Absent fathers and atheism

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Jacqui's picture
Absent fathers and atheism

I grew up in a very strong Christian household. I had a lot of questions about Christianity from a young age. My mother is a very intelligent, open-minded woman, but yet clings to her religion. My father was part of my life, but more as a background figure. He never really participated in my upbringing.
It was relatively easy for me to leave the Christian faith behind and become an atheist.
My friends who participate in discussions about science and the inconsistencies and paradoxes in the Bible and religion itself, still cling very much to their faith.
They all had or have strong father figures in their lives.
Can there be a correlation between absent/abusive fathers and atheism? Is it easier for us to shun the ultimate "father figure" because we grew up without a flesh and blood one?

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Sapporo's picture
That may be possible. Perhaps

That may be possible. Perhaps if the religion you brought up in is associated with an authority you later reject, you would be more inclined to reject the religion.

algebe's picture


Don't underestimate the power of mothers.

Jacqui's picture
I do not at all. But it was

I do not at all. But it was just easier for me to turn my back on a paternal authority as I grew up without one. Maybe if Christianity was about believing in a goddess, I would have found it more difficult?

Sheldon's picture
I think the idea it's a

I think the idea it's a direct causal link is dubious, without corroborating research anyway. I think a more plausible explanation in your case that your father's lack of parental influence in your formative years accelerated the maturing process, and one aspect of that would be your ability to think critically for yourself, and making decisions based on your own reasoning was more highly developed at a younger age than the norm. This would make it harder for religion to indoctrinate you, even if they had a foothold earlier on, because your independent critical thinking would be more likely to question their core claims and beliefs because of this.

Cognostic's picture
Jax: Interesting area of

Jax: Interesting area of inquiry. Were I to create a hypothesis I would state the exact opposite. Children in need of a father figure are more likely to turn to religion, I grew up without a father and generally non-religious though I did attend a church after school program in Elementary school and was a "Jesus People" for a few of my Teen Age years. During these times, Jesus was my father substitute. I recall talking to him when I felt lonely and knowing that he was watching over me. Maturing and individuation led me to individuate from my father, mother and religion. Higher education taught me to be my own parent and imagination became no longer necessary.

Another scenario is the fact that most Gang Members are in fact religious. They are religious prior to entering the prison system, religious in the system and religious upon exiting it. Look at any Hispanic gang and you will find tattoos of Jesus, crosses, and bible quotations. The same is true of many black gang members but I don't think the religious tattoos are as common. Still they are there. I think religion takes the place of a father figure. When fathers are not there, children turn to religion and that becomes their guiding light.

Like you, I left religion but I think that has more to do with the development of critical thinking and the ability to observe the world around us with the ability to test claims of truth.
It's more difficult for people to shun their religious father figure when that is the only father figure they have ever known.

Tin-Man's picture
Great topic of discussion

(A bit lengthy. Sorry.)

Great topic of discussion there, Jax. Never considered that before. My Dad left when I was about 3 or 4 and was never of much influence in my life. There were a couple of stepdads along the way, but I never really viewed them as true father figures. The closest thing I had to that was one of my uncles and my Grandaddy who stepped in and became my "male role models". Even so, it was not the same as a strong authoritative father figure.

I was the oldest of three, and during most of my formative years my Mom was generally working two or three part-time low paying jobs just to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. As a result, I was - by default - "the man of the house", especially as I got older. Naturally, this caused me to have to mature a bit quicker.

So, my Mom and Granny and both my uncles were very religious. One of my uncles was even a Methodist preacher. Suffice it to say, Sunday church attendance and vacation bible school was the norm. Oddly enough, despite the strong religious influence, my brother and sister and I were always encouraged to think for ourselves. Plus, I was always in the top academic standings in school. (I was a strange creature. An academic nerd who also got picked first for backyard and PE football/baseball games and other such sports activities. lol But I digress...)

Anyway, I suppose it was all of these things combined that somehow allowed me to realize how all the religious stuff I was taught just never made sense to me. Too many inconsistencies. Too many contradictions. Never any straight answers from adults when difficult questions were asked. I was always left puzzled and scratching my head. And while not having my Dad around as a direct influence may have contributed to my ultimate break from religion, the main factor that kept me holding to it was my Mom. Matter of fact, it was only after she died a little over a year and a half ago that I finally severed those last few threads that kept me tied to religion. Fascinating, though, that I never before considered the lack of my Dad as a factor in my break-away. Thanks for the insight, Jax. Cool.

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