As a corollary to their false belief that there is no evidence for God, many atheists are fond of using a wide spread but incorrect meme that express the idea that Faith is belief without evidence. In an article on The Stream titled “The Deadly Atheist Meme Even Christians Get Wrong” Tom Gilson addresses it as put forth by atheist cheerleader Richard Dawkins:
Faith is belief without evidence and reason;
Coincidentally that’s also the definition of delusion
Tom’s approach: he uses the logical argument known as reductio ad absurdum to illustrate one reason why the statement is wrong. This type of argument demonstrates that the statement is false by supposing it to be true then illustrating that the logical and inevitable result or conclusion of the argument is patently absurd or false.
Tom uses the reductio ad absurdum successfully – demonstrating that if it were true, then Jesus by his resurrection would be destroying the disciples faith instead of building it up – which is of course absurd and false. But as Tom also points out there are a number of ways to demonstrate this trope is false. And since the route Tom takes to get there seems to me to be a bit circuitous let me point out 3 other more direct (hopefully) and easier to remember ways to respond to this often used but dead wrong statement.
Three Responses to “Faith is Belief Without Evidence”
Before I get started let me clarify that these responses are for Christians – those who are in fact believers in the God of the Bible and followers of Jesus and thus are citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. One should be secure in their faith and certain of the destiny of both believers and non-believers for reasons that will become apparent.
To understand this approach, first you must realize that most atheists foolishly but sincerely believe there is no evidence of God. (Here’s a small sample of them proclaiming that.) As a consequence of believing there is no evidence of God, they can’t find or see any evidence of God, because as I’ve pointed out before, you can’t find what you deny exists. Since you can’t find what you deny exists, and they deny God exists, they naturally conclude there is no evidence of God, which then leads them to conclude that faith must therefore be belief without evidence. Thus a denial of God leads naturally to a conclusion that there’s no evidence for God which leads to the conclusion that faith must therefore be belief without evidence. (Another demonstration that when you start with a wrong premise, you usually end up with a wrong conclusion.)
You need merely point out that their objection – an atheist denying there’s evidence of God – is like a blind man denying there’s such a thing as “colors” because he can’t see them. Just because a blind man can’t see colors doesn’t mean colors don’t exist. And just because atheists can’t see evidence of God doesn’t mean there is no evidence of God. Thus I call this the “colors” approach. People with a rational faith base their belief in God on extensive evidence of God that the atheist is totally blind to.
Don’t let them bully you into thinking there is no evidence. Stand firm and tell them the evidence for God is as clear to see as the colors in a rainbow. If you’re blind and can’t see the colors in a rainbow – that doesn’t mean they’re not there. And if you’re an atheist and are blind to evidence – that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
I call this the mirror approach because every objection they have to the following definition of science is going to be mirrored back to them with regards to their definition of faith. You can start like this:
You want to define faith, for me? Okay let me define science for you: (Counts are the number of logical fallacies):
Science – from the Latin scientia – meaning “knowledge” or “Knowing”, in this case the knowledge is that of biased (1) practitioners called “scientists” who selectively cherry pick (2) evidence to fit their pet theories that disregard known science(3). But to make it seem like real “science” they submit it to other like minded biased(4) practitioners in a process they call “peer review” designed to support unfalsifiable(5)claims while weeding out any theories that don’t belong in their club which they call “science”.
In short “science” is nothing but a formal club for using fallacious arguments to support secular ideas that may or may not be true.
This may seem a bit jaded – but it’s an accurate view when it comes to how atheists approach areas of science that have implications regarding God and what the Bible teaches. If they know anything about science they should strongly object to this description of science with it’s numerous logical fallacies (which I’ve highlighted and counted). At this point, whatever objection they come up with, you want to mirror back at them like so:
Atheist: That is not a correct definition of science.
Believer: And yours is not a correct definition of faith.
Atheist: You misunderstand the scientific process.
Believer: And you misunderstand the process of faith.
Atheist: You’re insulting and disparaging scientists.
Believer: And you’re insulting and disparaging people of faith.
Atheist: You’re displaying your ignorance of the scientific process.
Believer: And you’re displaying your ignorance of the process of faith.
Atheist: That’s not my/the correct definition of science.
Believer: And yours is not my/the correct definition of faith.
Atheist: Your definition of science contains many logical fallacies, so it can’t be right.
Believer: And your definition of faith contains the logical fallacies of the straw man, selective evidence, and possibly even lying, so your definition of faith can’t be right either.
Atheist: You’re misrepresenting what science is!
Believer: And you’re misrepresenting what faith is!
As you can see, whatever objection they throw up, you can throw right back at them. Be sure to stick to your guns, throw the objections back and them, and don’t let any ad-hominem attacks get to you. Because remember, any time in the course of an argument your opponent abandons addressing the argument and starts attacking you, it is a sure sign they can’t refute the argument and so have resorted to insulting you instead. Since they obviously can’t defeat your argument, I usually disengage when they start throwing ad-hominem attacks. At that point, you’ve demonstrated your point, but they refuse to acknowledge it.
An alternate way to disengage requires you’re secure in yourself and your faith to take the ad-hominem attacks, and before disengaging, present them with one last opportunity to see the error of their ways using what they pride themselves on: reason. You can present it like this:
You may think me wrong, even foolish, but what if I’m right about God? Have you heard of Pascal’s wager? If you’re right all I have to deal with is a finite time of the insults from atheists like you – which I’m already dealing with. But If I’m right you’ll have to deal with the eternal wrath of God. You’re effectively making Pascal’s wager here. The point of the wager is to show rationally, it makes best sense to believe in God, and it’s a foolish risk not to. Do you really want to risk your eternity for the pleasure of insulting me, and the dubious pleasure of misrepresenting what faith is?
If they want to continue misrepresenting what faith is, then remind them that you’re fine with seeing science as a formal club for using fallacious arguments to support secular ideas that may or may not be true. Continue mirroring until one of you disengages.
Finally, the Biblical definition of faith. This in my view is the strongest – since it comes straight from the word of God. It should also be an encouragement to all Christians. They may have heard the biblical definition of faith found in Hebrews 11.1, but what they probably don’t know is that definition assumes your faith is build on evidence. Many teachings in the Bible are made assuming you already have a correct knowledge of some foundational concept – and then go on to build upon that concept.
Let me give you an example: Matt 5.21-22 on Murder. Jesus quotes the commandment “Do not murder” (Ex 20.13) which, being a part of the Decalogue, they would have been very familiar with. He then extends the teaching showing first, that the root of murder is anger; and that the final judgment is not before humans (the Sanhedrin) but with God. (Some mistake the teaching over which word Jesus uses to express anger – rather “Raca” or “You fool” but the point is not the expression, the point is who will judge you – and Jesus reveals it is God who will ultimately judge you not merely the Sanhedrin.)
A similar dynamic happens regarding the definition of faith. Faith is defined in the Bible (Heb 11.1) as: (for clarification I’ve provided an amplified translation):
“Now faith is the “demonstration of the real existence” ( ΄υποστασις – hupostais) of what we hope for the “settled conviction” (ελεγχος – elegchos el-eng-chos) from (completed) “deeds” (πραγματον – pragmaton) not seen.
All together and in common English:
“Now faith is the demonstration that what we hope for exists in reality, the settled conviction from completed deeds not seen”
What is being said here? Let’s start with the easy part: we have a “settled conviction”. Notice that a conviction is a conclusion based on something. What is this conviction based on? It’s based on a foundation of “completed deeds.” What “completed deeds” is he talking about? The writer goes on to list some. These deeds would be the works of God – some miraculous – like the creation (Heb 11.3), the exodus (Heb 11.29), and though not mentioned in this context the ultimate evidence of the faith: the resurrection. (Rom 1.4)
Some deeds are natural as opposed to supernatural (Though they do include a supernatural aspect in that they include the leading of God). For example God instructing Noah to build the ark (Heb 11.7) or God leading Abraham to go to what would become the promised land (Heb 11.8). We are given evidence after evidence in Heb 11, evidence that is now a collection of settled facts concerning the acts of God. Both supernatural and natural acts. And for what purpose are these facts listed? Because it’s upon these facts that our faith is based. These are what allow us to have a “settled conviction” – known as faith – about the acts of God.
So the writer starts with known acts of God – evidences – and builds upon that knowledge to show how they are the foundation of faith. Notice these are all evidences that atheists are blind to, so of course they can’t see them, but as noted before, that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. Thus the reason we believe is because God has provided evidence. And it is upon this evidence that we base our faith. A faith concerning the existence and character of God. Thus our faith is a settled conviction based on evidence that God has provided. That evidence proves that God exists and will continue to do according to what he has promised, because he has always done so in the past.
This is why far from being based on nothing, our faith is a “settled conviction” that things we hope for exist in reality, and this conviction is based on the evidence of past acts of God such as miracles. We may not have seen the miracles ourselves, but we know they happened – either because we can witness the results ourselves (we can see the results of the creation and the global flood for example) or we have the testimony. For example we have the testimony of the shepherds – so we are confident of the miraculous appearing of the angels mentioned in the testimony.
So it is simply wrong, indeed ignorant to continue to claim that faith is “belief without evidence or reason.” Atheists can remain blind to the evidence – God has given them free will, so that is their choice. But for those who choose to remain willfully blind (and thus willfully ignorant 2 Pe 3.5 KJV), Jesus says, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt 15.14) This is consistent, by the way, with the advice in Evidence is for believers – not mockers. But if you’ve read this far, it is probably because you want to persuade people, not walk away without giving a response. So now you have three approaches for those claiming that faith is belief without evidence: The “Colors“ response, the “Mirror” response or the “Biblical Definition” response. If the atheist remains willfully blind after these, maintaining that faith is belief without evidence, then what further proof do you need that evidence is for believers – not mockers?
2. The key word in this verse is ʹυποστασις – hupostais. The idea conveyed is that of something that is understood and perceived to be realized, existing in reality as opposed to just a thought or plan. “Among the meanings that can be authenticated the one that seems to fit best here is realization.” (Emphasis his)
W Bauer, W Arndt, F Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979, p. 847
3. I did consider calling this the “Color Blind” response – but Color Blindness as an analogy misses the point. Those who are color blind can in fact see colors – they confuse certain colors like red and green. The point of the first response is that atheists are entirely blind to the evidence. They can’t see it at all. They’re not confusing one evidence for another. Thus complete blindness is the appropriate analogy – not color blindness.
All images used by permission
Atheist Meme Mistake concerning faith by Duane Caldwell © 2019
Richard Dawkins photo: Mike Cornwell from USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons