Why do atheists regard faith-based beliefs as being wrong or even dangerous?

We accept events and situations frequently in the course of daily living on faith. Trains will run on time. Milk will be on sale at the supermarket. The sun will rise and set daily. Why is this same faith, when applied to religion, so vehemently scorned by atheists?

Posted: June 1st 2007


In religious contexts – at least in christian ones – faith is usually defined as belief without evidence (reference “doubting thomas” as a good example)

I would submit that rational belief must be based on evidence – “reason” to believe – and therefore that a belief solely on blind faith is therefore irrational.

At which point I find the question to be a bit silly, because it’s really asking why I think that irrational beliefs are wrong or dangerous, which I think is pretty much true by definition.

In the elaboration, you are equivocating. Religious faith is not like our belief, based on direct observation, that some things will reoccur.

This is obviously true – if somebody says that they went to the supermarket and bought some milk, even if I doubt them they can easily take me there and show me the milk.

And if the supermarket stops carrying milk, or the trains are consistently late (or there’s a strike), people will change their behavior.

Or, to put it another way, I can tell you exactly what would alter my belief that my supermarket will have bananas for sale tonight. Those who believe in a god cannot do the same.

Posted: January 11th 2008

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

bitbutter www

It is a misconception that we accept commonplace things such as that the sun will rise tomorrow 'on faith’. The real reason we suppose that the sun will rise tomorrow is that we have lots of evidence from trusted sources that leads us to confidently predict that it will.

Richard Carrier examines the difference between belief and faith in A fish Did Not Write This Essay.

It’s true that many atheists do believe that religious faith is dangerous. To understand this view it’s enough to notice that much of the violence in the world—today and throughout history—wouldn’t have occurred without religious faith.

Of course secular (non-religious) ideologies, like Stalinism, can also lead to violence.

For most anti-religious atheists religion itself isn’t the ultimate problem—dogmatism is. Religion is seen as problematic for similar reasons that secular ideologies can be; because it encourages dogmatic belief and suppresses reason. The Modest Agnostic’s youtube video—Dogma —makes this point very clearly.

For a more general treatment of the dangers of faith based belief here’s a video clip of Sam Harris explaining why he’s worried.

Posted: June 3rd 2007

See all questions answered by bitbutter


Once belief in belief is touted as being a positive boon for humanity, and therefore, not held under the same critical scrutiny like other non-religious ideas are, then faith can be interpreted and used for whatever purpose anyone or group can decide to use it for, including flying planes full of passengers into skyscrapers full of workers.

The religious host of an American TV show, Bill O’Reilly, once commented, if someone says that something has not happened while there is tremendous evidence that it has, like the Holocaust, then avoid that person like the plague. However, he insists that if there is no evidence for a belief, than it is perfectly reasonable to have faith in this belief. For example, if there is no evidence that a celestial, divine teapot is orbiting the earth, then we can happily worship that teapot.

O’Reilly and other believers in non-evidential beliefs fail to recognize that the burden of proof is on the believer, not the disbeliever. The believer in the Holocaust can present proof. The believer that milk will be available at the supermarket has proof that it has in the past, via cashier slips of payment and can reasonably expect milk to be at the supermarket at the next visit. However, the believers in religious beliefs cannot provide proof for any of their beliefs; they can only offer the inadequate notion of faith and lack of evidence.

Posted: June 2nd 2007

See all questions answered by logicel


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