Which brings us right along to the second counterclaim; that is, that one must have faith in atheism, as one must have faith in any idea that one holds to be true.Let me start by engaging in the very behavior inline with the behaviors I intended to criticize with my post on faith. I'm aware of the hypocrisy, but as it also serves the purpose of an example I'm doing it anyway:
The error this statement commits should now be obvious to you. This is a blatant attempt to use the wrong definition of faith. Clearly, yes, one must have confidence in the efficacy and truth of one’s ideas as a matter of course in holding them to be true. This much is a tautology. But the definition of faith that one would commonly understand to be the one in use when discussing religious issues is the confidence due to authority or testimony and a belief that is not based on truth.
To use any other definition of faith, explicitly or implicitly, is to not only miss the point, but is also to derail the discussion from productivity to mere point-and-counterpoint semantic quibbling.
He starts this section by putting forth a counterclaim that begins "one must have faith in atheism" after not long before stating that atheism is a non-belief and cannot be the recipient of faith. Then asserts is a blatant attempt to use the wrong definition of faith.
However, it's actually a misuse of the term atheism. It is the norm, not the exception that anti-theists (those that believe there is no god) refer to themselves as atheists. While technically incorrect, those who simply lack belief in a god and lack belief in no god refer to themselves as agnostic more often than as atheist. I suspect this is because anti-theism doesn't flow off of the tongue very well and the actual atheists would rather misuse the term agnostic than be associated with anti-theists.
What I just did was ignore his argument and respond to his use of terms. This is common behavior among atheists (or anti-theists) when someone makes the implication that an atheist exercises faith. I criticize this tactic because it ends the discussion where the presenter of the argument is misunderstood and stops in frustration, and the term-jockey feels he won the argument because he used the terms more correctly.
I criticize this because it serves no purpose other than to fuel the term-jockey's ego. If the goal of entering the discussion with the religious is solely to stroke ones own ego, that makes you an ass. The misguided religious at least can lay a claim to entering the discussion with the noble goal of trying to save someone's soul.
To dismiss the views of the under-educated on the basis of terminology, particularly when the dismisser is supposedly so intelligent, is to do yourself an injustice. Just because your debate opponent doesn't use the term you would use to make the same point doesn't mean the point is invalid - particularly when you're smart enough to recognize the point. To me, if you know what the person meant - if you know which terms were used wrong and which the person should have used instead, and then choose to ignore the point they were trying to make and argue terminology - you're admitting their point is valid. You attack the terminology because you can't redress the point they were trying to make.
I can, and will, address the point Robert was trying to make:
But the definition of faith that one would commonly understand to be the one in use when discussing religious issues is the confidence due to authority or testimony and a belief that is not based on truth.This is a false assumption, unless you are very particular about how you define who "one" is. First off, the religious wouldn't commonly understand to the term faith to be indicative of a belief that is not based on truth, as their usage of faith indicates they believe it to be based on truth.
Secondly, an atheist can't use that definition of faith either - as believing the existence of God is an untruth is to believe that no God exists, pushing them out of Robert's own definition of atheism and into anti-theism.
If you chop off the truth part - possibly replacing it with evidence, I can start to accept that definition of faith for the purposes of discussion. Even then, there's evidence that Jesus of Nazareth did in fact exist, or at least evidence that points in that direction. So, to include belief that is not based on evidence is pretty flimsy as well. Best to chop off everything after testimony - limiting faith to confidence due to authority or testimony - also known as the ability to accept secondhand data as accurate.
In which case, the person making the claim meant anti-theism rather than atheism, and at least a fair share of atheists balking at the claim should recognize the person's intended meaning rather than "derail the discussion from productivity to mere point-and-counterpoint semantic quibbling."