Skip to comments.Is Atheism a Belief or a Lack of Belief?
Posted on 09/15/2013 12:19:55 PM PDT by NYer
When asked to prove atheism is true, many atheists say that they dont have to prove anything. They say atheism is not belief there is no God but merely no belief in a God. Atheism is defined in this context as a lack of belief in God, and if Catholics cant prove God exists, then a person is justified in being an atheist. But the problem with defining atheism as simply the lack of belief in God is that there are already another group of people who fall under that definition: agnostics.
The "I Don't Know's"
Agnosticism (from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis) is the position that a person cannot know if God exists. A strong agnostic is someone like skeptic Michael Shermer, who claims that no one is able to know if God exists. He writes, I once saw a bumper sticker that read Militant agnostic: I dont know and you dont either. This is my position on Gods existence: I dont know and you dont either.[i]
A weak agnostic merely claims that while he doesnt know if God exists, it is possible that someone else may know. Agnosticism and weak atheism are very similar in that both groups claim to be without belief in God.[ii] Pope Benedict XVI spoke sympathetically of such people in a 2011 address:
In addition to the two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God. Such people do not simply assert: There is no God. They suffer from his absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness. They are pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace.
A Difference Without a Distinction
Because agnosticism seems more open-minded than atheism, many atheists are more apt to describe themselves like agnostics, who likewise have no belief in a God, even though they call themselves atheist. They say that an atheist is just a person who lacks a belief in God but is open to being proven wrong. But saying you lack a belief in God no more answers the question, Does God exist? than saying you lack a belief in aliens answers the question, Do aliens exist?
This is just agnosticism under a different name.
For example, can we say agnosticism is true? We cant, because agnostics make no claims about the world; they just describe how they feel about a fact in the world (the existence of God). Likewise, if atheists want us to believe that atheism is true, then they must make a claim about the world and show that what they lack a belief inGoddoes not exist.
Belief on Trial
An illustration might help explain the burden of proof both sides share. In a murder trial the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the murder. But if the prosecution isnt able to make its case, then the defendant is found not guilty. Notice the defendant isnt found innocent.
For all we know, he could have committed the crime, but we just cant prove it. Certain kinds of evidence, like an air-tight alibi, can show the defendant is innocent. But it is the responsibility of the defense to present that evidence.
Likewise, even if the theist isnt able to make his case that God exists that doesnt show God does not exist and therefore that atheism is true. As atheists Austin Dacey and Lewis Vaughn write, What if these arguments purporting to establish that God exists are failures? That is, what if they offer no justification for theistic belief? Must we then conclude that God does not exist? No. Lack of supporting reasons or evidence for a proposition does not show that the proposition is false.[iii]
If he wants to demonstrate that atheism is true, an atheist would have to provide additional evidence that there is no God just as a defense attorney would have to provide further evidence to show his client is innocent as opposed to being just not guilty. He cant simply say the arguments for the existence of God are failures and then rest his case.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
Psalm 14:1 and 53:1
The DemonRATS booed God. They are servants of Satan (or Allah) but I repeat myself.
If you believe in nothing you’ll fall for anything.
By the bye, before I proceed a single word further, please let me state I'm an atheist by belief or faith. My beliefs are neither more nor less provable than the Jew's, Christian's, Hindu's, or anyone else's. Ultimately, it's all a matter of belief.
I started out at the ripe old age of about three, if you can believe such a strange thing, believing there is no God. That's an essentially negative belief. Well into my forties, while hanging out with a decidedly religious friend, I began to shift toward actively or positively disbelieving in all things "spiritual;" concurrently, I gradually turned much less argumentive and much more tolerant.
All that said, if you think I'm embarrassed by the behavior of many of my fellow atheists in America today, you're entirely correct. All too many are leftist extremists of the most morally and intellectually immature kind. I'm much more the Ayn Rand kind of atheist.
Ignosticism is the view that a coherent definition of a given religious term or theological concept must be presented before the question of the existence or nature of said term can be meaningfully discussed. Furthermore, if that definition is unfalsifiable, the ignostic takes the theological noncognitivist position that the question of the existence or nature referred to by the term, for the given definition, is meaningless.
Some philosophers have seen ignosticism as a variation of agnosticism or atheism, while others have considered it to be distinct.
Atheism is now a religion in my opinion.
I understand what you're getting at, and connection between state imposed atheism and totalitarian leftism is well known.
But don't forget -- Ayn Rand was an atheist, and she was certainly no communist.
Indeed, she was the opposite of a communist, if anything.
I'm one of a small handful of FReepers not much awed by Ayn Rand. Not only was she an atheist but she was an abortionist and committed adultery. Her sound ideas about economics can't balance out those issues that, IMHO, are core to Conservatism.
That's just my viewpoint and I realize a number of people hold her in very high regard.
It is a conscious rejection of God and an intellectual game of solitaire that refuses to seek God.
Man knows there is a greater being but, if he does not feel compelled to seek him out then he can contrive a myriad of reasons why it would be pointless.
For instance, if the aethiest were to seek God and given the number of religions and their faiths he would have to start with “Which God?”.
Just be a witness and maybe, quietly, they will one day seek God.
I’d neither describe it as a belief or a lack of belief.
It is simply a worldview.
Thank goodness I’m a “heathen”. A nun in my Catholic high school confirmed that. I’ve been fine with it ever since.
Man knows there is a greater being
Hm...this sounds like of a variation of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. Are you asserting that all atheists actually do believe in God, and just pretend they don't?
Atheists believe in God. They just see God as the enemy to be defeated.
It may not be belief but it has large conviction.
At various times, I've been called a heathen, an infidel, a heretic, and a pagan. While the first three fit (by the standards of those accusing me of such), the last one certainly doesn't. I might enjoy Greek & Roman mythology, but I don't believe in it!
My point was only that atheism does not necessarily equal communism, as the poster asserted.
It is true that Ayn Rand was a deeply flawed individual. But that does not change the fact that she was a passionate and articulate defender of individual liberty, limited government and free markets, and that I (like many, many others) will always owe her an intellectual debt of gratitude for awakening me to the true nature of the political left.
I first discovered Ayn Rand as a college freshman in 1968, the year left-wing radicalism went mainstream on college campuses.
I remain forever grateful to her for initially raising my consciousness. When I first got to college, I was petitioning door to door for Eugene McCarthy like all my other young liberal skull full of mush peers.
Having only a year earlier declared myself a committed atheist, Rands writings appealed greatly to me on an intellectual level. I read every word she ever wrote in the next few years, and read Atlas Shrugged cover-to-cover at least twice, although inhaled would probably be a more accurate term than read.
The next year, I became editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, and remained so for the next three years. I am proud to say that as a result, during my tenure my college had the only non-Marxist student newspaper in the country at least that was my impression from attending the annual United States Student Press Association (USSPA) conference in Washington DC every year.
Under my editorship, we constantly espoused liberty and free-market economics, and derived great pleasure from consistently inventing new ways to give the leftwing radicals and SDS supporters on the faculty and in the student government a deliciously frustrating time publicly opposing them and organizing against them at every possible turn.
After I left college, I never lost my passion for liberty and free markets, although I moved way beyond Ayn Rand as I discovered Henry Hazlitt, Adam Smith, FA Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and so many other great conservative writers and thinkers such as Leonard Read at the Foundation for Economic Education and other conservative think-tanks.
In my 30s and early 40s, after reading books for laymen about modern physics (such as The Universe & Doctor Einstein), and undergoing many personal transformations, I renounced my atheism and remain to this day a firm believer in Gods existence.
I dont understand why so many religious conservatives are so hostile to Ayn Rand. And I consider the fact that she developed a non-theistic justification for limited government and free markets to be a real contribution especially in this day-and-age when so many potential converts to liberty are instantly turned off by any mention of God.
Everyone has their own spiritual path. It took me 20 years to come to God as an adult. I would rather live any day in a country comprised of traditional religion-based conservatives and Ayn Rand Objectivists than one in which the other side is composed of leftwing totalitarians, which is the case today.
As far as Im concerned, I may have parted ways with her intellectually in many respects, but GOD BLESS AYN RAND! I wish more young people would be exposed to her these days.