Well, there seems to be a new one every week, a Christian who claims atheism is a kind of faith. So let's parse this nonsense and explain again the chasm of distinction between belief and non-belief. (You'd think it would be so obvious they aren't the same thing, but you'd be surprised.)
Irish Times Op-Ed writer Breda O'Brien claims
Atheists often appeal to science to underwrite their disbelief, but the decision not to believe in God lies ultimately in the arena of gut feeling, or hunch, or intuition. That decision is something that the scientific method cannot arbitrate on.Oh, I see. So it's just a "gut feeling". Well, that is a good description of faith - an ultimately emotionally driven institution. When I believed I did so because I'd been indoctrinated as a child, and then later on as a young adult, because I desperately wanted it to be true. There was no evidence, no proof, no real good logical defense for my belief. I just felt it; I felt such certainty I thought I knew it was true, although if you'd asked me why I'd have been pressed to defend my belief. I probably would've have said it was a matter of faith, if forced to have such a conversation at all. I certainly would not have presumed to understand atheism.
The author goes on to assert that
The decision to live as if there isn’t a god requires a leap of faith, as does the decision to live as if there is. Religious people and atheists have a great deal in common. And now that Irish atheists are banding together, planning good works and hoping to influence Irish society, it looks more and more like a religion.Because after all, sleeping in on Sunday morning requires so much investment! Seriously though, saying "I don't know, but there's no real evidence" doesn't require faith. Saying, "I know there's a God, and I know what he wants, and he wants me to worship him"? That requires faith. Undoubtedly. Can you see how those are not truly equivalent though? Stating a positive claim ("There is a god") asserts that something is true. And, as Tracy often says on The Atheist Experience, "Things which exist manifest in reality." Since there are NO manifestations of a supernatural all-powerful deity in our reality (zip, zero, zilch, nada, nein, none), disbelief seems only rational. It is not the same as asserting the positive claim "There is NO god". Lack of evidence is not necessarily evidence of lack. But I have to say it seems more likely to me.
That said, although I blog about it regularly here and on Atheist Nexus, I'm not so invested in my atheism I'd be unwilling to chance my stance. If I was presented with sufficient evidence, I would discontinue my disbelief, and have to accept the existence of whatever deity was proven. (Whether or not I'd worship a god would be entirely dependent on the character, attributes, and actions of said deity.) It is rather rich of the author to try to hijack secular good works as making atheism "more and more like religion". That might be a more valid argument to make if atheists were say, depriving their children of medical care or killing them for demon possession. Those actions really are more and more like religion.
Our author now claims to have many atheist friends. This gives me de ja vu thinking of racists who always preface their comments with, "One of my best friends is black!" In quoting an atheist friend, the author misrepresents Richard Dawkins by suggesting
Dawkins takes the Bible as literally as any Protestant fundamentalist. The only point of disagreement is that Dawkins finds it unreliable about science, whereas fundamentalists do not.This is categorically false. What Dawkins does do is illustrate through a literalist, non-apologist reading of the Bible (which is what your typical American non-theologically trained Christian will do) that if the character of Yawhew was real, He'd be a right immoral prick. The quote she is almost certainly referring to is from The God Delusion
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.And you know what? He's got a really valid point going on here. (See my comment above re: Even if a god exists, it might not be worthy of so abject a thing as worship.)
The author next claims new atheists don't care about the poor, human rights, or justice, and that we are instead content to blame everything that's wrong in the world on religion. (Join Atheist Nexus on Kiva, as the largest "religious group" micro-lender!) Finally, religious atrocities are brushed aside as nothing more than a "dark side" of this era, and in no way actually the responsibility of organized religion. As a closing (clumsy) shot the author quips
With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma !, the atheist and religious person can be friends.Well yes, obviously. I don't know a single atheist who doesn't have at least some theist friends. In this country for instance, over 80% of the population claims to be a follower of some kind of faith. The question isn't whether or not atheists can be friends with religious people. The question should be, why on earth would they want to be friends with Breda O'Brien?