The following information sheet was first published around 1993. The article is presented in its entirety as it was published.
How the Logical Outcome of the Atheistic World View Demands Irrational Leaps of Faith
When the atheist and the theist lock horns in debate, it is never long till the subject of “faith” comes up. The atheist will frequently deprecate the theist’s “faith” and will say that such faith is simply an escape from reality – a way of ignoring facts and contradictions. All too often, the atheist is right – many theists, not having taken the time to think through their own system and world view, utilize the word “faith” as a universal answer to all questions. However, there are theists who have taken the time to consider the ramifications of their system, and have also cared enough to seriously examine the challenging questions posed by the atheists. The result of such an examination might startle the atheist – just as the title of this little tract did. For when all is said and done, it is my belief, as a Christian theist, that the atheist must exercise faith to believe what he or she does. But please allow me to explain.
First, I am being somewhat unfair in that I am using a definition of faith that does not accurately describe Christian faith – the only faith that I can speak of personally. Christian faith is a much misunderstood term. An acquaintance of mine who is an atheist defined “faith” as “the acceptance of the truth of a statement in spite of insufficient or contradictory evidence, which has never been consistent with reason. Faith, by its very invocation, is a transparent admission that religious claims cannot stand on their own two feet.” I certainly do not believe that this is what real Christian faith is at all. Faith for a Christian is not a blind leap into the dark. Indeed, the very term as it is used in the Bible comes from the Hebrew term aman, which in turn is related to the word emeth which means “truth.” Christian faith, then, is the acknowledgment of the truth of God and His promises. Faith does not contradict reality and truth – it accepts it. At the same time, real faith allows one to accept all truth no matter where it may reside – it does not limit one simply to the natural realm. As Blaise Pascal once said, “Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them.” However, when I say that atheism requires faith, I am using the “leap in the dark” definition of faith. I apologize for my inconsistency at that point, but I see no way around it. Why do I say this?
I have yet to meet a wild-eyed, mad atheist. That is not to say that I won’t, I just haven’t yet. Most atheists I know are decent people who respect others and go about their business pretty unobtrusively. Many of them feel very strongly about social issues, human rights, and justice. Those who get involved in actually attempting to propagate their atheism will frequently build ethical systems and will talk about how “religion” is bad for man; how it supposedly retards the “advance” of culture and how man’s worth is more clearly seen in humanistic, naturalistic philosophical systems. It is at this very point that I feel the atheist makes a very big, blind leap of faith. How so?
Atheists are, by and large, naturalists. They feel that all things can be explained on the basis of natural laws and principles. Man, the end result of some kind of natural process, is completely explainable on these premises, or so we are told. There is nothing in man that does not have a natural explanation. Yet, when it comes to how we act, how we think, and how we behave, we as a whole do not live in accord with such a theory. No one, no matter how naturalistic or atheistic they may be, can live with themselves and be consistent with the obvious outcome of an atheistic world view.
Let me give you an example. Most atheists would say that man has worth as man. Many I know believe that the American idea of individual liberty and freedom is noble and right. Yet, on what basis can a person make such a statement? If a man is nothing more than the result of a billion year game of chance – if he is simply a biological machine – then on what rational basis can one say that man has “worth”? I as a Christian theist believe that man has worth because he is created in the image of God – the infinite being of God is the ground of man’s existence, and therefore life has meaning and purpose. But if man is simply an animal, a machine, why say he has worth? To make such a statement requires an irrational leap of faith (i.e., there is nothing in the system upon which to base such a thought). Most atheists I know engage in just such a leap – they will strongly assert that each man is important – that each life has “worth.” But why do they do so? I feel it is innate in man to understand that we transcend simply the “natural.” Anyone who has truly loved knows this. Man is not simply a machine, and even a person who believes that we are cannot live consistently with that thesis. Hence, despite the fact that it is a blatant contradiction of his or her world view, the atheist is forced to assign worth and meaning to man, even though man is actually simply the chance result of natural selection.
By the careful usage of such “faith” the naturalistic world view can be patched together and made to look consistent. In deed, quite often elements are “borrowed” from theism and utilized in the atheistic world view, all in hopes that few will notice. Most atheists would be very upset, for example, if a judge slapped them with a massive fine when the facts made it clear that they were innocent of the charges. They would demand justice, yet, on what basis? One cannot say “the society sets the standards and the judge must abide by them” for this does not answer the question of why anyone must do anything. Why must society’s rules be observed? On what basis? Christian theism provides a basis, but atheism cannot. Any answer to that question will engage in the leap of faith that I have been discussing.
Certainly, in this short space, the reader cannot expect an in- depth treatise. It is simply my purpose to introduce these matters into your thinking. I would just ask you to critically examine the basis upon which you make decisions. Are you as an atheist borrowing from my theism? Are you living consistently with your system? Do you really think of yourself in naturalistic terms? Do you treat others in accord with the fact that they are a machine – the end result of natural selection? Can you honestly say that you would like to live in a world where everything ran on the basis of real natural selection? I seriously doubt you would.
As a Christian theist, I believe that the theistic world view as presented by the Christian Scriptures accords much more with reality. Have you really looked into this? You are invited to. -JRW