The impact of fathers on spirituality

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#1
A famous poem once stated:

They f**k you up, your mum and dad​
They may not mean to, but they do.​
They fill you with the faults they had​
And add some extra, just for you.​
But they were f***ed up in their turn​
By fools in old-style hats and coats,​
Who half the time were soppy-stern​
And half at one another's throats.​
Man hands on misery to man.​
It deepens like a coastal shelf.​
Get out as early as you can,​
And don't have any kids yourself.​

Philip Larkin, High Windows

This is not a new observation, but upbringing and experiences do provide a filter we may not even be aware of on how we perceive God, which is why the following book is so interesting:-

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The book examines 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.
 





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#2
I just found an YouTube radio interview show episode with Dr Vitz.


I had a usually good relationship with my father so I haven't had problems seeing God as a father.

I knew several women who did: one had an abusive father (extremely strict disciplinarian), the other womn never knew her father, as her mother and father had separated I cannot remember if that was before she was born or soon afterwards).
The first had trouble seeing God as a loving Father. The second had trouble even seeing God as a Father.
 





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#4
I think Fathers can affect the way people see God. I have met people that had a horrible view of God based on their abusive Father. In many ways Faithlessness could lead to Atheism.
A religion's doctrine about their God definitely reinforces any problems people might have with their father too.
I was brought up in a Catholic family, went to Catholic school but my father was a non-practicing Anglican (agnostic).

We were taught that God the Father was angry that He had to send Jesus to die on the cross, and Jesus wasn't too impressed either. We were told to approach Jesus' Mother Mary in prayer instead. She was the "mother of Jesus" so Jesus had to obey her.

The negative view of God the father did affect my willingness to approach my Dad a bit as a result, especially as he did have quite a temper.
 





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#5
@JoChris

I think Paul Vitz hints at this, but in modern societies, where people can find "scientific" justifications such as Evolution, this comes out as militant atheism.

In older societies, when people had an anger towards fathers, morphed into a heart of rebellion towards "father" God, atheism would be as plausible to their world view as denying the Sun existed. As God's existence was taken as self-evident, other forms of rebellion against Him were the logical option.

Which gets into the psychology of heresy...
Kids who hate their real dads are prone to bad-mouth them to anyone who cares to listen.
 





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