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Faith: Simple Lessons for New Atheists
by Graham Veale
The “Unbelievable” Radio Show and Podcast is always worth listening to and last Saturday’s show was required listening for anyone who wants to understand the width, length and depth of the gap between popular culture and the Church. Dr. Peter Boghossian, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists, is both a rising star in the ranks of the New Atheists and a professional philosopher. So it was bewildering, and slightly disturbing, to hear such ill-informed nonsense from a man who should know better.
Professor Tim McGrew, a saint and a scholar of renown, ably challenged and easily dismantled Boghossian’s case; what stunned me was that Boghossian seemed to be encountering Professor McGrew’s counterarguments for the first time. On the show Boghossian defended two claims, one preposterous and the other slightly disturbing. First, he claimed that faith means “belief without evidence”; second, he compared faith to a mental virus which needs to be contained and eliminated.
Let’s examine Boghossian’s claims:
1) Does “faith” mean belief without evidence? Perhaps some might mean something like this when they use the term derisively. Some atheists, for example, might believe that there is no convincing evidence for any religion. Therefore, they could consider all “faith” to be irrational and use the word pejoratively. However, this is not the standard meaning of the term and it is certainly not what Christians mean by “faith”.
2) Curiously, Boghossian based his definition of faith on how he believes others use the term when he discusses religion with them. This is very odd; he does not appeal to, and does not appear to have consulted theologians, lexicographers, social scientists or philosophers. His belief in the true definition of faith depends on his personal interpretation of how others use the term; his definition is not based on evidence. By his own reasoning, Boghossian’s definition of faith is an act of blind faith and should be abandoned…