Today I was listening to a discussion between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox where they were essentially debating the evidence for belief in Jesus Christ. During the conversation Lennox made what I thought was a strange comment about the nature of faith. He stated that we all have faith in some things, and as an example he mentioned his wife. I thought for sure I knew how Dawkins was going to rebut this statement but I was wrong, he agreed that he had faith in his wife, but that his faith in his wife was based on evidence, even if the evidence was subtle and then they moved on. I had been hoping that Dawkins would point out how this is really an erroneous mixing of two definitions for faith. Faith meaning trust in someone based on experience and faith meaning acceptance of a claim without evidence. The two kinds of faith can’t be compared because they are using different definitions of the word faith. This is a subtle fallacy that I’ve heard from faith proponents several times.
One can have the former kind of faith in Jesus, but only after having partaken in the latter kind. I think this is where some quality conversations between skeptics and believers can tend to degrade as each side begins to argue over very different things which happen to use the same word. Believers tend think and speak of their faith in Jesus mainly in terms of the former definition. Skeptics mainly in terms of the latter. This, of course, is all based on my experience.
I think we have an emotional attachment to the first kind of faith, the trust in our friends kind. When that faith is questioned I think we become protective of our friends and family. I don’t think the second kind of faith, the belief without evidence kind carries as much emotional attachment. I wonder, if assuming this confusion of terms is widespread like I believe, if it helps to explain the irrational protection people have for their faith when skeptics start questioning people about it. If believers aren’t separating the two kinds of faith they have, this could explain why they tend to get angry when their faith is attacked.