In any discussion between atheists and theists, at some point, the subject of faith will arise. Generally, theists depict atheism as being an athenema to faith. This can come in two flavors, either 1) atheists have faith in nothing, and this is bad; or 2) atheists do have faith in other things, which contradicts their atheism. Alternatively, but perhaps less commonly, atheism is depicted as requiring more faith than theism, which is an odd stance, given that religions generally place value on faith, suggesting that atheism, with its higher level of faith, is better than theism. Atheism, of course, is not an athenema to faith, but before we get into that, we should clarify what is meant by faith.
- confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
- belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
- belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
- belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
- a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
Now, obviously atheists don't have faith in the sense of #3 or #5. Also, #1 and #4 are trivial. This leaves us with #2: belief that is not based on proof. Now, sometimes this is rendered as: belief that is not based one evidence. In short, blind faith. This brings me to my first point:
Regardless, it doesn't exist. It doesn't exist because if it did, no one would be able to lose faith. If faith is not based on anything (such as evidence or reason), then there is no foundation which can be altered in which a person could lose it. The existence or lack of faith would either be completely random or at the whim of the person who has it. Yet a loss of faith is in response to some event or discovery. Some new fact a person is exposed to that alters their world view, thus underminding what their faith is based on, causing them to lose it.
The presumption of blind faith arises from the fact that we are not always conscious of the grounds on which our beliefs rest, nor are we always able to articulate those that we are conscious of. Blind faith, then, is an illusion.
So what is faith, then? Faith is what bridges the gap between the evidence we have and a conclusion. And we have faith in a great deal of things. In fact, given certain strict restrictions placed on epistemology, some might say everything we believe is a matter of faith.
Faith in Humanity
That's not to say that we won't suffer some sort of apocalyptic fate. (At least one that is avoidable). But I think we should operate with the faith that we will not suffer such an end. Why? If you've ever watched the TV show House, you may remember that, occasionally, they'll come to an impasse when diagnosing an illness. It could be one of two things, but they don't have time to determine which. What do they do? Treat for the second! Why? Because the first disease is invariablly terminal without any sort of treatment, but the second has a cure. But it may be the first! So? If it's the first nothing we do matters. If it's the second, then we can stop it, but only if we act quickly. So, we treat it as though it is the second, our actions may be in vain, but they are the only actions capable of yielding a positive outcome. Likewise, if we are inevitably doomed, then nothing we do matters, but if we aren't, then we should act as if we aren't, as to help increase the likelihood that such a fate is avoided.
This second point could be summarized by the statment: "The Truth will out." That is, whatever the truth is, it will eventually come to light. The arguments between atheism and theism are hundreds and thousands of years old. And yet both stances exist. This situation can make arguing for either side an apparent exercise in futility. Each will believe what they will despite any evidence or reason to the contrary. The status of atheism and theism is carried upon the winds of politics, not philosophy.