atheism is a matter of faith, not science: the debate continues
Following the letters page in last Wednesday's Metro and the follow-up comment on this post I’m pleased to see that the beginnings of a debate are brewing, and I intend to use this post to pick up the baton again.
Unsurprisingly, I’m going to start by responding to the aforementioned comment. I apologise if my tone was deemed to be a bit sharp, but I have no hesitation in defending the point I was trying to make.
According to dictionary.com, faith can be defined as “belief that is not based on proof.” As there is no proof that God does not exist, belief that God does not exist (i.e. atheism) must be faith.
Now, I take your point that “as human beings we are always revising and fine tuning what we hold to be true based on the evidence to hand, what we discover and our ability to determine what is probable or improbable.” To digress slightly, that is why switching on the Large Hadron Collider is going to be something of a milestone, as it could either serve to prove a theory or force a bit of a re-think.
However, the attitude of some atheists implies that as the human race has grappled with the existence (or not) of God in this way we’ve got to the stage where no-one with intelligence would ever question the “fact” that there is no God. This is what my letter to the Metro aimed to refute.
Glossing over the fact that to adopt this attitude is insulting and belittling to the many eminent and intelligent scientists who do believe in God, the bottom line is that it’s just not that clear-cut.
If it were, then surely one would expect the majority of the world’s population to adhere to the view that there is no God. Although we are a very advanced race, only a very small proportion of the population are confirmed atheists. The rest of us can’t all be that stupid, can we? At the very least I’d have expected those agnostics who sit on the fence to have no trouble nailing their colours to the mast and agreeing that there is no God.
There are no “different rules” here for belief in God; it’s just that the evidence against it is not as strong as some would claim.
Certainly if the evidence was that convincing I wouldn’t worry too much about the effect of parental or other conditioning, because as children are properly educated they will see the error of their ways. Forgive the slight sarcasm, but although I can see the point about belief in God being furthered in that manner I’ve been interested to note that it is often under regimes in which religious faith is actively stifled that believing communities grow the most.
Finally, I’d like to pick up on your comment that “proof that God existed would be self-evident”. To an extent I disagree, although as I can’t offer proof that God exists either it’s a fairly mundane point. I do however think that there is a lot which could (and I believe does) point to the existence of God. Furthermore, I’d advise caution when it comes to making such general comments about religious texts. The Bible is full of accounts of people who struggled with the existence of God, and the idea of putting their trust in Him. To pose just one example, I’m not sure that if “proof was always so abundant” the Israelites would have wasted their time worshipping home made ‘gods’ constructed from wood and metal.