Why Atheists Should NOT Use Faith and or Believe carelessly in Conversation

Every time I turn around I see someone on twitter bandying about with some theist genius    who insists that atheists “believe” or have “faith” in something, usually science. It’s bad enough when fundies do it, it makes me really crazy when fellow nones do it. After a discussion recently and a response on someone’s blog that never got published, I feel it’s time to get off dead center and write about it here.  I feel it is a really important discussion for atheists to have.  Here are some re-posted excerpts from my convo with @DigianOne and blog response.


My first reply:- @/DigianOne I’m not sure why you have this obsession with #atheist s using the words “faith” and “belief”. That’s typically a theist projection. When you (atheists) use those words it sets up a false equivalency between “having a view” or “accepting something as truth” and “belief”. The difference is how we arrive at our conclusions, our worldview. To believe something is to accept something as truth *without proof*. (No intellectual standard other than personal gullibility) Holding views as an atheist/agnostic should be a result of evaluating available knowledge and information, and testing for reliability, and passing rigorous peer review. This is the cornerstone of making rational decisions about claims of the supernatural and is a much higher and truthful intellectual standard. Atheists using belief doesn’t reduce hypocricy, it pollutes the conversation, and is dishonest at its core.





(Argh. Some of it is out of sequence, you get the general drift, hopefully)

Then the blog response:

Things we (possibly) agree on: This is an important topic for discussion for the atheist community. Words mean different things to different people. Whatever the motivation, world views should be continually tested in the marketplace of ideas. Theists and atheists should be able to peacefully live together and practice their beliefs/non beliefs in a society that provides both the environment to do so freely without one exercising control over the other. Where we diverge: The ideas; accomodationism, bridge building, why can’t we all get along by using believe or faith in our daily lexicon, and non overlapping magisteria (NOMA) are flawed approaches to the issue of coexistence between the atheist and christian community. As I mentioned in my tweets, and here, I’ll explain why. Science and faith both make claims about realities in the universe. The methods they use to prove these claims are in direct and permanent opposition to each other. In science, explanations *must* be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world. Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation inevitably must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation. Religious faith, in contrast, doesn’t depend on empirical evidence, is never modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and usually involves supernatural forces or entities. Attempts to meld science and religion or to use one to justify the other creates conflict and unnecessary confusion. In fact, cognitive dissonance plays a huge factor in how many “believers” who would reject an established scientific fact in favor of some aspect of their faith. Dostoevsky embodied this in his quote, “If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not the truth.” Many people have a deep emotional need to feel relevance and purpose to life beyond the explanations that naturalism brings to the table. Fear and insecurity provide the motivation and religion is the means by which faith is implemented. It *always* results in magical thinking, and has no basis in explainable reality. (It is further exploited by the unscrupulous to exert control over the diaspora, but that’s another conversation.) To reiterate, one does not build a bridge from science to religion by polluting the dialog with terms that are intended to confuse and blur important distinctions rather than illustrating the clear differences.


About Egg Zackly

Retired amateur pundit.
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3 Responses to Why Atheists Should NOT Use Faith and or Believe carelessly in Conversation

  1. ZachsMind says:

    Just some random thoughts on this topic that may or may not help things at all.

    Technically, faith is the acceptance of something as true whether there is evidence or not. There might be evidence supporting a belief. There might not. Faith doesn’t really care either way. The evidence is secondary. That you believe it, in the face of adversity, is somehow considered a virtue. This can work in both a rational framework and an irrational framework, which is the real bane of its usage, and again why atheists should refrain from using faith. Those who are irrational can use examples of rational “beliefs” to defend their own irrational beliefs. if it’s okay for Jack to believe in X why can’t Joan believe in Y? The fact X has proof and Y does not loses its relevance to the irrational mind, cuz it dismissed evidence in the first place.

    I mean what is evidence anyway? Something you believe is factual. See the slippery slope here?

    I have often said elsewhere on the Web that while atheism is a doubt in god, not all atheists agree on everything else. Some may still believe in ancient aliens or Atlantis or Bigfoot or they may believe we never landed on the moon or any other crazy things. Some atheists may believe that beer is bad for you while others believe beer is good. Ultimately, belief is not relevant, but people place relevance upon faith, because they believe in it, and that’s not going to go away. Even if you tried to police thought crimes, you would not be rid of it.

    This will continue to happen, because it’s impossible to police this. Faith will continue to be abused by irrational people. “Sometimes Number One, you just have to bow to the absurd,” once said Jean Luc Picard on STNG. You can opt to believe by the way that somewhere somewhen Star Trek will really happen. Can you prove it won’t? Can you prove it will? Believe whatever you want. No one can stop you. I would say “just don’t use those unfounded beliefs to legislate morality, or force others to your will,” but there’s no way to police that either, without becoming the very thing you seek to thwart.

    If you believe any of that, I got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

    • P Yew says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Thanks also for the RT, that was HUGE. We’re on the same page intellectually, but emotionally I don’t want to agree. It is nuance and tilting at windmills a bit to suggest folk proscribe their language. I’m frustrated from struggling with those who deliberately distort. *I’m* not confused, but the notion does seem to spread effortlessly to the casual. We atheists and libs in general are prone to bringing 100 dogs to a one dog scrap. No danger of dogma or seamless unanimity, I guess. I believe I’ll buy that bridge. Whatcha askin? Got quality beads.

  2. Pingback: Nones Gonna Be Faithing | ZachsMind

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