Does an absent or negative father have any influence on his child's faith? Yes. Sadly, that influence is almost always negative.
- Dr. Paul C. Vitz, professor of psychology at New York University and a former atheist, is the author of Faith of the Fatherless. In this thought-provoking book, Vitz diagnoses the root causes of atheism and agnosticism. In studying the biographies of many of the leading atheists of the past three centuries, Vitz concludes that virtually all had an absent, distant, harassed or abusive father early in their childhood — often before 18 months of age.
- Three years before Dr. Vitz's findings were published, Luis Palau and David Sanford noted the same phenomenon in their book God Is Relevant. They observed: "Darwin, Huxley, Nietzsche, and Freud, among others, felt a great deal of animosity or hatred toward their fathers, almost all of whom were religious men exhibiting some fault their sons found intolerable. Schopenhauer also may have deeply resented his father, who apparently committed suicide while Arthur was a boy; he certainly felt much bitterness toward his mother. Psychological research by William Glasser and others suggests that severe parent-child alienation often produces negative long-term effects, which was certainly the case for each of these men."
- The bottom line? A bad father-child relationship can produce long-lasting spiritual damage in the life of the child. That damage will cause multiple negative repercussions in other spheres of that child's life for years to come. No wonder Scripture warns:
- "Fathers, do not exasperate your children" (Ephesians 6:4).
- "Fathers, do not embitter your children" (Colossians 3:21).
- Thankfully, as a parent you can make your child's relationship with God the first priority as you raise him or her. There's still hope!
- If you've struggled in the past with faith issues because of your own father's failings, resolve to form a new spiritual heritage.