What is Faith? (and do atheists have it?) September 25, 2007Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, belief, Christianity, evidence, faith, freethought, god, logic, religion, skepticism, theism.
Tags: atheism, belief, faith, religion, theism
Atheists often define the word ‘faith’ as “belief in something without evidence or int he face of contradictory evidence”. I don’t believe this is really what theists mean when they use the word, but I cannot come up with a reasonable meaning that fits their usage. They seem to use it as a justification for their religious beliefs and as a way to buttress their belief in the face of doubts.
Faith is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as follows:
Main Entry: 1faith
1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>
synonym see BELIEF
– on faith : without question <took everything he said on faith>
I think definition 1 can be dismissed. Though both atheists and theists talk about faith in others. This is more used as a synonym for trust and is not what theists mean when they use faith as a reason to believe. Theists certainly have faith(1) in god, but it is not the meaning they use when they claim it is what erases their doubts and gives them reason to believe.
Faith(2) is absolutely the way many believers use the word faith. It seems very useless however, because it is simply a restating of belief. For example, “belief and trust in and loyalty to God” can hardly be given as a valid reason for believing in god. It would be completely circular.
Faith(3) again is a definition that is synonymous with a strongly held belief. But again holding a belief strongly is certainly not reason at all to support its being true, or to validate said belief.
This is why atheists have difficulty understanding what a theist means when they tell him that they have faith. They seem to be using a nonstandard definition.
So my best guess at what they mean is “belief in something despite the impossibility of comprehending it.” God they tell us cannot be comprehended by our limited minds, therefore one requires faith to believe what one cannot make sense of. One “trusts in god”. (Please if I have gotten this wrong and a theist is reading correct and or explain where I have run astray.) This way they explain in the face of a difficult conundrum presented by the non-believer why they persist in their belief.
Do atheists have faith?
Obviously atheists do not believe that there is a god to trust in that comprehends the stuff that we cannot. He cannot trust in a higher intelligence to arrange things that he cannot understand. The atheist must decide what to believe based on what he can understand and simply do his best with the subjects that he cannot. (Excuse my sexist language, but I am lazy.)
But this comes after he doesn’t believe in god. What does he base his non belief on to begin with? It can’t be said enough, but it is the simple lack of evidence that there is a god. Looked at objectively there is no compelling reason to accept any god claim. Lacking a compelling reason to believe is what leads one to atheism. There need be no positive reason to disbelieve.
Atheists come to believe in materialism because when you look around that is all they see. Materialism is simply the belief in what is. The stuff that exists is the called material. It is matter and energy and we know it exists because we can interact with it. No faith is required to believe in something that can be repeatedly interacted with and objectively verified.