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I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist - Comments

Jolly Bloger's Avatar Comment 1 by Jolly Bloger

In strict philosophical terms, we must all make certain unprovable assumptions before we can discuss anything (i.e. mathematical axioms), and ultimately it is a kind of faith that supports these assumptions. But this is not baseless faith, we use Occam's Razor to pare our assumptions down to the essentials and strive for the most parsimonious explanations. Religion most certainly does not.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 14:07:00 UTC | #77556

DV82XL's Avatar Comment 2 by DV82XL

The problem here is that the deist, errors in thinking that in discarding a god, one needs do so by having faith in something else.

When I stopped believing in Santa as a child, I simply came to the conclusion that this entity did not exist because there was no evidence to the contrary. This is despite the fact that his image was everywhere during xmas season and many people continued to behave as if he were real.

Therefor, I submit that I do not believe in a god that created the universe the same way he doesn't believe in an elf that delivers presents.

Consequently, disbelief in this case is an act of reason, not faith.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 15:08:00 UTC | #77599

maton100's Avatar Comment 3 by maton100

The less faith the better. You're almost there.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:24:00 UTC | #77657

Sittingduck's Avatar Comment 4 by Sittingduck

I prefer the Atheist route to being an Antitheist. It just seems to take a lot less energy...

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 20:17:00 UTC | #77751

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 5 by Diacanu

Doesn't take a leap of faith not to believe in Zeus, Apllo, Thor, Anubis, etc.

Hell, go back to when you were a kid, and figured out cartoons were just pictures, and the Muppets were puppets.
Didn't destroy your world.
In fact, you could still cheer for Spiderman even knowing he was fake.

Hell, go back to before anyone told you any Bible stories.
Technically, you were an atheist then.

Why this whole God thing is such a security blanket above all other beliefs, I don't know.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 20:22:00 UTC | #77755

Theocrapcy's Avatar Comment 6 by Theocrapcy

"Atheism is not lack of belief in God, it is the belief that God doesn't exist."

Again, it comes back to reasonable vs unreasonable faith. The antagonist in this argument is suggesting that bad faith equates to reasonable faith, but is also tarnishing the atheist with the same critical brush leveled at religion.

It is, all in all, a bad argument. It's a bit like Homer saying to Flanders when they both lose a bet and have to wear their respective wife's Sunday dress while mowing the lawn: "...small price to pay to see Flanders humiliate himself!".

Although it's not such a small price for the religious argument.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 22:02:00 UTC | #77796

Damien White's Avatar Comment 7 by Damien White

Being an atheist does not require any faith, because it is impossible to 'believe' in nothing. When we are born, our minds are a blank slate. This state requires no effort to be in. The concept of god(s) are added later, at which point you require faith to take you away from your initial position of intellectual rest.
Believing in something requires faith. Not believing in something requires nothing.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 22:53:00 UTC | #77815

oisha's Avatar Comment 8 by oisha

I heard this comment on one occasion. But seeing as we weren't really engaging in argument or debate, but merely commenting about atheism more generally, I always interpreted it to mean:

"I don't think I'd have the courage to be an athiest"


"I don't think I could live without the comfort of belief in God"

I always thought that when the theist started saying things like this, however erroneusly they may have termed it, it was a score to the atheist, and a clear concession from the religious person that they were more concerned about what made them feel good than what was true.

Then again maybe I just misunderstood them. Next time someone says this, I'll simply ask them, "why not?"

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 23:07:00 UTC | #77821

LeeC's Avatar Comment 9 by LeeC

I am an atheist because I have not seen any evidence FOR God – For example, the bible speaks of miracles yet there is NO independent evidence for any of them actually happening (and there should be many if the bible was true).

I can also test my beliefs, and I know what evidence would change my views and beliefs.

Science provides a better solution than any religion or belief in God, and any science theory can be proven false (and they tell you how you can do it as well)

How can I prove God false?

Now can you see the difference between my belief in science and the theist faith in God?

I do not have faith because I can test my theories (one way or another). I will also trust my theories (I believe the aeroplane will not fall out of the sky because of my belief in physics – NOT my faith in physics)

In conclusion?

No evidence for God, and no way of proving God false.
(It is a very good meme indeed.)


Thu, 25 Oct 2007 03:04:00 UTC | #77932

Scot Dutchy's Avatar Comment 10 by Scot Dutchy

The fact that one does not believe is for a theist an impossible thought. You must believe in something is always the cry. I just do not accept any notion of a god or having a faith in something. I have no doubt about at all. I just feel very sorry for people who need a crutch. Moralistically I would say an atheist is far better to trust than a theist because his morals are based on being a true human being and not being part of a herd and following a dogma laid down by some organisation

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 03:22:00 UTC | #77936

upsidedawn's Avatar Comment 11 by upsidedawn

My feeling is that someone who uses this statement is trying to manipulate the atheist into justifying an atheist position. Therefore, it might be useful for us to use a response that turns the tables on someone who uses this statement, and offer a different interpretation of the word "faith" that throws the onus back upon the believer. To wit:

Many theists might say that they don't have the "faith" it would take to be an atheist because they are afraid of even considering relinquishing belief in a God. They're afraid of the consequences, so cling tenaciously to what they have been taught all their lives. So when they use these words, what they actually mean is that they don't have the courage to be atheists. Of course, those of us who have finally acknowledged our lack of belief in God, or who have never believed in the first place, know that it doesn't take courage to live our lives free of that superstition, any more than it requires courage for a believer in God to maintain disbelief in Zeus.

[Oisha--missed reading your comment before posting! Think we're of like mind about this.]

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 04:53:00 UTC | #77970

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 12 by Cook@Tahiti

Each and every human that ever lived is born an atheist.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 07:41:00 UTC | #78047

oisha's Avatar Comment 13 by oisha

Upsidedawn, I'm quite glad you missed my comment because something you said triggered a new way of thinking about it in my mind.

The courage I'd been talking about was the courage to face a LIFE without faith, which religious people would probably predict to be cold, meaningless and depressing a la the other thread. But you said something interesting. You said that "they're afraid of the consequences". I have a tendency to forget that theists actually believe in this stuff, and even in contemplating a life without God they most likely persist in the mindset that he does indeed exist. The next logical step would be for them to worry about an AFTERLIFE without faith.

So maybe what we're really dealing with here is a subtle extension of Pascal's Wager.

Maybe the theist's reasoning runs something like this:

"Hell is a really really terrible place, so if I'm going to run the risk of ending up there, and am going to abandon my belief in God - my faith in God even - then I sure as Hell (pun intended) better be confident that God doesn't exist. In fact, with all that I stand to lose by abandoning my faith I'd have to be even more certain of my atheism than I am my Christianity. It would require even greater faith for me to reject my existing faith."

Funnily enough, now that I think back, that was more like the phrasing of the argument I came across: "I think in some ways it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a Christian".

I think it's important if we're going to overcome the emotional aspect of theistic arguments then it's important to understand the assumptions that underpin their arguments. If we are indeed dealing with a form of Pascal's Wager, or a combination of Pascal's Wager and the "life would be miserable without God" argument then that may itself be instructive.

Has anyone else here come across this argument in real-life situations and has any comments on what they thought the theist actually meant by it?

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 07:46:00 UTC | #78052

thirdchimpanzee's Avatar Comment 14 by thirdchimpanzee

My quick response:

"No - you don't have enough curiosity to be an atheist". It's our curiosity that forces us to look beyond simplistic answers to how and why we're here in this amazing universe.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 08:13:00 UTC | #78064

upsidedawn's Avatar Comment 15 by upsidedawn

It's anecdotal, of course, but when I revealed my lack of belief to a close friend, the one question she asked me was, "Aren't you afraid of what will happen when you die?"

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 09:12:00 UTC | #78089

sidfaiwu's Avatar Comment 16 by sidfaiwu

"I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist"

I would first respond with Voltaire's "A witty saying proves nothing." I would then refer them to my response to "Science and Religion BOTH make faith claims" and compare the number of faith claims of atheism and religion.,1785,Science-and-Religion-BOTH-make-faith-claims,RichardDawkinsnet#81869

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 09:28:00 UTC | #78093

home8896's Avatar Comment 17 by home8896

Comment # 14 by oisha is exactly what I hear when I hear this lament by some of my friends. I have one very good friend who cannot let go of faith completely because she is terrified of Hell. To her, this place could be real. To me, it is a ridiculous idea. Indoctrination turns into something very real to the person who is stuck in a Pascal's Wager mindset. Even pointing out the other religions that are here now or other religions that have come and gone cannot uproot the terror of this childhood vision of Hell for many people. And watching The Root of All Evil where Dawkins visits Hell House, this is exactly what the church leaders are trying to do. Scare the Hell out of children to save them from going there.

In this way, I do really think these people feel they'd have to be faithfully confident that this torture for eternity is just a really dumb story, but how do we help them let go of the fear? My friend has heard from her peers, family, and all those who love her very much that they don't want her or her children to go to hell. It would take usurping that very strong vision of hell as being just a story to get past this "not enough faith to be an atheist" argument.

I haven't succeeded in helping her break from this bondage, even though she admits she thinks the bible is crap and that many rituals she's seen are really dumb. The issue of confronting this image of Hell is very real around these parts. And it isn't easy to get past the emotion behind it. I just keep repeating there is no faith for me and that I cannot relate to the idea of having faith in anything without evidence from many sources of empirically verifiable things, and not just what a whole lot of people said to me from birth.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 09:36:00 UTC | #78100

clunkclickeverytrip's Avatar Comment 18 by clunkclickeverytrip

Never use the words "belief" or "faith" to present the atheist position.
That there is no God is a peer-reviewed scientific fact.
If they scoff at science, ask them if they take aspirin.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 10:14:00 UTC | #78113

Vadjong's Avatar Comment 19 by Vadjong

The universe is, always has been and always will be, completely atheist (de facto). You're part of the universe, therefore you are atheist, whatever you wish to believe.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 12:06:00 UTC | #78188

Mewtwo_X's Avatar Comment 20 by Mewtwo_X

"Atheists acknowledge the possibility for error, but argue against it. The relgious usually do not, or accept the possibility and use emotional appeals against it. This difference is one of the problem with religions."

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 14:53:00 UTC | #78281

RoryCalhone's Avatar Comment 21 by RoryCalhone

So you need faith to disbelieve in an unproven claim as you do to believe in that same unproven claim? What about when that claim is based on unreliable evidence like anecdotal revelation, circular reasoning and unfalsifiable explanations and when the belief itself can be explained away as a purely evolutionary, psychological and sociological phenomenon. This claim that is an explanation for everything and yet no scientific theory has thus far needed it. Only by twisting the meaning of the word "faith" can you say it is needed in not believing in this claim.

It is pointless to group atheists and theists together by the amount they practise faith, when the amount they practice is the attribute that marks the difference between them.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 11:25:00 UTC | #78685

Learning's Avatar Comment 22 by Learning

Dr. Dawkins, My best contribution here is as follows:

Rather than accept the question as asked, I would put the burden on the person asking the question to define what THEY mean by "faith" (they will probably have a hard time answering the question). Then, I would state that, to me, "faith" means COMPLETE, or NEAR-complete confidence in an idea or concept. From there, take the argument that, as a child, one might be taught to have faith (complete confidence) in Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny... but as time passes, a child begins to seek actual evidence of these things, and it eventually does not stand the test of their scrutiny -- so the faith (or total confidence) becomes unwarranted, and the child therefore decides to discard the belief, and stop acting upon the belief as if it were true. Likewise, but in a more sophisticated way regarding more serious matters, rather that just accepting religious dogma at face value, some people over the ages have decided to use their reason to critically examine the so-called holy books, and also seek outside evidence that is independent about the world through science. This examination has shown the so-called holy books, which were initially targeted toward illiterate people of past eras, to be internally inconsistent. Also, over time reasonable people (initially, at extreme risk to their personal welfare) have successfully used the scientific method which provides us with superior, provable/near-provable alternative ways to understand the world we live in. In some ways it DOES take a lot more effort to NOT believe in a god, if one takes the matter seriously, because in order to gain near/complete confidence one has to learn about the science and other alternative ways of explaining things. I would say the time and effort is a life-long pursuit of truth that changes along with the evidence, but the journey should be embraced, as it is rewarding, and well worth the effort.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 09:30:00 UTC | #79121

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 23 by prettygoodformonkeys

Atheism is: not filling in the blanks with wishful thinking. It is rigorously holding to the working hypothesis that makes the most sense according to the facts that are present, using the best tools of reason available, changing the hypothesis when necessary, and continuing to wonder about the rest. It actually requires a lack of "faith" to be able to look at things freshly and make good use of the insights of others; faith makes this impossible, because to entertain an opposing view even for a second requires suspending your faith (that you already have the correct view)

"Atheism is a religion the way not collecting stamps is a hobby"

The question is only asked by someone who cannot imagine other ways of looking at the world.

Sun, 28 Oct 2007 22:19:00 UTC | #79274

lpetrich's Avatar Comment 24 by lpetrich

I think that, like "atheism is a religion", that this is a lame attempt at sarcasm. It's a way of suggesting that atheists are guilty of what they profess to reject.

But if the more Faith the better, then they ought to admire us for having so much Faith.

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 20:38:00 UTC | #79553

infidel_michael's Avatar Comment 25 by infidel_michael

"I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist" is equal to "I have enough evidence to be a theist"

Ok, let's discuss your evidence ..

Thu, 01 Nov 2007 04:22:00 UTC | #80209

anonquick's Avatar Comment 26 by anonquick

The Gist: They are saying, I have reason for not believing in ANY God. Use that.

Be on the attack.

Say that there are levels or plausibility. You admit Deism is more likely than a Christian God and get them to admit that too.

If they won't go for the: 'See? I have REASONS, not faith for distinguishing between the various logical possibilities the nature of God (is he a Christian God etc), where as you do so by faith.

Fri, 02 Nov 2007 00:52:00 UTC | #80543

Carl Champagne's Avatar Comment 27 by Carl Champagne

There are two distinct groups of people who ask this question and similar variants: The theist who cannot fathom a life without faith, and the agnostic who believes that they lie safely between theism and atheism, and, by refusing to take sides they are not succumbing to the "faith of atheism". I will address that second group.

Atheism and theism are clearly opposing terms. Similarly, agnosticism and the lesser used gnosticism are opposites as well. Each pair of terms answers a separate question.

Do you have faith and believe in a god or gods? Yes - theist, No - atheist.
Do you know absolutely that you are right? Yes - gnostic, No - agnostic.
(One could argue that nobody can truly be gnostic. They can only think they are.)

This creates 4 categories along a continuum: Gnostic Atheism, Agnostic Atheism, Agnostic Theism, and Gnostic Theism.

Therefore, to simply claim that you are agnostic, and neither theist or atheist, is to avoid the argument. I usually think of ideas as continuums with shades of gray, but in this case, you either believe in a god or you don't. You can acknowledge that you harbor a certain level of uncertainty in this belief or lack thereof, but you do ultimately come down on one side or the other.

This brings us back to the initial question. Atheism is, by definition, the opposite of faith. The inherent assumption within the question is simply false.

Fri, 02 Nov 2007 11:29:00 UTC | #80701

Garnok's Avatar Comment 28 by Garnok

It seems to me the best response to this is to simply ask "How so?" Really, the comment seems to say nothing reagrding either theism or atheism, much less the validity of either. Ultimately, it appears that the only purpose this statement has is a quick, easy and empty claim that only sounds like it says something profound, and I'm sure many believers will think as much. However, those that would use it so blithely, as well as those who would respond positiviely towards it, have probably not given it much thought. A simple "How so?" would probably not counter it but their stammering to justify it could deflate the rhetorical or emotional punch the theist thought it had.

Tue, 06 Nov 2007 02:41:00 UTC | #81613

oriole's Avatar Comment 29 by oriole

I think Dan Dennett is really good on this topic. Dennett makes a lot of terrific arguments, but for me one of the simplest yet most powerful ones is his observation that many faith-head arguments amount to nothing more than bad puns.

When the atheist explains that he is opposed to blind faith, the faith-head retorts that the atheist has faith in the scientific method, faith that the laws of physics will not suddenly change, faith that his wife is not cheating on him, etc. They might as well go on to say that atheists have pictures of "Old Faithful" in their encyclopaedias and CDs from Faith Hill in their music collection. And atheists claim to have no faith in their lives!

I'm reminded of the old chestnut - the argument that a ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness. This is so because clearly NOTHING is better than eternal happiness but, after all, a ham sandwich is certainly better than nothing.

Word games based on multiple meanings of terms like "nothing" and "faith" do not prove anything.

Wed, 07 Nov 2007 13:03:00 UTC | #82006

BorisCvek's Avatar Comment 30 by BorisCvek

If faith is a relationship (as between Abraham and God or between Jonas and God), as I believe, the question has no sense in my point of view.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 10:16:00 UTC | #86598