Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Sun 1st Jun, 2008

Faith in Atheism

I was in the office of a church hall on Friday, picking up the keys for the hall for our Canberra Irish Set Dance Weekend, and while waiting for the people to work out the bill a leaflet for an upcoming talk at the church caught my eye. The topic of the talk was:

Why I Don't Have The Faith To Be An Atheist.

Now, I will freely admit that that's a catchy title, because it certainly caught my eye. And while I endeavour to understand other people's points of view I am often blinded by my own ideas of what is sensible and reasonable. But I cannot fathom how that that topic can be debated seriously in the affirmative.

On the one hand, to me it requires much more faith to believe in an arbitrary, contradictory, and often non-sensical set of teachings that fly in the face of the evidence around us than to not have to believe any of that. My Australian Concise Oxford gives its first definition of "faith" as: Reliance or trust in; belief founded on authority - the other definitions are the type of religion one believes in and a promise or intent (as in in good faith). In that context I would say that all religions have some authority, be it a book or a person, that is the foundation of their belief, whereas Atheism makes no such demand. Atheism has no book which is quoted chapter and verse, no authority figure that tells people to not trust science and believe what they teach in contradiction to the evidence.

On the other hand, if this is some kind of sophistry - some kind of cunning argument or uncommon definition of "faith" or "atheism", then I think one is entitled to ask if the speaker is going to be serious at all. If it's a straw man argument, then really what's the point of it? I can respect people who stick by what they believe even as they acknowledge the flaws in their own arguments - I can't respect someone who tricks their audience with a conveniently quelled paper tiger.

I was half tempted by Kate's sensible suggestion to actually go and see this just to actually solve this logical problem before it threatened to burst my brain. But as I have this sneaking suspicion that the whole thing will be preaching, appositely, to the choir.

I must now hide myself from the metaphor police.

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