Faith of the Fatherless

Monday, Dec 2, 2013 - 6pm ET

Paul C. Vitz, Ph.D. (Stanford University, 1962), is Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Department of Psychology, New York University. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and is in active contact with many Evangelical Protestants, e.g., Inter Varsity, and several seriously committed Jews. Besides, his interest in how things religious relate to psychology, he is also involved in the general topic of psychology and art.

He has published over 100 articles and essays and books including: Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism; “A preferential option for the family?: Political and religious responses.” The Family in America, 12 (6), 1-8; “Kleinen psychodynamics and religious aspects of hatred as a defense mechanism.” Psychology and Theology, 25, 64-71; “Kernbergian psychodynamics and religious aspects of the forgiveness process.” Psychology and Theology, 25, 72-80; “A Christian theory of personality.” In R. Roberts and M. Talbot (Eds.), Limning the psyche: Explorations in Christian psychology (pp. 20-40; Psychology as religion: The cult of self-worship; “The use of stories in moral development: new psychological reasons for an old education method.” American Psychologist, 45, 709-720.

His work focuses on the relationship between psychology and Christianity. He is presently working on the following topics: a Christian theory of personality, and the psychology of hatred and forgiveness. He is also doing work on moral development and on character/virtue education with school-aged young people, and he has written on the topic of fatherhood and the family and is author of Defective fathers: Psychological origins of atheism (Dallas, TX: Spence).

Prof. Vitz lives in Manhattan (Greenwich Village) with his wife Evelyn Timmie Birge Vitz, who is a Professor of French at NYU, and their six children.



Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism
In Faith of the Fatherless, starting with Freud's "projection theory" of religion - that belief in God is merely a product of man's desire for security - Professor Vitz argues that psychoanalysis actually provides a more satisfying explanation for atheism. Disappointment in one's earthly father, whether through death, absence, or mistreatment, frequently leads to a rejection of God. A biographical survey of influential atheists of the past four centuries shows that this "defective father hypothesis" provides a consistent explanation of the "intense atheism" of these thinkers. A survey of the leading defenders of Christianity over the same period confirms the hypothesis, finding few defective fathers. Vitz concludes with an intriguing comparison of male and female atheists and a consideration of other psychological factors that can contribute to atheism. Professor Vitz does not argue that atheism is psychologically determined. Each man, whatever his experiences, ultimately chooses to accept God or reject him. Yet the cavalier attribution of religious faith to irrational, psychological needs is so prevalent that an exposition of the psychological factors predisposing one to atheism is necessary.