Is Atheism a Belief System?
by Jack Lipsey
There is an idea going around that theists alone hold the burden of proof, not atheists. “If you want to make the positive claim that God exists,” they say, “you must prove that claim true or false.” We might then wonder, “Aren’t atheists making a positive claim that God doesn’t exist?” By saying, “I believe there is no God,” aren’t they, too, tasked with proving their claim true or false? The answer, according to them, is no. They would say theirs is not a belief, but a “lack or absence of belief.” In his book, God Is Not Great, the late Christopher Hitchens explains, “Our belief is not a belief.” So, what exactly are atheists saying?
If we take them at their word, and atheism is simply an absence of belief in God requiring nothing further, then they aren’t really saying anything at all. By their own standards, we cannot determine the truthfulness or falsity of God’s non-existence, all while they “sit there and throw stones at everybody else’s beliefs, while not having to bother justifying their own.” Beliefs and claims are the only things that can be true or false. If atheism is a non-belief, then it is neither true nor false. It all seems rather convenient for the atheist, which is exactly what they throw at theists regarding God’s existence…