Today we find an editorial response to the news item discussed in my last entry about Jacksonville's “Day of Faith. This letter by Linn W. Howard was published today under the heading, “Religion: All are people of faith.”
As a former resident of Jacksonville and now a Presbyterian minister serving in Pittsburgh, Pa., I was sad to see that the city of Jacksonville paid $5,000 to American Atheists, Inc. The city of Jacksonville and our nation would be better served if we would recognize that all of us are people of faith.
The nonbeliever and the believer both make faith decisions about the multitude of unknowns in our world as they establish a framework for living their lives. The scientific community is full of men and women of faith. Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, has written a fascinating book, The Language of God, in which he outlines his journey from being an atheist scientist to a scientist of faith. Even if you disagree with his faith decision after reading this book, you will more fully understand that all people are "people of faith."
I commend Mayor John Peyton and the leaders of the city of Jacksonville for their intellectual, social, civil and community integrity for calling together the whole community, with people of all faiths, in order to respond to the growing homicide rate in the city.
It is time that we call the bluff of those who are atheists and refuse to give in to their claim that they are people of "no faith." This is a simple lie they are using for their advantage over every other citizen in the United States.
Ms. Howard presents the tired argument that atheists have faith, but her attempts to justify this claim are particularly feeble. Instead of showing how an atheist might have faith, she shows that some scientists are not atheists! She says that the scientific community is full of people of faith, which is partially true. At the lower levels, it's not much different from society in general in levels of religiosity, but the higher and more distinguished a level you examine, the less faith you find. Citing one famous scientist's faith proves nothing. I haven't read Collins' book, but I read in a review that it was the sight of a waterfall that convinced him of the truth of the Christianity. That is indeed faith and of no interest to those of us who seek reasons for our beliefs. In the end, Ms. Howard has nothing but an unsupported argument.
The final paragraph is particularly infuriating. First, Ms. Howard accuses atheists of being liars. This professed Christian isn't even charitable enough to give atheists the benefit of the doubt and say we are mistaken. Rather she presumes to know our minds and our moral choices. There is no other group in the United States which it is acceptable to publicly insult in this manner without considerable backlash. Second, Ms. Howard states that atheists have some advantage by claiming not to believe, but this is absurd. She doesn't support her claim at all and the previous insult itself demonstrates the considerable disadvantages we face in living in bigoted American society.