Review: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist – Introduction

I was determined not to nitpick the forward and introduction, but I feel that I should say something about hard atheism, soft atheism, and the burden of proof. In the introduction, the author claims that faith is required to believe the worldview of atheism (p 25). He gives the example of an atheist who doubts the intellectualism of a new Christian because the Christian is unable to answer objections to Christianity. The author says that the atheist was doing exactly what he was chiding the Christian for doing since he didn’t have exhaustive evidence for atheism.

It’s generally accepted that the burden of proof is on the person making a claim. The hard atheist is a disbeliever; he believes there are no gods. The soft atheist is a non-believer; he does not believe in a god. While these sound almost identical, there is a level of positive assertion present for the hard atheist that is absent for the soft atheist. Moreover, the soft atheist is often an agnostic atheist who does not attempt to claim absolute knowledge. He believes that the default position is not to believe in things that are invisible, inaudible, and otherwise unobservable, unless strong evidence is demonstrated. If an acquaintance of yours claimed to have seen a UFO, your opinion that there is not sufficient cause to believe that the earth is being visited by aliens would not require you to have exhaustive evidence to prove that aliens did not exist. You would not describe yourself as having faith that aliens don’t exist. Even if your acquaintance added some life and death urgency such as telling you that if humans didn’t make contact with the aliens, they would blow up the planet, I doubt that it would move you much. Let this be an early warning that I am a sucker for bad analogies.

What I am trying to say is that I do not view soft atheism as a position that requires equal faith to Christianity or carries an equal burden of proof. I’d further like to point out that I am not the one asking anyone to change his mind, and I have nothing that I feel the need to defend. As I am aware that many Christian apologists use the word atheist to describe a hard atheist with a set agenda and possibly a bent toward proselytizing, I will use the term “non-theist” to denote an agnostic soft atheist, which is my own position.

The other thing that immediately gives me pause is the question of whether Christianity as the author understands it is a personal relationship with a personal deity or acceptance of a set of doctrines.  The author proposes the following test to see if the reader is open to acceptance: If someone could provide reasonable answers to the most significant questions and objections you have about Christianity – reasonable to the point that Christianity seems true beyond a reasonable doubt – would you then become a Christian? Thank about that for a moment. If your honest answer is no, then your resistance to Christianity is emotional or volitional, not merely intellectual (p 31).

As I understand Christianity, I think that it is a mistake on the part of the author to equate acceptance of Christianity with acceptance of facts about the religion. Even if one were to believe that the Bible presented an accurate account of God, Jesus, and salvation, the claims that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, or that the Holy Spirit would teach, empower, and comfort the Christian should remain open for personal evaluation. In my years as a Christian, it was repeatedly impressed upon me that having an intellectual knowledge of Christianity was insufficient and that the demons also believe that there is one god, and shudder. It seems a double standard to say that it’s not enough to believe a set of doctrines to be a Christian, while insisting to the non-believer that showing logical or physical evidence for the same set of doctrines is complete proof for Christianity.

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