Cima da Conegliano (Wikimedia/The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Atheism Is Not Faith, It’s Reason

Let’s not pretend there’s no reason to question if there’s a God

Recently, there was an article that appeared on The Guardian’s opinion page titled: “My atheism does not make me superior to believers. It’s a leap of faith too.” The article explains many factors that influenced the writer’s move toward atheism, and one of the main points it drives home is that atheism is a leap of faith, as any moderately literate person could derive from the title. Essentially, since you can’t prove there’s no god, it’s a leap of faith to not believe. The problem is, that’s a false assertion.

Saying atheism is a leap of faith is like saying not believing in a place called Mordor is a leap of faith. What evidence do we have of the Christian God, except what notes have been scribbled about him in one relatively old book? Is it a leap of faith that I don’t believe there is a giant red dog somewhere named Clifford? Is it a leap of faith that I don’t believe in the 12 Greek gods?

This article was certainly not the first to assert that atheism is equivalent to faith, but it’s the most recent example. It’s easy to understand how people who believe this get to the premise — religion is ingrained in many cultures — but the reason religion is ingrained in many cultures has nothing to do with some inherent knowledge that there must be a higher power.

God exists because of people’s desire to shirk responsibility and a fear of death. No one wants to believe how their life turns out is 100 percent on them, and no one wants to believe their only afterlife is as fertilizer. If you can blame some superior being for how life goes and pretend there’s a Hawaiian vacation in the sky waiting for you after death, it lubricates the tension of life a little more.

Atheism is basic reasoning skills, when it comes down to it. Just like when a crazed man screams that the end of the world is near and I don’t listen, there’s no faith involved. Atheism is recognizing that since so few of the stories in the Bible logically make any sense (a man being swallowed by a whale and using it like a taxi?), then the promise of a mystical sky man with superpowers is probably not realistic either. That’s a flippant way of putting it, but it illustrates the point.

Are atheists better than people with religion? Not necessarily. Atheists are just more comfortable with the existential problem of accepting the fate of a life that ends and then… stays ended. Religion serves many purposes and can benefit society, when it’s used for good, but religion and atheism are not equivalent.