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No, It's Not.

From the online Merriam-Webster:

Faith:
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust.

The favorite first line-of-attack for religious folks when confronting atheism is to allege that atheism or agnosticism or what is (rather regrettably) called the "Bright" movement represents its own faith.

Words have meanings. It's why they work. If they didn't have meanings we'd be just as well off grunting and gesticulating. At the top of the page is one dictionary definition of faith. There are other versions, but they ll amount to about the same thing insofar as the religious meanings of the word "faith."

Here's the same dictionary's definition of agnosticism:
1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god.

And of atheism:
2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity.

Even a Christian (yes, that's a snipe) should be able to see that the first part of the definition of faith can clearly not be ascribed to either an agnostic or an atheist. Equally, one can see that the last part of the definition is probably not relevant since it refers to a somewhat different shade of meaning of the word "faith."

So the only possible portion of the definition of faith that might be stretched to apply to an agnostic or atheist is this:

"firm belief in something for which there is no proof ."


The "something for which there is no proof" in this case would presumably refer to the atheist's firm belief that there is no god. Or perhaps to his firm belief in scientific method.

Of course I've never met an atheist - certainly not an agnostic - who states categorically that there is no god. I've met any number of atheists who take my position, which is this: I cannot go around assuming the existence of things, creatures, entities for which there is no evidence of existence. In other words: I can't just make things up because I feel like it.

We don't mind if you believe in leprechauns, but we atheists/agnostics/brights are going to need to see a tiny little person in pointy shoes. We aren't just going to assume them into existence.

A rational person might say, "Well, golly, that's pretty much the opposite of faith." But a believer out on a tear against the heathen insists that our lack of faith is, ta da: faith.

Why? Because people with any weakness need to see it in others. It's reassuring. So because you need to make things up, I must need to make things up too. Except that I don't. I don't need to make things up (except professionally, of course.) I don't need the world to be anything other than what it is.

Do I pretend to know just what the world is? No. Rather the opposite: I have no problem admitting that everything I think I know could be wrong. I may be 100% wrong about 100% of what I think I know. I will always be open to new evidence. Show me a leprechaun: it'd be neat to see one.

However, while admitting that I am an imperfect judge, a subjectivity attempting to perceive objectivity through a veil of distortion and ignorance, I still can't impose order by making things up. Sorry. I'll still need some evidence.

Bring me the goddamned leprechaun.

In this I am fundamentally different than believers. I accept the mystery of the world. I want to penetrate it, but I don't want to obliterate it by tying it up in some weak fictional narrative of gods and magic. I will spend my life staring at the unknown and grant the unknown the respect it deserves by not pretending to know it when I don't.

Thats not faith. Not by even the most distorted, attenuated definition of the word. It is doubt. It is skepticism. It is also, by the way, humility.

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“No, It's Not.”

  1. Anonymous Phil Says:

    Agree with the lot, Michael. I've even heard some people refer to atheism as a "religion," which shits me no end. I suppose they don't understand what the "a" at the beginning of the word signifies...

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