I Thought Religious People Saw Faith as a Good Thing… December 8, 2009

I Thought Religious People Saw Faith as a Good Thing…

You may have already this this clip featuring two of your favorite things: Pastor Rick Warren and FOX News Channel:

Warren says a lot of idiotic things in the clip, but take special note of this line: “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.”

Reader Ungullible writes this in an email and I’m curious if anyone has responses to his thoughts:

Forget Rick Warren’s obvious flaws in logic for a moment. Forget that his premise is wrong — that he is the one using an excessive amount of faith, not us.

Instead, consider that he’s suggesting that there actually is a limit to faith, after which it’s a bad thing.

Isn’t that contrary to what many (most? Rick himself?) Christians preach? To them, faith in spite of evidence is better than faith because of evidence — in fact the latter isn’t even considered faith.

Contrary evidence? That’s just a test of their faith! Basically for Christians: Faith > Logic. Except when it’s something they disagree with — then they want to use “faith” pejoratively and try to stick it on us.


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  • David D.G.

    Ungullible wrote:

    Basically for Christians: Faith > Logic. Except when it’s something they disagree with — then they want to use “faith” pejoratively and try to stick it on us.

    The same goes for many Christians who call science or evolution a “religion” — and for some who, even more absurdly, refer to biblically based claims as “true science”!

    This sort of crazy reversal displays just how jealous the religious zealots are of science’s legitimacy. They’re desperate to be right at any cost, regardless of reality. But since they recognize on some internal level that science actually delivers the goods and religion doesn’t, they basically try to pull off identity theft: “You’re really us, and we’re really you!”

    Anyone with reasoning ability superior to that of an average toddler should be able to see just how spurious this whole line is. But religious brainwashing robs them of even that much reasoning ability.

    ~David D.G.

  • Fox…? Again??

    That network seems to put the most angering things up on the television, hence the Internet.

  • David D.G.

    Oh, by the way, that exact line “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” is also (probably not too coincidentally) the title of an apologetics book that Deacon Duncan has been deconstructing with devastating thoroughness over at his blog, Evangelical Realism (http://blog.evangelicalrealism.com/), in intermittent entries for some time now. He is easily as engaging and detailed in his writing as Ebonmuse or Greta Christina, and I often lament that his blog is probably the best-kept secret source of unapologetics on the Web.

    ~David D.G.

  • Neon Genesis

    Didn’t Jesus say in the bible that you only needed faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains anyway?

  • SteveC

    This is a line of thought I’ve been pushing for awhile. When the faithful person accuses the atheist of using faith too, there is an opportunity to make several points.

    1) It is probably not really true that the atheist is relying on faith, esp. if the ever popular canard is given, “you have faith that chair will hold you up!” (There’s plenty of evidence that chairs work, in if a chair creaks ominously, a chair inspection will likely follow, and possibly a switching of chairs, and if a chair collapses, one does not moan on, “Oh, if only I’d had more faith in the chair, maybe it would have held me up!”

    2) It indicates that the person knows there’s something wron with faith. After all, they are accusing you of using faith to arrive at a conclusion with which they disagree! Ah, so at least we can agree with them that faith doesn’t actually work.

    3) Make the observation that when faith doesn’t work, when someone has used faith but managed to arrive at a wrong conclusion, applying *more faith* to the problem will only make the problem worse, only make them more certain in their mistake. If you have arrived at an incorrect conclusion by faith, adding more faith will never correct the problem. From this it is obvious that using faith is not a smart way to figure out what’s true and what’s not.

    4) Note that faith is inherently and inescapably dishonest, because it involves deliberately lying to yourself about how certain you should be about some claim. That’s what faith is: stolen excess certainty.

  • Lurker

    I don’t have enough faith to say I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.

  • MH

    This comment like his previous comment on why people become atheists aren’t meant to be logical arguments. They’re an emotional appeal to those who already agree with him to make their beliefs seem reasonable.

    Countering it with logic is not likely to get much traction. Basically he’s preaching to the choir.

  • Matt D

    The whole “atheism requires faith” / “atheism is a religion” argument has always struck me as odd.

    David DG’s “identity theft” idea makes sense, but I can never work out why they do it. I suspect it’s really about trying to shift the burden of proof.

    Maybe as SteveC says, those with faith do actually know that there is something wrong with it.

    I guess the theist mind cant understand that while we do not believe in god, we dont hold that position with absolute, unshakeable “faith”.

    A reasoned mind must always be prepared to abandon old beliefs when new evidence contradicts said beliefs.

  • Matt D

    If nobody minds too much I want to hijack this thread for a bit.

    I’m feeling pretty Christmassy ATM and wanted to take a few lines to acknowledge the fantastic job Hemant does with this blog. Take a bow, man. Dont know how you find the time and maintain the passion.

    I’ve been a (almost) daily reader for most of this year and have learned a lot about myself and the world in which i live. Importantly, i feel a strong sense of connection to a bunch of like minded people from all over the world.

    Merry Xmas to Hemant, Jesse and Richard – may your cups runneth over this festive season.

    And a quick shout out to some of my favourite commenters (in no particular order):

    PrimeNumbers, Miko, Axegrrl, Lagunatic, TxAtheist, Jeff, Atheist Scumbag (for the funniest comment all year), Revylution and so many more that arent quite top of mind.

    Wherever you are, whomever you are with – have a safe and happy christmas. cheers, Matt D

  • Brian Macker

    Equivocation

  • Godfrey Zone

    I just love reading the logical and coherent responses here because most often my own response to such drivel and nonsense is a gaping stare, usually followed by a stifled giggle! And like David D.G. I feel thoroughly patronized by the religious folk who accuse scientists of following a religion of their own creation. I, for one, didn’t believe in Santa, fairies or God long before I had any idea that there was such a thing as science.

  • Peregrine

    I hate a lot of things about this clip. I hate that I had to sit through 4 minutes of Fox News to get the whole story. I hate that I had to boot up my Windows box just to watch it because the clip wouldn’t play in Linux for some reason.

    But mostly, I hate that showing the story out of context like that, where a principal stops school celebrations of all holidays, completely out of context with hardly any background, or bothering to ask the principal for his side of it, almost, just about, has me inching over to their side.

    The only thing stopping me is realizing that it is Fox News, it is completely one sided and out of context, and that it’s for no other reason but to give Rick Warren air time to dump on atheists.

    Why did the principal ban holiday celebrations? I know, I’m Canadian, you guys have the establishment clause, and we don’t, but I don’t really friggin’ care if the school celebrates Christmas or not. Is the principal even an atheist? Or are they just using that angle to drag us into it?

    It could very well be that Muslim or Jewish students wanted to do something for their holidays, and the school was all for it until some uppity Fundie Christian parents said “No child of mine is going to participate in that”, and the principal said “fine, then all holidays are out.” That’s a distinct possibility, and if that’s the case, I’d gladly take his side. But from this clip, we have no way to know, and it’s too late in the evening to bother Googling around to find out. And schools are notoriously silent on these things anyway, preferring to ride out the controversy for legal reasons than to let their employees speak up for themselves, that we won’t know the full story until nobody cares anymore.

    Poking fun at Rick Warren for drudging up old tired cliches is one thing. And maybe we’re right to dwell on that, because the rest is a non-story blown out of proportion with no background and no context. But I’d like to know some background before I decide who to side with, and I can’t stand to watch enough Fox News to find it.

    Then again, maybe there are no sides. And maybe the only appropriate response is to ignore their manipulation, refuse to play their game, and dwell instead on the stupid old cliches.

    OK, that’s my rant. I was about due for one. Carry on.

  • JD

    consider that he’s suggesting that there actually is a limit to faith, after which it’s a bad thing

    That’s not what he said at all, and its a fairly convoluted misreading to assert that he did.

    He said I don’t have enough faith. He was “admitting” that atheists have more faith than he does. It was a tongue-in-cheek “compliment” that has nothing to do with the value of faith, nor the value of “more of it.”

  • Karen

    Man, that clip ought to be in the dictionary next to the definition of “pompous blowhards.”

    So much wrong with that I don’t know where to start.

  • Revyloution

    Thanks for the shout out Matt D. Have a Merry Solstice and a Happy New Annual Orbit Returning to the Same Arbitrary Location In Our Planets Orbit. Please tell us what the funniest comment of the year was!

    As for Rick Warren, I think he is one of those guys who are in it for the money. His entire demeanor seems like the snake oil salesman circa 2009. I really doubt he buys into the crap he’s shilling.

    On a complete tangent, I think David D.G. always has quite pithy and astute comments. It must be the hat.

  • jesavius

    Gosh, that cliché burns my britches! It doesn’t take faith to be an atheist just the complete lack of it, as we all here know.

    I abhor when debating a xtian when they pull out that cliché. It’s usually after I inform them that I can’t prove a negative. Give them an example of them proving that their faith is true by empirically having a woman become pregnant without any method of insemination or someone resurrecting after three days of being pronounced deceased by a coroner.

    But they just can’t fathom an atheist is an individual who lacks faith not because they have so much of it.

    Personally the reason I never became religious is faith to me is a cop out and utter disregard of accountability. The scientific method is designed not to cop out and be fully accountable due to you must replicate your results and someone independent of you and later someone biased against your opinions must also be able to replicate your results WITHOUT FAIL!

    No one has faith that their car will turn on and get them to work if they have enough gas for the trip and followed their advised maintenance schedule. They KNOW their car will turn on and get them to work when they turn the key in the ignition.

    NO ONE knows if their is an afterlife, if a man named Jesus of Nazareth existed, or of Joseph Smith transcribe the reformed Egyptian from golden plates to produce the book of Mormon. If the Rick Warrens of the world knew this for a fact as Rick Warren knows that the check Fox is paying him for this appearance will clear midnight after fulfilling his appearance in this segment we would be a theocracy and not democracy. But because they can’t replicate the miracles in the bible and Jesus’ second coming still hasn’t happened, sorry, christians have more faith by default.

  • Marcus

    I simply can’t sit through this video. Fox news + Rick Warren = Vomiting.

  • yet again, ignorant people on fox news pushing rubbish and lining their pockets.

    faith, for theists, only works if it’s their’s. if it’s someone else’s, it’s nonsense.

  • He’s only stealing that line to begin with (it’s a book written by Norman Geisler). Furthermore it’s a common tactic of religionists to brand atheism as a faith/religion in their attempt to demean us, given our disdain for both.

  • mirele

    “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.”

    I first heard that nearly three decades ago from Tom Philpott, a professor at my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. Unlike Rick Warren, who tosses this off in a glib fashion, I knew that for Tom, this was something he’d struggled over and had never really reconciled in his head (i.e., belief and unbelief struggled together in him).

    Until I read Warren’s glib remark, I hadn’t thought about Tom in years. There’s a reason for that: he committed suicide in 1991 at the age of 49. He was faced with not being able to teach ever again due to illness and I think it was unbearable to him. He lived for teaching and for connecting with students. I’d since gone on to law school and beyond, but when I heard about his tragic end, I was deeply saddened.

    Thanks so much, Rick Warren, for cheapening the memory of a man who was much more thoughtful–and conflicted–than you’ll ever be.

  • muggle

    Cool! The world’s catching up to me. I’ve been celebrating Happy Winter! for 20 years. (I’ve never been keen on the Solstice stuff since it’s a pagan religious festival and I shun religion. Yes, I know it’s stolen from them but, seriously, Atheists pretending to celebrate it somehow seems silly and hypocritical.) I wish this were my grandson’s school but, so far, his has been benign and secular. And I’m good with that.

    Rick Warren’s just once again proving himself to be a horse’s ass. Open mouth, insert foot. Yeah, it takes more faith to not believe fairy tales than believe them? Riiight. I guess you feel that way about Jack and the Beanstalk too.

    I’ll second Matt D’s post and add that I wonder how you pull it off, Hemant. I’ve just left yet another blog because they keep feeding the trolls and it’s deterioated to squabbling. It seems most forums fall prey to this in the name of free speech. Whatever your anti-troll magic is: keep it up. This is a great blog and I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it a good long time. I think one trick is that — and here Jesse and Richard’s help is invaluable — you keep it moving but I’ve seen others that blog every day fall prey so however you manage it, I’m glad.

    HAPPY WINTER EVERYONE!!!

  • Casimir

    That’s not what he said at all, and its a fairly convoluted misreading to assert that he did.

    He said I don’t have enough faith. He was “admitting” that atheists have more faith than he does. It was a tongue-in-cheek “compliment” that has nothing to do with the value of faith, nor the value of “more of it.”

    1) It obviously wasn’t meant to be complimentary.

    2) It ends up belittling faith in the expense of making a snide remark.

    He’s trying to paint atheism as unreasonable, and religion as reasonable. He brings up the watchmaker argument as a way to imply there’s good evidence for God (reasonable since there’s evidence), and that there’s no evidence that “something came from nothing” (unreasonable since there’s no evidence)*.

    This paints faith as a bad thing. If you have “too much faith”, you’re believing things either without evidence or contrary to evidence. Obviously Warren hasn’t thought this through the whole way.

    * Which is not true. Something comes from nothing all the time.

  • JD

    1) It obviously wasn’t meant to be complimentary.

    2) It ends up belittling faith in the expense of making a snide remark.

    1) Look up the definition of “tongue in cheek.”

    2) It doesn’t “belittle faith” to say that something requires “more” faith. For example, it does not belittle faith to say someone has “more faith than I do” if they think Tampa Bay is going to make it to the Super Bowl this year.

    This paints faith as a bad thing. If you have “too much faith”, you’re believing things either without evidence or contrary to evidence.

    Again, that’s not what he said. What such a statement does do is highlight the fact that those who have those beliefs also have faith, despite their assertions that they are “faithless.”

    Critics routinely “paint faith” as a bad thing. All Warren is doing is saying that they, too, have faith. That is not the same as saying faith is a “bad thing.”

  • CB

    This is slightly off-topic, but I’d like to thank David D.G. for linking to Deacon Duncan’s blog. It’s excellent. 🙂

  • Casimir

    1) Look up the definition of “tongue in cheek.”

    I know the definition of “tongue in cheek”. Don’t patronize me. We both seem to be in agreement that it was a sarcastic jibe at atheists, there’s no call for you to give me a “Look it up” response.

    And that’s exactly what he said. He wasn’t talking about football, I pointed out the context, including the watchmaker argument he made.

    He was trying to demean atheists by saying they have more faith. “Having more faith” by necessity must be a bad thing, otherwise it’s not an insult.
    He’s making a juvenile remark, and in order to make it he has to make a statement that affirms that faith is not good. I know he doesn’t think faith is bad, he just didn’t think it through because he was trying to be cute.

    What such a statement does do is highlight the fact that those who have those beliefs also have faith…

    I hope you realize that’s not a fact.

  • David D.G.

    Matt D wrote:

    I’m feeling pretty Christmassy ATM and wanted to take a few lines to acknowledge the fantastic job Hemant does with this blog. Take a bow, man. Dont know how you find the time and maintain the passion.

    Enthusiastically seconded! Friendly Atheist is consistently one of the best and most active blogs that I read.

    Revylution wrote:

    On a complete tangent, I think David D.G. always has quite pithy and astute comments. It must be the hat.

    Thank you! And, yes, it is the hat. ;^D

    ~David D.G.

  • Translation of Rick Warren’s verbal diarrhea (and blondie too) “I can’t be prejudiced against other religions. I have Jewish and Muslim friends and I celebrate their holidays with them”

    Question for ya Rick. How would you feel if the Jewish kids in your kid’s school celebrated Hanukkah with the school’s approval but ignored Christmas? I’d be willing to be my last dime that you’d pitch a hissy fit.

    PS That’s what always happened at my schools growing up (except the school supported Christmas and ignored Hanukkah).

  • Captain Werewolf

    One thing that I don’t think gets pointed out enough is how, even on a Fox News show that’s obviously pandering to the Religious Right ™, the hosts, and Warren himself, have to play the progressive card to prevent themselves from looking nuts. The whole “educators should educate,” “we should all enjoy each other’s holy days,” etc. just shows that they are no longer allowed to just say “This is a Christian country,” “Christ is the Reason for the Season” or whatever. At least in America (and I would say most other places, too), the overwhelming trend in any long enough chunk of time is a progressivization (yeah, I make up words) of religion. That they are trying to co-opt the language and vocabulary of science and tolerance (secular values) is a victory. That they are trying to reframe the debate from Christians vs. Non-Christians to Religion vs. Religion-Haters is a good sign.

  • You know, I never thought of that response before (to suggest that the apologist sees something wrong with faith). I’ve had this discussion with my mom (a big Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh fan) at least twice. When she brings it up (inevitably) again over Christmas, I’ll turn it back around on her and ask her what’s wrong, from the Christian perspective, with having more faith.

  • Tony

    For anyone wondering what the full story is:

    Principal Brown says Jehovah’s Witnesses are a big part of their school. They find secular Christmas decorations like Santa offensive distractions from Christ. Other parents agree.
    “It’s ridiculous,” said Lisa Enwerem, who attended a student awards ceremony Monday. “There is separation of church and state, and this is a public school.”

    http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local-beat/Waterbury-Principal-Under-Fire-Over-Christmas-Spirit-78764117.html

    So he’s not allowing overt symbols of secular christmas out of (misplaced in my book) respect for a wacky and insane cult someone’s deeply held religious beliefs, but he’s being sucked into the “war on christmas” schtick that Faux News pull out every Saturnalia.

  • Peregrine

    Thanks, Tony. That’s interesting.

    So Fox News, and Rick Warren, are taking atheists to task for waging a war on Christmas, because a principal decided to downplay Christmas celebrations to appease… Christians.

  • Tony

    Yes but anyone who doesn’t adhere to MY brand of christianity is a heretic and is going to HELL!

    There are more christians than there are people of any other religion, or so say protestant fundamentalists when justifying why their insane dogma is the TRUE insane dogma. But they also think that Catholics don’t count as christians because they worship Mary and the pope!

  • toddh

    “NO ONE knows if their [sic] is an afterlife, if a man named Jesus of Nazareth existed, or of Joseph Smith transcribe [sic] the reformed Egyptian from golden plates to produce the book of Mormon.”

    I’m not sure if there is such a thing as an atom, or stellar red-shift, or a lot of other things for that matter. I have to take it on faith that those things exist. Other people may have seen or experienced them, but I haven’t. I trust and put my faith in physicists that they are real and that their effects can be observed. As a matter of fact, there are too many things in this world for me to research or experience on my own. All that I have is faith in order to believe that they are real. 🙂

  • AxeGrrl

    Matt D wrote:

    I’m feeling pretty Christmassy ATM and wanted to take a few lines to acknowledge the fantastic job Hemant does with this blog. Take a bow, man. Dont know how you find the time and maintain the passion.

    I’ve been a (almost) daily reader for most of this year and have learned a lot about myself and the world in which i live. Importantly, i feel a strong sense of connection to a bunch of like minded people from all over the world.

    I want to give a big festive “ditto” to the above 🙂

    Hemant, as Matt has already expressed, you should be really proud ~ respectful, passionate and vibrant blogs/forums are soooo few and far between, and this one stands out among all the boards I’ve frequented over the years….so thank you 🙂

    and thanks for the shout out Matt D 🙂

    and as for Rick Warren……

    the first thing I think of when I think of him is how I’d like to wipe that smarmy/phony/condescending “smile” off of his face. So much of his ‘appeal’ seems to be the fact that he’s so ‘friendly’…..it boggles my mind that some people actually believe it, given the bigoted and disingenuous pap he spews.