I am not a theist, atheist or agnostic, so none of the questions apply to me.
As for faith, we all have faith, it’s just another word for “assumption.” We have faith that the universe is uniform, that cosmic laws apply everywhere and at every time. We have faith that the sun is going to come up tomorrow. Although we all must have faith in order to survive, I live by Occam’s razor; I strive to keep my assumptions to a minimum.
In any case, what does it mean to have faith in the (lack of) existence of something who’s (lack of) existence has no meaning?
Which means you fit cleanly into my camp. Personally, I would say that makes you an agnostic (like myself), but scott would say you’re an atheist. Either way, you’ve succinctly summed up my thoughts on the matter.
I’m sorry. I must have misunderstood the previous threads and/or confused you with one of the anonymous. But I am curious, what other classification is available. I mean theist, atheist and agnostic is belief, no belief, uncertainty about belief. I thought that covered all possible bases.
As for faith, we all have faith, it’s just another word for “assumption.”
This is a point that hear frequently, but never accept. Faith can mean assumption, but when people are referring to religion, it has a very specific meaning. It always seems like a dodge when people use the “people have faith their alarm clocks will go off in the morning”, or other similar examples. One faith is not religious faith and one is. It is just a drawback of English. In other languages, faith and assumption have different meanings/words entirely. So let’s just assume from here on out that when I reference faith I am referencing the religious “faith in a higher being”. In Korean, Shin-Ahng, or something like God-Power (understandably poor translation).
Well, that sentence says a lot, so here goes. First, atheism is not faith in the lack of God’s existence. It is an absence of faith in God’s existence. They sound similar and maybe to everyone else they are the same, but to me there is a clear difference. One is a belief that must be held, the other is the absence of belief.
Second, I think most theists (and even atheists, were his existence proven) would argue that the existence of God has a lot of meaning. Billions of people orient their lives in line with some version of God due to the meaning they see in God.
I don’t know any theists who attest to having faith in the existence of a God who’s existence is meaningless. Perhaps I misunderstood your question, but if not, I don’t think it asks anything relevant or useful.
And I many atheists say that they do not believe in the existence of God simply because that existence seems meaningless in view of the current state of the world and that we can explain or postulate the way the world (universe) works without need of a God, making a God’s existence unnecessary.
Finally to answer, faith in the existence of a God who’s existence is meaningless sounds crazy.
Lack of faith in the existence of a God who’s existence is meaningless sounds like good business.
But that leaves out all people who feel that if God existed, it would be meaningful. And that is a load of people.
False. The terms “theist” and “atheist” are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. You cannot be “neither”. If the statement “I believe in one or more gods” is true when you are the antecedent of the pronoun, then you are a theist. If it’s not true then you are an atheist.
The term “agnostic” (and its opposite, “gnostic”) lie along a different axis. It’s an epistemological category, rather than an ontological one. It’s possible to be both agnostic and theist, just as it’s possible to be both agnostic and atheist.
That’s a rationalization I’ve heard before, and I still don’t buy it.
The “faith” that religious speakers mean is of a very different character than a mere assumption.
We have faith that the universe is uniform, that cosmic laws apply everywhere and at every time.
No, we don’t. You’ve got that backward. A proposition is not a “cosmic law” unless it applies everywhere and at every time. If we learned that the laws of thermodynamics didn’t apply under some circumstances, they’d lose their status as “cosmic laws”, but cosmic laws (by definition) would still apply universally.
Moreover, the idea that there are “cosmic laws” in the first place isn’t quite an assumption. A universe in which there were no such governing laws would be incomprehensible. If fermions didn’t “clump up” in predictable ways, there’d be no continuity in anything. We couldn’t even talk about what happens when an apple falls from a tree—apples and trees would be non-concepts, as nothing would cohere long enough to be recognized as individuals and grouped into categories. All this ignoring even the fact that no “minds” would be around to (fail to) understand them. The anthropic principle implies that there are such things as “cosmic laws”.
We have faith that the sun is going to come up tomorrow.
Again, no. We have very good evidence that it will do so.
We know the sun to be a massive nuclear furnace hanging in space and the Earth to be a rock in orbit around it. We can be confident that the sun will come up tomorrow because the Earth’s angular momentum will keep it rotating, and the sun’s gravity will keep it orbiting.
A few thousand years ago, it was much closer to an assumption. The only evidence was that it had done so forever, as far as anyone knew.
But even that is a legitimate sort of “pre-scientific” reasoning. Charles Pierce founded a pretty strong philosophical system on a principle he called “the tendency to take habits”, meaning, roughly, that things that repeated in the past, unless restrained by something else, will tend to continue. So, a primitive tribesman could legitimately reason that, unless something else intervened, the sun would continue to rise.
Religious faith has a different character. The most obvious example of this is creationism, especially young-earth creationism. By their own admission, no amount of evidence will ever change their belief. This sort of “faith” is belief without—and even in spite of—evidence.
Now, it’s possible that some religious people do intend to use the word “faith” to mean an assumption, but I’d say that they’re using the wrong word, not that “faith” and “assumption” are synonymous. If they were synonymous, we’d be left with no word to indicate the creationist’s kind of “faith”.
I agree that it doesn’t make much sense to assume the existence of such a thing, but it makes perfect sense to have faith in it, given what I just said of the difference between the two.
But, as an atheist, I recognize that the term “god” is used ambiguously. Some people have very concrete, simplistic, notions of gods—supernatural beings who do magic, while some have very abstract notions. And they do a fair job of filling out the whole spectrum in between.
That doesn’t make it impossible to argue against, just more complicated. The arguments against the simplistic gods are different than the arguments against the abstract ones. This is why we hear the repeated charge that “atheists only argue against simplistic religion”. It’s false, but simplistic religion tends to be far more popular.
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