Got Faith?

What is faith?

I was scrolling through the “#Jesus” twitter feed when an unexpected tweet caught my eye.  This tweet read; “Faith = 1/4 wishful thinking, 1/2 willful ignorance, & 1/4 gullibility.” Now, I usually don’t get into conversations with people online, because it rarely changes any-ones opinion or ends well.   And, the fact that this guy “hash-tagged” Jesus, (#Jesus- for my non-twitter people out there, #hash-tags are simply the way to make any topic search-able through the powerful twitter search engine) and compared him to a leprechaun, just meant he was looking to argue/tick-off some Jesus followers. 

My response to tekphreak, and atheists/agnostics who argue against the idea of faith, is that atheist do believe in the practical reality of faith, like it or not! Mariam Websters defines faith as this:

(1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof

(2) : complete trust”

Here is my argument against Tekphreak.

1. Atheists have a firm belief that God does not exist

2. They can not prove that God does not exist.

3. Therefore, they have faith that God does not exist…. but, they still have faith! It might be faith in their own understanding, and not God, but it’s still faith! “A firm belief in something they can not prove!”

As a believer in Jesus my faith is described in Hebrews 11:1

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

What do you think? Read my conversation and tell me how would you have responded to Tekphreak? Do you believe a person can have NO faith? …In anything?


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  • Don

    Engagement is good (1 Pet 3:15) but so often leads to baiting as you mentioned. Hopefully those who never choose to believe will still recognize your witness by the love you show (John 13:35) Well Done.

  • Jessie Copeland

    We touched on this in one of my graduate classes. We were talking about dogmatic thought in a democratic society. My prof is a pretty staunch agnostic. He says that it takes serious guts to be an atheist because it takes a lot of faith to believe that there is no sort of higher power what so ever. He also mentioned that it’s a lonely, sad world not having a God to even think about.
    Which leads me to this point: Perhaps those who are atheists are so willing to argue their cause because without that interaction, they are considerably alone. They don’t have a God to pray to. They don’t have a Creator to converse with. All organized beliefs have some sort of fellowship with others, and that is seriously lacking in atheism.
    So maybe by engaging with you, they were really just reaching out for any sort of conversation because they are simply lonely.

  • The Ordained Barista

    JC,
    I think your prof. is really on to something. I often wonder how people who choose not rely on God find the strength to keep going. It must be exhausting! Yes, reaching out is a real possibility… i hope I was kind enough! I thought i was!

  • The Ordained Barista

    Thanks Don,
    Yeah, I tried not to get into a yelling match! I would much rather have a conversation with a person over a cup of coffee, and develop a meaningful relationship!

  • Morgan

    My signature on my email is “Morgan is a REBEL!!!” I say, before you question my signature, I will say this. I am a rebel because I refuse to conform to society and sometimes, society says God doesn’t exist. Thus, I am a rebel.

  • The Ordained Barista

    MORGAN!!!! You are a rebel! Yes, it does seem like society is starting to act like God doesn’t really, truly exist! And that is where we are all called to be “rebels of love and grace!”

    MORGAN IS A REBEL!

  • http://twitter.com/almightygod almightygod

    I don’t agree with premise #1. “Atheists have a firm belief that God does not exist.” Atheism (as most atheists use the word) is just a lack of belief. It’s the same sort of lack of belief that you have with respect to unicorns and leprechauns. I think you brushed that off as a joke, but tekphreak was making a serious point. So, do you have a faith in the nonexistence of unicorns?

  • Carissa

    JC’s professor is right: atheism is the firm *belief* (based on experience, logic, reasoning, and with some people wishful thinking) that there is no God. Agnosticism has not reached that point of faith in either option–we simply cannot know. There is evidence for God, and evidence against God, and we will most likely never reach a true conclusion.

    Most atheists I have conversed with (and there are many; I’m a biologist and I teach biology and geology!) adamantly refuse to see their non-belief as a form of faith. To do so would imply that they are not using reason and logic to come to their conclusion, because in the minds of those who are anti-faith, faith means that you no longer use logic and reason for anything. They view faith as wishful thinking and blindness to the reality of the world (hence the term “blind faith”). Thus, the belief there is no God is not “faith”; it is simply the outcome of logic and reason and science that they are atheists.

    But even within the science that many atheists cling to as evidence to prove there is no God, there is an element of faith. We can trace the fossil record back for millions of years and see how organisms have evolved. We can order them into a progression that shows how and when certain structures and body plans have changed over time, and now with DNA sequencing we can often pinpoint this with good accuracy. But we must still take this with a grain of faith, saying “I might be wrong, but I believe this is how it happened, for these reasons (evidence).” When we look back to the beginning of life or look at major scientific theories that ARE incredibly well supported, we still must have a certain element of faith that allows us to say “Yes, it happened this way, even though I wasn’t there to see it” or “Yes, the Earth is really structured this way, even though we have never drilled down to the center of the Earth and physically seen or touched the different layers.” We are not able to prove some things beyond all doubt (just beyond “reasonable” doubt), which means we must have faith (informed faith!) that some of these ideas are true. We can look at all the facts that support that main idea or main theory, but there is still an element of doubt that must be overcome.

    Wherever doubt has the opportunity to exist, faith must also exist. Faith is the opposite of doubt. If an atheist does not doubt that God exists, then they are exhibiting faith in that belief, however logical or reasonable and anti-faith they think their belief is. They may simply say that they are exhibiting neither options, but then where does that put them? In the middle of…???? nothingness?, where there is no opportunity to prove or disprove your position (which means it *is* a personal belief system!). Pretty convenient if you want to go on believing that God couldn’t possibly exist, because otherwise you would have to be held accountable to Someone with a very different outlook on life than your own….

    It is good for us to remember that every decision starts in the heart, which means for atheists there will be an inner desire that God doesn’t really exist, which drives them to justify this wish with all sorts of evidences and arguments as to why God cannot/does not exist. It cuts both ways–they say Christians have this inner desire for God to exist, and thus we make up all sorts of arguments and such to show that God exists. The agnostic says: “There’s truth on both sides, so who’s right? I don’t think we can ever truly know.” :)

    Just my thoughts,
    Carissa

  • The Ordained Barista

    AG,
    Hey, good feedback! No, I get it… really, I do. However, Yes, I need to go on “faith”, my strong belief, that unicorns and leprechauns don’t exist… because I can’t 100% prove that they don’t. I am able to acknowledge that I can not prove it, and therefore the possibility, however small, still remains that they exist. Atheists have faith in their own reason, understanding, conviction in an idea that can not be proven…. But, I do see what you are saying…. Again, good point about the legitimacy of the point tekphreak was trying to make!

    Thanks!!!!!

  • The Ordained Barista

    Carrisa,
    I am so glad that i have smart friends who teach stuff like Biology and Geology! I can barely spell either! :) I think you bring up some fantastic points! I have this uncontrollable urge to go home and start digging to the center of the world! :)

    Carrisa Said:
    “Wherever doubt has the opportunity to exist, faith must also exist. Faith is the opposite of doubt. If an atheist does not doubt that God exists, then they are exhibiting faith in that belief, however logical or reasonable and anti-faith they think their belief is.”

    Well said, I think all people have faith! it’s just what are they putting their faith in!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/almightygod almightygod

    If there’s no evidence that unicorns exist and yet there’s a miniscule possibility that they do, then why go beyond the simple lack of belief? What do you gain from your strong belief that unicorns do not exist? And why, when faced with a similar lack of evidence for the existence of gods, do you come to the opposite conclusion: a strong belief that a god does exist? I feel more consistent with a lack of belief in both gods and unicorns.

    My goal is to proportion my certainty to the evidence.

  • Eric Garner

    Barry like you and I so often say, “How can there not be Jesus?” Sometimes even for the believer it is hard to comprehend that God exists; but in the end because there will be an end you must have hope that you are loved beyond your comprehension.

  • http://bit.ly/9HTHft Rover

    I also think the very foundation of your argument that atheism requires faith is flawed. What is ‘theism’? It’s having a belief in a deity. Atheism means being without theism. Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive, anyone who does not believe in a deity or higher power is an atheist, this includes agnostics as they have not positively stated an active belief. It’s like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby, or that bald is a hair color. I myself am an atheist, I don’t say I positively know there is no such thing as a deity but based on the current absolute lack of positive evidence I am not convinced there is one.

    (For those standing by to rush in with the “god of the gaps” argument, let me pre-emptively nip that in the bud. Yes there are gaps in our current knowledge of life and the universe. These are signified by a lack of data, unknowns. You can never, ever base a positive conclusion like: “there must be a god” on a lack of data, a vacuum of information. If you don’t comprehend this simple fact you are not worth debating over this issue.)

    I don’t deny there are people who say they are positive there is no god, I do think they take the wrong position, it is better to state one is merely unconvinced but can be convinced by reliable evidence gathered through the robust and reliable method we call the scientific method. And the burden of proof in this issue, rests squarely on the shoulders of the theists.

  • Failed Objectivity

    say for example someone comes to you and says.,.u know I saw a flying horse..what wud be ur reaction, “well i dont think u actually saw it, u must be either dreaming or hallucinating”. He then says -” no I am sure I saw it..prove me wrong”. What wud u do? U cannot spend ur life disapproving such stupid claims, thats why we say..burden of proof lies with the believer.

    Not believing is not faith in the anti theory, but just a reasonable stand of a person based on present evidences. Atheist are also aware of the fact that black swans(exceptions) do exist for any theory and thus they don’t term their stand as belief.

    What we need here is, for us to make a stand and introduce this doubt to the future generations. An atheist/ believer must tell their children that u should not take my words as it is..go do some research, find out yourself…don’t just adopt my beliefs, by the time u grow up new discoveries and inventions will me made and they will seriously change our philosophies about life and existence. Teach them that change is necessary and inevitable.

  • The Ordained Barista

    Rover,
    This comment is really well written, and I agree with many of your thoughts. You are completely correct that I should have made a distinction between atheist and agnostic as they are 2 completely different animals. I am not disagreeing, either, that atheists don’t have an absence of faith in god; I am merely stating that they are putting faith in something…science, reason, or their own understanding. The conversation that I was having with TekPhreak was based on his assertion that “faith” was stupid… Not faith in God… But faith in general… From where I sit, atheist do not have faith in God, but they do have faith in their own understanding! However, I would respectfully disagree with your opinion that the burden of proof lies with the theist. The burden of of what you believe rests on the person who believes it.. The choice that the atheists makes in belief/faith in his own understanding, science, reason, etc… will ultimately be his responsibility of the individual. Thanks again for the comments; you made some really well articulated points!

  • The Ordained Barista

    I love your example!!! And, furthermore, I love your idea about how we need to introduce faith formation to future generations. This should be done in an a collaborative way where we implore the young person to wrestle with the truth in their own time and journey, and not merely an empty ritualistic spiritual check-list! But, again, I am NOT arguing that an atheist has faith in god… I am arguing that he has faith in his own understanding, science, reason, etc… Tekphreaks comment was that “Faith” was ignorance…. NOT faith in GOD!!!! He claimed faith in general was “willful ignorance”! Wouldn’t someone who believes in something based on their own reason, calculations, etc.. without proof have “Faith”? Thanks for the thoughtful and well written comment!

  • Margaret Wright

    Athiesm is a religion, is it not?
    a·the·ism [ey-thee-iz-uhm] Show IPA –noun
    1. the doctrine or belief that there is no god.
    2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings
    In a religion, you have to believe is something. Well, that there is not god or gods! You have to have faith that there is not god.

  • Failed Objectivity

    see most of us here are good people, thats why we are debating, the bad ones don’t come online and debate. They are out there in some church, temple or mosque trying to brainwash people.
    And whatever you do, you cannot alleviate the problems of world because everyone has more faith in himself than any other thing in the world. We are taught right from childhood that follow your passion and believe in yourself to achieve success. And it is true also, if you don’t have faith in yourself you wont achieve anything.

    So in the end we can conclude that all these theories and anti-theories that have existed since the dawn of intelligence will keep on existing. You cannot talk your way out of it.

    If you are scientist it pays to be skeptic, if you are a priest it pays to be faithful , if you are an economist it pays to be shrewd and cunning and if you are none of these just sit back with a beer and enjoy the show.

  • The Ordained Barista

    FO,
    I love the idea of challenging, cordial, kind, and sometimes intense conversation over these topics, and then to learn from each others stories. Whether this is in a place of worship, coffee house, bar, living room… conversation and relationship know no boundaries!

    Thanks for your thoughtful input!!!!!

  • The Ordained Barista

    Margaret,
    Very well formulated. I like your closing comment; it’s simple and to the point!!!

    Margaret Said…
    …”You have to have faith that there is not god.”

  • http://fstdt.net/QuoteArchives.aspx?Archive=1 Rover

    I apologize for this blatant copy/paste but since definitions are so important in this discussion:

    From French athéiste (athée + -iste) < Latin atheos < Ancient Greek ἄθεος (atheos, “godless, without god”) < ἀ- (a-, “without”) + θεός (theos, “god”)..

    Margaret oversimplifies things. Like I explained in the post before, Atheism simply means being without theism. This also includes agnosticism, atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive they overlap.
    Wouldn't you agree that an agnostic is still without active theistic beliefs?
    The difference here is between strong and weak atheism. Strong atheism means the belief there is no god. But I think you'll find most atheists are weak atheists. In the sense that they are not convinced any god exists because the scientific evidence does not seem to indicate such a thing.

    Now back to your reply to my original post Barista. I contend that there is a very big difference between religious faith and "faith in science" as you called it.
    Firstly what is faith in science? I guess it would be if a person accepts anything a scientist says because this person has faith that the scientists are always right and have done their work correctly. I think you'll find few atheists who do this. Their skepticism does not stop at science. Though you are right there is a level of trust involved, since we can't all be astrophysicists, biologists, geologists, chemists etc a lay person has little add to the science itself. But the scientific community isn't a solid monolith it is made up of many diverse individuals who are all eager to check each other's ideas and see if they hold up under scrutiny. Also, science has had a lot of tangible results, like every bit of technology we have. Even abstract theories like relativity has real world applications we use every day, like GPS navigation. Therefore, looking at all these tangible successful fruits of the scientific method as opposed to those of religious faith, accepting science over religion isn't a matter of faith, not even for a complete lay person.
    Though I think you'll find that most atheists possess a good measure of scientific literacy.

    Also on a sidenote, I will not engage anyone who retreats into Nihilism i.e. "nothing can ever be known!" It's a cheap unproductive tactic.

  • http://fstdt.net/QuoteArchives.aspx?Archive=1 Rover

    Correction in previous post

    “Their skepticism does not stop at science”
    Should read
    “Their skepticism does not stop at religion”

    Hope this clears it up a bit.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/28199562@N02/ tony babcock

    I think that God certainly wants us to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19) and to defend the truths of His word (Romans 1:16).

    On the other hand, we are not obligated to waste our time trying to convince the unwilling!!!!

    In fact, we are warned not to expend excessive effort on those who are clearly disinterested in any honest discussions (Matthew 7:6). Jesus told the apostles to go and preach the Word, but He did not expect them to stay anywhere until every single last person had been converted (Matthew 10:14).

    There are those that are hard of heart, and nothing I say will “convert” them, That can only come through God … ahhh but my ACTIONS speak so much louder then my words. Just maybe I will be used someday for that purpose.

    If someone is willing and open to hearing I will gladly share what little that I know. Perhaps the best tactic is to give each person the benefit of the doubt, at least at first. Every question, honestly and truthfully answered, gives that person a chance to hear the gospel. But if that person is just arguing, being hostile, or otherwise not open, it’s probably time to move along.

    just my 2 cents

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