"The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." -- Mark Twain
Greta Christina has an excellent post on the difference between religious faith and skeptical faith. But she indulges in what I see as a form of sloppiness and imprecision unacceptably pervasive in atheist and skeptical writing: using the same word in formal expository writing to denote two fundamentally and substantively different concepts.
Lexicographers must explain all the meanings of any word, including the imprecise context-dependent uses employed in informal speech and writing. Since the the meanings of words such as "faith", "trust" and "confidence" show considerable overlap in informal use, the dictionary must enumerate all the various meanings. The informal overlap is trivially granted. But expository writing, where the writer makes a specific intellectual point, is not so informal. The writer has the time to choose his or her words carefully, and pick not just a good enough word but the best word for the job.
There's simply no excuse for using the word "faith" in writing to describe any sort of skeptical thinking. We have two perfectly good words, short words, words with commonly understood meanings, to describe skepticism: trust and confidence. If one needs to be even more precise, we can employ philosophical jargon: justification and warrant. When we want to talk about ideas that don't require rational justification, we can talk about our opinions and preferences.
The religious own the word "faith", it's their word, and they define its meaning. To even use the word to describe skeptical thinking is to equivocate, to concede too much, to concede to the religious the framing of the question, "How shall we best think?" as "What sort of arbitrary, unprovable beliefs should we adopt without regard to — or in spite of — the evidence?"
To describe skeptical thinking as a particular kind of faith is to put skepticism and atheism on the same menu, with equal status, as Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, New Age crystal woo-woo: just another arbitrary belief that deserves equal status. Throw all the provisos and differentiation you want, to call skepticism any kind of faith is call it just a different religion, separate but equal.
But skepticism isn't equal, it isn't just a different kind of religion. Skepticism is not a religion. It's not a faith. It's a way of thinking about the world that actually works; religion is a way of not thinking about the world.