Faith of the Atheist by David W. Lewis - Read Online
Faith of the Atheist
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Summary

There are hundreds of thousands of atheists in the world so all of us probably meet and talk with and write to many each day. The purpose of this work is to better understand them and what faith they have so as to get along better with one another.
Along the way we will establish some definitions to make the playing field level as we try to understand how various atheists differ from one another and other persons with their faiths and beliefs.
We will look at some famous atheists and look at what influenced them and what changed for some of them as they matured to adults from childhood. We will make some comparisons between atheists and those calling themselves Christians.

My wish is to better understand my fellow man and hence to try to picture the faiths that are different from mine.
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Faith of the Atheist - David W. Lewis

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BACON

Chapter 1. WHO IS AN ATHEIST?

50 million U. S. citizens, as many as 71% of the population of Norway¹ and tens of thousands of Europeans all have the same mind set of faith! Atheism! In contrast, approximately, 10% of the Norwegians identify themselves as being personally Christian.

One major goal of this epistle is to understand the faith of atheists and other famous people. And one reason for trying to understand their faith is because you are likely to meet, associate, or work with atheists every day. Although they don’t have just one formal organization or club, thousands of atheists attended the Reason Rally² in Washington, D.C. with the goal to unify the secular community in the USA. A 2006 survey in Norway found some additional information: 29 percent believe in a god or deity; 23 percent believe in a higher power without being certain of what; 26 percent don't believe in God or higher powers; 22 percent have doubts regarding their faith. We shall come back to trying to more precisely differentiate the shades of atheism that seems to exist in Norway and elsewhere.

David Silverman, chair for the Reason Rally Coalition and president of American Atheists, believes that there are uncounted millions of atheists, in the United States. He claims there are more atheists in the country, right now, than Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists combined. Whatever it is that is a considerable number, so each day you are likely to talk with more than one atheist. Knowing more about them will allow you a better means for communicating your ideas and understanding their thinking. The main speakers at the Reason Rally included Richard Dawkins, Tim Minchin, Dr. P.Z. Meyers, Dr. R Elizabeth Cornwell, Dave Silverman, Christina Rad, and several others.

Dave Silverman³ is the current president of the American Atheists, a non-profit organization that supports the rights of atheists. One object of the group is the removal of expressions of religion in public when possibly interpretable as governmental endorsement. These expressions include monuments, buildings, cemeteries, and others.

Silverman, from Marblehead, Massachusetts, began publicly challenging religion in high school and often states in interviews that he became an atheist at the age of six. He received a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Brandeis University and a Marketing MBA from Penn State University. Silverman is a successful inventor with seventy-four patents, and has authored several articles, including a cover story for Inventors Digest. He has worked with the American Atheists organization since 1996, and has held a variety of roles, including: New Jersey State Director, Communications Director, and Vice President. He was elected president of American Atheists on September 16, 2010, cohosts the Atheist Viewpoint television program, writes for the NoGodBlog, attends protests, debates and institutes conferences for atheism and free thought, across the country.

It will be simpler if we start out on the same page with definitions and gather a compilation of a few ideas and expressions. As defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary⁴ an Atheist is a person who believes there is no God. And from the same reference a brief definition of the word faith; faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. However, this same word faith can refer to a religion itself or to religion in general so we have to be careful when we use this word. Sometimes we use it as understanding that we are leaning on the absolute term meaning truth.

Obviously in discussing atheism we are not dealing with mathematics or physics or any branch of science but recognize that we are involved with concepts related to philosophy. As a definition, Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach, and its reliance on rational argument. The word philosophy comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means love of wisdom, and was originally a word referring to the special way of life of early Greek philosophers.

So one is immediately confronted with the question as to what is this wisdom that an Atheist believes in? Or to rephrase it, what foundation or what faith does an atheist believe in? One essential part of faith, as just described above as meaning truth, may be the trustworthiness of an idea. So an atheist has faith in an idea and then the question is what particular idea or ideas does the atheist have faith in? The idea briefly stated: there is no God. There are many ideas that one can debate such as the universe is expanding, or our earth is slowing down, or tsunamis can be predicted by looking at the density of sun spots. But we are going to concentrate on the idea there is no God and closely related concepts and hopefully discover the truth of this idea.

Communists have this commonality with atheists; not believing in God. So we may jump to what might be considered by some a closely related concept of atheism, namely Communism. So Communism seems an essentially atheism related belief – no God. However, the communist reflexes its faith through the teaching and written words of Karl Marx. But atheists do not believe in Communism as their faith is obviously not faith in Karl Marx but the truth of something else or is it possibly someone else?

There is, unfortunately, some disagreement about the definition of atheism in spite of that cited above from the dictionary. It is interesting to note that most of that disagreement comes from theists. Many feel that theists themselves tend to agree on what atheism means. Yet, Christians in particular dispute the definition used by atheists and insist that atheism means something very different. Coming back to the broader, and more common, understanding of atheism among atheists is quite simply not believing in any gods. No claims or denials are made — an atheist is just a person who does not happen to be a theist. Sometimes this broader understanding is called weak or implicit atheism. Most good and complete dictionaries readily support this.

There also exists a narrower sort of atheism, sometimes called strong or explicit atheism. With this type, the atheist explicitly denies the existence of any gods — making a strong claim which will deserve support at some point. Some atheists do this and others may do this with regards to certain specific gods but not with others. Thus, a person may lack belief in one god, but deny the existence of another god. By denying the existence of any gods, the strong atheist cannot discuss religious philosophy with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. So far as they are concerned, there is simply nothing to discuss. That position cuts them from a great portion of life which involves discussing the philosophy of living. One’s religion certainly influences the philosophy and approach to living and the many laws that may be considered as good and should be enforced. Many laws originated from religions through rules and writings some thousands of years ago.

But we still have not come to a delineation of the faith i.e. truth of the atheist. We have painted a partial picture of what the atheist is not – whether strong or weak. But what encapsulates the faith of the atheist?

IS ATHEISM A RELIGION?

Just because atheists see themselves apart from the crowd, does this make atheism a religion? They are certainly a small number when compared with the population of the world, the majority who claim that they believe in God or gods (of some form). There are many groups