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?