Atheists, or many of them, have an issue with the idea of faith. Much of this stems from a misunderstanding, from the belief that faith and religion are, if not the same thing, close enough so as to be used interchangeably. The approach of public agencies doesn't help here either as they universally use faith as a convenient cipher for religion - 'Faith Organisation', 'Faith Group' and 'Faith Leaders' are, in public policy speak, simply ciphers for religions, churches and priests of one sort of another. The problem is that this misrepresents the idea of faith.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)That's how St Paul defines faith in his Letter to the Hebrews. It doesn't talk directly of god or religion or worship merely that faith is our evidence for things we cannot sense. It is the riposte to that sceptical urge for evidence - Thomas thrusting his hand into Christ's spear wound. A rejection of the empiricist idea that things without evidence, without Christ's blood on your hand, are not true or unreal - myths, fairy tales, trite stories. We are serious people for heaven's sake!
"Keep the Faith" is the joyous cry of Northern Soul fans:
Singing and playing sax is still my main occupation these days, but whilst I still possess the same enthusiasm for 60s soul tunes and making people smile - I will continue to try and "Keep The Faith" !That faith's an intangible thing, hard to explain to those who don't have it, who aren't Northern Soul people. But it's real and important - as that quote above makes clear it really matters, it's part of identity and belief. A feeling familiar to football supporters loyally slogging through the rain week after week to see their club - dreaming that one day greatness will arrive but knowing differently: sharing this with others among the faithful.
Now some youngsters of today's generation may read this and laugh their heads off - and that's OK - because now is your time. But when you reach 50 I hope you are still as passionate about your music and that you too have lots of genuine friends who like you have also remained resolute throughout in their beliefs.
In her "Bourgeois Virtues", Deidre McCloskey quotes philosopher J. Budziszewski:
No argument can be so completely drawn as to eliminate its dependence, conscious or unconscious, on undemonstrable first principles.On faith.
McCloskey continues later:
The Faith, in other words, need not be a faith in God. Many secular folk believe in a transcendent without God, though approaching him.The way in which we live, the communities we build, the exploring of our world, the speculation about the universe and the hope for the future we hold - all these things in part depend on us taking things in faith. Without trust our society works poorly and to trust someone, in business or in our personal lives, is an act of faith. For sure we can apply rules to enforce that contract implicit in trust but wouldn't relying on enforcement make for a dreadful world? Isn't it better to have faith in our fellows and act accordingly?
Without first principles we are speculating in a fog. So we take some things as axiomatic and construct argument accordingly. And we are able to appreciate that one person's axiom is another's nonsense - my Dad used to end political arguments proclaiming that 'the dialectic is axiomatic'. Without faith, without acceptance of the unprovable, it is difficult to sustain argument and to promote speculation - to get closer to that thing of faith be it god or non-god.
So when atheists construct an argument from the assumption that there is no god they start with that undemonstrable first principle (no god) of Budziszewski's. It is an act of faith to make this argument. And none the worse an argument for being so.