Faith of an Atheist

[Fair warning: this includes a thought experiment.  Those uncomfortable with the thought of one should probably sit this out.]

This subject comes up a lot. If you are an atheist, it resonates irritatingly as
I think it takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in God.
I'll leave aside the irony of a believer having less faith in God than atheists having faith in themselves.

Okay, after a brief sneering chuckle.

But what does it mean? The assertion is predicated on ex nihilo creation of the universe, life, and species. The Big Bang, abiogenesis and evolution are apparently so incredible that they could not possibly have happened by chance accident luck non-supernatural causes. In short, it is a daily double: argument from design and an argument from incredulity. The notion being that because none of us "were there" at inception, we are speculating and taking things on faith.

"Were you there?" is a familiar challenge. Well, obviously not, given that the earth is some 4.54 billion years.  Or even 6,000 years depending on your source. Either way, long longer than an average or even an exceptional human lifespan. Besides, that is an ignorant question for two reasons:

  1. Why do facts require a personal presence to be proven?  Your parents had sex for you to be conceived.  Were you there?
  2. Suppose one were to answer "Yes, I was there."  Now what?

(I shall, therefore, leave aside the Christian theist's presumption of being there at the inception at this juncture.)

The simplistic argument being, "you have to have faith too, in order to accept that the universe did not come from a Supreme Being."

(Again, I shall leave aside the Christian theist's folly of dragging atheism down to his level to justify his faith.)

But more specifically, not his faith, but his Faith. It should now be glaringly visible to even the most casual of observers that I stressed the same word twice, except I capitalized the second instance. Why? I call to the stand the old reliable D I C T I O N A R Y
complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion.
Not at all similar, are they? This is the sleight of hand that theists pull with their equivocation when dragging atheists down. An atheist, like a theist, possesses the first. Only theists swear by the second and attempt to drag others down to their level of dissonance. That equivocation, I submit, is of comfort to them, not a victory. To elaborate on this matter, I need a diversion. This brings me to the redoubtable thought experiment the mention of which left me deep in anguish from last month.
 Yet, I must press on.

You are walking by yourself on a deserted road. A group of seedy individuals confronts you and knocks you unconscious. When you come to, you are in the middle of…nowhere. A note beside you says, "Good luck, it is 197 miles to the nearest oasis, and you can make it there in about three days. You have life support for two days (after which the heat will kill you), a cell phone in about 100 miles that you can use to call for help, or this flare that will be seen by someone if you send it up. However, if we see the flare first, we'll come and kill you."

[Pretty good, eh? No jeopardy; sounds completely like a fantasy, and no uneasy moral dilemmas to force the Kobayashi Maru copout.]

Now, if you were to engage in the hypothetical scenario, you have a variety of choices. But here is the one you do not have: not making a choice. You'll certainly die if you do not get help in two days, and you might survive if only you knew the right move.

The other certainty is that you'll act on faith. One of the first humans had to either die of hunger or taste the berries he suspected of being poisonous. You too have to put your faith in something: your wherewithal, the good nature of your tormentors, or the ability of your loved ones to find you before you are killed. Maybe you have a few more options. Including trusting that there is an oasis at the end of the ordeal.

What do you do?

What would an atheist do?

[ bonus: What would MacGyver do?]

I contend that both theists and atheists will draw upon their respective life experiences and settle for what they know: notably, what they can make good guesses on. If you are a great runner, you figure that you can cover 200 miles in 48 hours, especially with rations, given that super marathoners can do 100 miles in about 12-13 hours. If you know of friends with a chopper, you would probably rely on making it to the cell phone. Or you could use the flare, and trust that the troublemakers are long gone.

If you are a theist, you may simply pray.

Which would need more faith? Or Faith?

Can you see that faith and Faith are different, or at least that I make a clear distinction between the two? One is relying on past experiences: in other words, you gain faith through prior successes. Or lose it through prior failures.

Whereas Faith has what basis?


Popular posts from this blog

Common Sense

Thinking randomly