So this was interesting:
I posted my initial critique of Peter Boghossian’s book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, on my site two days ago, and very quickly learned a few things:
- Atheists are organized, and can assemble a flash mob online faster than a Baptist pastor’s wife can launch a prayer chain. Within 12 hours I had more than 30 critiques of my critique posted on my very own site, all from atheists who had read Boghossian’s book and were ready to defend it. You gotta admit, that’s pretty impressive!
- Some of them were quite thoughtful and very nice. Clearly guys it’d be fun to share a beer with and chat. (If you’re the beer drinking kind of Christian.)
- We have very different definitions of the word “faith,” and it is clear that most atheists believe current dictionary definitions of the word “faith” are flat-out wrong. Somebody changed it, and forgot to tell Webster. To try to summarize it ever so briefly, the folks I interacted with believe “faith” is the correct word to use when you’re trusting something that you have no business trusting, because it isn’t based in hard science. Faeries and such.
One atheist responder made the point that if we mean “trust,” (which is a synonym in the Bible for “faith”), why don’t we just say trust? Faith must mean something different if we only use it when we talk about religious stuff and then switch to “trust” when we’re talking about other things.
Which is a fair point. So, personally, I’m not going to use the word “faith” when I mean “to put trust or confidence in.” I’m going to use “trust” or “confidence.” I’ll use “faith” only as a synonym for “religion,” as in “the Christian faith.” Unless I forget. But I’ll try to remember.
Good. We’ve made progress.
But then I woke up the next morning to find that James Lindsey, a self-published atheist author who had engaged me on the topic, had written a blog post titled “Phil Vischer Let’s the Cat out of the Bag.”
That caught my attention, because I don’t even like cats and I don’t know why I would keep one in a bag. (Historically, I’ve always boxed my cats.) He was referring to a comment I made on my site late last night explaining that faith wasn’t how we know the doctrines of Christianity. We know them because of revelation. Faith is putting confidence in the doctrine, not our means of “knowing” the doctrine, or even knowing the doctrine to be true. James apparently felt this was an admission that faith was a flawed epistemology, when in fact it was just a restatement of what I’ve been saying all along – that faith isn’t an epistemology at all. That Boghossian’s premise is wrong.
So I responded, which of course led to James responding, but then the conversation was joined by a new friend named Jeremy Pierce who came from God-knows-where but is clearly quite bright and had a fascinating conversation with James about faith and epistemology and such.
The conversation was so interesting that I’m linking to it here. You really ought to read it. (Especially the part where Jeremy Pierce jumps in.)