Mariano March 9, 2010

    The Q&A about Romans 1 needs to consider that atheism is asserting itself more and more as neo-paganism in exchanging awe in God for awe in nature: see Atheism Spirituality