Atheism is based on faith
Apologists often claim that atheism is based on faith — that is, not believing in a god requires just as much faith as belief does, if not more. Norman Geisler expressed this argument in the title of his book, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.
- "To be an Atheist one would have to be omniscient knowing all things having a perfect knowledge of the universe, to say they absolutely know God does not exist. For one to do this they would have to personally inspected all places in the present known universe and in all time, having explored everywhere seen and unseen."
Theists treat belief in their particular God as a default belief, and they will often back this up with some variation of the argument from design. However, the definition of "Atheist" in the argument above is a straw man: An atheist is one who lacks positive belief in God, not one who claims to know absolutely that God does not exist. (The word "atheist" comes from the Greek "a-," meaning "without," and "theos," meaning "God.") To claim that God exists, compelling evidence must be put forward in support of that claim. The assertion that the existence of God has not been absolutely disproved is insufficient.
Moreover, while a person would need perfect knowledge of the universe to know 100% for certain that no god exists, he doesn't need said knowledge to disbelieve in a specific god's existence. For example, if the god is defined well enough that one can examine the definition for logical fallacies, one may do so. If the god is not logically consistent then one is justified in their disbelief, even if they don't know 100% for sure that the god doesn't exist.
- The use of the word "faith" is an attempt to mislead based on the equivocation fallacy. As the article on faith mentions, the two primary meanings of the word are:
- Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
- Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
- One can reasonably claim that atheism is based on "faith" using the first definition. However, the way this claim is often made implies that the second definition is being used, which is incorrect.
- Since theists make a positive claim which is extraordinary in nature, the burden of proof is on the theist to prove that there is a God. Most theists do not "believe in" leprechauns, yet they would not consider a request to prove the non-existence of leprechauns to be reasonable. There is no reason why anyone should believe in leprechauns or God without positive evidence.
- There is strong evidence for atheism. There is no evidence for theism. We require strong evidence for theism. We require no evidence for atheism. The case for atheism exceeds the required amount of evidence. The case for theism falls staggeringly short.
The "evidence" for atheism is just as subjective as the "evidence" for a god. One cannot assert the absence of god based on subjective evidence, just as one cannot assert the existence of god based on subjective evidence.
- It is laughable to equate the nonacceptance due to a complete lack of evidence for something and good reasons to suppose otherwise to the leap needed to believe such a thing.
- Theists commonly consider faith to be a virtue. It seems odd, then, that they would criticize atheism for being based on faith. Moreover, the argument implies that the more faith a proposition needs the less likely it is to be true, a claim many counter-apologists welcome considering the evidence.
- In addition, asserting that atheists claim to "know" that there is no God is based on a misunderstanding of the word atheist. See the article on atheist vs. agnostic.
- Further, no legal system on earth requires absolute certainty for the determination of cases. In England, for example, a criminal case must be proved 'beyond reasonable doubt' - or in the modern formulation, "so that you (the juror) are sure"; civil cases need only be proved 'on balance of probabilities'. If the level of proof required by Let Us Reason Ministries in the quote above were required, hardly a judge or jury could reach a decision in a legal dispute.
- Theists often backslide and have trouble maintaining faith in their religion. Atheists occasionally convert to theism, but do not tend to slip into various god-beliefs due to the strain required to maintain no belief in any god. If atheist were a faith group they should share the difficulties the religious have in maintaining their faith.
- Tu quoque! This argument exists to defend religious faith claims by claiming that atheists fall into the same category. This serves to derail the argument and prevents focusing on the lack of evidence for religious faith. Beyond shifting the burden of proof the argument serves as a non-sequitur