I did a little rant a while back about the smug assertion that “it takes faith to be an atheist,” but now I think I’ve come up with a polite(ish) response:
“Well, I wouldn’t call it ‘faith’ — more like ‘confidence’ — but yeah, you’re right. It does take a certain something to go through life without picking a religion and its attendant afterlife to look forward to.
“Maybe that’s why I like to play the lottery — I’m probably not going to win, but it’s fun to fantasize about the cool life I could have if I did win, and having a tiny chance of having it happen makes the fantasizing more fun than if I didn’t buy a ticket and had no chance at all.
“Of course, buying lottery tickets is a choice, while believing in a deity or an afterlife is not, so I can’t really just take up Pascal on his famous wager and choose to believe.
“It’s definitely not for everyone. It can be tough to go through life relying only on yourself and other humans, having to face up to challenges by just tackling them, rather than telling yourself some story about how God won’t give you anything that’s too big to handle.
“And when a loved one dies, it would be nice to be able to revert to those warm-and-fuzzy childhood feelings about Nana sitting on a cloud looking down like in “Family Circus.” It can be difficult to put away those things.
“So yeah, it definitely takes something to be an atheist, but I wouldn’t exactly call it faith.”
(pic — and lots of other good philosophy stuff — at Gloucester County College)