I'm worried this is a dead horse that I'm beating here, but I've been mulling it over and still think strong atheism requires faith (although I realized, too, that calling it "a
faith" invites connotations that are probably wrong).
I agree with +Daniel Daniels
, the rational default assumption is to assume there are no gods and await evidence before changing your assumption. I think where we disagree is whether or not there's a significant difference between assuming
there are no gods, believing
there are no gods, and knowing
there are no gods.
As I said before, I think "belief without proof" is a good definition of faith. As +Jeremy Shannon
pointed out, you can't prove a negative. The two things together mean that it takes faith to believe a negative. Believing there are no gods is just a specific example of believing a negative so, if you accept my definition of strong atheism as "believing there are no gods" and my definition of faith as "belief without proof", I think you have to accept that strong atheism requires faith. If you reject either definition then we disagree, but I don't have a problem with that. :)
Related to assuming and believing there are no gods, some people might say they know
there are no gods. I think these people are just wrong. The kind of thing that meets the typical description of a god could exist without being detectable, so I don't think it's possible to know
one way or the other.
Using the above distinctions between assuming, believing, and knowing, I think there's an argument for assuming that the person in +Paul Domanski
's metaphor is dead that doesn't require faith. In many jurisdictions, if someone disappears you can get a death certificate after sufficient delay and due-diligence because it's not practical to keep living with the inherent uncertainty. If you assume that the person is missing and might come back, it's useful to keep their bank accounts open, their clothes in the closet and their car in good repair. If you assume that the person is dead, though, all of those activities are a waste of time. You could assume they're dead, sell all their things, and still believe that they're "just missing" if it's the most practical choice (you could use the money and the closet space, but you want the comfort of thinking they're not dead).
So, in sum, I think assuming there are no gods is the rational thing to do, I think believing there are no gods takes faith, and I think it's impossible to know there are no gods.
Oh, and +Daniel Daniels
, thanks for editing your comment; I was disappointed that our civil discussion had taken such an antagonistic turn so I'm happy to learn that wasn't your intention.