Dear Editor: In response to Tim Haering’s question “What do atheists believe in?” I offer ONE atheist’s opinion on what I personally believe in. I do not purport to speak for anyone else. We atheists all have a wide variety of opinions on everything under the sun.

As far as affirmative principles are concerned, I subscribe to the words of Thomas Paine, "Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good,” augmented by Robert Green Ingersoll’s "The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here,” and Martin Luther King’s "The time is always right to do what is right.”

But Haering also wrote, "Let’s hear more about atheists’ faith.” That’s not a question about WHAT we believe (our views) but rather HOW we arrived at those views (the process). As a process, faith is the least reliable of all possible decision-making methods, after logic, reason, confidence (in things), trust (in people), chance, obedience, and hope.

Faith is the decision-making tool of last resort (and thus the one most favored by the priesthood). You only use it when you desperately WANT to believe something but there’s not a shred of evidence for it. Whenever you have evidence to support a conclusion, you’d use one of the seven superior decision-making methods. Faith gets hauled out only to support conclusions for which there is no reason to believe in their truth, validity, efficacy or efficiency.

Indeed, faith is listed among these other processes only in a kind of honorary fashion, because arguably there’s no “process” involved at all: The assumptions at the input end (“God exists”) essentially go straight through, unmodified, and come out the other end looking not a whole lot different (kind of like creamed corn when you’ve got the flu).

Nobody ever uses faith for anything that actually matters — and certainly not for anything that can be measured. Really, it’s useless anywhere outside of religion. And maybe the stock market.

Discover Madison news, via the Cap Times

Sign up for the Cap Times Daily Features email!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Frankly, you have to be an idiot to take anything on faith. As it happens, billions qualify.

Richard S. Russell

Madison

Send your letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.