Time and again theists present atheism as a ‘belief’ – reflecting the necessary ‘faith’ of their own standpoint. Aside from Sam Harris’s excellent point (‘Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, ‘atheist’ is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a ‘non astrologer’ or a ‘non-alchemist’.’), this raises a number of very important points.
1. Knowledge and ignorance. Atheists don’t have to ‘believe’, we know – including that we don’t know many things. We find it more comforting to know that logical, plausible explanations exist, even if we don’t know what they are, or never will, than simply believing invented explanations or inventing some ourselves. (This is what Freud called the desire to ‘get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world’; we want to know how things work, so, in the absence of obvious rational explanations, we have a tendency to invent irrational ones.) One might also quote Russell: ‘What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.’
2. Arrogance. We simply don’t know exactly how the universe or life came into being; it strikes me as supreme human arrogance that we should expect to know, and supreme human stupidity that we should expect to understand. Why should we know these things? Theists choose to interpret nature as evidence for a concept made up thousands of years ago by ignorant men; that does not qualify as evidence of God, simply as evidence of a belief in God and the urge to cling to this belief, warping nature (i.e. reality) to fit ones deluded and delusional worldview.
[see also my discussion of the ‘teleological’ argument, http://atheistprinciples.tripod.com/discussions.htm#transcendental
3. The difference between knowledge and belief: the latter is based upon an assumption that is necessarily groundless. If there were evidence, one would not need to assume or believe. Theists assume that God exists, taking this assumption as the starting point of their worldview. Atheists know that none of the traditional religions can be accurate and assume that there is no higher force, because there is no evidence of one. This is a reasonable standpoint, the theist’s is not.