My thinking has gotten so wrapped up in certain modes of thought that I failed to see the faith implicit in those thoughts.
The new atheists emphasize the primacy of evidence, John Haught points out in God and the New Atheists: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. He traces this back to Jacques Monod’s declaration that “it is morally wrong to accept any claims that cannot be verified in principle by ‘objective’ knowledge” (5). This, of course, means scientifically provable knowledge.
This assumption has become a staple of late 20th-century atheism, and I came to think that way without even realizing when or where. More importantly, I accepted that suggestion without any critical examination.
All things must be proved by science. Such is the rallying cry of the new atheists, and I would have proudly carried that banner myself. However, that statement is not itself provable by science.
Here Monod was much more honest than the new atheists. He admitted that an exception must be made for the postulate of objectivity. The ethic of knowledge is itself an “arbitrary” choice, not a claim for which there could ever be sufficient scientific evidence. Faith, it seems, makes an opening wide enough for atheism too. (5)
The suggestion that atheists live lives of faith was nothing new to me. What was new was how convincingly this form of the argument hangs together.
Previously, I’d heard only bargain-basement arguments: “When an atheists puts on brakes in his car, he has faith that they will work.” A weak argument at best: this “faith” is based on previous experience. We can take the car apart and determine why pressing the brake pedal will result in a stopped car.
Haught’s argument gets at the underlying premise of it all.
One more step forward…