What I’m asking is since the existence or non existence of God can not be proven empirically or scientifically does an atheist have “faith” in his belief as a believer has in his belief?
Faith is belief without tangible evidence or logical validation. Atheism in its very essense (as there has yet to be tangible evidence or logical validation of a deity or deities) requires no faith.
Of course not.
The very definition of atheism means “without” or “lacking” faith in a deity.
An atheist can’t be said to have “faith” in a… “not God,” can he?
He just lacks the faith which a theist has.
Faith is not necessarily applied only to a deity though. When we drive through a green light do we have faith that the cars on the cross street are going to stop? Do we have faith that when we flip on a light switch that the light will come on? I’m asking does he have faith in his “belief” that there is no God?
What you describe are logical assumptions based on past experiences, not faith.
1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
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
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs.
It is the third one that fosters my question. I can understand where an agnostic looks at the evidence on both sides and says, “I don’t know which to believe”, would be said to have no faith. But the believer looks at the evidence on both sides and says “I believe there is a God.” The atheist looks at the evidence on both sides and says “I believe there is no God.” So in essence hasn’t the atheist expressed faith in his belief?
That is where you got it wrong… its not “evidence” of… but lack thereof that compels me to be an Atheist. Its not like I am chosing which club or college I will join. How do you find evidence that something doesnt exist ?
Someone's example of a Traffic Light is actually pretty correct. In my view most "theists" just beleive... :) I just in case always take a look before crossing since we never know what kind of driver is coming from the other side.
I can answer this question from the point of view of an atheist, but speaking only for myself, not for atheists in general.
Of course I have a system of beliefs about the world. But I endeavour to ensure in so far as possible that such belief systems as I have are open ones.
I distinguish here between open systems and closed systems as follows: In a closed system, any possible event, circumstance, or new evidence can be explained in terms of the existing belief system. Religions are not the only examples; feminism and marxism are closed systems also. In an open system, any individual “fact” can turn out to be wrong based on new evidence.
When it comes to the belief that there is no God, this is in principle disprovable. It is possible that in the future I will be confronted with new evidence that will prove that there is, in fact, a God.
For most believers, however, no evidence could ever constitute proof that there is no God, because any new evidence can be interpreted within the terms of their belief system.
This is a fundamental difference between the kind of beliefs that constitute religious belief, and the kind of beliefs that constitute atheism.
As opposed the faithful agnostic who knows without a doubt that it is not possible to know of such things.
[Fixed quote tags. – MEB]
This is one of those questions that just keeps coming up - certainly there are a few atheists who are as strident about their position as the most rabid religious wacko, but in the main, no, my experience is that non-believers generally don’t have anything comparable to religious faith in any great measure and don’t miss it. Indeed for many people, the only reason they talk about their position of atheism is because they have religion pushed in their face.
We could of course, redefine ‘faith’ to mean other things such as the belief that the light will come on when the switch is pressed, but really, why bother? - if you try to broaden a definition too much, it just becomes absurd and/or useless.
I’ve been told by a number of people that, rather than “I believe there is no God”, it is more like “I don’t believe there is a God” - this might seem a subtle or unimportant difference, but one statement implies active occupation of thought, the other implies dismissal.
I see what you all are saying. I guess I was really looking at it from my perspective when I was a militant atheist. I never do anything halfassed.
“Strong atheists” assert that the nonexistence of God has been established, and they therefore disbelieve in God. “Weak” atheists merely say that the existence of God has not been proven, and they therefore have no belief in God. “Agnostic” has been given a variety of meanings; for example, sometimes it’s used as synonymous with what I’m calling “weak” atheism; sometimes, it’s used to describe the assertion that the existence of God is not just unproven but intrinsically unknowable.
“God” is a term with enough different definitions that one person may adopt all three stances with respect to different definitions of God. The God of some Protestant fundamentalists–the God who inspired the books of the Protestant canon of the Bible to be inerrant and without contradiction, and who created the world as described in Genesis around 6,000 years ago and later sent a Flood to wipe out everyone but Noah and those on his Ark, leaving behind physically verifiable evidence of both the details of creation and of the Flood–can be and has been shown not to exist by scientific, empirical processes. “Strong” atheism in that case is warranted, although related but distinct definitions of God must be considered separtely on their own merits. The OP talks about empirical or scientific proof, but there is also logical disproof, and some definitions of God used in Christian theology may be rejected as containing inherent contradictions in the terms of their definition.
For other definitions of God–say, an intelligent, purposive entity which created the Universe we live in and see all around us–“weak” atheism is the correct response. On the one hand, there is inadequate evidence to accept the existence of such a being; on the other hand, while there are arguments against the plausibility of such, there isn’t anything which would constitute an empirical or logical disproof of the existence of an intelligent creator, so “strong” atheism doesn’t seem warranted; on the third hand*, we can conceive of evidence or events which would allow us to know the existence of such a creator (or to know of the existence of such a creator with as much certainty as we can know anything), so agnosticism (in the “God’s existence is inherently unknowable” sense) seems unjustified as well.
*Being either Zaphod Beeblebrox or a Motie often comes in handy in these sorts of discussions.
Finally, one can construct definitions of God for which “strong” agnosticism is probably the appropriate response. A completely remote and inactive creator, who created the Universe, including time itself, but does not, never has, and never will interact with anything inside that Universe, and whose existence is completely outside of time and the physical laws which govern phenomena of our Universe, is probably inherently unknowable. Conversely, a God who created the Universe ten minutes ago, complete with evidence of much greater age, right down to creating people in the middle of composing essays about his, her, its, or their existence or nonexistence, along with billions of other people, all with synthetic memories of previous experiences, lives, history, etc., would also seem to be inherently unknowable.
Finally, I suppose there are definitions of God for which the existence of God must be accepted as true, but this existence is also trivial. A pantheistic assertion that “God is the Universe”, for example. So long as no further characterizations about God/the Universe are made–no assertion of goodness (or evil) or consciousness or purpose, for example–then it’s hard to argue against the bare existence of “God” so defined. There may be more subtle forms of such an argument–arguing that God is “the most powerful possible entity which could exist”, say. Any of these definitions of God may be argued against on the grounds that they’re obfuscatory and aren’t what most people mean or have historically meant when they talk about “God” or “the gods”.
It would certainly be possible to be mistaken about ones disbelief in, lack of belief in, or belief in the impossibility of knowing anything about God. One might misclassify some definition of God as being in the “strong” atheist category when it should really be in the “weak” atheist category, or as being in the “weak” atheist category when it should really be in the “strong” agnostic category, and so on. One might disbelieve in a definition of God based on a logical argument, where that logical argument actually contains some hidden flaw.
And of course it’s possible for someone to simply have “faith” that there is no God, although I haven’t personally run across very many (if any) people who can be described that way.
That is true if the atheist merely lacks faith (I do not believe in God), but if the atheist then becomes an anti-theist (there is no God), then it has become a matter of a definite statement of faith.
A skeptic has not given assent. A dogmatic has given assent or denial, either one qualifies.
I am amazed at the number of times I’ve seen this question asked here at the SDMB. More often than not, it is in the form of an accusation. Weird.
This analogy is unfortunate, but my analogy skills are not what they used to be:
I don’t believe in Santa. A small child does. The small child has faith in Santa. I give the concept of Santa no reasonable thought whatsoever. (Unless I’m watching a Tim Allen movie or something.)
Therefore, on the “Faith Scale”, you would rate the small child’s “Santa Faith” as a 10, and mine as 0.
My “God Faith” registers on the “Faith Scale” as 0. Thus I consider myself an Atheist.
This concept seems foreign to many people. I’m almost resigned to the fact that I will never understand this mindset.
Non-A is not identical to anti-A.
“not proved” is not identical to “disproved”
You don’t beleive in Santa ? How outrageous ! Who gave you all those presents when you were a kid ?
This got me to thinking…is the argument that atheists have a kind of faith really just a veiled attempt at calling an atheist a satan-worshipper? (Mixing up “no god” with “anti-god”?)
Hmm… let’s take another look at Santa Claus.
Proposition: Santa Claus exists.
Proof offered: Look at all the presents he brings!
- Yes, I believe in Santa Claus.
- Well, I dunno. Maybe he exists and maybe not - it just hasn’t been proven.
- No, I do not believe in Santa Claus. I hereby offer you a far more reasonable explanation for the presents sighted (e.g., I video taped myself putting them there last Christmas)
Do you think that position number 3 is a declaration of faith?
Now, substitute God (or the Invisible Pink Unicorn) for Santa Claus above. repeat excercise.
Satanism is a straw-man created by evangelical Christians for the purpose of having an enemy. The concept of a religion based on worshipping another religion’s non-omnipotent evil entity (who will ultimately be defeated and destroyed, according to that religion) is inherently absurd. Even LaVey-style satanism does not actively ‘worship’ the Christian Satan. ‘Satan-worshippers’ are either non-existent enemies of radical Christians (who feel they are constantly under persecution by secular and satanist organizations) or rebellious adolescents.
Theists often claim that ‘everyone believes in something’ or that non-belief also requires faith. The purpose of the former statement is to suggest the status of science or some other secular entity as a modern ‘religion’ – this is another straw-man of a sort, a pseudo-religion set up in opposition to the believer’s religion, so they can feel persecuted and oppressed, as if their faith were in peril. Science (or another form of rational thought) is not a religion because it does not require belief in the absence of evidence, and does not make claims of the supernatural (that which cannot be observed directly). Moreover, it is not a religion because it does not serve the purpose of a religion. Religions seek to explain the supernatural; science seeks to explain natural phenomena only, without resorting to supernatural explanations.
Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. (Belief, in and of itself, is not religious; one believes many things which are not supernatural to be true or not true.) Atheism is not really belief in something for which there is no evidence (i.e. belief that supernatural entities do not exist despite there being no evidence that they do not), but outright rejection of the principle of faith. Most non-theists would claim that belief is only justified in the presence of evidence, and that, since there is no evidence that supernatural entities exist, belief in them is not justified.
Really, there is ample evidence that supernatural entities do not exist, such as the problems of evil and suffering, and the number of contradictions between and within religions. The fact that conclusions based on empirical observations of the Universe (i.e. science) are sufficient to explain all natural phenomena (or, at least, that phenomena which are difficult to explain with current knowledge are explainable without resorting to the supernatural) also serves as strong evidence against the supernatural. Thus, faith may be considered to be belief in the presence of evidence to the contrary, in addition to belief in the absence of evidence.
I think faith is best described by Tertullian’s well-known phrase: Certum est, quia impossibile.. “It is certain, because it is impossible.”