Everybody, including atheists, has faith because everybody, including atheists, assents to the truth of many things based solely on testimony from others. We know the time and place of our birth because we assent to the testimony of our parents and/or the person(s) who filled out our birth certificate. … We know most of what we know about science because we assent to the testimony of the scientists who write the science textbooks. There’s not a scientist alive who has personally carried out and personally verified every scientific experiment ever done to confirm every theory and law that he knows is true. They and we know these things because we believe the testimony of the science textbooks we read or the science professors who told us these things.
Many atheists and skeptics pit faith and reason against each other as if a person who has faith does not use his reason and a person who uses his reason will not need faith. When the New Atheists were all the rage, they made a cottage industry out of pitting the two against each other.
Richard Dawkins, this generation’s most famous atheist, repeatedly made such assertions. Faith, he asserts, is “blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence” (The Selfish Gene, p. 212). Elsewhere he writes, “[F]aith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument” (The God Delusion, p. 308). In an article in The Humanist, he states, “Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion” (“Is Science a Religion?”). In a 1992 speech, he said, “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence” (From a speech at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, April 15, 1992). Finally, “[Faith] is a state of mind that leads people to believe something – it doesn’t matter what – in the total absence of supporting evidence. If there were good supporting evidence, then faith would be superfluous, for the evidence would compel us to believe it anyway” (The Selfish Gene, p. 330).
Dawkins is not alone. Sam Harris, another of the New Atheists, put it this way, “It is time that we admitted that faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail” (Letter to a Christian Nation, p. 67). The late Christopher Hitchens, who among the New Atheists at least had the advantage of knowing how to write well, added his two cents, saying: “Faith is the surrender of the mind, it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other animals. It’s our need to believe and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. . . . Out of all the virtues, all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated” (comments made on Penn and Teller television show).