Other Worldviews

Atheism Isn’t Simply a Lack of Belief

Author Tim Barnett Published on 03/03/2016

Many atheists don’t like the term “atheist.” They take atheism to be just the default position. I’ve even heard some atheists state that atheism is not really a belief at all. Rather, they assert it is simply a lack of belief.

Given this redefinition, most atheists are taken aback when theists demand they provide evidence for their atheism. After all, they’ll assert, we don’t demand evidence from people who lack belief in Santa Claus. Moreover, we’re told that everyone who lacks belief in Santa is technically an “a-santa-ist.” However, no one has ever labeled them with that term. Furthermore, the atheist might point out that most people don’t believe in the thunder god Thor (as much as you might like the movie), but no one calls them “athorists.”

Continuing this line of thinking, they will point out that everyone agrees that the athorist and the asantaist aren’t forced to prove that Thor and Santa don’t exist. The burden of proof would actually be on the person who claims that Thor and Santa do exist. Likewise, the theist is told that it’s up to him to prove that God exists. It is not the atheist’s responsibility to prove that He doesn’t.

But is this really what atheism amounts to? Is it merely a lack of belief in God? The answer is a resounding, No! Atheism is not simply a lack of belief. It is not the default position. Let’s get our terms straight. The theist affirms the statement, “There is a God.” The agnostic says, “I do not know if God exists” or “You cannot know God exists.” The atheist affirms the statement, “There is no God.” These are all beliefs.

To say you simply lack a belief about something is to say that you have no beliefs about it. For example, if you asked me, “Who is the best female polo player in Europe?” I wouldn’t know where to start. Why? Because I have no beliefs about the quality of women’s polo in Europe, or any other country for that matter. I truly lack a belief regarding that question.

This is not the case with atheists. People don’t write books about things they don’t have any beliefs about. No one debates about non-beliefs. If they did, there would be nothing to talk about.

This attempt to change the definition of atheism to a lack of belief is a tactic to try to shift the burden of proof. But it won’t work. The belief that there is no God is a belief. And if the atheist thinks it is a reasonable belief, he should have reasons to believe it.