The Atheist sees the same evidence, but for some reasons dismisses the possibility of a Creator. He doesn’t simply question the possibility; he believes that God does not exist. This seems to me a strong faith commitment, as strong as that of the Theist. And yet the Atheist gets quite indignant when this matter is called to his attention. He insists that this is not so.
My dictionary (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.) gives many definitions for the word faith.
My Atheist friend insists that he does not have faith, while it appears quite clear to me that he does. Perhaps part of the reason for our disagreement is caused by the fact that he uses one narrow definition of the word, Webster’s #2b(1) “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” His insistence then would make sense (to him). He apparently assumes that this definition describes Christian faith, and is the one which is held by Christians and other Theists.
I suspect that my friend assumes an even further definition describes Christian faith. It’s the one allegedly given by the little boy in Sunday school that “faith is when you believe something even when you know it’s not true.”
However, as a Christian I would hold to Webster’s definition #2b(2) “complete trust,” and #3 “something that is believed esp. with strong conviction; esp.: a system of religious beliefs.” From my communications with my friend, I’d say that this describes not only my, but his faith as well.
So, it is not, as my friend appears to believe, simply a matter of facts versus faith. He and I both base our understanding on assertions which are supposedly factual. We interpret the data and rely on these for our world view. Faith or belief is required throughout the entire process. We trust or believe in some assertions which we believe are backed by evidence. *We refer to these as “facts.” He does this as well as I. Sadly, we all are often tempted to ignore some facts, those which do not fit easily into our world view.
For instance, my friend, along with other Atheists insists on what I would term “The Constantine Myth,” the view that the 4th Century Roman Emperor Constantine was the originator of Christianity and of the New Testament as we know it. (See: THE WORDAND THE WORD.) To hold this view he chooses to ignore the early manuscript evidence for the New Testament, as well as three centuries of Christian history and writings. I’ll insist that this is a matter of faith on his part, and it appears to be more like Webster’s definition #2b(1) or even like that of the little boy mentioned above.
Also contrary to my friend’s thinking, Christian faith is based on facts: the eyewitness’ reports, the works and claims of Jesus, the empty tomb. My friend may deny the factuality of these evidences, but they are strongly attested. To deny their factuality requires faith on his part.
The “facts versus faith” argument may appear to be a good way for the Atheist to protect his belief system but it works both ways.
I do not want to sound insulting to my friend. I genuinely desire for him to open his mind up to consider the inconsistencies of his own position as well as the assertions of Christianity.