The Faith of an AtheistFrom the Book “I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist” By Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek
While some faith is required for our conclusions, it’s often forgotten that faith is also required to believe any worldview, including atheism and pantheism. We were reminded of this recently when we met an atheist named Barry at one of our seminars. Barry was incredulous that a mutual friend, Steve, had become a Christian.
He said, “I can’t figure Steve out. He claims to be intellectual, but he can’t answer all the objections I pose to him about Christianity. He says he doesn’t have all the answers because he’s new and still learning.”
I (Frank) said, “Barry, it’s virtually impossible to know everything about a particular topic, and it’s certainly impossible when that topic is an infinite God. So there has to come a point where you realize you have enough information to come to a conclusion, even if unanswered questions remain.”
Barry agreed but still didn’t realize that he was doing exactly what he was chiding Steve for doing. Barry had decided his view—atheism—was correct even though he did not have exhaustive information to support it. Did he know for sure there is no God? Had he investigated every argument and evidence for the existence of God? Did he possess exhaustive information on the question of God? Could he answer every objection to atheism? Of course not. Indeed, it would be impossible to do so. Since Barry, like Steve, is dealing in the realm of probability rather than absolute certainty, he has to have a certain amount of faith to believe that God does not exist.
Although he claimed to be an agnostic, Carl Sagan made the ultimate statement of faith in atheistic materialism when he claimed that “the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”A) How did he know that for sure? He didn’t. How could he? He was a limited human being with limited knowledge. Sagan was operating in the realm of probability just like Christians are when they say God exists. The question is, who has more evidence for their conclusion? Which conclusion is more reasonable? As we’ll see when we look at the evidence, the atheist has to muster a lot more faith than the Christian.
You may be thinking, “The atheist has to muster a lot more faith than the Christian! What possibly could Geisler and Turek mean by that?” We mean that the less evidence you have for your position, the more faith you need to believe it (and vice versa). Faith covers a gap in knowledge. And it turns out that atheists have bigger gaps in knowledge because they have far less evidence for their beliefs than Christians have for theirs. In other words, the empirical, forensic, and philosophical evidence strongly supports conclusions consistent with Christianity and inconsistent with atheism. Here are a few examples of that evidence that we’ll unpack in the ensuing chapters:
1. The scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms that the universe exploded into being out of nothing. Either someone created something out of nothing (the Christian view), or no one created something out of nothing (the atheistic view). Which view is more reasonable? The Christian view. Which view requires more faith? The atheistic view.
2. The simplest life form contains the information-equivalent of 1,000 encyclopedias. Christians believe only an intelligent being can create a life form containing the equivalent of 1,000 encyclopedias. Atheists believe nonintelligent natural forces can do it. Christians have evidence to support their conclusion. Since atheists don’t have any such evidence, their belief requires a lot more faith.
3. Hundreds of years beforehand, ancient writings foretold the coming of a man who would actually be God. This man-God, it was foretold, would be born in a particular city from a particular bloodline, suffer in a particular way, die at a particular time, and rise from the dead to atone for the sins of the world. Immediately after the predicted time, multiple eyewitnesses proclaimed and later recorded that those predicted events had actually occurred. Those eyewitnesses endured persecution and death when they could have saved themselves by denying the events. Thousands of people in Jerusalem were then converted after seeing or hearing of these events, and this belief swept quickly across the ancient world. Ancient historians and writers allude to or confirm these events, and archaeology corroborates them. Having seen evidence from creation that God exists (point 1 above), Christians believe these multiple lines of evidence show beyond a reasonable doubt that God had a hand in these events. Atheists must have a lot more faith to explain away the predictions, the eyewitness testimony, the willingness of the eyewitnesses to suffer and die, the origin of the Christian church, and the corroborating testimony of the other writers, archeological finds, and other evidence that we’ll investigate later.
Now perhaps these three points have raised in your mind some questions and objections. They should, because we’re leaving out a lot of the detail that we’ll unpack throughout the book. The main point for now is that you see what we mean when we say that every worldview—including atheism—requires some degree of faith.
Even skeptics have faith. They have faith that skepticism is true. Likewise, agnostics have faith that agnosticism is true. There are no neutral positions when it comes to beliefs. As Phillip Johnson so aptly put it, “One who claims to be a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs.” In other words, atheists, who are naturally skeptical of Christianity, turn out to be true believers in atheism. As we shall see, if they are honest with the evidence, they need a lot more faith to maintain their atheistic beliefs than Christians need to maintain theirs.
A) Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980), 4.