Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Q: Does it require faith to be an atheist?

Note: This is the first of a few posts I'm planning to answer questions regarding atheism, and my perspective on it.

Does it take faith to be an atheist? Aren't you, after all, gambling that you're right, having faith in your lack of God, like we have faith in his existence?

This is a question that atheists are frequently asked, and, when stated in the affirmative, a claim I hear all too often. It is however, not true. It does not take faith to not believe in something for which there is no compelling evidence. By way of illustration, consider the following.

Do you  believe in unicorns?
If you scoffed, "Of course not!" ... ask yourself, "Why?" Is it a faith-based belief? Do you have "faith" that unicorns don't exist? Or do you regard them as myth based on a lack of compelling evidence? If you're inclined to argue, "But they're creatures of myth. Everyone knows that!" ... let me give you one of the most comparable examples I can come up with...another deity.

Do you believe that Ra, of the ancient Egyptian pantheon of gods, exists?

Now, if you answered in the negative, and I pressed, "But why not?" you might give any number of answers. One of them might be "Because I believe in [insert your god], and that precludes worship of other gods." But you can do better than that. If, tomorrow, you suddenly lost your faith in whatever god you follow now, chances are very good that you would still consider Ra no more a reality than you do today. Which means that your current belief is not a factor, or certainly not the only factor. So what else, then, drives you to reject Ra? There are probably a number of things, the most influential being that he is no longer a prominent deity; this, the beliefs of family, culture and locale, tends to be an overwhelming indicator of most people's beliefs. But this is not a consciously acknowledged factor.

We've got those, though. You would argue that there is no evidence of Ra's existence. That, while there is ample evidence that other people believed in Ra, there is no evidence of Ra himself. That the likelihood of him being real seems, all things considered, very slim. In short, you are simply not convinced that he is anything more than a figment of another culture's collective imaginings.

In other words, you can, and we all do, get to the conclusion that everyone else's god(s) is/are fake by reason, not by faith. As the saying goes, atheists just take it one god further. But it requires no more faith to do that than it does to reject the notion of every other god out there, as you have done.

No comments:

Post a Comment