This blog first appeared at SeanMcDowell.org.
According to Ask An Atheist with Sam Mulvey, this question makes no sense whatsoever. In a podcast recorded on May 27th, 2018, the hosts were discussing common tactics that Christians use when talking to atheists. The second tactic they mentioned was that Christians say, “It takes more faith to be an atheist.”
The show hosts explained that this statement makes no sense because atheism doesn’t fall under the definition of faith. The “religious” definition of faith that they cited was, “A strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” This, according to them, “does not leave any room for atheism to be considered a religion.”
The second definition they mentioned for faith is having trust in a person. It is how you have faith in your wife, children, parents, or teachers. One host explained that having trust in a person isn’t faith by explaining her trust in her husband. She said, “No, I have nearly two decades of evidence to support this. Once that stops being true then I would reevaluate my perspective or perception of my spouse. That’s not faith, that’s evidence.”
What is Biblical faith?
Biblical faith isn’t what was described above as “religious” faith. As Alan Shlemon wrote, “Biblical faith, then, is not blind, but functions the same way as trust. You don’t blindly trust people. They have to earn it. You put your trust in people you have good reason to trust.” As Alan describes, biblical faith seems to more closely match the second definition from above.
Christians should understand this because of verses like John 20:30-31 which says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Jesus also seemed to have this view of faith from verses like Mark 2:1-12 and Matthew 11:2-5.
Jesus did many signs right in front of people, including his resurrection from the dead. These things were done so that we believe and have life in him. Belief in Christianity is not the result of spiritual apprehension against the proof. Rather, it is trusting in the evidence.
Does it take more faith to be an atheist?
Using their definition of faith, I can see why the hosts of Ask An Atheist take exception to this. In fact, when we have the correct definition of biblical faith, then you understand that we all have faith. Christian faith is similar to the faith described by the one host who talked about having two decades of evidence to support her trust in her husband. We all have to put our trust in the evidence, and I’m convinced that Christians have a far greater amount of evidence to put our trust in compared to atheism. That is why it takes more faith to be an atheist.
As Greg Koukl wrote in Faith Is Not Wishing, “Faith is not about wishing, but about confidence, and the facts make the difference. You get a hold of the facts, you study, you learn—even a little—and you’ll realize that you’re not just wishing on a star about eternal things. You’ll realize Christianity really is true.”
As a Christian, I want to encourage you to be a seeker of truth and to study the facts with an open mind. I cannot list all of the evidence here, but I encourage you to look for it. Evidence That Demands a Verdict and I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist are two great resources. I hope that you will understand what biblical faith is and go see how much evidence there is for your position.
July 11, 2018 at 12:53 pm
As an atheist, I do have to say that I cringe when others try to insist that faith is defined as belief without evidence. That’s not how I understood faith when I was a Christian, and it’s not how the Christians with whom I converse understand faith. I define faith in pretty much the same way that you do: trust in a person or concept.
That said, I still don’t see how one could justify the claim that atheists have more faith than do theists. Presumably, both classes of people have faith in their families, friends, authority figures, and beliefs. However, theists also have faith in at least one further entity which atheists do not: God. That would seem to imply that theism necessarily requires more faith than atheism.
By what measure does atheism require more trust in persons or concepts than does theism?
July 12, 2018 at 9:00 am
That is a great question. Thanks for your comment. I am actually going to write a part 2 this Monday because I received another question for clarification on Twitter. Your question is almost the same. I’ll post it here when it’s written for you to see.
July 12, 2018 at 9:20 am
I look forward to reading it!