“Faith is belief without evidence” — an objection

Hot on the heels of our most recent XFiles Friday, I stumble across this objection to the idea that faith is belief without evidence. But this blogger isn’t mad at Christian apologists like Geisler and Turek. Like so many other things, this “offense” gets blamed on atheists.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when the new atheists pull the old “faith is belief without evidence” meme out of their back pocket. By itself, it isn’t that annoying, but combine it with the fact that no matter how many times somebody like myself points out to them that that isn’t what faith means, they will continue to think that that is what it does, in fact, mean. I’ve never quite understood this until this “On Faith” post by Sam Harris**. It occurred to me that the “faith is belief without evidence” meme often serves as a form of self-deception for these atheists.

Can you believe those wacky atheists? Not only do they have more faith (i.e. “belief without evidence”) than Christians, as Geisler and Turek inform us, but they’re also guilty of deliberately and maliciously spreading the “meme” that says faith is belief without evidence. And their insidious purpose behind spreading this idea? Why, to defend their own atheistic beliefs, which are a faith with no evidence:

If there is one thing the new atheists are invested in, it is that their view of the world is the most reasonable. If they don’t have that, they don’t really have anything at all.

If there’s one thing Christians are good at, it’s the psychological phenomenon known as projection. It is Christians, and not atheists, who have been promoting the “faith = belief – evidence” equation ever since Paul told the Corinthians that Christians “walk by faith and not by sight.” The blogger above is merely uncomfortable with this necessity because he is smart enough to realize that if truth is consistent with itself, faith in the truth ought to be reflected by a corresponding body of evidence which is consistent with what he believes. So he blames atheists for spreading a “false” definition of faith. And though he protests at length that this is what faith doesn’t mean, he never quite defines for us what he thinks faith does mean. Small wonder, then, that atheistic writers like Sam Harris prefer to take their definition of faith from noted Bible scholars and Christian apologists like Norm Geisler.

Secondly, with regards to the remark that “If they don’t have that, they don’t have anything…” Why is it so important to argue about what the proper definition of faith is? If there were tangible evidence backing up Christian claims, why would it require faith to believe the conclusions the evidence supported? People sometimes speak somewhat poetically about having “faith” that the dark of the night will give way to the light of dawn, but the reality of sunrise and sunset are not seriously questioned by anyone. That, however, is because recurring sunrises are consistent with an abundance of real-world evidence.

By flagging the definition of faith as an issue significant enough to require pinning the blame on atheists, the blogger above is inadvertently providing us with further evidence that his Christian faith is indeed a belief in that which, if it were consistent with the evidence, would not need to be called a “faith.” The whole reason the definition of faith is so important is because faith is all they have. If Christians don’t have faith, they have nothing at all. That’s also an unpalatable state of affairs, so the blogger projects it onto the atheists, and claims that all they have is faith in how reasonable their worldview is, and that apart from that they have nothing.

A multitude of ironies, as is so often the case.

6 Responses to ““Faith is belief without evidence” — an objection”

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  4. Mike Says:

    you said absolutely nothing here. Faith is — by definition :
    Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
    Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

    What proof do you have? What makes Christianity more believable than Judaism, Islam, or belief in the Sun God or Zeus and Apollo? I’m sure you would dismiss as ‘naive’ and even ‘ridiculous’ the belief in a sun god, or Zeus. But these deities were very real for those people at that time – the same way your god, or Jesus is very real for you now. But it is just another “god story” in another era. None of them “REALLY” exist. Everyone MUST believe that his/her religion is the “CORRECT” and “TRUE” religion, otherwise, why believe it? Why indeed?
    Come on…. you don’t really believe in all this supernatural hocus pocus, do you????

  5. ZARVOE Says:

    Setting aside your claims about whether Christianity is more rational than Islam or the rest, and focusing on the issue, it doesn’t matter if Christianity is or is not more Rational than sun god worship, what’s being discussed is the actual definition of the word Faith.

    The thing is, when the New Atheists define faith as belief without evidence, they aren’t addressing the real definition of Faith. In fact, there are six definitions for the word, and while belief without evidence is one of them, it only became one of the definitions because Atheists began using it as far back as Ambrose Bierce as a way to mock Christianity and Religion generally.

    But Historically, the word Faith didn’t mean belief without evidence. It actually comes from the Latin Root Fidese, meaning Trust or Confidence, and can also mean loyalty, and it’s this definition of Faith that most Religious texts and writers actually meant.

    Regardless of whether or not you find their beliefs Rational, which is another matter entirely, the fact remains that Faith is not belief without evidence when discussing Religion, or most other instances when people use the word faith. It’s wrong to force the belief without evidence argument onto people who aren’t using the word to mean that, and intellectually dishonest to define faith as beleif without evidence to criticise a wholly different meaning of the word faith used by someone else.

    It does conform to the Modern Atheist perception of themselves as standing for Reason and Science, and viewing Religion as the opposite of these things, but its simply not the actual meaning of the word “Faith”.

    One can’t alter the meaning of the word someone else is using and then expect the argument to be valid.

    • Deacon Duncan Says:

      Hi Zarvoe, thanks for commenting. I think words tend to evolve over time, as people’s experiences in the real world tend to reinforce some dimensions and weaken others. “Fundamentalist” was originally a name people were proud to embrace; nowadays, though, if believers want to insult atheists, they accuse them of being fundamentalists. Likewise, the Christian faith is getting a reputation for being belief without evidence, not because Ambrose Bierce made a joke a century ago, but because of the quality of the evidence presented by Christian apologists.

      Besides, your accusation is unjustified. No one, least of all atheists, is saying that the NT writers themselves intended to portray faith as belief without evidence. Prophets, apostles, and theologians presented faith as just one more dimension of the believer’s supposed spiritual experience, no doubt about it. There’s just no verifiable, non-subjective evidence that this so-called spiritual experience is anything more than superstition and autosuggestion. Atheists aren’t talking about what the Bible means by faith, they’re talking about faith as it actually exists in the real world. That’s why they use the definition they use.

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