Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters in Christ
I've come across at least three atheists who all define faith as "a belief held in the absence of evidence." The fact that they all put it in just the same words suggests to me that they're parroting one another without giving it much thought. Now perhaps an atheist can't be expected to have a very sophisticated understanding of something that is, of course, a religious concept. But then, why talk about it at all?
Still, if they'd really wanted a definition of faith, a good place to begin would have been a dictionary. That at least gives you a starting place; and you can develop your thinking from there. But "a belief held in the absence of evidence" is just utterly inadequate. The definition as given probably has little to do with any religious faith, and it's obviously irrelevant to an evidence-based religion like Christianity.
In fact "a belief held in the absence of evidence" sounds as if it should define something -- but I'm not sure what. It sounds closer to credulity. What's the word we need here?
In any case, what I'm really after is the answer to the title question: What is faith? I'm not really looking for a definition of faith, but something more like a description. So what I want to ask is: What characteristics of faith are missing here? How would you describe your experience of faith?