Religious believers like to say that agnosticism or atheism also is founded on faith – faith that there's no evidence for God. So skeptics are as filled with faith as the faithful.
That's ridiculous. It's the sort of word play that led Donald Rumsfeld, the incompetent Secretary of Defense, to say "absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" in reference to Iraq's unfound weapons of mass destruction.
Well, I see no evidence of a unicorn in our living room right now. There's just my wife and our dog, neither of whom looks like a horse with a horn coming out of its head.
But gosh, I guess you could say that this lack of evidence doesn't conclusively prove that there's no unicorn in my house. The creature could be so small, it's hiding under the couch. Or it could be invisible.
The thing is, there's an obvious difference between: (1) surmising that something exists, and (2) surmising that something doesn't exist.
It's the difference between one and zero, presence and absence.
This is why I reacted with a What the heck? when I read a Newsweek article, "Moderates Storm the Religious Battlefield," that included this quote from Rev. Timothy Keller.
I urge skeptics to wrestle with the unexamined "blind faith" on which skepticism is based, and to see how hard it is to justify those beliefs to those who do not share them.
Rev. Keller, skepticism is not a belief. It's a reasonable response to absence of evidence.
I don't have blind faith that there's no unicorn in my living room. It's an open-eyed conclusion that anyone is welcome to refute, if they can show me where the unicorn is hiding.
Similarly, religious skeptics like me are very much open to evidence of God's existence. Problem is, there isn't any.
In a recent issue of New Scientist, A.C. Grayling addressed a related subject in "No, science does not 'rest on faith.'" He was responding to the notion that science's assumption of an orderly and intelligible universe is an act of faith.
It isn't, because the universe obviously is orderly and intelligible, or there wouldn't be notions, magazines, debates over faith, or anything else. It'd all just be misty chaos.
I agree with Grayling:
Making well-motivated evidence-based assumptions that are in turn supported by their efficacy in testing predictions is the very opposite of faith. Faith is commitment to belief in something either in the absence of evidence or in the face of countervailing evidence.
It is seen as a theological virtue, as the story of Doubting Thomas is designed to illustrate. In everyday speech we use the phrase "he took it on faith" to mean "without question, without examining the grounds"; this captures its essence.
So faith isn't a virtue. It's a vice. When we have eyes to see, it's wrong for someone to go about blindly. You cause lots of other problems for other people, and sow unnecessary confusion.
There's a unicorn! And God!
Where? Show me. I'm a skeptic with eyes.