Along with my regular blog here at seanmcdowell.org, I am now featuring occasional guest posts from some students in the Biola M.A. in Christian Apologetics that I personally had the privilege of teaching. This post is from my friend Ryan Pauly, a high school teacher, who also has an excellent and growing ministry of his own called Coffee House Questions. Enjoy! - Sean McDowell
Does It Take More Faith To Be An Atheist?
According to Ask An Atheist with Sam Mulvey, this question makes no sense whatsoever. In a podcast recorded on May 27th, 2018, the hosts were discussing common tactics that Christians use when talking to atheists. The second tactic they mentioned was that Christians say, “It takes more faith to be an atheist.”
The show hosts explained that this statement makes no sense because atheism doesn’t fall under the definition of faith. The “religious” definition of faith that they cited was, “A strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” This, according to them, “does not leave any room for atheism to be considered a religion.”
The second definition they mentioned for faith is having trust in a person. It is how you have faith in your wife, children, parents, or teachers. One host explained that having trust in a person isn’t faith by explaining her trust in her husband. She said, “No, I have nearly two decades of evidence to support this. Once that stops being true then I would reevaluate my perspective or perception of my spouse. That’s not faith, that’s evidence.”
What is Biblical faith?
Biblical faith isn’t what was described above as “religious” faith. As Alan Shlemon wrote, “Biblical faith, then, is not blind, but functions the same way as trust. You don’t blindly trust people. They have to earn it. You put your trust in people you have good reason to trust.” As Alan describes, biblical faith seems to more closely match the second definition above.
Christians should understand this because of verses like John 20:30-31 which says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Jesus also seemed to hold this view of faith (See Mark 2:1-12 and Matthew 11:2-5).
Jesus did many signs right in front of people, including his resurrection from the dead. These things were done so that we believe and have life in him. Belief in Christianity is not the result of spiritual apprehension against evidence. Rather, it is trusting in God in light of the evidence.
Does it take more faith to be an atheist?
Using their definition of faith, I can see why the hosts of Ask An Atheist take exception to this. In fact, when we have the correct definition of biblical faith, then you understand that we all have faith. Christian faith is similar to the faith described by the one host who talked about having two decades of evidence to support her trust in her husband. We all have to put our trust in the evidence, and I’m convinced that Christians have a far greater amount of evidence to put our trust in compared to atheism. That is why it takes more faith to be an atheist.
As Greg Koukl wrote in Faith Is Not Wishing, “Faith is not about wishing, but about confidence, and the facts make the difference. You get a hold of the facts, you study, you lean—even a little—and you’ll realize that you’re not just wishing on a star about eternal things. You’ll realize Christianity really is true.”
As a Christian, I want to encourage you to be a seeker of truth and to study the facts with an open mind. I cannot list all of the evidence here, but I encourage you to look for it. Evidence That Demands a Verdict and I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist are two great resources. I hope that you will understand what biblical faith is and go see how much evidence there is for your position.