Have atheists ever considered why a lack of belief in the existence of deities is given a name?

Sure, atheism is simply a rejection of theism, and therefore a "disbelief" (although I am reading that philosophy textbooks define it to be a 'belief'), however I do not consider it similar to a chess player vs. non-chess player argument (where the non-chess players have nothing more in common than just NOT playing chess), but rather two parties of the same politics...sort of like Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists in U.S. history.

So, really, my question is: why do atheists boast that all they require to reject theism is a lack of proof...especially when proof is already given. Being that their "lack of belief" is an ideology in itself, doesn't that make the "burden of proof" asymmetrical...where theists need to provide a lot and atheists need to provide a little?

18 Answers

  • 10 years ago
    Best answer

    First, atheism is a response to theistic claims, but that does NOT necessarily make it the opposite of those claims, nor an active disbelief in those claims. More often it is a lack of belief in the claim rather than an active belief in the opposite of that claim.

    For example, if I said I had a quarter in my pocket, but I wasn't going to show it to you. You could either believe it, actively disbelieve it, or say that you will neither believe nor disbelieve until evidence is given. You reject the claim that I have a quarter in my pocket until proof is provided, but that does not necessarily mean that you actively believe that I do not have a quarter in my pocket.

    That said...burden of proof.

    Yes, burden of proof IS asymmetrical...as it just about ALWAYS is. Heck, if it were not asymmetrical, then there would be no "burden," would there?

    But there is a burden and it is always on the party making the positive claim. And the more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the proof required to meet the burden.

    In court, we call this innocent until proven guilty; that is to say that the prosecution must prove its positive claim that the defendant committed a crime and until they do so they defendant is to be considered innocent of the charge. This is just one example. But there are many.

    For example, if I say that Bigfoot is real, is the burden of proof on me to prove that he is real or on those saying he is not? The rational stance is to say that Bigfoot is not real until it is proven that he is and the burden of proof is on the person saying he is. Substitute any number of things for Bigfoot and the logic holds--fairies, the Loch Ness monster, UFOs, ESP, god, etc.

    The burden of proof remains on the person making the positive claim and the rational position is to not believe the claim until it is proven true

    Now, if someone says "I know there is no god," then maybe you could say they are making a positive claim in the negative direction. But if someone says "I do not believe your claim until you prove it," they are making no claim of their own and hold absolutely no burden of proof.

    Now, you claim that proof is already given. Where? What form? I've never seen any, not empirical proof anyway. I've heard anecdotes and unconfirmable personal accounts, but no one has ever produced any actual, provable, verifiable, concrete, empirical proof for any gods' existence. None. If you think otherwise, please tell me exactly what proof you are referring to. Empirical proof only, please.

    Finally, a lack of belief is not and cannot be defined as "an ideology." Is it an ideology not to believe in vampires? Is it an ideology to not think Stephen King is that great a writer? But most importantly, an ideology is, by definition, "a systematic body of concepts." Atheism is a singular stance on a singular claim - the rational rejection of a god or gods until evidence is given otherwise. You cannot, by definition, have a single-issue ideology. It simply does not qualify. And as there are NO other central, universal claims, morals, tenets, or beliefs shared by atheists, atheism falls far short of qualifying as an "ideology."

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    "why do atheists boast that all they require to reject theism is a lack of proof...especially when proof is already given."

    -Proof has never been given. Arguments have been given. Sometimes there is some evidence to support at least part of the argument, but often not.

    "Being that their "lack of belief" is an ideology in itself, doesn't that make the "burden of proof" asymmetrical..."

    -I say I don't believe in god. That's atheism. What else can you accurately tell about me or my beliefs? Do I believe in evolution and the big bang (not all atheists do)? Ghosts (some atheists do)? Afterlife (some atheists do)? Am I a naturalist (some atheists aren't). You can't tell anything about me until I make a positive claim about something. That positive claim is its own ideology. It may be related to my atheism, but it is not the case that atheism will always cause that ideology.

    "where theists need to provide a lot and atheists need to provide a little?"

    -The person making the positive claim has the burden of proof. That's how it works. If an atheist is making a positive claim, they have the burden of proof. The reason that theist typically get stuck with the BoP is because they make the positive claim ("God exists") while an atheists response of "I don't believe in God" is not a positive claim.

  • 10 years ago

    It's really a non-acceptance of all claims concerning deities that they have heard.

    It's not simply two different things, because the unspecified position is always atheism, you totally misunderstand the burden of proof as most people don't believe in Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster by default. The proof that is given is not sufficient to believe it, one person might think this or that is a reason to believe, but doesn't mean that everyone has to believe it, and often times in case of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, as well as religions, the 'proof' is a complete fabrication and is ultimately revealed.

  • The word atheist MEANS disbelief, or lack of belief in any DEITY. You're a theist, you have a belief in deity. So, we are non-theists, would you rather have to type that? Isn't atheist easeir?

    Mostly we do have nothing more in common than your average group of non-chess players.

    The burden of proof IS asymmetrical, other wise you would have to prove that there is not a monster under my bed that only I can ever see, but claim is real.

    Why should you have to dis-prove MY statement of belief?

    You don't, any more than I have to dis-prove yours.

    You believe what you believe and leave me out of it and we'll be fine.

  • What do you think of the answers? You can sign in to give your opinion on the answer.
  • Leo
    Lv 6
    10 years ago

    Everything is given a name, it sort of helps us communicate...

    You're right, it is a belief. However, it's a belief built upon evidence pointing to another cause, as opposed to a belief built upon faith.

    Also, you can't prove a negative, you have to disprove positives in order to come to the conclusion of a negative. Therefore the burden of proof is always on those who claim a positive. Those who claim there to be a Loch Ness monster have to prove such a thing before it is accepted.

  • Red
    Lv 5
    10 years ago

    "especially when proof is already given"

    No, just no. Either give us some proof right now, or don't claim that there is any proof (which there isn't)

    "Being that their "lack of belief" is an ideology in itself"

    I don't think you know what ideology means. Suspending belief before the evidence is shown is not an ideology.

    "doesn't that make the "burden of proof" asymmetrical"

    That's like me saying your disbelief in Odin or Thor is a religion in of itself.

    The burden of proof lies on those making the claims, not on the skeptics who challenge it. It's not as though I would tell you I could fly then get belligerent when you asked me to show you before you believed I could.

  • 10 years ago

    To question an assertion is not an assertion. Assertions do carry a burden of proof, that is if you wish to be taken seriously by rational persons. What you have suggest here is simply not true.

    If you would like to offer proof of gods, please do, but until then you offer only claims and speculations.

  • 10 years ago

    "Being that their "lack of belief" is an ideology in itself, doesn't that make the "burden of proof" asymmetrical"

    - Bare assertion fallacy. Fail again.

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    The burden of proof is with the extraordinary claim. It's claimed that God can disobey natural law, so that makes the claim of deity extraordinary.

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    Not at all. We are much more like the non-chess players. It's just that some of us, as individuals, try to help and enlighten people of faith for a variety of reasons such as:

    a) to help them become more adjusted to the world and

    b) stopping them trying to peddle rubbish and calling it science

    c) stopping them trying to kill everyone who doesn't agree with their version of the god myth.

Still have questions? Get answers by asking now.