Argument from faith
An argument from faith asserts that we can know of the existence of God through faith. Even if it were true, this argument suffers from an obvious limitation: In order to accept the argument, one must already have accepted it.
- 1 Formal statement
- 2 Counter-arguments
- p1. Faith is a unique method of knowing.
- a) Nothing can be known for certain or proven from scratch.
- b) Instead we must rely on certain assumptions which we take on faith.
- c) Through faith one can know these truths that cannot otherwise be verified.
- p2. The existence of God cannot be determined except through faith.
- p3. I have faith in God.
- p1. Faith is a unique method of knowing.
- c1. God exists.
False premise p1a
The premise that nothing can be proven for certain or from scratch can be demonstrated as false when you consider 'I think therefore I am', mathematics and the 3 logical absolutes. You can prove to yourself that your mind exists in some possible form, and that 2 + 2 = 4 with absolute certainty. A simple yet sufficient answer to this premise is 'so what?'. Science does not work with absolute certainty on most subjects but is still demonstrably the best way to discover the world. For example, evolution is not proven absolutely, however close it may be.
Faith is not necessary in any other situation
Most skeptical atheists will probably reject the idea that faith is a way of knowing anything. The things which atheists supposedly assume, such as the reliability of the senses, are in fact generally not taken on faith in the same way as religious ideas are. For one, we are constantly bombarded with new evidence regarding the reliability of the senses, as each one confirms the others, and as new experiences prove to be consistent with old ones. The world could be Matrix-like or a dream, but Occam's razor recommends the straightforward explanation, which is that the world is what it appears to be and not an elaborate illusion created by unknown means. Furthermore, it is a practical necessity to live life based on the best information one has, even if it is not absolutely certain.
That said, even this acceptance is not absolute. Most people are willing to accept the possibility that illusions, hallucinations, or dreams may fool their senses, at least from time to time. This is in strong contrast to religious belief. Theists often feel such a strong loyalty towards their beliefs that they are unwilling to even confront the possibility that they might be wrong. What such people call "faith" is most certainly not a way of knowing that everyone relies upon.
- Main Article: Which god?
This argument for the existence of God doesn't specify anything about Him, except to say "He is the God I have faith in." Since many people have different ideas about what God is, they can "prove" to themselves the existence of Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, or any other deity with this argument. In fact, this is true of virtually every argument for the existence of God that is not explicitly based on a particular scripture.
Other ways of knowing God should be possible
An omnipotent God, or indeed one with any power great enough to make Him worthy of being called God, should be able to manifest in the physical world, do miracles, speak directly to human beings, and many other things. If He did, faith would be unnecessary, and this would seem to be a far more honest and straightforward way for him to interact with mankind. Since these things don't seem to be happening to people nowadays, the fact that we have to rely on faith to believe in him seems to be a reason to not believe that he really exists.
Faith is not reliable
This should be obvious to anyone who takes even a brief moment to think about the subject, but sometimes it must be stated aloud. Cult members and even conventionally religious people often have strong convictions that lead them to commit murder or suicide, even when their beliefs are demonstrably false. Different religions contradict one another, yet they are often based on similar degrees of faith. Clearly, having faith in something, however strong, does not make it to true, or even lend credibility to the concept. If you say that faith is the only way to determine whether god exists, as stated in p2, then you are out of gas, and more is required.
The atheist has no direct access to faith in God
By definition, no atheist has faith in God, and it is usually not possible to make yourself believe in just anything for just any arbitrary reason (although this is often what theists seem to be demanding when they require an atheist to have faith in God). As a result, no atheist has any way of evaluating this argument except by noting that other people have faith (in which case she will notice that faith is not a reliable source of knowledge).
In fact, this is a counter-productive argument to use on any kind of atheist. Since it insists that faith is the best or even only way of knowing God, it implies that anyone who cannot have faith should immediately give up on discovering anything about Him. It also encourages theists to give up on ever justifying their own beliefs with solid, objective evidence or reasoning that they could use to shore up their own faith or to convince others.
Self-justifying/circular nature of the argument
This argument is utterly unconvincing to anyone who does not already believe the conclusion. However, it does provide a way for believers to reaffirm their faith through circular reasoning (my faith in God is justified by my faith in God). This makes the argument effectively a defensive tactic, one which has no power to convince, but which becomes unassailable through sheer stubbornness. That is, an atheist confronted with someone who sincerely makes this argument may give up, simply because the theist in question appears totally unreachable through rational discussion.