The comments on the previous post were to interesting. What sparked my question about the meaning of “faith” and its distinction from belief was the following (again from the Washington Post religion discussion).
>Too Soon For Genuine Believer-Atheist Dialogue?
>When I became an atheist during my first year of college (thanks to my leftover high school obsession with Ayn Rand, and subsequent introduction to Sartre and Camus), I talked about the utter absurdity of believing in a divinity to anyone who cared to listen, and to a number of others (including my Catholic mother) who did not.
>I was as zealous in my atheism as a new convert in her chosen faith.
>Atheism is a belief system like any other—a religion of sorts in its own right. Dialogue between different believers is possible only when each person (or group) is not only ready to leave their unbridled enthusiasm for personal convictions aside, at least for a time and for the purposes of conversation, but also when each party concludes that a dialogue has value.
>Dialogue between atheists and believers is no different than dialogue between members of two different faith traditions. If both parties come to the table, as scholar Sandra Schneiders suggests, “as onto a field of battle,” with one’s “tradition as shield against heresy or paganism or, worse yet, as a sword with which to vanquish the other,” then open, productive conversation is impossible. If each party enters “undefended,” however—not altogether without their belief system, but with the conviction that conversation is not to destroy or even best the other’s thinking and rather to find common ground and exchange what is of consequence—then true, productive dialogue has a solid foundation.
>In the initial fervor of my atheism, I entered all conversation about faith with swords blazing—in much the same (and unfortunate) style of The O’Reilly Factor,where people come to the table not for dialogue, but for war. It was a good while before the fires of my atheism died down enough for me to a) be willing to truly listen to another side of the conversation, and b) desire the dialogue itself because it might be important to engage it.
>The perception that atheism is enjoying a kind of “vogue” at the moment comes only from the fact that Sam Harris’s The End of Faith and most recently Letter to a Christian Nation, coupled with Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, each have enjoyed a healthy stay on the bestseller list. But good atheist reads have long been widely available and are wildly popular in the classroom—anything by Sartre or Ayn Rand will do—and many a college student boasts a well-worn copy of some classic atheistic text or other (The Fountainhead is my personal favorite).
>Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation implies a desire for dialogue in its very format. A letter is an address, an attempt to grasp the attention of another party. In this case it appears as a plea for Christians to attend a worldview distinct from their own. Whether or not Mr. Harris has garnered the attention of this intended audience, and in a way that’s productive, not condescending, is another question. Most people I know who are purchasing Harris’s books (and Dawkins’ for that matter) are devout atheists themselves, excited to finally see their belief system get some popular press.
>Whether we, as a country, are not only ready but desirous of this sort of “inter-religious” conversation, as true dialogue and not as a standoff between two irreconcilable parties, remains to be seen.
Let’s assume this was posted as a comment to the previous discussion–comments anyone? Again, Happy New Year.