While at the pool last night, I was sitting around with a group of people, I wouldn't call them friends, but the discussion of my atheism came up in a round about way and I could tell people were uncomfortable. One person made a comment about relating atheism to satanism which I'm sure is a common misconception, although one that the religious would love to have everyone believe. However the comment that got me going was when someone said "everyone has to believe in something", at which point I said, well sure and I believe in human beings. The conversation pretty much ended after that. I'm sure that left the person unsatisfied and I wanted to go further but didn't. So I was hoping for some suggestions or comments how to address the comment.
How would you handle that remark? What would be your answer to this? I would love to hear thoughts.
I would Say: I believe in a world without prejudice, a world without oppression, a world with no fear of persecution, a world of equality, a world of human and scientific advancement where evidence based knowledge is the foundation of our humanity and our advancement as a species. I imagine a world with no disease, no death, and no prejudice, where humans are free to stop caring about political agendas and corporate greed, and concentrate on the universe around us. There's way more out there to see than a holy book and the inside of a church. True enlightenment isn't inside a holy book. It's out there, and inside each of us.
When I rise in the morning, believe I will not plunge through two floors to the basement. I cannot know this, but I believe it based on considerable evidence. I cannot think of a single thing I believe which is NOT based upon evidence.
Faith, by definition, does not require evidence, and it is a very great evil
I would argue that when people say they need 'belief' or 'faith' I think it usually refers to the feeling that we need something to give us direction and tell us who we are, something to hope for or strive towards, or something to ground and transcend our day to day existence. I would argue that we can attain and fulfill all those needs without resorting to the supernatural.
However I suspect when some people say they want something to believe in, rather than saying that we all need to have faith in something in the absence of evidence, what they really mean is that they want someone to tell them what to think and what to call right and wrong, and by placing it all on a higher, uncontestable authority they then do not have to take any of the responsibility themselves.
Believing in humanity is, I think, pretty much stating that the best authority to tell us who we are would be each of us as individual and our fellow humans. Rational human discourse is the best and only way we can determine our identity. Similarly, with our goals and our hopes, we can and should decide that for ourselves as individuals and as a species.
Through belief in god, people are trained to feel they are part of something beyond themselves, to feel connected to other humans and to the rest of the universe. This is completely possible without god however, since we actually are a part of the cosmos. We are interconnected to all things on this world and are a part of the community of primates that constitutes our species. All religion does is create sectarian divisions and advocate an overly anthrocentric version of reality.
I think it is perfectly valid to say that all we can and should have faith in are our fellow humans (or other sapient lifeforms). Even though we do not have evidence that as a species we will do what is 'right', and even though we do have plenty of evidence historically that individuals and societies will often do the 'wrong' thing, if we need to believe in something we should believe in something that matters. Because while belief in god offers consolation that 'everything will be alright in the end', hope and faith in humanity would offer the same but be more meaningful. It returns the responsibility for action, to ensure that everything does in fact turn out in a way we would approve of, back onto us, which is where it already lies in reality.
There are several possible replies:
First, focus on the bullshit/ambiguity/bigotry factor: What do you mean by that? Are you trying to say that a person can't be moral without religion? Are you simply confusing faith with belief?
Second (though this would probably be the first thing out of my mouth): No, people need a comprehensive worldview. I prefer a worldview that is based on reality and not fantasy. (Then I would pin him or her down on the implied bigotry in the remark.)
Third: I believe in facts. (Or reality or evidence, etc.)
I would probably focus on all three of these in one order or another, depending on the context and depending on his or her answers.
You could also say that you believe a worldview based on delusions is inherently evil. That would sum up the whole thing.
You said it right by saying 'believe in human beings'. Because we must believe in each other to accomplish great things. That's not to say irresponsibly or blindly believing should be condoned.
Believe in those who respond to forward thinking. Those who push the Atheism cause will build up the energy needed to get over this hump in the evolution of consciousness.
Most important is that the act of believing and hoping is positive. Being a skeptic is by nature negative and inactive. Skepticism is not a good stance for Atheism.
I believe in Atheism, love, Science and the human beings who make these things possible.