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Christian or Atheist? Tell me What it Takes...

By Ben Love ~

“It takes just as much faith to believe there is no God as it takes to believe in the Christian God, maybe even more so.”

This was a statement spoken to me by a Christian man recently. It is an echo of a sentiment I have heard time and time and time again. Believers seem to think this is somehow a winning statement. The truth, as I have demonstrated elsewhere, is that faith, by its very nature, requires the adherent to believe in something for which there is no justifiable evidence (this is even supported in the New Testament’s own definition of “faith” as seen in Hebrews 11:1). Therefore, to refrain from believing in an object due to a lack of evidence reveals an absence of faith, not some inverted version of backward faith. Thus, it requires no faith to be an atheist, because the atheist is refraining from believing in something for which he has no proof.

At this point, the Christian usually replies by saying that the assumption of nothingness is itself a belief, that for as much as they believe in God’s existence, I believe in his non-existence. This is, once again, missing the point. A person either believes or doesn’t believe. The Christian and the atheist are not both believers occupying two ends of a spectrum. One is a believer; the other is not. To believe in something, in anything, even if the object of belief is “nothingness,” still requires an embracing leap toward that which you cannot verify. If you could verify it, belief wouldn’t be necessary anyway; we’d just be talking about straight facts. No, to “believe” must imply that some mental leap of the imagination is taking place in the face of information that should otherwise prevent you from making such a leap. The atheist is not a believer in this sense; he is an observer of information, a collector of evidence, and he adheres only to that which the evidence suggests. If there is no proof for a given thing, he refrains from embracing it. There is therefore no faith happening here. None whatsoever.

“Ah,” the Christian says. “Wrong again. There is faith happening here. Your faith is in the evidence.”

Once again, we need to differentiate between the two types of “faith.” Every time you eat food in a restaurant, you are using faith. Every time you put money in the bank, you are using faith. To live in this world demands that we take certain things for granted, like the efficacy of stoplights or the trustworthiness of the post office. But this “faith,” such as it is, is still based on evidence. If you observed a history of stoplights failing, or the post office messing up your mail, or routinely receiving bugs in your food from a certain restaurant, you would cease to take these things for granted. You drive through a green light because experience has taught you that it is safe to do so. This is patently different from faith without evidence. Therefore, if as an atheist my faith is in “evidence,” it is because the evidence suggests that evidence is trustworthy! And evidence must be trustworthy; otherwise, every human being behind bars right now is probably innocent; every historical figure you’ve heard of probably never even existed at all; all those lights in the night sky probably aren’t stars at all; all DNA tests should be tossed out the window. Evidence is trustworthy; otherwise, it wouldn’t be evidence. And that is why my faith is placed there, for the same reason I know that someone is going to come along and cart away the garbage I place in my dumpster.

However, let us say for the sake of argument, that it does require faith to be an atheist, an inverted form of the kind required to be a Christian. Assuming this is so, let us test the validity of the statement with which I opened this essay…

Again, the Christian man said this: “It takes just as much faith to believe there is no God as it takes to believe in the Christian God, maybe even more so.”

Okay, so let’s break it down:

In order to believe in the Christian God, one has to forego a certain logic that dictates two opposing forces cannot share the same space. In other words, like the proverbial married bachelor or the square-circle, this God must somehow be able to reconcile within himself two or more opposing, contradictory traits that otherwise could never exist together. And when logic meets a dead end during this reconciliation, the believer must shrug his shoulders, fall back on faith, and say, “Well, my God is mysterious. I don’t how he does it, but I believe he does.” Also, the believer must make inferences about his suspicion that the Universe had a designer. These inferences must somehow translate into a verification that this designer and the Christian God are indeed one and the same. Even in the face of staggering information that should indicate to even a marginally intelligent person that the Christian God cannot be the Creator (due to his warmongering, his crimes against humanity, his flawed personality, his jealous nature, his penchant for deceit, his thirst for blood, his selfish tendencies, and so on), the believer must turn his back on this information, or explain it away with poorly contrived statements of absurdity, and go on believing in this being. Furthermore, to believe in the Christian God must be accompanied by a belief in the Bible. A belief in the Bible must be accompanied by a certain denial of science. In other words, to believe in the Christian God is to shut one’s eyes to the contrary story being told by virtually every field of science at our disposal. To believe in the Christian God must demand that the believer accept the absurd (i.e., the existence of talking snakes, talking donkeys, ghosts, witches, reanimated corpses, winged creatures who descend from the sky, invisible beings bent on evil and mischief, and a global flood for which there is no evidence) and deny the solidarity of evidence that suggests none of these things actually happened or could be real. Thus, to believe in the Christian God, one must accept the unacceptable, shut his eyes to certain atrocities, explain away the unexplainable, develop a taste for the illogical, and deny the persistent story of the natural world around him.

And yet, all it takes to be an atheist is a commitment to follow the evidence where it would lead and make no definitive claims for that which you do not know until the information permits you to make such a claim.

Yeah, I wonder which sounds like it requires more faith?

Game. Set. Match.