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Ryan Peter
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Atheists do have faith - just like everyone else

21 February 2014, 11:06
This is a short response to Schalk van Zyl's post at about atheists having 'trust' not 'faith'. That was a post that was in response to another post from Charles Dumbwin.

Why am I responding? Well, I love philosophy, and as a result I'm intrigued by these sorts of conversations. Furthermore, I do think atheists, in general, need to think a little more about philosophy. Many don't and, as a result, are weaker for it. Furthermore, the fact that they'll argue philosophy when, in fact, they're not so strong in it can be as unfruitful as a theologian arguing about science when, obviously, they're just not very good at it.

To get to the core topic - Schalk is trying to say that atheists don't have faith, they have 'trust'. Besides the obvious point that the words are actually synonyms, along with others like 'assurance' or 'belief', it shows a common misconception that atheists tend to shout from the rooftops - that they simply "lack" faith in God and therefore don't operate from any faith basis at all. The argument is made to force theists to "prove" that God exists.

Unfortunately, however, it's just not true. Every single person, regardless of their beliefs (and not the use of that word) actually operates on faith. Faith is a basic human activity that is common to us all.

Here's why. The moment an atheist 'decides' that God cannot possibly he exist, he makes a positive claim - that being, "God cannot possibly exist." The very decision is an act of belief - an atheist decides he will believe "that" and not "this" as it were. Belief is what faith is.

The common argument that an atheist doesn't "believe" he "disbelieves" is false for a number of reasons. Firstly, the atheists very language often betrays them. Secondly, it's impossible to not believe anything in life. It betrays the argument - can an atheist prove that science works? The will say, of course! But you see, the reason why is because we all share a common faith - that faith, whether we can express it or not, is a faith in cause and effect. We all believe that if we push something, it moves. No one disbelieves that. The fact that it's so intrinsic to life doesn't mean that we don't believe it as true - every day we act as if it's true, because we believe that it's true. You can't be agnostic about it. In fact, even the agnostic makes some kind of faith statement ("we can't know").

Every person runs their life on presuppositions - assumptions about life and the universe. No one is without them. The atheist, at some point, makes a decision on what presuppositions they will have (God cannot exist). The theist does likewise. Many atheists like to take the position of the agnostic these days and claim that they don't say God cannot exist, they simply say they don't believe we can know. Well, besides the fact that that in itself is a faith statement (you believe that we can't know) it means that the atheist is agnostic, not atheist. Might as well admit it.
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