Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Does atheism bear a burden of proof?

This of course depends on what is meant by the word "atheism". If it means the belief that there is no God, then this is a claim and needs to be supported with evidence or argument.

However, what if atheism means the lack of belief in God? Often, when it is defined like this it has a slight addendum: the lack of belief results from a failure of theists to make their case. 

This is a claim, and requires argumentation. The atheist needs to show us that A) he or she understands the evidence for theism, and B) he or she has good reasons why that evidence is inadequate. 

Claiming that the evidence for theism is lacking or nonexistent is still a claim, and one that requires support. 


  1. Atheism as the privative belief category does not require an examination of evidence. One can get to "none of the above" through examination of options or through the simple fact of not actively believing in a system one has never heard of. (Consider--must a Catholic have examined and rejected all the thousands of other faiths before settling on Catholicism? The vast majority of those faiths are never even considered--precisely as much attention as not believing in them requires.

    To actively believe in something requires examination. To claim membership in a religious category, frankly, does not (note the recent surveys that show atheists know more about articles of religious faith than believers do). To not claim membership in a category requires nothing at all (although certainly some atheists, having learned a great deal about the faith they were raised in, reject that faith despite (or because of) a full understanding of its details.

    Atheism bears no burden of proof whatsoever.

  2. Heh. This post was a bit of an experiment. It seems that talking about the definition of atheism is much more interesting to atheists than is the evidence for the existence of God, which can be seen all over this blog, free of comments.

    >Atheism bears no burden of proof whatsoever.

    Of course, this ignores everything I just said above, as if you skipped from the title right to the comment box.

    The atheist who says "I lack belief because the evidence for theism is non-existent" does in fact bear a burden of proof. He needs to show that the evidence for theism is indeed lacking like he says it is.

    The evidence for evolution is entirely non-existent. There is no evidence whatsoever for evolution.

  3. I read everything you wrote. What you wrote was wrong, so I offered another view. Thank you for not reading it, or at least not responding to it.

    "I lack belief" need not be accompanied by "because the evidence is non-existent." I don't need any evidence whatsoever, examined or unexamined, not to believe. You have created a strawman of an atheistic claim; congratulations on slaying it.

    How many of the thousands of current faiths have you thoroughly examined? To reject one, of course you must have examined it, but to simply not be a believer in it, it is sufficient to have never even heard of it--or do you honestly suggest that one may be a believer in a particular god and not actually know it?

    Belief is active. Lacking belief is much easier; I suspect you lack belief in hundreds of gods that others do believe in, many of which you have never encountered.

  4. Cutterfish,

    I said:

    "Often, when it is defined like this it has a slight addendum: the lack of belief results from a failure of theists to make their case."

    So I defined which type of atheism I'm talking about, and so it is not a strawman. Indeed, almost universally when I ask why someone lacks belief, he will almost invariably say "because there is no evidence for theism." Which then carries a burden of proof.

  5. As far as I can tell you don't really promote comments Martin. Don't ask me how to get more comments, I got no clue. But I guess asking for opinions/problems about that "evidence" and inviting for discussions might help.

    Atheism is the lack of believe in gods.
    Guess it's not really usefull to ask them to prove that they really lack believe in gods.

    The "claim" that they don't believe cause they don't consider the "evidence" of theists to be valid doesn't really require evidence, too. They should be theists when it would have convinced them...

    There might be atheists who aren't uncareful with their language and indeed believe that there is no evidence at all for gods. I am not sure if that claim requires evidence but that still don't justify theism.
    Theists need to provide evidence to justify their claim that god(s) exists. Atheists don't need to prove that there couldn't be any valid evidence for the existence of gods to justify atheism.
    The easiest way to deal with that claim is to provide valid evidence that there is evidence for god(s). No religion seem to have managed to
    convince Science that there are indeed god(s) yet.

    Do you bear a burden of proof for not believing in every god which was ever said to have existed, Spider-Man, Unicorns,... ? Does it get irrational to not believe in them when the reason why you don't believe in them is cause you never got to see valid evidence? (never heard about them/faulty arguments)
    >Please answer to this paragraph.<

    I guess this side gets recommended by "The Atheist Experinece" regarding evolution