Thursday, March 04, 2010

Author Interview: James Spiegel & The Making of an Atheist

Author James Spiegel's newest book is entitled The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief. His main premise is that unbelief is not simply the product of intellectual objections, but is primarily moral and volitional. This is a brief interview discussing the themes in his book.

Full Interview MP3 Audio here. (23 minutes)

James is on a blog tour at the moment, and will answer a few of your questions. Please submit your questions in the comment section below; three will be chosen for James to answer on the blog tomorrow. GIVEAWAY: For those whose questions are chosen, free books will awarded.

Download the table of contents and introduction of The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief over at James Spiegel's website:



blogGNOSIS said...

Question for Spiegel: How does your premise that unbelief is due to 'moral and volitional' causes avoid the genetic fallacy that we so often level against atheistic critiques of the Christian worldview? If we can explain away unbelief by its causes, then why not belief as well?

brian_g said...

James Spiegel,

After your interview on we got into an interesting discussion on the topic. I'm a bit disappointed you didn't stop back to chime in. I think I was the only one on the Christian side in the discussion. I suggested some ways this thesis can be tested. If you get a chance, I'd be interested in your thoughts.

I do have a question. 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 then atheism.

Faithful Thinkers said...

Brian and James,
Thank you guys for getting together to provide this opportunity for the apologetics community.

I haven't read the book yet, but I have read the intro (from the website) and am quite excited to get my hands on it. I recently took some intro psychology classes, and they have led me down the same path that it seems the book will be going with regards to deeply held beliefs and the denial of reason- sin being the culprit.

I'm thinking this question through as I type (sorry if I ramble). 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?

Thanks for the great work!

Marc Belcastro said...


If I may address your question, it's seems to me that Spiegel isn't attempting to demonstrate that atheism is false by virtue of how it originates. And although he advances arguments in favor of theism, they appear to function as a supplement to his book's main thesis.


-- Marc

James J. Barlow said...

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.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Spiegel,

Can you suggest some research topics that would allow us to quantify how the practice of particular immoral behaviors affect belief in God?

What do you think about cultural forces that try to push sex education in the schools to earlier and earlier grades? Do you think that this will have an effect on belief in God among young people?

Dax Bennington's Blog said...

James Spiegel,

I am greatly appreciative for your work in this area of apologetics...

I browsed commonsenseatheism as the first comment spoke of and it has led to some interesting questions, as your familiar, luke of that site claims to be a former evaangelical, now atheist, he runs one of the most popular sites on the web and has been liberated from the chains of orthooxy, into the saving arms of reason.

Something thats perplexes me, that I believe peratins much to your thesis is, how does immorality lead to unbelief, a quick glance into Luke's bio could get one to ponder on all of the psychological factors that played a role in his de-conversion, I bring this up only because it concerns me,

why does God allow people to leave, especially for psychological/addictive/ sinful behaviours?

I am not a psychologist, but this does perplex me into the role of psychology and belief?

Are there any other books besides Paul Vitz on this type of literature?

and how would you respond to the ad hominem objection so vehemently brought up by atheist, as well as the very relativistic "What is morality?" type response that Ive seen over and over again when people think they can evaluate God on solely analyzing a deductive argument.

the main concern is that I dont think Luke is the only kid who, raised in the evangelical commmunity, goes to college, and is "enlightened" by reason, and discovering his faith to be childish and silly, this concerns me because as a college student, I am witnessing this phenomenom before my very eyes


Rick Landon said...

Given the thesis that atheism is caused by
immorality then it would seem that any
type of intellectual objection to theism is
in theory sinfull? Now while I know, as a
seminary trained apologist these objections
can be answered, I am pretty sure
they can at least be honest questions.
How does you thesis avoid forcing us to
conclude that any moment of doubt is

Jim Spiegel said...


Regarding the accusation that I commit the genetic fallacy in my book, this would be true if I were offering an argument that attempts to show that atheism is false. Rather, in the book I am assuming that atheism is false and offering an explanatory account as to how people become atheists.

Jim Spiegel said...


That's an interesting question regarding whether my thesis implies that all intellectual objections are necessarily sinful. One reason why this does not follow is that most such objections are aimed at critiquing particular aspects of theism (e.g., the doctrine of hell, a particular view of providence, etc.) or a particular argument for theism (e.g. the cosmological argument) rather than rejecting belief in God per se. Also, even when a person raises questions or criticisms regarding God's existence, this may be done with the motive of testing the philosophical rigor of theism rather than genuinely doubting its truth.

Jim Spiegel said...


As to why God allows people to reject him and leave the faith, that question falls under the general issue of the problem of evil. Without going into detail, I think the best explanations are found in appealing to (1) human freedom and (2) God's aesthetic aims in creating the world.

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