I recently started a dialogue with my former pastor and wanted some input from you.  He claims that I still live by faith in science and materialism.  We clearly have a different definition of "faith."  I was wondering what your all think how the Christian's definition of "faith" differs from the skeptic's.  

Here are some snippets of our conversation.   

You believe by faith that the universe came from nothing....You are taking it by faith that it [the creation of the universe] just happened.....I don't have enough faith to believe that it just happened like that...You believe that life developed out of some primordial soup that ripened (again by 

random chance) to the point of producing amino acids, proteins, etc., and eventually 

life.4 Yet this belief cannot be verified scientifically and must be taken by faith....

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You could argue that there is sufficient reason such as evidence to assume (for all practical purposes) as true the concept of evolution, big bang, materialism which is not the same as belief which is to hold a position in spite of evidence to the contrary or a complete lack of evidence.
First of all, it's not "faith" in science, but a reasoned trust in an admittedly complex field of study which is well-corroborated and developing more substance with every day. You don't have to "have faith" in either evolution or the Big Bang theory to trust the process which gives rise to these theories.

By comparison, the bible has NONE OF THAT: no second source, no mechanism for proof, and indeed is self-contradictory in numerous places, not to mention fits of violence and misogyny.
Well if you 'believe' science is correct the main difference is you should no longer be using faith at all. Faith should be replaced with reasonable doubt of all concepts. Science is not about believing things it's about testing and questioning things. Testing everything over and over again because you want to learn more. Your new 'belief' should be that each idea is nothing more than that- a human idea that needs to be tested until the end of humanity.

You DON'T believe by faith that the universe came from nothing but rather by observable evidence. The point of faith is you need no evidence and that searching for knowledge is evil in of itself- remember Eve eating of the tree of knowledge? Your former paster comments are an incomplete and over simplification of scientific principles. Faith is the fear of knowledge and the desire to escape the mental exercise it takes to constantly re-assess everything in the world and our place in it. Faith is the lazy way out but also more comforting than the truth. Many people can't face a world where what they NEED to believe isn't more important than what actually is true.

The fundamental difference is the naughty thing to do in faith is question, science however is the opposite- the naughty behavior is NOT to question. You cannot have faith and questioning at the same time.
Phil, I can't speak for you, but this is the answer I would give:

I consider myself to be an agnostic and an atheist. When I say I am agnostic, I mean that, at this point in time, I don't think it is possible to know with certainty whether or not there is a deity. At the same time, I don't find there to be sufficient evidence to support the claim that a deity exists and, therefore, I am an atheist. I don't claim that no deity exists, I only propose that there is not sufficient justification to assert that one does exist.

In regards to the formation of the universe, we don't yet have enough information to say with any high level of confidence how it came about. We have a mountain of evidence for the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and for the Big Bang Theory. At this point, we don't have enough information to conclusively say what caused the Big Bang or how exactly life formed.

As for faith in science, I guess that depends on what you mean by the word "faith". My Webster's dictionary has the following definitions for faith:

1) confidence or trust in a person or thing
2) belief that is not based on logical proof or material evidence
3) a system of religious beliefs

Using definition #1, you could reasonably assert that I have faith in science. However, it would be incorrect to say that I have faith using definitions 2 and 3. I do have confidence in science and so do you. Everytime you use a computer, go to the doctor, or get on an airplane, you are putting faith in science. If your TV breaks, you can pray that it’ll spontaneously start working again, but my money would be on someone who has learned how to actually fix it based on scientific and engineering principles.

Science is based on evidence. When a discovery is made, it is scrutinized in an independent peer review. If a finding isn't testable and/or repeatable, then it is rejected. Furthermore, faith in a particular scientific theory is not unwavering. When there is compelling evidence that contradicts the established theory, more research is done and the theory is either altered or abandoned. Compare this to religion, where the claims are often expected to be believed based solely on non-contemporary second-hand testimony recorded in books that were translated into different languages and altered in places by scribes.
I don't discuss or debate anything with people who start out by telling me what I believe. They obviously don't need me there to have the discussion, so I don't waste my time.
As for those specific points, we don't know if there ever was nothing, we don't even know if nothing is actually possible (some will tell you that nothingness is unstable). And if life began with non-living physical and chemical processes, it would be governed by the laws of physics and chemistry, and not be random at all.
In science, you are allowed to say "I don't know." Because the answers weren't written in a book 2000 or 4000 years ago, and you don't get to make stuff up and believe it. Either you have evidence that backs a theory, or you don't know and you're still working on it. Faith is not required.
This reply is great, feralboy12. It hits the nail on the head, so to speak. The pastor fellow mentioned in the OP does not know what the present state of science actually is.
The scientific method is the opposite of faith. Demanding evidence and a sensible, logical explanation of plausible mechanisms is in no way faith. It irritates me to no end when religious people accuse scientific people of just engaging in a different kind of faith. The rejection of faith, the utter absence of faith, cannot be a kind of faith. The absence of bananas is not a kind of banana. It is grasping at straws to propose otherwise. The really weird thing about this argument is that the religious who employ it are basically trying to tear science down to their level, as in, "Well, science is no better than religion." What kind of claim is that? "Sure, we suck, but so do you guys." Very grade-school.




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