Atheist Ramblings - 1.5

From approximately July 1997

It boils down to faith

...I've seen it happen in amateur debates hundreds of times. The theist is backed into a corner after making a wild claim of having "proof". Faced with no other choice, rather than admit they have no proof, they resort to saying "you have to have faith".

...Faith, of course, is not proof and should never be confused with evidence of any kind, even for yourself. Faith told us the world was flat and the sun moved around the earth.

...But the big tragedy comes when the theist resorts to saying "it takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does a theist". While this argument is entirely facetious (see The 100% Problem in a previous issue), it also goes against what the word "science" or proof means.

...When a scientist takes someone's word at something, they are not using "faith" that the person is right. A scientist takes someone's word, but always knows that they could go back and verify the data and conclusions themselves.

...For example, I "believe" most of Mr. Hawking's works. This is not faith. It is a logical conclusion based on my previous work. He has always had conclusions based solidly in fact, and I can easily deduce that he will continue to do so. In either case, if I had any questions about it, I could pull out his articles and findings and derive his conclusions myself.

...There is never any "faith" involved when I take the word of another scientist. And the use of the word "believe" above is far different than the use in the sentence "I believe god exists". A scientist's belief is always tempered with skepticism and based on reasoning.

..."But you have to have faith in some 'first cause'", comes the call of the theist. Well, no. Science does not understand where the Big Bang came from. But unlike the theist, the scientist won't just jump at a conclusion and say "well, this is right". Instead, science is content with the answer "we don't know".

...This does not mean we are content to leave that answer there. Quite the contrary, new theories are proposed all the time to answer the question. And scientists may favor one theory or another, but again, that is not faith, it is based on reasoning and skepticism.

...The word "faith" is just inappropriate to atheism in general and science in particular. Diluting the word faith so that it could include atheism and science would just destroy what the word means and would serve no one.

The Wow! Factor

...Some creationists find it soo hard to believe that this world and everything they know is just a natural thing. They always think of the randomness of waves and the destruction they bring. Or the randomness of wind. They can't see randomness as constructive or beneficial.

...Of course, the whole question of randomness and natural selection is a whole can of worms (see The Design Problem in a previous issue), so I'm going to ignore it for now.

...What I want to think on is the "Wow!" factor and what that means.

...Well, to an atheist such as myself, the "Wow!" factor is just as strong as it is for a theist. I am truly marveled by even the simplest bird's flight. I can watch an ant work for hours. Seeing my son grow up is incredible. But never, even for a moment, do I believe a god or a creator is needed to explain why we are here or how it all happened.

...But let me play theist-advocate for a moment. What if there was some kind of creator who started it all going? What would that really tell us?

...Well, in short, nothing much. Does having to have a creator to start it mean the creator is still around? Does it mean he/she/they/it still lives? Or care for us? Does it mean he wants worship? Does it mean she created the universe for us? Does it mean there is an afterlife or any kind of reward? Was it created for us?

...Even if there was a creator, having one does not answer any other questions than "where did it all come from?". And unfortunately leaves us with the bitter taste of "magic" when thinking about the universe. No longer is it all decided by immutable rules or understandable principles. It was just a "poof" magic trick.

Why not faith?

...Faith is just such a poor example of evidence or proof. What I feel under faith has nothing to do with what anyone else feels.

...Also, making that "leap of faith" without evidence leaves one with that bitter taste that a "magic trick" happened while they had their back turned, or that someone answered "just cuz" to a question.

...Another possible outcome of faith without evidence could be that you are feeling something that just isn't there. It could be some kind of placebo effect as in the cases of people having their cancer cured via placebo medication. Or even worse, the feeling may be some evil/trickster god who is trying to keep you away from the real god.

...Without evidence, faith is meaningless.

...And as I have said and will say again, the overwhelming lack of evidence for a god leads me to say "no" to faith.