Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist

Here's another one of those claims made by believers and supposed to be Christian wisdom, but do you know what? I'm not at all sure what is meant by the claim it takes more faith to be an atheist. It's been said to me a few times, most recently by my mom, but I'm not at all sure what it means.

Perhaps a person who makes a statement such as this might be saying, that since one can not prove that a god does not exist, then believing that there are no gods requires faith. A freaky double negative might sound slick and unclear or mysterious to a person who counts on their religion having all of the answers.

But, in that case I also have faith that there are no singing dandelions on Jupiter, I have faith that there are no chocolate-covered pecans on my rooftop, I have faith that there is no Ceucy or Artemis or Nuwa, and I have faith that monkeys will never write Shakespeare. These things mean nothing.


Is it being suggested that, since so many people believe in a god... or twelve, it takes more faith to disagree with the beliefs of the local popular religion? In that case I have no more faith in my disbelief than Christians do in not believing that humans came up from the middle of the earth in the form of ants. I have no more faith in my disbelief than any other non-Hindi in not believing that an elephant's head makes a wonderful replacement for the head of a decapitated baby. 

I have no more faith than a Muslim might doubt the claim that the earth rests on the top of a sea turtle. I have no more faith than a Mormon might doubt the claim that humans were created during the Dreamtime. Or the fact that most Americans don't believe in the Chinese claim that the powder made of elephant tusks are a cure-all for what ails you. Or that we no longer believe in Anubis, Hera, or Odin.

That is nothing more than being afraid to be outside of the crowd.

Cernunnos ~
Wild God of the Forest
Assuming my argument is going in the right direction, I can't prove that a god doesn't exist. I can use logic to prove that all things that make a deity logically impossible, but I can't prove a universal negative. No one can. I can't prove that Amanda Bynes is the best movie star on the planet OX⏬s&💏↻ap㉿ and I can't prove the existence of fluff on the navel of a unicorn. Nor can I disprove these things. This is nothing more than being out of the habit of thinking critically.

...Upon some reflection, I think that a person who says it takes more faith to be an atheist is saying that belief is more rational than disbelief. Or perhaps it is more like things are so complicated and I don't understand them that I prefer to believe that a creator god made everything and has everything under control. If we don't know something then a miracle had to happen. If we don't have enough evidence or understanding for something then it's much easier to assume a supernatural being gets it because the idea that this is not true scares the hell out of me. And I don't want to go to H E Double hockey sticks.
That is nothing more than being afraid to acknowledge one's own limitations and the basic abhorrence of our own human mortality.

Mother Moon and Father Sun
Maybe the statement is from the standpoint of viewing the entirety of the universe and thinking WOW, it is beyond comprehension, therefore, god. Or perhaps the statement is on the lips of a person who has no faith in their own ability to understand the change and evolution that a few million years can bring about on this planet. 
That's nothing more than a fear of the smallness of a single person and of one's place in the grand scheme of things.

Perhaps it is even more basic than that. If I do not believe in the miracle of Jesus, then I don't know what else there is. My religion does not offer much hope for those who cannot accept their stories, so I can't even begin to think outside of the box in which I live.  
And that is nothing more than the fear of the unknown.

South American
deity of labor
Furthermore, when some believers are faced with evidence or with problems and discrepancies with their holy book, religions require that the person in this quandary simply have faith and ignore the nagging doubts that the world clearly brings about. The idea of being a heretic, worldly, or godless is the scariest thing they can imagine. 
That is nothing more than being afraid to stand alone with integrity against a crowd.

We truly don't have all of the answers, but we have some of them and we are working on it. Also, I think that our ability to know some things is very limited. That doesn't mean I advocate substituting knowledge for stories.
I can handle the not knowing.

Adam and Eve
So for some, their faith keeps them feeling safe, it keeps them comfortably numb, it keeps them from facing a world in which all questions aren't easily answered by miracle, god, and afterlife, it keeps them in a nice community, it keeps them from feeling insignificant. It doesn't require the struggle of rational thought, and it prevents them from the existential angst of essential humanness.

Now I see.
It's fear.

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  1. It is fear, but I think it is also desperation--the desperate longing of those who lose someone and want to be with them again, and would do anything for it. :(

    And as for those who use it for a "moral compass," for they would not apparently have any ethics without religion... I suppose I am glad they at least have that to keep them from stealing from us and/or murdering us! But I'd also like to think we've evolved enough to be able to know right from wrong without the threat of the big zombie in the sky watching over us like Santa with a list.

  2. Wow. I've been wrestling with this question for awhile - why do people need something that is so obviously wrong? I grew up pretty fundamental Christian and for 20 years, I was a very strong, practicing Christian. That's what I was indoctrinated with - that's what I knew. But I grew up. I learned more. I sought more. It was more important for me to find the truth, whatever that may have been, then live with something just because of comfort and convenience. But I have a ton of "friends" who seemingly haven't bothered. And yet, they claim it as "truth" and spout all the nonsense we were taught in Bible class (Christian schools K-12 and undergrad for me!). Your last paragraph really explained it - but it still angers me. Why is the truth only important to a handful of us? Is it really courage? 6 years of deconverting wasn't easy - but it wasn't the WORST. POSSIBLE. THING. either.

    I just keep coming back to some sort of naturalistic explanation (brain chemistry, genetics, etc) for it. I just don't know. Thanks for the insight though!

  3. I thought faith was a good thing, now it's bad? The definition changes when they're talking about our "faith."

    1. Not really.
      It's simply that religion doesn't get to determine the definition of the word "faith".


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