Can Brian Cox’s angry denunciation of Christianity be explained by his childhood?

Actor Brian Cox in 2016
Credit: Dmitry Rozhkov, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0 Deed

Scottish actor Brian Cox, 77, recently denounced Christianity in a podcast called “The Starting Line,” Faithwire reports.

But as you read Cox’s comments, it seems that this was more than an intellectual opposition to Christianity, but almost an emotional hatred.

Cox is best known for his role in the HBO TV series Succession, where he plays the patriarch of what has been described as a dysfunctional wealthy family. He won a Golden Global Award and received an Emmy nomination for his role.

In the podcast, Cox took direct aim at the Bible, describing it as “one of the worst books ever,” and then focussed on the Genesis account, stating that anyone who believed it was “stupid.”

It’s Adam and Eve …. I mean, the propaganda goes [right] the way back,” Cox said. “The Bible is one of the worst books ever, for me, from my point of view, because it starts with the idea that … out of Adam’s rib, this woman was created, and they’ll believe it, because they’re stupid enough.”

He went on to call it “mythology” adding, “We’ve created that idea of God, and we’ve created it as a control issue.

It’s all about this notion of God — the idea that there’s a God that takes care of us all,” Cox said. “There’s no such thing, doesn’t happen; that’s not what it’s about. It’s about us.

An avowed atheist, Cox’s comments had me thinking about a book written by Paul Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism.

Vitz was a professor at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences based in Arlington, Virginia, a Catholic graduate school, at the time he wrote the book in 1999.

Based on his own experience, and an examination of the biographies of many of the world’s most notorious atheists, Vitz found a common denominator.

Many of them came from broken and/or abusive homes. Vitz believes their dysfunctional upbringing profoundly impacted their later spiritual beliefs.

He pointed to renowned American atheist, Madylnee O’Hair, whose 1960s lawsuit ended prayer in school.

Vitz cited the memoir written by her son, W.J. Murray, who spoke of the time O’Hair tried to kill her father with a ten-inch knife. Failing, O’Hair screamed, “I’ll see you dead. I’ll get you yet. I’ll walk on your grave.”

I provide a Biblical explanation for this connection in the following podcast:

Or it could involve a home, where one or both of the parents died when the children were young. Vitz says that at a young age, children believe that death is a choice and blame their parents for dying and the pain it causes.

Vitz also discussed German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900. He started what is referred to as the ‘God is Dead’ movement.

Vitz points out that his belief later in life eerily paralleled Nietzsche’s own childhood experience, as his father, who was a pastor, died when Nietzsche was only 5 years old. Biographers noted that Nietzsche was deeply attached to his father.

Brian Cox’s childhood

So if Vitz is right and what you experienced growing up can profoundly impact your spiritual beliefs, let’s take a closer look at Cox’s childhood.

In an article for, Colin McEvoy writes that Cox was eight years old when his father died of pancreatic cancer.

But it was a double whammy, McEvoy added, because, “around that time, his mother, Mary Ann Guillerline, began to suffer from mental breakdowns, leaving Cox to be raised largely by his three older sisters.

Cox left school at age 15 and turned to acting as a way to escape his rough childhood. In fact, after writing his memoir, Putting the Rabbit in the Hat, Cox said in an interview with the Associated Press (AP) that he became depressed.

Cox added in that AP interview that his childhood was “bloody tough and bloody lonely.”

I hope they’re going to be surprised about what a boy from the age of 8, from the age of 15, had to go through,” Cox added. “And that, to me, is the most key thing about the book — just this kid who is literally abandoned by everybody, not only through circumstance, it’s nobody’s fault.”

Britannica Encyclopedia adds that after the death of his father, followed closely by his mother’s nervous breakdowns, the family was extremely poor and Cox was forced to go begging for food at a fish and chips shop.

There is no doubt Cox had a traumatic life growing up and if Vitz is right, this may explain his atheistic beliefs later in life.

Sometimes life deals us very tough cards, that can result in people adopting extreme atheistic positions. But others went through similarly difficult childhoods but went to serve God.

But even aside from these extreme beliefs, no one’s parents are perfect, and I believe unresolved issues with our parents can impact the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father.

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