Is Rejection of God Related to “Daddy-Issues”? Yes or No?

In examining the reasons for believers to embrace faith, and Christianity in particular, it is not unusual for theories to be trotted out — often asserted without supporting evidence — supposing that belief stems from this-or-that psychological “need” or impulse.

Claims that Christians are motivated by irrational fear, unwarranted guilt feelings, or manipulation by the adults who shaped their lives are among theories typically floated for why Christians would stubbornly hold to their “obviously irrational” belief.

Since it is “fair game” to probe the motives for belief, why not inquire about what psychological precursors (if any) are consistent with unbelief?

That’s exactly what Psychologist and New York University professor Paul Vitz did.  In fact, his study took a cue from a statement by Freud suggesting a loss of respect for one’s natural father often triggers a young person’s rejection of God.

From that, starting point Dr Vitz proposed the “defective father hypothesis”, in which he posited that “a father, if he is ‘defective’ [explained later] sets up a strong pressure — not a total determining one — but a strong pressure toward atheism on the part of his children”.

The criterion of “defective” could be met in 3 ways.
1) Father rejecting abandoning his family.
2) Father is abusive/hostile.
3) Father is absent through death.  (This is further explained.)

A “defective father”, in this hypothesis, makes it very difficult to believe in God.

To test his hypothesis, Dr Vitz compared the personal lives of some the most prominent, influential and rigorously committed atheists of history to the lives of similarly prominent, influential and committed believers (Protestant, Catholic and Jewish), paying particular attention to the relationships they had with their fathers.

He was only interested in the deeply committed, “intense” atheists for whom their unbelief was psychologically important.  He put forward a list of prominent atheist thinkers and their contemporary theistic counterparts — and he describes what he found, namely that there is a strong correlation of “strong” atheism with the failures of their fathers.

To describe it with pop-culture lingo, “daddy issues” can have a significant part to play in unbelief.

The source article went on to corroborate Dr. Vitz’s theory by including statistical results of a Swiss study of paternal influence upong the belief or unbelief of their children.

Dr. Vitz’s video is here:

About the author: Wes Walker

Clashdaily's Religion Editor, Wes Walker, believes that freedom, faith, family, and the flag need more than to be simply cherished. They need to be understood, articulated, defended and promoted, not just by a few voices in prominent places, but by every man or woman who truly prizes them. In fact, the reason he wrote "Blueprint For a Government that Doesn't Suck" was so that every "ordinary Joe" will be able to do just that... and do it with confidence. Follow on twitter: @Republicanuck

View all articles by Wes Walker
  • Abby

    The sin issue would be unforgiveness. Boys who have unrealistic expectations of their human fathers or fathers who were truly rotten dads and caused pain to their sons still have to be forgiven for their failures or else it is the son’s life that turns out to be meaningless. A

  • Farbar

    I’ve always thought that atheists were people who didn’t like being told what to do by authority figures.

    • Guest

      The cult-like worship of figures such as Hawking and Dawkins, as well as many appeals to authority in their arguments, quickly disabuses one of that notion.

      • Wes Walker

        an excellent observation.

      • Kyle Shymko

        Think you need to re-check your definition of worship.

    • Kyle Shymko

      You do everything everybody tells you? If the Pope asked you to jump off a bridge would you do it?

  • Carrie54

    It only makes sense that they wouldn’t know how to have a heavenly Father if they didn’t have an earthly one. I don’t think its true for every atheist, but I have seen many that do have issues with their dad

    • jubilee

      If atheists didn’t believe in GOD, they wouldn’t keep FIGHTING AGAINST HIM.. they KNOW HES REAL … but they are just ANGRY; as a rule..for example the ‘atheist pastor’ or ‘clergy’

      • Kyle Shymko

        Egotistical to think this way.

    • Kyle Shymko

      Love my dad. He’s a Christian. Disagree with his beliefs though. So no… not true for every atheist.

  • John C. Edwards

    I am a committed Christian who raised both his children to believe in and worship God. When they got to college (University of Texas) that all changed. Their exposure to Far Eastern ideologies, Liberalism and modern philosophy (Neitsche, Existentialism) changed all that. The work of 18 years was gone in one. Now both are atheists and will not speak to me of any matters regarding faith.) Tell me, doctor, where did I fail? Where did I fail to be strong?

    • Wes Walker

      In the video, the doctor is careful to include some exceptions. Note even the wording of his hypothesis “strong pressure but not in a deterministic sense”. The doctor himself allows for other factors. His hypothesis does not say atheists had bad fathers. He says a “defective” father-child relationship greatly magnifies the likelihood of that outcome.

    • jubilee

      I feel BAD that, this happened to you. Although on some Christian radio stations, they would tell you how to keep your kids from being indoctranated by ‘philiosophies’. Ken Ham is a good example…..with his answers in genesis…

      • victorbarney

        Does anybody here realize that the “Hebrew”-inspired scripture(Zeph. 3:9, Acts 26:14, 1 Cor. 4:6) even directly states that Satan RUNS THIS WORLD until our Jewish, not Greek, Savior & High Priest “Yahshua,” meaning in Hebrew that “Yahweh means salvation” returns to earth? In fact, Lucifer will be taken out of worldly affairs for 1000 years and then allowed to try to deceive AGAIN the people who have lived in perfect harmony for 1,000 years, also as written! Folks, one just can’t make this stuff up! WATCH, or at least the 72,000 Anglo-Saxon men & women, including Judah, left alive by Revelation’s two-witnesses! FYI: The next Annual Feast of spiritual Trumpets(WAR) occurs on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014…I’m just stating scriptural facts! Also, just like as when in Egyptian captivity, both our government & justice system is run by gentiles! OUCH! Watch…

    • victorbarney

      Remember John, also as written, Lucifer(Satan) still is running this world from under it for a little while longer! Sort of like the Mafia was, I suppose…

    • Kyle Shymko

      You failed them by trying to force them to believe. Why not let them believe whatever they want?

      • sandraleesmith46

        You want to see a failure in the father department, look in a mirror! You’re a first class example!

        • Kyle Shymko

          Because I don’t force feed my children irrational beliefs that stunt their educational development? Why don’t I let Bill Nye do the talking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHbYJfwFgOU

          • sandraleesmith46

            Irrational only to those who are following the world’s lies; including Mr Nye; shame you can’t speak for yourself, as he has nothing of value to say!

          • Kyle Shymko

            Lies? How can you possibly call evolution a lie? You realize there is actual evidence for it right? How about you start with some evidence that supports Creationism? You’re the perfect example of the type of person that is holding children back.

          • sandraleesmith46

            It’s not hard; they were teaching that one back in the ’50s as “science truth” too; but the funny thing is there’s NO concrete evidence; not a single fossil that takes a leap from kingdom to kingdom; from phylum to phylum etc; the only provable changes are from within a species as adaptations; ergo the whole evolution lie! Do you know anything about quantum physics? Dark matter? There’s more evidence of creation and intelligent design than for evolution. I’m holding no one back; I just think kids should be taught ALL aspects. Science and creation aren’t incompatible at all, never were, until some fools decided to “make” them so!

          • Kyle Shymko

            No fossils? Wow… if you believe that then your head is truly buried in the sand. Give me one piece of evidence for creation and it better not have anything to do with the Bible.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Let’s see you make, not grow, a tree. But better yet try quantum physics and dark matter. As for fossils, I never said there weren’t fossils just none that make the jumps that would HAVE To be made, MULTIPLE times from kingdom to kingdom, phylum to phylum, family to family and/or genus to genus, in order for “evolution” to really work!

          • Kyle Shymko

            Evolution can already be duplicated. They’ve done so with fruit flies. Love that you answer my question with a question though. The answer to my question for proof of God (or any other of the 1000′s of gods for that matter) is that there isn’t any. There isn’t even a hope of proof. 0.0000000000000000001% of a god’s existence is too high a number!

            Look – I won’t pretend to act like I know everything (who can say that they do?). I’m not a physicist/biologist/etc. There are a couple reasons for why I believe what I do: 1) Common sense and probability and 2) I trust the brightest, smartest people on this planet. Look no farther than quite possibly the smartest physicist on the planet: Stephen Hawking.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Good Lord you don’t even understand the difference between intraspecies adaptation and actual evolution! There IS absolutely ZERO evidence of interspecies evolution, let alone interkingdom, interphylum, interfamily or intergenus! As for your “genius” Hawking, he’s been proven wrong far more often than right! But that explains much; keep worshiping the creation instead of the Creator, and see where that will get you, although i really don’t believe you’ll like it much! As for “common sense” I doubt you have a scintilla of that! And NEVER trust a human over God!

          • Watchman on the Wall

            Give me one piece of solid evidence for the theory of macro-evolution (Darwinism).

            Where are the billions of fossils that ought to exist built over billions of years, evidencing endless transitional life forms between species? They don’t exist. Why not? Because they would have become lunch for the very first Tyranysaurus Rex walking by – with no feet to flee and no fins to swim away before they reached the age to reproduce.

            Where is your evidence for abiogenesis: that life could spring from non-life spontaneously? Again, it doesn’t exist.

            These are the twin pillars on which Darwinism rests and both are frauds.

            Finally, explain to me how Darwinism accounts for the concept of irreducible complexity, such as the flagellum rotor in certain types of cells?

            You are aware that the Rothschild-Zionists boasted that they invented Darwinism out of thin air and successfully pedaled it to a naive and unsuspecting public in their Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, are you not?

            Bummer!!! You evolutionist wishful thinkers have just been BUSTED!!!!

          • Kyle Shymko

            lol typical response…

          • Watchman on the Wall

            Chicken poop… Typical response of a lying and deceitful Khazar shill and troll…

            You psychopaths are all alike… Get lost!

          • Kyle Shymko

            So you believe the story about the talking snake then right?

          • Watchman on the Wall

            You’ve yet to answer my challenge. Your response here was non-responsive to my challenge. Where’s all that compelling evidence proving the wishful thinking of macro-evolution? No where to be found. I suggest you follow the rabbit trail of your own fantasy and see where it really leads…

            Hint: you will find an admission on about page 8 of the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” that the Khazar elites invented Communism, Darwinism and Nietzcheism (philosopher famous for claiming “God is dead”) and found it remarkably easy to promote it to a naive and gullible unsuspecting non-Jewish public. Looks like you drank their Kool-Aid junior!

    • sandraleesmith46

      You didn’t necessarily fail! Your children have free will too, which even God won’t cros. I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, and was exposed to all those things my first year in college too. Fast forward 50 years, and I am a believer and follower of His Way! The lure of evil, and the force of peer pressure are powerful. Keep praying; they may turn back in time.

  • AR154U

    The shunning and hatred towards God is everywhere these days. Several reality TV’s are dedicated to just that. Example: Escaping the Prophet, Breaking Amish, Amish mafia(laughable), and Preacher’s of L.A. just to name a few. They all have one common theme and goal,.. Religion BAD,.. Atheism GOOD !! Any form of religion is bad if one allows a group or person to pervert it !?!

    • victorbarney

      Why, just because our WOMEN ALONE elected the only leader over Anglo-Saxons in history that is actually predicted in the Hebrew, not Greek, inspired scriptures(i.e., Deuteronomy 17:15′s “forbidden foreigner”(Non-Anglo-Saxon) put over Anglo-Saxons & Jews)? Look at it this way, “the first is last & the last is first to become resurrected”…

      • edsmssi

        “the first is last & the last is first to become resurrected”. In the original New Testament Greek: Protoi Eschatoi kai Eschatoi Protoi.

  • Six Edits

    Most scientists realize that we greatly depend upon the whims of genius and circumstance during the voyage toward scientific discovery.

  • Deb

    Just one more non-rational reason for atheism.

  • Kyle Shymko

    What a joke! So Dad wasn’t around to make sure that you believed in a god? Isn’t it obvious that if you let kids figure things out for themselves they’ll reach the conclusion that God (or any of the other 1000′s of religions) aren’t real? If I didn’t tell my son about Santa he wouldn’t believe in him either… because he’s not real.

    • Wes Walker

      Congrats! You get a gold star for completely missing the point of the Doctor’s thesis. Not only did you not understand his assertions, or the related evidence (did you even bother to read or listen before rejecting his arguments? Unlikely.) but you so thoroughly misunderstood his assertions that you got them exactly backwards. If this is an example of the “superior reason” that led you to your atheism, you’re making an excellent case against your own position. Keep up the good work!

      • Kyle Shymko

        The premise of this article is “Atheists claim that their parents shape what they believe”. So religion’s defense is to suggest that a lack of a father figure leads to Atheism? It’s not uncommon for religious folks to use this strategy. Atheists ask for evidence of God… Theists ask for evidence that God doesn’t exist. Let’s not go there though.

        What’s even worse about this article is the gender bias. Moms have no influence on a child’s beliefs? Why not? Holy sexism (pun intended). Look no further than the horrible example set by “jubilee” a couple posts up.

        As for the video – No I didn’t watch the whole thing. I think I got the just of it in the first 15 minutes though. People become atheists without a proper father figure. I didn’t disagree with that if you read my first post. Atheism is gaining popularity thanks to our increased intelligence, technology, and freedom to express our beliefs.

      • Kyle Shymko

        I suppose what I’m getting at is it would be great if people would let their kids decide for themselves but I suppose the fear that your child might go to “hell” somewhere in the Earth’s core repels that notion.

    • jubilee

      TYPICAL MALE… women NEVER say they are ‘atheists’ unless something bad has happened to them…(like molestation)

      • Kyle Shymko

        Wow. Talk about delusional. You really think all atheist women were molested!?! I think I should chalk this comment up as an outlier amongst the religious community.

      • sandraleesmith46

        That isn’t always a guarantee either. I was molested and raped by 3 adult members of my family, beginning at a very early age, and not taught faith in the home either, yet I am a believer today!

        • Kyle Shymko

          Sorry to hear that. If religion helps you through things like this then I think you should keep believing. This is an example of how religion might help a person. Do whatever makes you stronger.

          • sandraleesmith46

            It didn’t “help” me through “things like that”; I didn’t have it then; and I was as recovered as is possible before I came to this understanding and faith. But it is that FAITH which makes me stronger! It would you as well, and your son, as it does for all who embrace it. It’s NOT “religion”; there’s a difference.

          • Kyle Shymko

            Faith is believing in something without evidence. I’d rather put my faith in something real. Just my opinion.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Then it’s not faith; and just because y9ou don’t have the physical evidence you want doesn’t make it not real. You believe science and that requires far more BLIND faith to believe than does Yhwh God. You have evidence all around you that you reject of Yhwh and His handiwork.

          • Kyle Shymko

            I said it below and I’ll say it again. Show me one cold hard fact that supports Creationism or God’s existence. That’s why you need faith (see above graphic again).

          • sandraleesmith46

            Dark matter.

          • Kyle Shymko

            2 words is all you gave… and you couldn’t have chosen two worse ones. Explain to me how “Dark matter.” = God exists? You do realize that even NASA doesn’t know much about it right? I’ll give you a chance to elaborate though… go ahead.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Those science guys you put so much faith in are the ones who are being pushed by what they’re learning about dark matter, in quantum physics, to acceptance of Intelligent design {aka Creationism} because it’s incompatible with the Big Bang and evolution but it IS compatible with Intelligent design! Do you need “concrete signs” that you need to breathe to stay alive? Most infants have that figured out before they even leave the del room, even preemies!

          • Kyle Shymko

            So ultimately I think it makes us weaker to believe in things that aren’t real. Speaking of parents not doing their children any favors lets look no further than the numerous examples of parents having faith that God would save their children from illness instead of taking them to the hospital like a sane person.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Of course that’s foolish; but there’s a difference between “unreal” and unseen! As for those parents; not knowing all the specifics, it’s impossible to judge them wrong. There are any number of other factors of which you and I are unaware that were involved; that are extremely pertinent to know, before making such a blanket judgment!

    • sandraleesmith46

      Wow! Guess your daddy really rained on your parade! How sad for you, AND your son. He’ll likely miss out on a tremendous blessing, on your account!

      • Kyle Shymko

        My Dad is one of my best friends… and he’s a Christian. My son can choose to believe whatever he wants. Why would I want to brainwash him one way or another? Let’s let our children make their own decisions.

        • sandraleesmith46

          Right; send your son off into the world without a sound moral compass; because no human needs that…. That’s “real love”! Too bad you didn’t respect your father enough to LISTEN to what he was trying to teach you, for your own edification! I wish my father had been trying to teach me that, instead of raping me!

          • Kyle Shymko

            Your father raping you has nothing to do with religion. Why do you even bother associating the two? You think believing in God makes you a good person? Get real. The overwhelming majority of prisoners are Christians. Furthermore, the Bible is probably the last place I’d look for a moral compass.

          • sandraleesmith46

            No but teaching a sound moral foundation does; and that is what he failed to teach me! You really are a FOOL! BTW Satan has more than 55 MILLION deaths to his credit in this nation alone in the past 4 decades, and that doesn’t include all the rest killed in acts he drove in one way or the other! He is the ultimate ruler in this world still, you know… oh, no you probably don’t actually KNOW that’; but that is for whom you’re working and whose ways you’re supporting!

          • Kyle Shymko

            Your Dad being a bad person and not teaching you morals has nothing to do with religion. He is just a bad person that quite possibly has a mental illness. Yes the Bible says what you should and shouldn’t do (based on your interpretation that is… not all Christians believe the same things) but that doesn’t mean that Atheists, Muslims, etc have no morals. Like I said… most prisoners are Christian so what does that tell you?

            As for the 55 million deaths in the US… let’s start a theme here. Give me one fact that prove Satan’s (or God’s for that matter) existence.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Morals are a RELIGIOUS purview; if there’s no religion, there are no morals because there are no absolutes to measure against; and Muslims don’t have morals, in truth. BTW, you’re kind of behind on the prison populations too…

  • Three Friends

    Considering that public opinion is susceptible to being hijacked by those who harbor nefarious intentions, we should remember that majority decisions cannot guarantee morality, liberty, or prosperity.

    • edsmssi

      As a wise conservative once said, “There is no such thing as societal morality. There is only the aggravate of individual moralities.”

      • Three Friends

        Precisely.

  • Sam

    Either you believe in God or you believe in evil. There is no in between. You cannot be neutral.

  • sandraleesmith46

    Having struggled with serious “daddy issues” ( related to incestuous rapes), which did indeed, for decades, impede my ability to relate to God as my heavenly Father, and having come past that to a solid faith, and ability to trust in Him to provide for my needs, I can attest that there is a correlation, at least in the area of that trust, if not more.

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