Atheists do not have “faith” in atheism (as atheism is a non-belief) and theists who say “it takes more faith to be an atheist are, as I have said in the past, just adults saying “I know you are but what am I”. But while I do not have faith that there is or isn’t a god, I do experience something similar. Faith is often a means to an end, and this is apparent in how apologists often treat it, saying that without faith you can’t have a sense of meaning, morality, purpose, beauty etc – and while this isn’t the case at all it does show that much is often derived from faith by the faithful. And much of that is emotional – a sense of security, solace, a feeling of justice when faced with injustice, hope for the future when times are at their darkest, and on the more positive end of the spectrum the type of euphoria and beautified way of looking at things people sometimes experience via faith (or philosophy). So faith can be viewed as a belief held without evidence or rational proof (and sometimes despite proof to the opposite) which gives the holder positive emotional feedback. Interestingly every atheist I know has experienced this many, many times. But not with regards to their worldview or their ideology. I experience it every time I watch a movie or read a fictional story or play a videogame. I convince my brain that what I’m perceiving is in a sense real in order to achieve the emotional payout.
The best movies, stories and videogames are the ones that suck them in the most completely, thus getting the biggest emotional payout. You need to think the character is real and care about them in order to hope for them to save the day or get the girl, or in the case of tragedies, feel sad when they die. Similarly you have to believe jesus died for your sins or loves you or exists at all to get the kinds of emotional payouts the faithful get.
There are two main differences between this and religious faith that I can see. One is that the faith of an atheist is temporary – when the movie is over or the last page of the story turns or the videogame console powers down the atheist always wakes up and realizes it wasn’t real (as do theists, with cinema etc). Religious faith is generally maintained in perpetuity.
The second difference is that people do not generally base their morals, ideology, who they vote for etc on cinema or other fictional media.
But I thought it might be interesting to point out the similarities between the two modes of consciousness. I think this can be called faith – though it isn’t quite the same thing and doesn’t at all have the same effect on the world.
[cue torches and pitchforks]