January 10, 2008

Atheism Does NOT Require Faith

Next to the claim that atheists are evil because some god is required for morality, insisting that atheism requires faith seems to be a second favorite among many Christians. I will provide a recent example of this claim and then show why it is false.

Joey Depew, a member of the Board of Contributors to the Chillicothe Gazette (OH), writes:
The thing I find most interesting about atheism is the amount of faith it requires to believe. Christians have the Creation story and atheists have the Big Bang. So you have God, or some higher being, creating the world and some beginning of life, or you have nothing. If I remember correctly, the Big Bang began with some molecule of matter being struck by some molecule of anti-matter and then - BANG! - the universe expanded beyond measure in a fraction of time.

If that doesn't take faith to believe then I don't know what does. Where did that initial matter come from? If there was nothing but a huge void, how could matter just suddenly appear, let alone something as complicated as anti-matter? By some mathematically impossible chance? Incidentally, the Big Bang and everything that supposedly followed is mathematically impossible.

If memory serves, mathematical impossibility is defined by something having a 1 in 10 to the 50th power chance of happening. That's a 1 followed by 50 zeros. Roger Penrose, a British mathematician, calculated that the odds of our universe happening by chance are 1 in 1000 to the 123rd power.

Now tell me atheism doesn't require faith.
Mr. Depew, your attempt to explain the Big Bang theory reflects a considerable lack of understanding of modern science. Saying that atheism requires faith because you do not understand science is a non sequitur. But we can keep this simple without getting into astrophysics for now.

Take out a sheet of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle, dividing it into two columns. At the top of the left side, write "Evidence for the creation story," and on the top of the right side, write "Evidence for natural origins." Anyone who has earned a high school diploma should be able to fill the right column with brief summaries of evidence supporting natural origins of the what exists today. Those with college-level science education will need more paper. And the left side? It remains blank.

To believe the creation story requires faith because there is insufficient evidence to support the belief. Most Christians readily acknowledge this and do not see it as a problem. If ample evidence existed, faith would not be necessary. In fact, it would be entirely irrelevant. The mountains of evidence supporting the naturalistic worldview are undeniable, even by most Christians. One needs no faith the accept gravity, evolution, or many other basic scientific concepts. No faith is needed to accept naturalism; considerable faith is required to argue for any alternative.

Now consider atheism itself. An atheist is one who does not accept the theistic belief claim (i.e., a god or gods exist). The theist accepts this claim on faith; the atheist in unwilling to do so. The atheist need to argue that no gods do (or could) exist. The atheistic position is simply that the theist has not met an acceptable burden of proof that is his or hers to meet. In other words, an atheist is an atheist precisely because he or she is not willing to accept the theist's claim on faith.

Now that we've set that aside, it is time to look at one other point you make, Mr. Depew, because I suspect this is the real motive for your article.
The mistake atheists make is they assume religious people are intellectually flawed by virtue of the fact they are religious. Let's take one aspect of a person or group of person's and use it to define them inferiorly as a whole. Sounds a lot like believing people are less because they are black or female or handicapped, doesn't it? This fundamentally sets atheism against most of society, a society that, by in large, believes in God.

This is where atheists fail themselves. It can be seen in their narcissistic temper tantrums - 'You crazy Christian! How can you believe in an invisible man living in an invisible kingdom in the sky when I, the intellectually superior and enlightened atheist, am telling you that you are wrong?'

Talk about audacity. I can't think of any other group that tries to sway people by demeaning them. But again, it is this inherent sense of superiority that pervades the "enlightened" atheistic persona.
Intellectually flawed? No. Irrational? Absolutely. By definition, faith (i.e., continuing to believe something for which insufficient evidence exists) is irrational. But this does not mean that theists are somehow less intelligent or less deserving of happiness than atheists.

In fact, what you describe (i.e., "Let's take one aspect of a person or group of person's and use it to define them inferiorly [sic] as a whole") sounds an awful lot like what many believers do with atheists. They define us as immoral, self-centered, intolerance, arrogant, and the like, much as you are doing in your article.

You cannot think of another group "that tries to sway people by demeaning them," huh? I take it you have not had the opportunity to interact with many fundamentalist Christians. Is threatening someone with hell whenever they disagree with you not demeaning? Is condemning homosexuals for being who they are not demeaning?

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