Christian apologist, Tyler Vela, has observed that atheists like to define “atheism” and “belief” in very nontraditional ways, and these definitions lead to an absurdity. Consider the following: “Atheist” is redefined as someone who merely lacks the belief that God exists (rather than someone who believes God does not exist), and “belief” is redefined as holding something to be true without evidence (rather than a mental disposition concerning the truth of some proposition). Given these definitions, if God did something by which all people had direct and incontrovertible evidence that He existed, then no one could believe in God (since His existence is no longer an opinion without evidence). If no one believes in God because they know God exists, then they are atheists (because atheists lack a belief in God’s existence). Ironically, then, everyone would be an atheist precisely because they know God exists.
April 12, 2015
December 15, 2014
Atheists increasingly like to define atheism as the lack of belief in God rather than the affirmation that God does not exist, essentially transforming atheism from an ontological claim to a psychological state. Richard Howe recently had an interesting critique of this redefinition, pointing out that on this definition of atheism both atheism and theism could be true:
It is becoming increasingly more common for atheists to define atheism, not as the denial of the existence of God, but as a lack of belief in the existence of God. … This definition of atheism entails the quirky conclusion that atheism is logically compatible with theism. This is so because if atheism is the lack of a belief in god, then it could be the case both that atheism is true (i.e., it could be the case that George Smith, for example, lacks the belief in God) while at the same time that God actually exists.
- What exactly does it mean to be an “atheist”?
- Not So Fast: There is No Presumption of Atheism
- Atheists may lack belief in God, but they do not lack beliefs about God
- No one is born an atheist
Richard Howe, “God Can Exist Even if Atheism is True”; available from http://quodlibetalblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/god-can-exist-even-if-atheism-is-true/; Internet; accessed 15 December, 2014.
February 21, 2014
When you ask an atheist why they are an atheist, it’s not uncommon for them to respond, “Because there is no good evidence that God exists.” If that is their only justification for atheism, they have made a gross logical blunder.
In the case of genuine dichotomies (such as God’s existence: God exists, or God does not exist), the lack of evidence for A is neither evidence against A, nor evidence for B. In order to conclude that A is true or B is true, one must have positive evidence for the truth value of A or B. The absence of evidence for both A and B simply means that we must suspend judgment.
Applied to the debate over God’s existence, even if one wants to argue that there is no good evidence for theism, it does not follow that theism is false, and it certainly does not follow that atheism is true. To conclude that theism is false one must present positive arguments against theism. Likewise, to conclude that atheism is true, one must present positive arguments for atheism. Atheism is not the default position in the absence of evidence for God’s existence.
January 28, 2014
What are your thoughts on this message? Agree or disagree? Is atheism a religion? Why or why not?
UPDATE: February 13
Now that I’ve heard from you and interacted a bit with your answers, here are my thoughts on the message:
I think the message and image is powerful. I agree with the message too. Atheism cannot be meaningfully identified as a religion. This might seem like a no-brainer for some since atheism lacks belief in a deity, but belief in a deity is not a sine qua non of religion. Think of Buddhism, for example.
The best reason for rejecting the claim that atheism is a religion is that atheism is nothing more than the belief that God does not exist. There is no other content to atheism. For something to qualify as a religion, not only does it need a set of beliefs, but it needs to contain positive beliefs. Religions typically involve rituals of some sort, and provide answers to questions about origins, what’s wrong with the world, morality, meaning and purpose, and what the future holds. Atheism does not address any of these elements.
January 16, 2014
He who makes a claim bears a burden to demonstrate the truth of his claim. Theists have a burden to demonstrate their claim that God exists, and atheists have a burden to demonstrate their claim that God does not exist. Nowadays, however, it’s common for atheists to claim that the theist alone bears a burden of justification. They try to escape their own burden of justification by redefining atheism from a “belief that God does not exist” to “the absence of belief in God.” Since only positive beliefs can be defended, they are off the hook. All the pressure lies with the theist.
While I think their attempt to redefine atheism is intellectually dishonest, let’s grant the validity of their redefinition for a moment. Greg Koukl observed that while it’s certainly true atheists lack a belief in God, they don’t lack beliefs about God. When it comes to the truth of any given proposition, one only has three logical options: affirm it, deny it, withhold judgment (due to ignorance or the inability to weigh competing evidences). As applied to the proposition “God exists,” those who affirm the truth of this proposition are called theists, those who deny it are called atheists, and those who withhold judgment are called agnostics. Only agnostics, who have not formed a belief, lack a burden to demonstrate the truth of their position.
November 14, 2013
- 3 out of 4 adults believe in God: 76% believe in God, 14% don’t believe in God, and 10% are not sure.
- Young adults aged 18-29 are the least likely to believe in God. Only 63% believe in God. A full 25% don’t believe in God, and 12% are not sure, for a total of 37% God doubters/deniers. That’s 2 out of 5! Compare this to other age groups:
- 30-44 = 14% atheist
- 45-64 = 9% atheist
- 65+ = 6% atheist
October 23, 2013
Last year theoretical physicist and atheist, Lawrence Krauss, wrote a book titled A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing. As the title suggests, Krauss wrote the book to answer the age-old question of why there is something rather than nothing. The book was heralded by many atheists as the definitive answer to theists who claim God is necessary to explain the existence of physical reality. Indeed, in the afterward Richard Dawkins claimed that Krauss’ book devastates theistic arguments based on cosmology just as Darwin’s On the Origin of Species devastated theistic arguments based on design in biology. Other reviewers, however – including scientists, philosophers, and theologians – beg to differ. Having read the book myself (not just once, but two times now), I can see why they were less than impressed with Krauss’ argument.
While my overall assessment of Krauss’ argument is not positive, truth be told, most of the book was quite enjoyable and informative. That’s because the first 2/3 of the book is a lesson on the historical development of modern cosmology. Krauss doesn’t make his case for why there is something rather than nothing until the last four chapters. Unfortunately, that’s where the book falls apart.