Atheism by Faith?

Part 1: Spot the Equivocation

Fundamentalist Christians often charge that atheists can’t know that God does not exist (after all, we can’t prove the negative) so atheists have to take it on faith that there is no God, just as fundamentalists take it on faith that God exists. To an extent, fundamentalists use logic and evidence to support their religious claims, but if you look beneath the surface, if you ask “how do you know” often enough (but how do you know that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God?), you finally arrive at the answer: “you just have to have faith,” or other creative variants like “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” The idea is to put atheism on equal footing with Christian fundamentalism; to show that atheism is no more evidence based than Christianity.

Have you spotted the fatal flaw yet? The flaw is that the fundamentalists equivocate the meaning of the word, “faith.” When applied to religion, fundamentalists mean blind faith – the willingness to accept and believe without evidence (and even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary). On the other hand, when they apply the word, “faith,” to conclusions based on evidence, they mean that if we don’t know for sure (i.e., if we don’t have proof), then we have to believe that our conclusions are true. However, considering the available evidence, and then accepting the most reasonable conclusion based on the evidence is far from blind faith – it is “reasoned belief.” When referring to the “blind faith” of Christianity, and the “reasoned belief” of skepticism, fundamentalists use the same term, “faith,” for both, even though the meaning of each is quite different. Once you make the distinction, the charge that atheism is no more evidence-based than Christianity, crumbles.

Part 2: The “Faith Game”

Just for fun, consider an aspect of faith from the fundamentalist Christian viewpoint. The author of Hebrews (let’s just call him “Paul” for now) says in Heb 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

According to Paul, faith is the evidence. Fundamentalists who accept Intelligent Design claim that we have to take evolution on faith since we have never seen animals evolve (never mind that we actually have seen animals and plants speciate, and we have ample evidence to consider evolution a fact). Therefore, they claim that evolution is “not seen” but that proponents of evolution (biologists) simply take it on faith. Then according to Paul (and fundamentalists by definition, take Paul’s words as absolutely true), the “faith” of the biologists is itself the evidence of evolution; the biologists’ faith is “the evidence of things not seen”. By their own reasoning, fundamentalists must admit that there is evidence for evolution.


8 Responses to Atheism by Faith?

  1. I’m so stealing the Faith Game bit. That’s a brilliant argument.

  2. The Atheist says:

    Ubiquitous Che

    Glad you liked it! Let me know what kind of responses you get.

  3. Samuel Skinner says:

    “Your arguments are based on faith”

    “So? Are faith in Darwin is strong. He loves us all- and Wallace is his prophet!”

    I can’t see it. Would be funny as hell though.

    Wait someone did do this. At the beginning of a debate they declared they have faith god doesn’t exist and started to walk out. Go their opponent to admit faith doesn’t count… victory was as good as in the bag.

  4. The Atheist says:

    Samuel Skinner,

    “Your arguments are based on faith”

    More accurately, it’s an exposure that the fundamentalist claim, that there is no evidence for evolution, is internally inconsistent with core fundamentalist beliefs.

    “So? Are faith in Darwin is strong. He loves us all- and Wallace is his prophet!”

    Depends on what you mean by “faith” (see comment about equivocation about the meaning) and of course it depends to what extent that faith in Darwin has to do with belief in evolution. ;)

    The actual quote was by Heisenberg which went: “God does not exist and Paul Dirac is his prophet.” It’s an awesome one-liner!

    Wait someone did do this.

    D’oh! Do you know the reference? I’d love to know who it was and how the discussion went.

  5. Samuel Skinner says:

    Bad news- I don’t remember exactly where I saw it. I look through the blogs too much. Sorry. I think it might be from here
    but I’m not 100% positive.

    If you do look through it, be warned- it is addictive. It sucks you in for hours…

  6. The Atheist says:

    Oh well, thanks for looking. I’ll try searching though some of the threads if I get a chance…

  7. J.D. says:

    I lol’ed :))

    I will be adding that to my “Space.” I lol’ed again. I am killing tonight ha ha ha ha ha. Great stuff guys.

  8. […] chorus that Christians often chant is that it takes too much faith to be an atheist. Rather than respond with reason which all to often falls on deaf ears and sluggish intellects, we should simply quote 1Co 12:4-10 […]

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