The Atheist’s Burden of Proof
I was in a discussion today with an atheist, and the subject turned to the idea of burden of proof. It is a common claim that Christians own a burden of proof to prove that God exists, but that atheists do not own any burden at all. Here’s my response, that outlines the reason I disagree with this:
Many (and probably most) atheists will say they have nothing to prove at all, because atheism (a-theism) is merely being without a belief in the existence of any gods. Therefore, the only *positive* explicit assertion they are making is about their belief, and not about the actual existence of any god. That is, they aren’t necessarily saying “God does not exist” (although some do), but rather “I don’t believe there are any gods because I have not seen sufficient evidence to lead me to believe any exist.”
This position of not having a burden of proof is fine until one considers that holding any position whatsoever – even one of skepticism – implies a lot of things about reality, knowledge, possibly ethics, etc. That is, everyone (including the atheist) has certain assumptions (let’s call them “basic beliefs”) that they are leaning on in order to make any sort of claim, including the claim “I don’t believe in God.” Stated differently – nobody is neutral. We all have a network of basic beliefs we rely upon.
So, the challenge for the atheist comes when they are presented with the question “Do you believe *the God of the Bible* exists?” Notice the question isn’t simply “do you believe in any gods?” Instead, the question is about a specific type of God – the Christian God of the Bible.
Now, if the God of the Bible was like any other god, they could get away with saying “no” and leave it at that – no burden of proof. However, the God of the Bible isn’t like any other God…
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