Is atheism a claim to knowledge?


#1

Hi all,

A few weeks ago, when Fr Spitzer was on the Q&A Open Forum for Atheists, one of the callers remarked that as an atheist he was not positively asserting anything but rather lacked a belief in God. The suggestion was, I guess, that theists bear the burden of proof when confronted by such an atheist, or an “agnostic atheist”, as both the caller and Fr Spitzer seemed to agree.

However, I wonder if this is correct. I was puzzled by the idea of how “lacking a belief” actually makes much sense. This approach seems to treat a belief as an object and “lacking a belief” as not having such a thing, like the winter sun. But a belief isn’t a thing: it’s a conclusion (either consciously or not) that is reached based on any number of factors.

Therefore, when someone says: “I simply lack the belief that God exists or God is real”, he cannot be saying: “You have this thing called a belief, which I don’t have, so you bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that this thing is actual” but rather something more like this: “You have reached this conclusion that God exists; I have not reached this conclusion but rather the contrary conclusion”. Now, it’s certainly true that the atheist can say - and should, since the theist is making the claim to God’s existence - “Go on, show me the evidence!” But it is not true that the atheist is not making a claim to knowledge. By saying that he is an atheist, he is claiming that the conclusion that God does not exist is true, and that he has reached this conclusion - arguing that he simply “lacks this belief” is a kind of red herring semantic.

If the atheist isn’t claiming that he has reached a conclusion, the reasonable position is agnosticism, saying that he does not know whether God exists or not.

What do you think?

Jonathan


#2

I've wondered they same. If an atheist says they love their spouse. Can you in turn say,"I don't believe in love" and ask them to pull out their love and show it to you?


#3

I would say that the claim of "lacking belief in God" is more likely that they have too many doubts to the existence of God. Sometimes they may want to believe, but because of negative worldly influences, they doubt. In reference to the "I don't believe in Love" analogy mentioned before, I don't think anyone would actually claim not to believe in Love (per say), but that they doubt anyone actually Loves, and if they wanted someone to "take out their Love and show it" to them, what they'd mean by that is "give me evidence that you Love". So, I think what this agnostic atheist is wanting is some kind of evidence for God's existence that he feels strongly enough to grasp onto that will be the object of growth for his pearl of faith.


#4

[quote="jonathan_hili, post:1, topic:303725"]
Hi all,

A few weeks ago, when Fr Spitzer was on the Q&A Open Forum for Atheists, one of the callers remarked that as an atheist he was not positively asserting anything but rather lacked a belief in God. The suggestion was, I guess, that theists bear the burden of proof when confronted by such an atheist, or an "agnostic atheist", as both the caller and Fr Spitzer seemed to agree.

However, I wonder if this is correct. I was puzzled by the idea of how "lacking a belief" actually makes much sense. This approach seems to treat a belief as an object and "lacking a belief" as not having such a thing, like the winter sun. But a belief isn't a thing: it's a conclusion (either consciously or not) that is reached based on any number of factors.

[/quote]

An agnostic believes that nothing can be known about God. There can be agnostic-theists or agnostic-atheists, but overall the agnosticism supersedes the theism/atheism. Regardless of what they believe on the theism/atheism scale, they don't believe it can be known, it's just a stab in the dark.

Therefore, when someone says: "I simply lack the belief that God exists or God is real", he cannot be saying: "You have this thing called a belief, which I don't have, so you bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that this thing is actual" but rather something more like this: "You have reached this conclusion that God exists; I have not reached this conclusion but rather the contrary conclusion". Now, it's certainly true that the atheist can say - and should, since the theist is making the claim to God's existence - "Go on, show me the evidence!" But it is not true that the atheist is not making a claim to knowledge. By saying that he is an atheist, he is claiming that the conclusion that God does not exist is true, and that he has reached this conclusion - arguing that he simply "lacks this belief" is a kind of red herring semantic.

Idk what this is. A lack of belief is not a belief. You can't lack a belief that God exists and claim that as a belief, or I could just lack a belief that God doesn't exist and claim that as my belief.

If the atheist isn't claiming that he has reached a conclusion, the reasonable position is agnosticism, saying that he does not know whether God exists or not.

Even if you don't know, you can guess. Kind of. Most agnostics are agnostic-atheists, because if you don't believe it can be known whether or not God exists it doesn't really make a difference to you whether or not you believe in Him.

What do you think?

Jonathan

Interesting.


#5

[quote="jonathan_hili, post:1, topic:303725"]

What do you think?

Jonathan

[/quote]

The atheist claim of "lack of belief" is one of the greatest scams and cop-outs, and honestly, I have zero respect and tolerance for it. The overwhelming majority of atheists are, when push comes to shove, naturalists. And naturalism is a positive philosophy, a positive belief, not a "lack of belief".

Atheists usually make a positive claim -- naturalism -- and they need to defend it. The burden of proof is squarely on them. No excuses accepted.

Yes, there are true agnostics, claiming nothing about the existence of God either way, but atheists are not among them. I have seen true agnostics debate atheists, and they got brutal against them about the burden of proof, and rightfully so (also, they were philosophically much better informed, which did not surprise me).


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