Beware the “Secular Objectivity Double Standard”: There is no such thing as belief and unbelief

One of my great frustrations in our secular age is how the concepts of “faith” and “belief” are communicated and understood. Too many Christians unknowingly acquiesce in using these terms that bias the cultural conversation against Christianity. What do I mean?

An article at The Veritas Forum is a great example. The title tells the tale: “The Dilemma of Faith in a Secular Age.” What does this assume? That “faith” and secularism are two separate concepts and have nothing to do with one another. The writer of the piece, unfortunately, accepts the dichotomy of “faith” and secularism as if they had nothing to do with one another—they do. She gives only one indication that all people struggle with what they believe when she says that “believers and non-believers alike struggle with doubt about whether our beliefs are indeed the right ones.” But using the terms “believers” and “non-believers” assumes that some people believe and others don’t, which plays into secularist hands.

The author writes about a poet who “has frequently written about this sense of being caught between belief and unbelief.” Again, the assumption is that such a thing “unbelief” exists—it doesn’t. In fact, every human being, regardless of whether they are “religious” or not, is fundamentally religious, i.e., they live by faith. It is crucial that we as Christians, and Christian parents, realize this.

Our secular Western culture tries to convince us that only “religious” people need faith—this is simply not true. At the level of presuppositions, all human beings are equal. Everyone has limited knowledge, therefore everyone lives by faith to one degree or another. The question is, which “faith” makes the most sense of reality as we find it, and which has the best evidence to make a claim on our allegiance. These questions must be at the forefront of raising kids in the 21st century West.

Thus the “the secular objectivity double standard.” The culture teaches in ways large and small, overtly and covertly, that those who are “believers,” i.e., religious folk, need “faith” and thus can’t be objective about things. Those who are “non-believers” it is assumed don’t need “faith,” and thus can be objective about things. To put it in technical terms, that’s a bunch of hooey!

The question on a level cultural playing field isn’t who has faith and who doesn’t, but who has the best justification for the faith that they have. Christians so easily buy into the notion that we’re the ones who must defend our beliefs, while the atheist, agnostic, or apathetic (the “triple A’s”) don’t have anything to defend—they do. As I’ve taught my children, if you learn how to skillfully ask questions, you’ll find that most of the triple A’s have no idea why they believe what they believe, or even what they believe. You’ll find that they can’t reason themselves out of a box, and yet they demand faultless evidence and logic from Christians, and when we provide it, they deny what it plainly says.

The implication of this double standard is that it allows people to move from one faith, Christianity, to another, all the while deluding themselves that they are moving from religion to non-religion. Technically they may not be “religious” in that they don’t go to church, but they still have a worldview based on faith commitments. The young lady, Lindsay, who inspired me to write the book is a great example. Leaving Christianity for agnosticism doesn’t means she left religion, or “faith” for some view of reality that doesn’t require faith. Every view of reality requires faith.