I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist—Really?
As I travel around the country delivering seminars on God’s existence, I am frequently engaged in conversations with people who understand that atheism is founded on many disproven assumptions. In the course of the discussion, the person will often say, “Atheism is founded on so many unproven assumptions. It takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a Christian. I just don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” This sentiment was explicitly expressed by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek in the title of their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist (2004). While I understand and appreciate the motivation behind such a statement, I would like to suggest that it is ill-advised, and would urge Christians to reconsider framing the discussion in such terms. Here is why.
It is unfortunate for Christianity that numerous people misunderstand the basic concept of faith. For many in Christendom, faith is a warm feeling in their hearts when they have failed to find adequate evidence to justify their beliefs. Dictionaries have done much to ingrain this false definition of faith into modern Christianity. For instance, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary states that faith is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof” (1988). The American Heritage Dictionary gives as a primary definition of faith: “belief that does not rest on logical or material evidence” (2000, p. 636). The idea that faith is a fuzzy, emotional feeling that is divorced from logical thinking and “material evidence” does not coincide with what the Bible actually says about faith (cf. Sztanyo, 1996). As Sztanyo correctly noted: “There is not a single item in Christianity, upon which our souls’ salvation depends, that is only ‘probably’ true. In each case, the evidence supplied is sufficient to establish conclusive proof regarding the truth of the Christian faith” (1996, p. 7).
The false view that faith is “a leap in the dark” without adequate evidence is the concept that Christians have in mind when they say that it takes more faith to be an atheist than to be a Christian. According to a proper definition of biblical faith, however, it is only because of the rational justification and logical evidence available that true Christians hold to their beliefs (see Miller, 2003). What it takes to be an atheist is not biblical faith. To be an atheist, a person must choose to completely deny the concept of biblical faith and adopt an irrational allegiance to that which has been repeatedly disproven.
When Richard Dawkins states, “Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don’t have to make the case for what you believe” (p. 306), he manifests his lack of knowledge of what biblical faith is. Biblical faith is based on truth and reason, as the apostle Paul succinctly stated in Acts 26:25. The prophet Isaiah underscored this fundamental fact about biblical faith when He recorded God’s invitation to the Israelites: “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (1:18). Luke, in his introduction to the book of Acts, pressed the point that Jesus’ resurrection was attested by “many infallible proofs.” For one to believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the resurrection requires faith—based on infallible proofs.
Throughout the Bible those who had great faith were commended (Luke 7:9), and those who had little or no faith were sharply rebuked (Matthew 8:26; Mark 16:14). In fact, the Hebrews writer clearly stated that “without faith it is impossible to please Him [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6). Faith is a desirable characteristic by which a person assesses the available evidence and comes to a valid conclusion based on that evidence. By allowing the greater religious world and the skeptical community to redefine faith as something negative, we have done a serious disservice to the biblical concept of faith.
If atheists truly have faith, they should be commended for it; but they do not have faith. Instead, atheism is a failure to assess the evidence correctly and come to the proper conclusion. It is the exact opposite of true faith. Romans 1:20 shows the contrast between biblical faith and atheism. That verse says: “For since the creation of the world His [God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” In this passage, faith means coming to the proper, rational conclusion that there is a God based on the evidence of His creation. Irrational belief in spite of the evidence leads one to conclude that there is no God. To arrive at this atheistic conclusion is to kick evidence, reason, and faith to the curb and adopt a baseless form of improper reasoning supported only by subjective human whim—an approach that, sadly, will leave atheists “without excuse” on the Day of Judgment.
The philosophy of atheism is fraught with logical inconsistency and error. It cannot account for the beginning of the Universe (Miller, 2011); it cannot give an adequate explanation for the obvious design in our world (Fausz, 2007); atheism completely fails to offer a satisfactory explanation of human morality (Lyons, 2011); and human freewill defies an atheistic explanation (Butt, 2010). To cling to atheism in the face of such overwhelming evidence takes an irrational belief that is motivated by something other than a sincere quest for truth and knowledge—it certainly is not true faith. So, in order to help the greater religious world and the skeptical community to understand what true faith is, let’s not misuse the word or attribute to atheism something it cannot rightly claim to have.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Butt, Kyle (2010), “Biologist Uses His Free Will To Reject Free Will,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=2855.
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
Fausz, Jerry (2007), “Design Rules,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=591.
Geisler, Norman and Frank Turek (2004), I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books).
Lyons, Eric (2011), “The Moral Argument for God’s Existence,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=4101&topic=95.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Blind Faith,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=444.
Miller, Jeff (2011), “God and the Laws of Science: The Law of Causality,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=3716.
Sztanyo, Dick (1996), Faith and Reason (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/far.pdf.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1988), (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster).