A very common claim by theists like JP is to say that atheism is just like a religious belief, in the sense that it is no more rational or logical than classic religious beliefs. In doing so he attempts to put atheism, along with "darwinism" and evolutionary biology on the same plane as other authority-based claims. This is disingenuous and hollow, and here is why:
At a meta-cognitive level people's ways of looking at the world are influenced by many factors, including psychological and environmental factors. In this sense, any of a person's beliefs, preferences, and knowledge could be said to be subjective and be based on "belief". This causes confusion between the term "belief" in its psychological meaning, and the word "belief" in its more formal meaning-- an element in a set of predetermined assumptions and rules associated with organized faith.
For example, I can believe that Jesus Christ was our messiah and savior. I can "believe" this in the sense that I see this as true--the "psychological" form of belief. This assertion is one of many in the Christian faith, so we can see it as a religious belief as well. I can also NOT believe that JC is my savior. In this case I "believe" that JC being my savior is not true, but we would not say that my non-belief is "faith" or "belief" in the dogmatic or religious sense. Just as I don't believe in Thor or Zeuss, I can also not belief in the fundamentalist Hebrew God, and yet it would be incorrect to say that I have a "faith" in my nonacceptance of these assumptions.
Some might claim that atheism is relatively recent in history and is therefore a deviation from the default assumptions, and therefore it is atheism that should be considered "faith based" and has the burden of proof. But this argument is fallacious for several reasons. Many historical beliefs about the physical world, including the fields of astronomy, physics, medicine and chemistry were the "default" until they were disproven. Additionally, "non-atheism" includes a very large collection of incompatible faiths and traditions. Therefore, lumping all "theists" beliefs together, then claiming that any skeptic who rejects any one or all of those beliefs as being a "believer" in a novel "belief" called "atheism" is dishonest and a misuse of the word. And as demonstrated by the flying spaghetti monster, the celestial teapot, or Christian claims about Jesus, the burden of proof rest squarely with the likes of Jacob Stein and his cohorts to prove their claims. It does not rest with me to reject it.
So if I don't accept Jesus as my savior, and reject Thor as a God, I would be a skeptic. All Jews are skeptics, from the point of view of Christians and Muslims. So why if I reject ALL religious claims, not just some of them, am I a "believer" in "atheism"? It is like JP is saying, "take your pick, but you have to choose at least ONE faith based claim, and that always makes more sense than the 'atheist' belief".
Another common distortion that JP uses is that atheists also have their "authorities", making them no different than religionists. He ridicules Darwin, Dawkins, and others as being atheist authorities. The truth is that they became authorities because their ideas have survived the test of time and scrutiny of peer review in the academic world. Besides, atheists don't blindly accept a scientific idea just because an expert says so, unless his ideas survive this scrutiny. As far as talmudic rabbinic authorities, their assertions have been rejected by the vast majority of Jews and non-Jews alike, so these people are "authorities" only to a tiny self-selected minority of humanity. We can acknowledge that there is also controversy and disagreement in the scientific community, but this is part of the process of inferential reasoning. We posit theories to explain what we see, and we test to see if the theory holds up. If it doesn't, it is rejected.
The fact that Orthodox Jews, along with various other minority groups in the world, continue to cling to their faith is a sociological phenomenon, which says nothing about the truth or falsehood of their claims.
The rejection of these or other religious claims, due to more plausible scientific explanations for what we see, could hardly be called a "faith" any more than the germ theory of disease or quantum physics. To rehash:
1. Atheism is not authority based like religion.
2. Atheism is not a belief like religion, since rejection is not a belief.
3. Atheism is a reasoned alternative to the hundreds of different and contradictory theist theories in explaining the world and life, and in fact explains our observations much better.
4. The burden of proof is on the theist, not the atheist.