By an ironic turn, atheist biologist Jerry Coyne’s blog contest to find a one word moniker for atheists and agnostics who are “accomodationist” towards religion has landed on a “winning term” that actually describes Jerry Coyne himself—and his enhusiastic followers—far better than any accomodationist: faitheist.
A faitheist, to Coyne’s way of thinking, is a person who actually takes people of faith seriously (as opposed to encountering them with dumbfounded incomprehension, mockery, and general avoidance). For Jerry Coyne, authentic atheist expression would seem to require rhetorical confidence, aggression, and dismissiveness (perhaps akin in tone to that of Rush Limbaugh or Ayn Rand). A faitheist, in other words, waters down confidence atheism.
But you can now see where this is going, can’t you? For confidence absent conclusive evidence is the very signature of one with faith. “Faitheist” is thus actually the perfect moniker for Jerry Coyne and his followers. What better way to describe atheist confidence in excess of the facts than faitheism, for the fact is that it takes a lot of faith to be a confident atheist.
Albert Camus, for example, was not a confident atheist. He was just a sensible, down to earth non-believer, reluctant to express epistemic certitude where it was not warranted. Camus was an atheist, in short, with intellectual integrity. Here’s Camus, for example, speaking to a gathering of Dominican Friars in 1948:
I wish to declare also that, not feeling that I possess any absolute truth or any message, I shall never start from the supposition that Christian truth is illusory, but merely from the fact that I could not accept it.
Wow. The very tone of Camus’s statement—it’s modesty in the face of uncertainties—would today brand Camus by some contemporary atheists as no real atheist at all—but a “faitheist”—a closet believer. It illustrates clearly, I think, just how low the neo-atheists—or Jerry Coyne “faitheists”—have sunk.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Quote source: Resistence, Rebellion, and Death, an anthology of essays by Albert Camus (1960, p. 67-68)