I was watching an episode of Atheist Experience this morning, and Matt Dillahunty was talking to this guy who insisted on the idea that atheists just had "faith" in science, and asked what was the difference between an atheist's faith in science and a Christian's faith in God.  Dillahunty, quite sensibly, responded that a reasonable confidence on facts, based on demonstrable evidence was completely different from faith, which by definition is belief in something that is not demonstrable.  The dude just couldn't get it.  He would say things like, "You have faith in gravity, I have faith in God...what's the difference?"  When Dillahunty asked if he could prove the existence of a god with a simple, demonstrable act like dropping a pen, the guy just kept saying something along the lines of, "Well, I see evidence of God everywhere.  We just view the universe differently."

This is a problem I've had more and more often over my past several years as a Christian, and it's what led me to atheism.  Christians are constantly saying they KNOW God is there, because they see evidence of his "work" in their lives.  I don't know how many times, when confronted with the question of how they can prove that what is happening in the world is directly influenced by God, they respond with, "That's where you just have to have faith."  In other words, I just feel in my heart that the good things that happen to me are from God, no matter the empirical evidence to the contrary, and anything I don't understand, I'll just chalk it up to "God's will."  It makes no sense.

Of course, I know I'm "preaching to the choir" here.  Anyone reading this most likely realized everything I'm saying a long time ago.  But, like many would-be Christians, I have spent at least the last fifteen years, trying to convince myself that there's a God directing everything, without any evidence to support that contention.  I didn't get that job I wanted?  God's will.  My kid gets sick and has to go to the hospital?  God saw us through.  Looking back, though, I realize that I was forcing myself to put that spin on things, so I could be a good, believing Christian.  I assigned meaning to things that essentially had no deeper meaning.  They just...happened.  Because that the fact, isn't it?  Shit happens.  It seems really flippant to some people to reduce daily life to that two word slogan, but it's demonstrably true.  Bad things happen to good people, and vice versa.  People die, people get rich, people are homeless, people get sick, people get a job they hate, and the world continues to turn (which we only know about because of science, incidentally).  There doesn't have to be a reason for everything that happens, despite popular opinion that it's so.  

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Comment by Diane on September 10, 2013 at 7:02pm

I completely agree with you.  I was once taken to task during a discussion on faith.  I said the only things I know for sure is that time will pass and things will happen.  I was going through a very difficult time and I gave up hoping that things would get better.  I had the somber realization that everything might not be alright.  Shit is going to happen.  Whether or not it's good shit or bad shit is unimportant.  

Those people thought I needed to get some faith.  Experience had taught me that what I needed to have was some kind of realistic expectation for life.  Good, bad or indifferent, life happens.  That may seem pessimistic or nihilistic but I think it's just how things are.  

Comment by Simon Paynton on September 10, 2013 at 7:16pm

I think the realism you talk about is an example of faith - of being able to face up to life and take what it throws at you, so you can feel more confident about the future. 

Comment by Ed on September 10, 2013 at 8:59pm

@ Simon

Equating realism to faith is absolute rubbish (England) or bullshit (America). Facing up to life's twists & turns has nothing to do with faith but, more appropriately, being realistic and accepting that we live in an imperfect world.

Comment by Physeter on September 10, 2013 at 10:00pm

The real trick for me was going into a year of missionary service, and training with some intense "Spirit-filled" people and seeing exactly what they said was evidence of God working.

I saw wonderful acts of God, sure--once I learned how to look properly, using faith. It's exactly like you say. You feel so loved, so good, when you learn how easy it is to hear the voice of God. You tell people that you heard him speak to you in meaningful ways. But then you think about it afterwards, and you notice that nothing really happened that was any different from chance.

If your like me, you spent a lot of your time not seeing god and wondering why, but trusting in the testimony of those who say they did. Then when you see how easy it is to fake seeing god, you suddenly realize that trust was based on thin air.

Comment by Diane on September 10, 2013 at 11:14pm

I just composed a huge diatribe about faith but it was a bit depressing.  : )  Let's just say that I hit the floor in the morning with my feet running and when I hit a wall I turn left.  I don't think faith comes into it much, except for some kind of knowledge that I've hit similar walls before and know to turn more quickly at times.  That may be a different use of the word 'faith' than religious faith though.  I think there's a subtle but big difference there.

Comment by _Robert_ on September 10, 2013 at 11:16pm

What is really amazing is how often God's will follows a fairly normal probability curve. He is very cognizant of the overall distribution of gazillions of events that show a normal distribution. So if you drive fast and die in a wreck was God just worried about keeping the curve correct or did God actually select you to die?


Comment by Simon Paynton on September 11, 2013 at 5:27am

I'm talking about faith as in trust or optimism, like when we say "I have faith in the future". 

Comment by Diane on September 11, 2013 at 9:55pm

I understand what you are saying Simon.  I often get accused of being an energetic and upbeat person but mostly I'm pretty sure unpleasant things are going to happen.  In between and in spite of the nastiness I try to enjoy life as much as possible.

And before anybody even goes there, I am not bringing nastiness upon myself by thinking this way.  I have had the optimism drawn out of me by expecting wonderful things to happen and being sorely disappointed time and time again.  I do not claim to have a worse life than anybody else, but people to tell me quite often that more shit seems to happen in my life than seems reasonable.  Nobody said life was going to be reasonable though.  I am trying to have some acceptance of life as it is.  It seems to be a good way of coping with it.

I am going to go take my antidepressant now!  : )


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