Sunday, July 6, 2008

Who gets to define atheism?

It seems pretty obvious: atheists. Outside of theists, is there any other group out there that feels the right to define what their opposition believes? That really seems crazy.

Undeterred, our good and noble friends at Apologetics are busy defining atheism. Read on!

Presumption of Atheism or Agnosticism?

In some of the comments, a theme keeps showing up:

Wildly improbable claims from religious nutcases?

Theism (especially the Christian variety) seems guilty until proven innocent; while atheism seems innocent until proven guilty.

Oh. Okay, that too.

Why is this?

Because one makes wildly improbable claims only supported by general ignorance and weird, psudo-hippie posturing about the wonder of the world and the beauty of a sunset. The other one is exactly a lack of belief in a god or gods.

Lack of belief is something we’re all born with.

This is known as the “presumption of atheism.”

Or common sense. Or logic. Whichever.

But should Atheism be the default setting?

Because the burden of proof is always on the side that is making a claim.

One of the leading Philosophers of Religion of our day, William Lane Craig, shares why it should not be:

I can’t wait!

“….another philosophical relic is the much-vaunted presumption of atheism. At face value, this is the claim that in the absence of evidence for the existence of God, we should presume that God does not exist.

Very reasonable.

Atheism is a sort of default position,


and the theist bears a special burden of proof with regard to his belief that God exists.

Right again!

So understood, such an alleged presumption seems to conflate atheism with agnosticism.

You’re not about to swap around some definitions on us, are you?

For the assertion that “God does not exist” is just as much a claim to knowledge as is the assertion that “God exists,”

Ah, rats! And here we were having such a pleasant, polite conversation and you go an muck it up with a blatant misrepresentation of what an atheist claims.


Let’s say it together: Atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods. No atheist has to disprove God exists because he’s not the one claiming that God exists in the first place. The burden of proof is on the claimant. Always.

Great! Now that we have that out of the way, we can go on with your argument. I’m sure you have many more brilliant points to make on this subject and not just a tired old falsification of what your opposition says.

and therefore the former requires justification just as the latter does. It is the agnostic who makes no knowledge claim at all with respect to God’s existence, confessing that he does not know whether God exists or does not exist, and so who requires no justification. (I speak here only of a “soft” agnosticism, which is really just a confession of ignorance, rather than of a “hard” agnosticism, which claims that it cannot be known whether or not God exists; such a positive assertion would, indeed, require justification.) If anything, then, one should speak at most of a presumption of agnosticism.”

Or not. Oh well. Sucks to be you.

If there is a default setting, it is agnosticism, not atheism. In that case, the atheist has just as much explaining to do as the theist.

Or slightly less since we can throw out this pathetic strawman and you now have to explain this article! Have fun with that!

No comments: