How Large is the Leap of Faith?

Faith is belief, a confidence, a trust lacking absolute proof. If a belief is proven—absolutely, in scientific terms—there is no need or cause for faith, only consent.

I asked an atheist friend the other day, “What is a reasonable degree of faith before belief becomes unreasonable?”

He said, “All faith is unreasonable. That’s why I’m an atheist.”

It’s a fair answer—noble and high-minded, in fact. Never mind that it is irrational and implausible.

Human beings—every, single, solitary one of us—lives by faith. Drinking a glass of water from the tap is an exercise in faith. Each swallow is ingested with a belief that the water department is doing their due diligence. There’s the faith that the other driver is paying attention. Faith that the dining room chair is still sturdy. Faith that the chicken breast at the grocery wasn’t thawed and refrozen. On it goes.

The charge of unbelief is that faith is irrational. As I said in another piece, it is so common to hear faith dismissed as silly that it seems a foregone conclusion. However, just because a whole bunch of people disparage faith doesn’t make them right. You can’t un-prove faith any more than you can prove faith. And furthermore, denying faith is akin to putting your hands over your eyes and concluding the sun didn’t come up.

That faith can’t be proven doesn’t logically dictate atheism. Atheists live by faith just like everybody else does.

In truth, one can argue atheistic belief is a more demanding faith than the faith Christians espouse. If divine intelligence didn’t superintend the super-chaos of the big bang, then an astounding degree of chance must be attributed to the profound order of our worlds. That’s a lot of faith, any way you cut it. And if you work the other direction while assuming the absence of divine design, from microorganisms toward complex organisms, then atheistic faith believes in the chance-ingenuity of proteins, bacteria, viruses, cells, and lots of other players to form a union, pay their dues, and develop the complexity of all that’s around us.

Faith is everywhere, it’s safe to say, and no amount of labor will secure absolute certainty of everything. We can’t escape this reality, but we can evaluate the extent of faith’s demands.

My atheist buddy says it’s irrational to believe. I say it’s unreasonable to adopt unbelief as though the denial of divine involvement makes the universe a certainty. To me, it’s more reasonable to simply inquire, How large is the leap called “belief?”

Next up: Faith can be plotted along a spectrum of belief. At one end of the spectrum is blind faith, at the other end is a tested, considered, and reasonable faith—the kind of faith required when you sit down in the dining chair at a friend’s house. Until then, how much faith is required to believe? Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed (half the size of a pencil eraser) was a monstrous amount of faith. If that’s a bunch, then how much is enough?