Challenge: I’m Not Claiming There’s No God

Posted: May 17, 2011 by Amy Hall in God is Real, Weekly Challenge

For the challenge this week, we’re going to look at a comment we received on YouTube:

Atheism is the lack of belief in god(s), it can’t be true or false. I lack belief in god(s), that is 100% true; I am an atheist: 100% true. I will never claim your god doesn’t exist, only that there is no evidence to support it. Man created god, not vice versa.

It’s a fairly common move for atheists to say they’re not making a positive claim, therefore they don’t have to offer reasons for their worldview or defend it. They say the burden is completely on theists to present enough proof for them to believe.

In a conversation with your atheist friend, where would you go from here? Brett will go over your answers and give his response later this week.

  1. Sam Harper says:

    Whenever somebody tells me they have a “lack of belief in God,” I always ask them, “Do you also have a lack of belief that God does NOT exist”? If they say ‘yes,’ then I say, “So you don’t have an opinion on the matter one way or the other? You’re completely neutral?” If they say, ‘no,’ then they DO have a belief that God does not exist.

    At that point, you have to decide whether you want to have a conversation with them about whether God exists. But I think arguments over burden of proof are generally useless. They might be helpful in formal debates, but in personal encounters, the burden of proof is on whoever wants to persuade. If your atheist friend has no desire to persuade you of anything, then he has no burden of proof. And if you want to persuade your atheist friend of something, then you have a burden of proof. So just skip the whole conversation over burden of proof and go straight to the subject.

  2. Sam gave the answer I wanted to give! I’d basically try to show the atheist that he’s not neutral on the matter of God’s existence.

    At the very end of that quote he says “Man created god, not vice versa.” That’s a positive claim to knowledge, and, therefore, needs to be defended. The burden of proof is on him to defend that statement.

    • Albert says:

      Kyle got that right. The burden of proof is on the one that made the statement.

      Ask him, How did he come to this conclusion? Is it because he has searched far and wide and has never found evidence that God exists?

      I would also ask this person, what they consider as adequate evidence to show there is a God.

      They will more than likely not be able to give you an answer to the last one because they don’t want to accept God as existing. And if they give you something that is unreasonable proof, you can call them on it.

  3. Dawn says:

    I wonder if this person thinks that atheism should be the default position? Because based on this definition of an atheist, then cats and dogs and babies would also be atheists since they also “lack belief in god.” My experience with most atheists is that they are quite sure God does not exist and would readily affirm the statement “There is no God” as true. However, they will fall back on this “neutral” definition of atheism when backed into a corner.

    When this person says “there is no evidence to support it [the existence of God],” is this a positive claim? I’m not always clear on the positive/negative thing. Regardless, it is a really weak claim because all you have to do is give just one piece of evidence to refute it. To be fair I’m inclined to think this person is confusing evidence with proof, because I doubt they would immediately change to a belief in God when presented with said evidence.

    I’m not confused about the “man created god” claim – this definitely requires defending.

    I hope this isn’t uncharitable, but to me this definition of atheism seems like a convenient escape route. It is pretty easy to always put yourself in the position of never making any “positive” claims and requiring everyone else to defend their views.

  4. Graffight says:

    I always feel that when people say this they are being disingenuous. I believe it’s impossible to lack a belief in something once someone starts giving you propositions about it. For example: If you were to ask me who the best Rugby team is if I’m an American I may literally lack a belief because I’ve never seen a rugby game. But if you say that the All Blacks have been undefeated for the last 10 years it’s safe to say that most people will form a belief at that instant (even if it’s not a true belief). Either they will believe what that person told them or disbelieve it, but they will have a belief. Most atheists when pressed say they lack a belief in some generic deistic god proposition to which I say…fine…what about the Christian God specifically. 9 times out of 10 they flat out say they disbelieve in the Christian God. What I’ve found is that similar to my rugby analogy once they’ve been confronted with the proposition that Jesus died and rose on the 3rd day or other Christian propositions they form a belief one way or another. Those who don’t are being disingenuous and I believe they hold that position just so they don’t have to defend their position. (I’ve only met people like this on the internet) I’d go so far to say as it’s impossible to lack a belief in something once you have know properties of said thing.

    I think it’s really important to find out what they mean by God. Are they talking about some generic, deistic concept of God that could never be proven, disproven or talked about, or are they talking about a specific God concept? I’ve found that most atheists have gotten more than enough information about the Christian God to develop some sort of belief. It’s important for Christians to make sure it’s clear what God we are talking about. I’ve had to tell a few Atheists that when a Christian says “God” they are talking about something very specific and some deistic concept of god doesn’t even come into consideration for us.

  5. Mike says:

    Here’s the “lack of belief atheist” Bible to how they define their atheism.

    It seems to me that most people said all there need’s to be said, so ill just add this one point. When a person says they don’t reject the existence of God and that there is no evidence for God, saying there is no evidence for God is just diverting the question. Until that person explains their epistemological beliefs on how evidence relates to the truthfulness of a claim, it’s no better than saying “I don’t reject the existence of God, I only claim that there are no flying pigs”.

  6. Graffight says:

    yeah that’s it exactly Mike…in the video he is lacking a belief in some overarching god concept, but denies the existance of the Christian God specifically.

  7. This happened to me last week on my blog:

    And what I did to respond was to use the Columbo tactic to ask the person a question:

    “Do you know whether there is a being who brought the universe into being?”

    If he said “no” then he is an agnostic.
    If he said “yes, there is no such being” then he is an atheist.

    If he said the latter, I would immediately have been in a position to ask him how he can make the claim to know, since knowledge is justified true belief (Plato’s Theaetetus)). I could then ask: What’s his justification? What’s his evidence? In the end, he refused to answer the question, so the discussion ended abruptly.

    I think what we need to do with atheists now is EMBARRASS them with the speculations they make to weasel out of our arguments. I always mock them with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    What’s your explanation for the Big Bang? Is it the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    What’s your explanation for the fine-tuning? Is it the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    What’s your explanation for biological information? Is it the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    What’s your explanation for the Cambrian explosion? Is it the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    What’s your explanation for consciousness? Is it the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    What’s your explanation for rationality? Is it the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    What’s your explanation for the moral value of humans? Is it the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    What’s your explanation for the prescriptive morality? Is it the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    What’s your explanation for the minimal facts case for the resurrection? Is it the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

    I call naturalistic speculations “The Flying Spaghetti Monster”.

  8. Graffight says:

    @Wintery Knight I’ve always wondered how rediculing and mocking athiests fits in with 1 Peter 3:16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.

    It’s an issue I’ve had with many apologists on youtube and in blogs (Matt Slick really sticks out to me), because it seems so contrary to the way we are supposed to act. Do you have any insight on this matter?

  9. If depends on the audience. If the questions are sincere, be a lamb. If the questions are argumentative, be like Elijah on Mount Carmel, or like Jesus with some of the people asking him questions.

  10. Udaybhanu Chitrakar says:

    Some people believe that there is a God who is eternal. Some people believe that there are eternal laws of science.
    In whichever way belief is defended, belief remains a belief.
    One belief-system (God) has been merely replaced by another belief-system (laws of science).

    A joke:

    In olden-golden days the saying was: When there was nothing, there was God. When there will be nothing again, there will still be God.
    But then came the scientists and changed everything. The above saying also changed to this: When there was nothing, there were quantum laws. When there will be nothing again, there will still be quantum laws.
    These quantum laws are spaceless, timeless, changeless, all-pervading, eternal, unborn, uncreated and immaterial. Only that these laws lack consciousness. In every other respect they are just like God.
    These quantum laws are spaceless, timeless and immaterial, because when there was no space, no time and no matter, there were still these quantum laws. (Alexander Vilenkin’s model)
    These quantum laws are all-pervading, because these laws act equally everywhere.
    These quantum laws are scientists’ God.

    N.B. Scientists will have a nervous break-down if some day they come to know that quantum laws are not eternal.