What Do Atheists Mean by ‘A Lack of Faith’?

Having a “lack of faith” could be a device atheists use to hide their unwillingness to face disconfirming facts.

Atheists may be ones who won’t look at the evidence with open minds.

By George Yancey Published on February 5, 2018

I had an interesting Facebook discussion not long ago, and it reminded me of one of the most fascinating results of my research on atheists. I argued with him that progressives would not want Christians to be granted freedom of conscience rights in the same way that they would freely allow for an LGBT business owner. The atheist disagreed, stating that progressives would be even-handed in their approach.

I felt that the evidence he provided was inadequate for his argument, but since I was dealing with an atheist, I decided to test something out. Often when asked to provide evidence for their beliefs, atheists argue that they do not need to, because they do not have faith in atheism. Instead, they argue, they have a “lack of faith” in theism. So I decided to turn that argument back on him. I told him I had a “lack of faith” that the progressives would treat the hypothetical Christian owner in a fair way. The atheist responded that since I had a lack of faith on that point, I didn’t need evidence for my position. I could make my statement without regard to any evidence.

So this atheist’s interpretation of saying “I have lack of faith” amounts to, “I don’t care about evidence, and in fact I don’t need to care about it.”

When Evidence Doesn’t Matter

This makes me wonder about what an atheist means when he or she talks about having a lack of faith about God. Could it mean that no matter how much evidence a Christian produces, an atheist like this Facebook commenter would never be open to truly considering whether God is real? Any Christian who discusses the existence of God with atheists knows that it is quite common for them to say, as this person did, that they have a lack of faith. I do not know if this particular atheist uses that tactic in his discussions about God, but I am certain that he is at least aware of it. So when he told me that “a lack of faith” means evidence no longer matters, he may have provided me insight into how atheists use that term.

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Let me be clear that this atheist is not unaware of how other atheists think. He is well connected and highly respected in the atheist community. He isn’t some unknown, uneducated internet atheist spouting nonsense simply to harass believers. It’s reasonable to think his interpretation of lack of faith is common among atheists. Is it possible, then, that when atheists talk about having a lack of faith, they generally mean that are not interested in evidence? I’m not saying my conversation with this evidence demonstrated that was true. But it did make me wonder.

Christians Are More Likely to Doubt Their Beliefs — And That’s Good

As it turns out, though, my research on atheists brings further data to this question. My team and I interviewed several dozen atheists. One question we asked was whether they ever had any doubts regarding their atheism. We found out that about two thirds of them (65.2 percent) never had any doubts about it. Doubts indicate times when a person considers whether he or she may be wrong, so it appears that one common feature of atheism is an unwillingness to consider the possibility one may be wrong.

I am more confident about my faith precisely because I have challenged it in times of doubt. I think many of my Christian friends feel the same way.

Oddly enough, it’s Christians who seem to have a reputation for never doubting. I say “oddly,” because only half as many Christians (35 percent) say they never have doubts. I know that among my Christian friends, more than a third of them have expressed some doubt about their faith at some point of their lives. They had been at places in their lives where they sought out evidence that their Christian beliefs might be wrong.  I know I have. I do not see these periods of doubts as problematic. In fact, I am more confident about my faith precisely because I have challenged it in times of doubt. I think many of my Christian friends feel the same way.

Those who refuse to examine contrary evidence will never doubt. They can hang on to their beliefs without ever wondering if they might be wrong. So if atheists as a population are less likely to doubt their beliefs, it makes sense to conclude they are less willing to accept evidence that challenges those beliefs. The Facebook atheist’s comment on the meaning of “lack of faith” makes more sense in light of my research findings.

Not Really Open-Minded

Ironically, my suspicions about the atheists’ willingness to test their assumptions flies in the face of their common self-perceptions. My atheist respondents spoke often of how they use science to reach their conclusions. They said they would be open to the possibility of alternate conclusions, if they saw the right evidence for it. I believe they believe in their openness. But this belief doesn’t square with their high unwillingness to question their conclusions about God’s existence. Which means we really can’t take their claims of open-mindedness at face value.

Having a “lack of faith” could in fact be a device they use to hide their unwillingness to face disconfirming facts. They choose to view themselves as ones who have never seen enough reasonable evidence for God. In reality, though, it looks like they may be ones who won’t look at the evidence with open minds.

So this phrase, “I only have a lack of faith in God,” may not be what it seems. It may be a handy way for atheists to avoid looking at the evidence. We would do well to be more skeptical of it in the future.

 

Update, February 10, 2018: The atheist in question has disputed this interpretation of his comments and this definition of “lack of faith.” As such my arguments about what a lack of faith means are entirely mine and not his. Regardless of his disputation of the interpretation, his statement did spark my interest in the topic and my look at the evidence surrounding doubt. I stand by my arguments.

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  • I think you’ve nailed it. Atheists claim to be evidence driven, but as you point out, most refuse to look at the evidence, and when they do, they refuse to follow it to its logical conclusion – relying on logical fallacies instead – because much evidence proves atheism to be untenable.

    • swordfish

      What evidence?

    • Mark Mac Donald

      ok, give me your very BEST piece of evidence and we can discuss it.

      • Samuel McNair

        Bible prophecy is evidence for God’s existence. Specifically the book of Isaiah chapter 13. The writer says that God is speaking through him and he successfully predicts the fall of ancient Babylon by the Medo-Persian Empire. This book was written two hundred years before Babylon fell. This is evidence for God’s existence right?

        • Mark Mac Donald

          Lol look up proof in the dictionary

          Prophesy too

          • Samuel McNair

            what’s your objection to the evidence I presented?

          • GPS Daddy

            Just to warn you, Mark Mac Donald usually just throws out insults and the sort. Don’t actually expect a conversation.

        • swordfish

          Predicting that a kingdom will fall isn’t very impressive. All kingdoms that have ever existed have fallen sooner or later.

          13:20 It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

          The site of Babylon is in modern day Iraq.

          13:21 But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.”

          Satyrs?

          13:22 And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.

          Dragons?

          • Samuel McNair

            “Predicting that a kingdom will fall isn’t very impressive. All kingdoms that have ever existed have fallen sooner or later.”

            How did Isaiah predict this if God wasn’t speaking through him? How could Isaiah also predict that the Medes would conquer Babylon in this same chapter when the Medes were not as strong as Babylon at the time? Also consider Jeremiah 29:10 where it’s prophesied that the Jewish people would be taken captive into Babylon for 70 years and then brought back to their own land. Prophecy is the true test that the Bible gives for determining whether God is speaking through it or not (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). If God really prophesied through Isaiah and Jeremiah that’s not only evidence for the existence of God, but also for the truthfulness of the Bible.

            “The site of Babylon is in modern day Iraq.”

            It’s true that Babylon is in modern day Iraq, but it’s specifically a city that is south of Baghdad. The city itself is uninhabited and is filled with rocks and abandoned ancient structures just as God said.

            “Satyrs?” “Dragons?”

            These are ancient words that describe hairy animals and reptiles in their context. The original language shows this. These are not to be confused with the mythical creatures.

          • swordfish

            I’m tempted to ask how free will can work if it’s possible to predict the future in prophecies. But I won’t.

            “How did Isaiah predict this if God wasn’t speaking through him?”

            I have no evidence other than what is written in the Bible that this prophecy was ever made, or that it wasn’t altered later to fit the facts.

            “Prophecy is the true test that the Bible gives for determining whether God is speaking through it or not”

            Says the Bible.

            “If God really prophesied through Isaiah and Jeremiah that’s not only evidence for the existence of God, but also for the truthfulness of the Bible.”

            Says the Bible.

            [Satyrs and Dragons] “These are not to be confused with the mythical creatures.”

            So they got all these simple animal names wrong, but got everything else right?

          • Samuel McNair

            “I have no evidence other than what is written in the Bible that this prophecy was ever made, or that it wasn’t altered later to fit the fit the facts”

            There is no evidence to suggest that the book was altered to fit the facts. There are no textual variants found regarding the prophecies in this chapter. Also bear in mind that the Bible is a library of books that corroborate one another. Each author is his own source. If there are doubts about what Isaiah has said then they can be weighed against what Jeremiah or another writer has said. Both of them speak of the destruction of Babylon by the medio-Persian empire before it happened, and they weren’t alive to see it happen.

            This is evidence for God’s existence.

          • swordfish

            You can’t use the Bible to prove the truth of the Bible. Of course the Bible says God exists, but that isn’t in any way convincing evidence. The Koran says that Allah exists – would you accept that as convincing evidence?

          • Samuel McNair

            I would likely not accept the truth claims of the Quran seeing as it is only one man’s report of revelation from Allah with nothing to corroborate it.

            “You can’t use the Bible to prove the truth of the Bible?”

            Why not?

          • swordfish

            “I would likely not accept the truth claims of the Quran seeing as it is only one man’s report of revelation from Allah with nothing to corroborate it.”

            Jesus was only one man. (Assuming he actually existed, but that’s another matter.)

            [You can’t use the Bible to prove the truth of the Bible?]

            “Why not?”

            Can you use the Koran to prove the truth of the Koran? If someone claims to be telling the truth, can that be used to prove they’re telling the truth?

          • Samuel McNair

            “Can you use the Koran to prove the truth of the Koran? If someone claims to be telling the truth, can that be used to prove they’re telling the truth?”

            It would be difficult without outside corroborating evidence, such as miracles, other witnesses of Allah, or fulfilled prophecies which the Quran seems to lack.

            However, the Bible has these things to back it up. It’s not just one source, but it’s made up of many sources. The authors were different and lived in different time periods. There is also fulfilled prophecy which confirms what the different authors wrote. So yes if I have multiple sources in the Bible all testifying to the same God over 1500 years (time span of the Bible) I can trust their testimony. God has provided lots of evidence for his existence.

    • Mark Hoines

      How about some examples?

      • GPS Daddy

        What do you think would be examples,Mark?

    • GPS Daddy

      Yep, thats right. The atheist is at a huge disadvantage with regard to evidence. There is mountains of evidence for God, and the God of the bible…. IF your heart is in the right place. But the atheist has no evidence for their position so they have to do their best to try and force the argument away from the point.

  • JP

    The atheist needs to apply the same kind of skepticism he has about God to his own atheism. Just ask them for any facts that proves atheism true and all you will get is a dear in the headlights look.
    Don’t get sucked into arguments with atheists who demand proof from the Christian and yet refuse to give any evidence for atheism being true. If the atheist wants a place at the table he needs to give his evidence for atheism being true. Without it all you have is preference claim.

    • Bezukhov

      Whose God should I stop being so skeptical of?

      • GPS Daddy

        We been down this road before and yet you ask the same question. You learned nothing from the last time.

    • Mike Cahill

      Let’s be clear, that proof of atheism requires proving that God doesn’t exist. Proving that any X does NOT exist is tremendously difficult, because you have to consider every alternative, and it’s always possible that you’ve overlooked some factor, or just haven’t looked in the right place. Let’s say you want to prove that unicorns do not exist. How would you approach this?
      An idea for a conversation – and I hope there are real conversations going on. I wonder what would happen if you said “You know, Christians have a much easier task than atheists, because it’s easier to produce evidence that God exists than to produce evidence that God does not exist.”

      • JP

        The atheist must bear the burden of proof for his atheism being true. No evidence is ever produced by the atheist which means that the atheist is not justified in believing is true.

        • Mark Mac Donald

          you don’t understand burden of proof, whatsoever.
          The default POSITION IS always ‘THERE ARE NO GODS’ (OR NO FAIRIES OR MONSTERS OR ANYTHING!)
          The person making the claim is required to prove it

          • JP

            Where does science say this is the default position?

          • Terry Lewis

            I reject your claim that “There are no Gods…” is the default position. As you made this claim, and (per your post) “The person making the claim is required to prove it”, it is up to you to defend that this is the default position, as opposed to the opposite claim (“God exists”) or the neutral claim (“God may or may not exist.”)

          • swordfish

            “There are no gods” isn’t what atheists claim. we only claim that there is no convincing evidence that a god or gods exist.

          • GPS Daddy

            >>convincing evidence

            That is a loaded term for atheists. I find LOTS of convincing evidence and I am rational in accepting it. If you reject it that is your choice but you reject it irrationally.

          • Terry Lewis

            Swordfish, are you certain that you are responding to the correct post? Mark Mac Donald was the one to state that “The default POSITION IS always ‘THERE ARE NO GODS’…”, not me.

            By his own standard, given in the same post, it is his responsibility to defend his point. But it seems he’s “stacked the deck” by assuming his own position as the default position, rather than taking a neutral position as his starting point. That’s shoddy logic; he is begging the question… presuming what he’s trying to prove as a given.

            To your own credit, you’re not claiming to hide behind a “lack of belief”. Whether or not there is convincing evidence for God is at least a claim that is actually debatable, unlike the (rather meaningless) claim that you simply lack a belief in God.

            However, it is still a claim. And if Mark Mac Donald is going to be consistent, then he should ask you to defend your statement that all of the evidence that others find compelling is not convincing.

            Perhaps you can start by defining what does, and what does not qualify as “convincing”.

            Regards,

            -tl

          • swordfish

            “[…] assuming his own position as the default position, rather than taking a neutral position as his starting point. That’s shoddy logic”

            I don’t see why. The only way you can hold a position on the existence of something in the first place is if the claim has been made that it exists. Whoever made that claim needs to back it up with evidence.

            “you’re not claiming to hide behind a “lack of belief”.

            Actually, I am claiming a lack of belief. Stating that the evidence is unconvincing is simply giving a reason for that lack of belief.

            “Perhaps you can start by defining what does, and what does not qualify as “convincing”.”

            Why should I do that?

          • Terry Lewis

            >>The only way you can hold a position on the existence of something in the first place is if the claim has been made that it exists.

            Perhaps… but why would you IMMEDIATELY move to the counter position as the DEFAULT?

            “I saw a shooting star last night.”

            “What? I’ve never seen one, so *shooting stars do not exist!*”

            Should the default position not be “I don’t know whether shooting stars exist, so let’s look at the evidence”??

            Remember, we’re not talking about the position that Mark claims to have arrived at after careful examination of the evidence, but the position he took to be the default, starting position.

            Such a hyper-skeptical position is essentially self-defeating. If you doubt every new concept that you encounter, then *did you also doubt your belief that you should doubt every new concept* when that belief was new?

            >>Stating that the evidence is unconvincing is simply giving a reason for that lack of belief.

            Ok… I can accept that, but my point is that you don’t seem to be saying that because you lack belief, you don’t have to provide reasons for such a lack. Indeed, you have provided such a defense. That’s not to say that I think you’ve successfully justified your lack of belief, but at least you provided a backing reason for your claim that can be discussed.

            >>Why should I do that?

            At the risk of sounding snarky (which is not my intent), perhaps because that’s how conversation and dialog works… you make a statement, I ask a question. I make a statement, you ask a question.

            I don’t post simply to bash people who disagree with me. Do I post to try to change your mind? Well, honestly, yes, to an extent. But the largest reason I post is to learn from people who disagree with me. I’m genuinely interested in what people who claim to be unconvinced by the evidence that I find practically irrefutable would view as convincing evidence.

            I’ve changed my position before because of convincing arguments presented by atheists–not on the question of God’s existence, but I have been convinced that some of my arguments were wrong, and I’ve changed my position because of it. It makes me a better and wiser person.

      • GPS Daddy

        Sure, Mike. My first piece of evidence: Look in the mirror.

    • Mark Mac Donald

      do you believe in leprechauns?
      Prove to me they aren’t real

      • JP

        I don’t believe you are real.

        • Mark Mac Donald

          which just shows you don’t understand burden of proof, whatsoevr

          • JP

            Go ahead. Prove you exist.

          • Mark Mac Donald

            There are many things I could do to convince people I exist. I could show pictures. Speak to you. Have others speak about me. Many things.
            There’s no such thing as 100% proving. I’ve never required that of a Christian. Just ‘sufficient ‘
            But, as I said irrelevant. Burden of proof here is on you and you refuse

          • JP

            I actually more proof and evidence for the existence of God than I do for your existence. I also can play the atheist card and just disregard any evidence for your existence and claim you don’t exist.

          • Mark Mac Donald

            Instead of continuously making unsupported claims, provide the evidence. You won’t. You’ll skirt the issue, AGAIN

          • JP

            I have evidence for my beliefs about God but you have none for atheism. Atheism is not a knowledge claim about reality as Christianity is. All you have is a preference for atheism and nothing more.

          • Mark Mac Donald

            What a shock! More unsubstantiated climbs!! Move on loser

          • JP

            You should not be shocked there are facts that proves atheism true. Time to move on from it. Its a loser’s bet.

    • GPS Daddy

      That is so true. Atheists think that they have no burden of proof but is truth they are the one’s who really have the burden. Belief in God is a properly basic belief. A person can hold that belief without the burden of proof. They can live their lives based on that belief with no burden to demonstrate that that God exists. The atheist on the other had cannot explain in any fashion our existence with resorting to magic processes and unverifiable claims.

      • Mark Hoines

        A properly basic belief? That makes sense only as a statement of where the majority of Americans stand. Most of them grow up with it and many never think to reflect on it or challenge it. It is for them a “basic belief.” But it is not a burden-free belief when it is used to promote destructive policies and prejudicial attitudes. And it is the theists who resort to “magic processes and unverifiable claims.”

        • GPS Daddy

          Looks like you have some homework to do to understand what a “properly basic belief is” and why belief in God is “properly basic.”

          • swordfish

            I would advise not to bother doing that homework, as you’ll find that “properly basic belief” really just means “belief”. In other words, it’s just another go at asserting God into existence out of nothing.

          • GPS Daddy

            You miss-understand what it means. Of course, the atheist is going to reject the idea of God being a properly basic belief. That is not surprising to me. But, just like in many other areas, the atheist will misrepresent what it is and means.

          • swordfish

            The idea that there is a supernatural, all-powerful, all-seeing, all-good entity which has created everything cannot be considered a “properly basic belief”, let alone any specific god such as the Christian one.

          • GPS Daddy

            Continue to misunderstand.

          • Shaquille Harvey

            Really that is interesting are confident in that statement at all ?

          • Mark Hoines

            So, I now see that you subscribe to Alvin Plantinga’s religious epistemology. It astonishes me that anyone takes it seriously.

          • GPS Daddy

            It astonishes me that there are people who cannot see they are more than mere dirt.

          • Kevin Quillen

            It is pride that keeps them astray. They know they are more than dirt.
            They want to be in charge.

        • GPS Daddy

          >>And it is the theists who resort to “magic processes and unverifiable claims.”

          Nah. The atheist has all kinds of magic processes to claim life evolved.

        • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

          It is a post-modern belief that man can change the nature of reality through force of will. It is a psychotic kind of wish fulfillment fantasy, untethered from the evidence. And your motives are so puerile as to defy understanding among the wise. You want license to act according to your desires and without transcendent consequence, like a spoiled child.
          The belief in God is not baseless. Creation demands a Creator. This is the most basic logic of an intelligent mind. The Prime Mover is at least as old as Aristotle. Western culture, therefore, is built upon many layers of belief in the Creator stretching back to antiquity. But even the most primitive cultures believe in creation and a Creator. This affirms a universal understanding about reality.

          I challenge you. Name a culture based upon the premise that there is NO God.

  • Kevin Quillen

    there is no such thing as an atheist. God put His law and the knowledge of His existence in ALL men. Atheists too. They simply have chosen not to accept the knowledge they have been given. Down deep, they know.

    • swordfish

      According to the article, Christians have more doubts than atheists, which seems to disprove your claim.

      • GPS Daddy

        No, actually, it does not. What Kevin is talking about does not require 100% certainty.

    • Mark Mac Donald

      what a comment! Proof of the arrogance of christians.

      • Kevin Quillen

        Let me ask you a question; how do you determine right from wrong? Serious question. As an atheist what is the determining factor in making a decision to do or not do something?

        • Mark Mac Donald

          through my interaction with other people. Please, don’t tell me you get ‘morals’ from a god.

          • Kevin Quillen

            please explain….I do not get it.

          • Mark Mac Donald

            what morals do you get from your god? Your god supports slavery and rape and murder and murdering of babies. Your god has no morals

          • Kevin Quillen

            you did not answer my question and apparently you have not heard of the New Covenant.

          • Mark Mac Donald

            I did answer it and I’m curious, does the new covenant mean god didn’t know what he was doing in the OT? Does that mean you also don’t follow the 10 commandments? Sounds like your a ‘pick and choose’ my morals christian

          • Kevin Quillen

            I assume then that you get your morals from the majority? If man is the highest life form then man decides what is right and wrong? So, if the majority decides to take all your stuff and give it to the poor, you are ok with that? You would have to be. You should be thankful for the influence of Christianity in our nations laws. It is actually your only protection from tyranny. I hope someday you meet Jesus and accept His wonderful gift. You KNOW god exists but refuse so far to acknowledge Him. Someday you will. I pray for you.

          • Mark Mac Donald

            the problem with having a discussion with a christian is that all too often they make ‘assumptions’ and their comments go completely off the rails. When did I ever say I get my morals from the majority? But you NEED to explain how you think christianity is the basis for our laws. That’s just a silly statement

          • Kevin Quillen

            you said you get your morals ” from interaction with people”. I asked you to explain. The fact that you did not speaks volumes. You are trapped and know it, so……….no response, just attack. Typical. You KNOW God exists. Why not just admit it and ask Him for forgiveness? It is a great life.

    • Mark Hoines

      And how do you know that?

  • Not believing in God doesn’t mean atheists don’t believe in some things–they do. Here’s what I believed when I was an atheist:

    A. We got here by a series of things that “just happened” dating back billions of years.
    B. There is no ultimate meaning or purpose to a person’s life.
    C. Human beings don’t have free will (as atheist Sam Harris’s book claims).
    D. Humans are just animals with bigger brains.
    E. After death it won’t make any difference personally to people whether they did much good, even at great cost to themselves, or great evil.

    It was a happy day when I found in Jesus that these were false beliefs.

    • GPS Daddy

      I find it interesting today that atheist will happily claim they have meaning and purpose in their lives. When I challenge them that this is not consistent with a worldview where there is “no ultimate meaning or purpose” I get the response “well, I have meaning and purpose in my life”. They can’t or do not want to connect the dots from their worldview to what they claim to be true.

      • swordfish

        That could be because “ultimate meaning” and meaning from a personal perspective are two different things. It’s clear that individual people can find meaning in life, but it isn’t clear that there’s any such thing as “ultimate meaning”, or that the concept even makes sense.

        • GPS Daddy

          That is completely rubbish thinking. If there is no ultimate meaning then there is no personal meaning. The fact that you have personal meaning is evidence enough that ultimate meaning exists.

          • swordfish

            You’re just asserting this without providing any evidence or reasoning to support your assertion. I can’t see any reason why there has to be an “ultimate meaning” for our subjective sense of meaning to exist, any more than there has to be an “ultimate taste” for our subjective sense of taste to exist.

          • GPS Daddy

            I’m doing nothing more that what you do. You assert your views without providing evidence or reasoning.

          • swordfish

            “[…] any more than there has to be an “ultimate taste” for our subjective sense of taste to exist.”

            This was my reasoning. Do you have a response to it other than to pretend that I didn’t say it?

          • GPS Daddy

            That is reasoning? Maybe for an atheist.

          • swordfish

            Again, that isn’t an argument. How is “meaning” different to “taste” in this analogy?

          • Mark Hoines

            Evidence and reasoning seem to be alien concepts to GPS Daddy, who seems not to realize how empty and self-invalidating many of his ad hominem comments are.

      • Mark Mac Donald

        what’s REALLY sad is that you can’t get satisfaction out of a wonderful family for instance. You only get satisfaction by worshipping some spirit, that may or may not exist and if he DOES exist, you want us to worship some god that REGULARLY murders us, including babies

        • GPS Daddy

          What a completely pathetic view.

          • Mark Mac Donald

            lmao, how pathetic to get satisfaction out of the love of a family! You’re a f*cktard

        • Kevin Quillen

          I do not think you have “evolved” enough as you are devoid of understanding.

  • swordfish

    “So this phrase, “I only have a lack of faith in God,” may not be what it seems. It may be a handy way for atheists to avoid looking at the evidence.”

    You seem to forget that many atheists used to be Christians (or members of other religions), so we’ve already been through a process (decades long in my case) of looking at the “evidence” and finding that it’s completely unconvincing.

    • Kevin Quillen

      you find the concept of irreducible complexity unconvincing? How about symbiotic relationships? If you landed on Mars and found a book, would you suggest it evolved over time of see the design of an intelligent being? What do you think DNA is?

      • swordfish

        Irreducible complexity is a discredited idea put forward by creationists. The classic example is that of the human eye, where each part (supposedly) needs all the other parts to work. However, this is simply not so. Even a single light sensitive cell, allowing an organism to distinguish between night and day, is useful from a survival point of view.

        If I landed on Mars and found a book, I’d assume that someone must have left it there. DNA isn’t a book.

  • Speaking of atheists in 1941, ex-Atheist C.S. Lewis speaks of “their almost bottomless ignorance of the Faith they supposed themselves to be rejecting.” More recently, of the “New Atheists” David Bentley Hart states in his own inimitable way:
    “But atheism that consists entirely in vacuous arguments afloat on oceans of historical ignorance, made turbulent by storms of strident self-righteousness, is as contemptible as any other form of dreary fundamentalism. And it is sometimes difficult, frankly, to be perfectly generous in one’s response to the sort of invective currently fashionable among the devoutly undevout, or to the sort of historical misrepresentations it typically involves.”

    Hart gets at what’s most annoying about most modern atheists: their arrogance and absolutist certitude. We are finite creatures with finite knowledge, so there can be no absolute certainty about anything, let alone metaphysical issues. There is cause, in other words, for epistemological humility, of which most atheists show absolutely zero. Their smug condescension, and what they think are witty put downs of anyone who disagrees with them, makes them even more unappealing or persuasive than their irrationality. I think it would be enjoyable to engage an atheist who knows he’s finite and honestly grapples with the ultimate meaning of existence, but they seem to be few and far between.

    • Mark Mac Donald

      crazy that atheists think worshipping ghosts is odd, eh?

      • Thank you, Mark. You make my point perfectly, which of course you are too obtuse to understand.

        • Mark Mac Donald

          make you a deal. Provide me your BEST piece of evidence. Then we can discuss who is obtuse

          • Yeah, in a blog comment. Like I said, obtuse. There are a zillion apologetics resources out there, but you’ll never engage them because you already think you know it all. If you really cared about evidence, and truth, you’d search for it. But you won’t because my first comment explains you to a T.

          • Mark Mac Donald

            Just as I thought. You are too cowardly to provide evidence because you know I will shred it. Carry on!!

          • I really don’t think people are like you are real. You’re just too stupid to be real. So it’s obviously a joke and put-in. Either way, you’re really good at it. Good riddance!!!

          • Mark Mac Donald

            Like I said: A f*cken coward

          • I love you too!

          • swordfish

            “There are a zillion apologetics resources out there”

            There’s a zillion ways to be wrong but only one way to be right.

          • Exactly! And only one man in the history of earth rose from the dead to prove it! One day, you Mr. Swordfish, will bow the knee with all who ever lived and declare Jesus Christ the Lord to the glory of God the Father. I can’t wait to see how arrogant you’ll be then.

          • GPS Daddy

            I give you yourself as the best evidence to you that God exists.

          • Mark Mac Donald

            Exactly why people ridicule Christians when they say have proof

          • GPS Daddy

            Did you look in the mirror and see the evidence? Or are you here just to insult others. That seems to be your MO.

          • Kevin Quillen

            obtuse would be someone who seriously cannot see evidence of design in nature. Proof of a Creator. Irreducible complexity provides all the proof needed to reasonable people.

          • John Connor

            Again, human existence is not evidence of the supernatural

          • GPS Daddy

            Only to those who cannot see that what they are is more than the physical.

    • swordfish

      “C.S. Lewis speaks of “their almost bottomless ignorance of the Faith they supposed themselves to be rejecting.””

      Here, C.S. Lewis made the ignorant assumption that atheists are rejecting Christianity when we are actually rejecting the existence of a god or gods. Actually, many atheists know more about Christianity than many Christians do, but the fact is that don’t need to be an expert on something to reject it. I don’t know much about fairies – does that mean I’m not allowed to disbelieve in them?

      • Better to keep you mouth shut and have someone think you are a fool . . . .

        • Mark Hoines

          Swordfish’s point is perfectly well made. He, at least, is surely no fool.

          • GPS Daddy

            swordfish is completely misrepresenting C.S. Lewis. As far as swordfish being a fool I’d say that swordfish has restated numerous foolish atheistic statements. One such statement is that we can find meaning in this life yet there being no ultimate meaning or purpose. This is a completely irrational position and a foolish one.

          • swordfish

            I responded to the position of C.S. Lewis as represented by the quote made by Mike D’Virgilio. If that quote misrepresents C.S. lewis’s position, then you should complain to Mike D’virgilio.

            As it happens, I’m fairly sure that my point was an accurate criticism of Lewis’s position as Mike D’Virgilio was unable to respond to it with anything other than an ad hominen.

            Regarding your point about meaning, I’ve already answered this. You’re making an unwarranted connection between our personal, subjective sense of meaning, and an “ultimate meaning” which you allege to exist. I fail to see why these two completely different things have anything to do with each other except in your mind.

          • GPS Daddy

            >>I’m fairly sure that my point was an accurate criticism of Lewis’s position

            Not so much. You view of Lewis is from the irrational position that atheists take.

            >>Regarding your point about meaning, I’ve already answered this

            You’ve asserted an irrational position that your atheism forces you into.

          • John Connor

            Nothing irrational about the disbelief in supernatural beings

          • GPS Daddy

            There is everything irrational about rejecting the idea that there is more to life than what we see.

          • swordfish

            Can you give an example?

          • John Connor

            Only your opinion. No gods needed for purpose in life

          • GPS Daddy

            Only your opinion… and a broken record at that.

          • So you say. I prefer what God says in Psalm 14:1:

            The fool says in his heart,
            “There is no God.”
            They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
            there is no one who does good.

            It’s tossup, really, you or God. Not!!!

    • Mike

      Ironic though it is for me to post this in a social media forum, I think it is even rarer for discussions like the one George mentions to be done in person, with a long-term personal relationship in mind. Facebook is easy. Real face-to-face is not, as I am learning. 🙂

    • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

      Such a person would not be called an atheist among atheists, for the simple reason that humility is a disqualifier. Without bombast and insult, atheism quickly becomes agnosticism.

      • Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Pearl, I’ve been reading your comments here, and I must say, I’m impressed! You are not only intelligent, but rhetorically gifted. Just in these few comments I’ve gained some insights I hadn’t had before, so thank you. And you give a nice zing, as well, to the arrogant ill-educated and ignorant. I’m glad we’re on the same team. Cheers!

        • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

          Thanks, we need all the warriors we can get.

  • “Let me be clear that this atheist is not unaware of how other atheists think. He is well connected and highly respected in the atheist community. He isn’t some unknown, uneducated internet atheist spouting nonsense simply to harass believers. It’s reasonable to think his interpretation of lack of faith is common among atheists. Is it possible, then, that when atheists talk about having a lack of faith, they generally mean that are not interested in evidence? I’m not saying my conversation with this evidence demonstrated that was true. But it did make me wonder.”

    George, you do this atheist a disservice by drawing his conclusions for him. Perhaps when Christian apologists talk about “atheists,” they’re really all just projecting their own insecurities in an effort to make their opponents into straw men. I’m not saying that this article demonstrated that this is true. But it does make me wonder.

    • Bryan

      Mr. Moore, I find it interesting that your comment demonstrates the same thing for which you are criticizing Mr. Yancey. I have to ask: were you being purposefully facetious or did you not notice?

      • Bryan, you have an remarkably keen eye and astute sense of context. Perhaps George could take lessons.

  • Mark Hoines

    No atheists with whom I am acquainted would say that they “lack faith about God.” This phrase seems wrong in three respects. First, to say that you “lack” something—e.g., “I lack mechanical skills”—is to suggest being deficient in some way you wish you weren’t, which hardly any atheist would find descriptive. Second, the phrase should be “faith in,” not “faith about”; faith has to do with trust, not simple belief. Finally, “God” with a capital “G” is a name, a proper noun, that in this construction takes for granted the existence of its referent. Properly speaking, the atheist is someone who declines to affirm the existence of the Christian or any other god. And as this article does acknowledge, atheists feel compelled to take this position because of the lack of evidence for any such being. (What is that putative evidence, by the way? Personal experience may count for those who have it, but as James argued, others are under no obligation to accept it. And many people who have had such experience later on come to see it as an illusion.) But one can argue that both theists and atheists are mistaken in giving priority to belief, which some scholars today argue is not the mark of genuine piety. Belief is a fuzzy term, and too often, I suspect, people affirm “belief in God” primarily because there is so much opprobrium associated with disbelief. I add that some of the world’s most admirable people were atheists.

    • GPS Daddy

      Mark, you like to reference “some people” a lot. I can find you any position you want on a subject given enough time to find that “someone”. I think your right about the “lack of faith”… I find atheist arguing a “lack of belief”. But George is correct to point out that this is just a tool in debate to avoid responsibility.

      Mark, you are a living, breathing human being. You have a worldview by the very fact that you are a living, breathing, human being. The way you live life; the things you say; the things you do not say; the way you spend money; the things you affirm; the things you deny… all this and more paint a mosaic that is your worldview. You are on the hook to defend this worldview. You may not accept that God exists. But thats not the point. You are on the hook to defend the worldview you profess.

      • Mark Hoines

        Your first paragraph suggests to me a careless reading of my statement, but you are right in the second one: we all do have a worldview (which I prefer to call “faith” as a more inclusive and personal term). I do not know, on the other hand, what you mean by “being on the hook.” I continually reflect on and live out my worldview, or faith, as best I can, but in whose eyes must I defend it? Your metaphors suggest a rather different worldview from mine.

        • GPS Daddy

          >>Your first paragraph suggests to me a careless reading of my statemen

          I’d say not. Its hard to carelessly read something that is poorly written.

          >>I do not know, on the other hand, what you mean by “being on the hook.”

          Now you have another idea to contemplate.

          >>I continually reflect on and live out my worldview, or faith

          Do you really think that your life reflects the faith you profess? Think about that very carefully. No one lives out the faith they profess. We all have our areas of hypocrisy.

      • John Connor

        Nobody is on the hook to you or anyone else to defend their worldview. How arrogant.

        • GPS Daddy

          I never said that anyone was on the hook to me… How small thinking you are.

        • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

          EVERYONE is “on the hook” to defend his worldview…or shut up.

          • John Connor

            Riiight

    • Hi Mark

      How do you differentiate between belief and knowledge?

  • Flint8ball

    Faith = believing without sufficient evidence. I would agree that an atheist lacks faith. That’s a basic concept. Not sure what the point of this article is.

    • Hello Flint.

      What constitutes acceptable evidence for God’s existence, Flint, and how would you know?

      • Flint8ball

        I would think a god should know what acceptable evidence would be and provide it. Examples of good evidence might be: demonstrations that prayer works would be great evidence (not just anecdotes that are skewed by confirmation bias). Evidence of miracles would be great. Physical revelation to a large group, captured on video and agreed to by many would be nice. To me, existence of gods requires the same proof as other supernatural claims, like ghosts, psychic power etc. To this point there is not convincing evidence of anything supernatural. Gods are just a subset of that reality.

        • Hi Flint!

          Of course God would know, but the question is how you know what actual genuine evidence of a divine being would be.

          You list standards above, but why would those count as evidence? What is a miracle? If we are talking about the suspension of the known laws of physics, for example, the origin of the universe would certainly fit that criteria. Why not?

          When you speak of prayer, for example, what is the criteria for it “working” and how would you know? If a Christian prays through Psalm 23 and asks God to lead them beside still waters and then weeks later, that person finds themselves, much to their surprise, sitting in a lake house at dawn with the placid waters tranquilly lapping against the shore below, is that an answer to prayer?

          If someone prays for a person to be healed of depression, but the depression persists, does that mean prayer doesn’t “work”? Do you mean to say that prayer would only “work” if we always got what we asked for? How do you know that’s what prayer is or even should be?

          Job prayed that the day of his birth would be cursed and blotted out, but God did not “answer” it in accordance with Job’s desires. Does that mean prayer doesn’t work?

          Jesus prayed for the “cup” to be removed from Him. But it wasn’t. Does that mean prayer doesn’t work?

          That’s what I mean. By what standards do you judge the efficacy of prayer?

          What do you say?

          Daniel 🙂

          • Flint8ball

            Each claim stands and falls on its own merit. Your example of the origin of the universe is something that may not be known yet, but that doesn’t mean its a miracle and you can’t claim that you know it because a bronze age book describes it. Why do you believe in the Christian god instead of hindu gods or native american spirituality, or Xenu? No single religious claim of “knowing” the origin of the universe is any more credible than another. It’s ok to say “I don’t know”. Similarly, as sparked by this article, it’s ok to not know if there are gods or ghosts or anything supernatural. As said before, the default is to not “believe” which I grant is such an emotional word. Belief in gods is important to many people. It’s important because of the threat of what happens if you don’t believe. That’s the hook. The ol’ Pascal’s wager. I don’t think in a manner that buys into that. I don’t need to hedge my bets in such a way. Existence of gods truly impact my life in the same way as the loch ness monster, Santa Claus etc. When a believer claims that an atheist has a burden of proof, it’s just not logical. Do you have to prove that leprechauns don’t exist?

            Sorry, I got off on a tangent…

            Your lake house example is a perfect example of confirmation bias.

            Proof of prayer would require some semblance of control. An example might be something like this: Study a group of patients with similar cancers (the larger the sample the better). Some individuals are prayed for in a manner you see fit. Some individuals are not. Collect data based on days/weeks/years lived and other relevant data points and compare the results between prayer/no prayer. If enough prayer/no prayer studies were done (even in more mundane topics such as looking for a job or anything else people pray for) I would expect a clear advantage to those who pray or who are prayed for. That would be something to hang one’s hat on.

            The reference to bible stories are no more convincing than any other religious/spiritual text created throughout human history.

            In summary, the efficacy of prayer needs to be judged as any other claim is judged. Data that backs up a claim has no more value than data that does not. In other words, the bad data has to be part of the equation. Otherwise it boils down to “See I told you it works!” The definition of confirmation bias.

          • Hi Flint

            Thank you for taking the time to reply and engage.

            So briefly,are you telling me I cannot define what a miracle is? If that is the case, again, what then constitutes a miracle and how do you know?

            In terms of your dismissal of origin stories, I can only assume you would know what the “right” story would be, then?

            We agree that it is ok to say “I don’t know” but that is not what you seem to be saying. So far, you seem to be implying that you know what the right origin story would be and how one should define a miracle or an efficacious prayer.

            If atheists make claims, why is it illogical to ask them how they know?

            Leprechauns may exist, but my existence is not contingent upon theirs, plus we have a significant categorical difference here between God and leprechauns, though some skeptics would disagree.

            Your example of prayer above still is assuming (but not defining) what prayer is. To know it “doesn’t work” is to know what it is when it does work.

            My references to Scripture were in accordance with my understanding of the nature of prayer.

            What is your understanding of prayer? What is it? What book tells you what prayer is? Why should your definition of prayer be the right one? It just seems like you mean prayer to be merely asking God to do stuff for us and if He doesn’t then, well, it must not work? Is that accurate or have I misunderstood you?

            To know it doesn’t work implies you know what it would be if it did work. So what does an efficacious prayer look like, according to you? If you dismiss the lake house as “confirmation bias” then surely you must know what a genuine answered prayer would look like, no?

            What if the prayer about depression turns out to be answered by God leading the person through depression for the sake of helping and encouraging others? How would you know how God “answered”?

            In short, Flint, what you say about prayer, miracles and other scriptures seems to be just as exclusivist as those made by any other religion. Why then, should your criteria and interpretations about God be the right ones?

          • Flint8ball

            I am am providing my perspective at your request. Prayers and miracles are your arena. As a bystander, I don’t understand how one can believe prayer and miracles are legitimate when the only means of concluding that is through personal experience and assigning a supernatural cause. I provided some insight as to what might at least raise an eyebrow as evidence. Defining prayers and miracles is not something that I’m interested in or claiming to do.

            Ultimately I am simply curious as to why people believe what they believe… especially when it causes some (or many) to believe they have a right or duty to control, manipulate or legislate how others live their lives. If religion were to stop doing that tomorrow, my interest in religion would quickly fade away. That would be great.

          • No worries, Flint. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

        • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

          Belief in “gods”? Are you from Ancient Greece or India? This discussion is about belief in God. The Creator. You are offering absurdity as argument. But if you consider, hypothetically, if A SINGLE Creator made the universe, would such a being need to satisfy your demands of “proof”? Be logical.

    • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

      Atheists have “faith” in evolution though, for which there is no scientific evidence. In fact, they have faith in many things for which no evidence exists, including their own intelligence. They limit their refusal of faith to God. But most of them have no problem believing in aliens and alternate universes. There is no end to the insanity in which a lack of faith in God will result. The point of the article is that atheists use a mental device to exclude the possibility of consideration of God’s existence. That goes against their common claim of rationality.

  • Hi George

    A quick question/thought.

    Would there have been a difference with your Facebook discussion if it were done in person?

  • Lewis talks about bearing our neighbors’ burdens in his essay The Weight of Glory, pointing out that there are “no ordinary people” reminding us that we “have never talked to a mere mortal.” Often, Lewis notes, we can be too preoccupied with our own glory, but we can never be too preoccupied with the glory of his neighbor. “The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.”

    I think part of that burden today means cultivating face-to-face relationships. Nothing “wrong” with social media, per se, of course, but it can easily become a surrogate for genuine social interaction. In social media our neighbors’ glory is subsumed by our own desire to be right or score points against another. We thus reduce ourselves and our neighbors to disembodied avatars and all their associated soundbites.

    I say have coffee with your FB friends, if it is possible. Balance social media interactions with the genuine glory of your “friends”. “Be there”, physically, and bear their burdens. It is difficult, messy, but I think more headway is made in understanding each other.

  • Jim Waechtler

    Yeah, there are plenty of atheists who define atheism that way. Lack almost always (or always) indicates a deficiency. So then some adjust to say atheism is an absence of belief in theism. That definition would include as atheists infants, even embryos and perhaps even ants. It is too inclusive. Atheists are people who have realized that they just don’t believe there are any deities. In most cases, they just find theism too unsupported to be worthy of belief.

    • Mark Hoines

      Hence some distinguish “negative atheism” from “positive atheism.” The negative variety simply describe the absence of theistic belief, as in the case of infants. Positive atheism is the considered rejection of theism. Atheism unqualified is generally of the positive type in the US, where theism is often the default position.

      • Jim Waechtler

        People often mix up negative-positive with explicit-implicit. Positive atheism is the strong assertion that there are no deities. In the “literature” (on the internet) there are 2 kinds of negative atheists. Neither strongly asserts there are no deities.

        Explicit-negative atheists have heard about theism and formed some kind of judgement or other that it is not supported enough for them to believe in it. Implicit-negative atheists (supposedly) are those who MERELY have an absence of theism.

        However, nobody who self-identifies as atheist is an IMPLICIT atheist. It was promoted by amateur philosophers (and propagandists) to present atheism as the DEFAULT position and thus require no proof. The default position is neither theism nor atheism, but non-theism.

        What those advocates of the absence/lack definition overlooked was that there is no need to have proof something is wrong to reject it as a belief.

        Rejection of theism need NOT be positive atheism, but can be explicit-negative atheism. Explicit-negative atheists are in the position similar to those who do NOT believe that Earth has already been visited by alien (non-Earthly) beings. There are stories about them; some people firmly believe they HAVE visited; it may NOT be totally IMpossible; however, it is not convincing.

      • Jim Waechtler

        People often mix up negative-positive with explicit-implicit. NEGATIVE atheism is also known as WEAK atheism & as SOFT atheism. POSITIVE atheism is also known as STRONG atheism & as HARD atheism. I prefer & will use soft & hard.

        HARD (positive) atheism is the assertion (with more than a little certainty) that “There is at least one deity” is a false statement. It is also called GNOSTIC atheism, because its proponents make that claim with a certainty at least approaching a knowledge claim. Hard atheism is always explicit.

        SOFT (negative) atheism does not assert with certainty that there are no deities. It is claimed (in Internet realms) that there are TWO kinds of soft atheism – explicit soft & implicit soft.

        Soft EXPLICIT atheists have formed some kind of judgement or other that theism is not supported enough for them to believe in it, but they need not assert “There is at least one deity” is a false statement. These atheists have heard about theism and REJECTED it – at least as far as their own beliefs & ontology. They ESCHEW theism.

        Soft IMPLICIT atheists (supposedly) are those who MERELY have an ABSENCE/LACK of theism and have NOT taken any position regarding theism. This supposed category of atheism was pretty much coined by amateur philosopher George H Smith in the 1970s as a persuasive-stipulative definition of atheism in order to present atheism as the DEFAULT position and thus not requiring any proof.
        Included as atheists according to this definition (and not by the other defintions) are infants, adults who have never heard of deities, and many agnostics.
        However, nobody who self-identifies as atheist is an IMPLICIT atheist.

        What Smith & other propagandists of the absence/lack definition have overlooked is that 1> there is no need to have proof something is wrong to reject it as a belief, & 2> the default position is neither theism nor atheism, but non-theism.

        There may be SOME implicit atheists — most likely agnostics who do reject (for themselves, at least) belief in the existence of any deities, but do not think of themselves as atheists. But they are not in the position of mere absence of belief – they have examined theism to some extent & have judged it something they do not believe (they have rejected that “meme”) and are implicit atheists only because they do not identify themselves as such..

        REJECTION of theism need NOT entail HARD (positive) atheism, but can be classified as explicit-soft atheism. Explicit-soft atheists are in the position similar to those who do NOT believe that Earth has already been visited by alien (non-Earthly) beings. There are stories about such aliens; some people firmly believe they HAVE visited; it may NOT be totally IMpossible; however, it is not convincing. This position is not akin to hard (positive) atheism.

        SUMMARY: There are TWO categories of explicit atheism:
        Hard-explicit atheism asserts some certainty (sometimes even “knowledge”) that “there is at least one deity” is false.
        Soft-explicit atheism rejects BELIEF that any deities exist, but does not claim any certainty; it combines atheism (regarding beliefs) with some agnosticism (regarding knowledge).
        While both types of explicit atheism REJECT theism, soft-explicit atheism is DISTINCT FROM what some call “positive” atheism.
        Implicit atheism (if it exists) would also count as soft atheism (because it is not hard atheism). However, nobody who self-identifies as atheist is an IMPLICIT atheist.

        UPSHOT: The absence/lack definition leads to all sorts of things absurdly being classified as atheistic — math, stamp-collecting, soccer, sneezing,…. Also absurdly, entities from infants, to blastocysts, and maybe also to ants, cupcakes, & rocks (all having an absence of belief in any deity) become classified as atheists.

        When a definition (such as the absence/lack definition) leads to such absurdities, it is perhaps an inaccurate representation of the way language is used? Math, stamp-collecting, soccer, biology, & astronomy are non-theistic, not atheistic.

  • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

    I think this conclusion is sound. Anyone who has had a discussion with a real atheist can attest to their lack of intellectual honesty. They are like frightened badgers, clearly hostile to examining their beliefs, and using their own closed mindedness, in the manner of circular reasoning, to justify their unwillingness to subject them to scrutiny.

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