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The Making of an Atheist, by Jim Spiegel

I have previously mentioned the blog tour for this book and made some preliminary comments about it. My appreciation of the book only grew as I finished it. It has often been said- correctly I think- that we need more very well done short books on important topics. This is one of those books. In short compass, in a very readable and engaging manner, Spiegel lays out the biblical teaching on how sin blinds us.

Spiegel states that the “the ultimate point” of the book is “to encourage us to look elsewhere besides appraisal of the evidence for the real explanation of atheism” (23-24). Much of the approach of Christians toward atheists is based on the idea that what is needed is more evidence, a better rational explanation. However, Spiegel argues, the real problem is not academic or rational but moral and psychological. He notes:

“A common way of thinking about the relationship between cognition and conduct is to regard belief as always determining behavior. We have a certain belief and choose to act on it. But the above passages [Eph. 4:17-19; Rom. 1:18-24, 28-29] suggest that it works the other way around, too” (54)

“What they (such passages) do point to is a certain moral corruption that influences how they (unbelievers) use their cognitive faculties. It is not intelligence they lack so much as self-control and the right values” (52).

Speigel also points to some candid remarks by prominent atheists.

Aldous Huxley:

“For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.” 73

“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know. It is our will that decides how and upon what subjects we shall use our intelligence. Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless.” 73

William James

“If your heart does not want a world of moral reality, your head will assuredly never make you believe in one.” 84

This truth, that our behavior shapes our belief and that mankind in our fallen state actively hide from God, is an important one for us to reaffirm. It will inform life an ministry in many ways. Reasoned apologetics has a place, but we must realize that rebellion is what must be cured and only God through his gospel can do this (2 Cor 4:1-6). This also means that living out the gospel has great apologetic value. Spiegel writes:

“…there is apologetic power in a life well-lived.” (116)

“Personal virtue and self-sacrifice are the most effective tools of persuasion. . . . When it comes to proving religious truth, an ounce of love is worth a ton of argument.” (116-117)

“…the more virtuously one lives, the more truth one is able to access…” (117)

“…one’s sinful commitments cause cognitive interference by the will . . . . In order to apprehend truth, which is the goal of the intellectual life, one must live a moral life.” (118)

This is a great, helpful little book and I encourage you to read it. I have already bought a copy for our church library and am planning to make it required reading for one of my courses.

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