Monday, December 20, 2010

Atheists and Faith

Following the big announcement about the “Good Without God” campaign here in Fort Worth, I stumbled across an atheist site. The folks there were talking about DART not approving the ads on the side of their buses because they reject all faith-based ads. One of the things I’ve observed about atheists is that they don’t see atheism as a matter of faith. The assumption that many of them make is that all matters of faith deal with our understanding of God. Since, atheists don’t believe that God exists, they don’t see their beliefs as being a matter of faith. I think it’s great that Christianity is so influential that even atheist think that any mention of faith-based things is probably Christian in nature, but it is a result of a misunderstanding of what faith is.

Faith, in its most general form, is the belief that something someone has told you is true. Some children believe in Santa Claus. They’ve never seen Santa, but they have faith. Their faith is based on what their parents, books and a number of other things have told them. Without having been told that he exists, children wouldn’t have that faith. I once watched a movie that had a Santa Claus like figure call The Hogfather, had I not been told about this character, I wouldn’t have thought of him. There are an infinite number of things that we haven’t been told of, so we have no means of having faith that they exist. Atheists have faith in the statement of other atheists that there is no God.

The argument many atheists make is that the default position of the world would be that there is no God if people didn’t teach that there is a God. That too is a statement of faith. First, if God gave us no evidence to support his existence, we have no way of knowing what the default position of the world would be. To say that it would be one way or the other is a philosophical debate that comes down to a matter of faith. The fact exists that people have always believed there is a God and have told stories of what God and the gods have done. Obviously, more than a few of these stories are fictitious fabrications, but given that the stories exist, someone has to have told the atheists that they are false. Even though we know many of these stories are false, we can’t prove that all of them are false. Therefore, it is a matter of faith for an atheist to believe a parent or a professor who says they are false rather than believing the stories.

It should never be assumed that faith exists without evidence. Even a child who believes in Santa Claus does so on the basis of some evidence. An adult tells him of Santa Claus. The child has seen evidence that the adult knows more than he does. Since the adult claims there is a Santa Claus, there must be a Santa Claus. Many people come to their initial beliefs about God in the same way. A child of five who believes God exists does so because his parents have told him so. But it is foolish to think that all faith is like a child’s faith. As we grow older and are better able to understand, what we find is that there is evidence piled upon evidence that the Bible is true. We observe the world around us and we find that there is indisputable evidence that God exists. Even atheists like Richard Dawkins will go so far as to say that for us to exist on our world, there must have been an alien race that populated it. Well, I can tell them the name of that alien; his name is Jesus Christ. And he didn’t just populate the world, he created it all. And so we would know who he is, he left us with his written word. Don’t you think that if there was a God he would tell us that he exists? Absolutely. It is foolish to ignore what the living God has spoken.