A redefinition of Atheism?

Size pointed me to this page at Conservapaedia (following PZ Myers, anytime I mention conservapaedia on this blog, I shall always refer to it by the ‘wrong’ spelling) which alleges basically that atheists have been trying to redefine atheism as the lack of a position on the existence of one or more gods. Says the page at conservapaedia:

In the article, ”Is Atheism Presumptuous”?, atheist Jeffery Jay Lowder, states […] that anyone who claims, “God does not exist,” must shoulder a burden of proof just as much as anyone who claims, “God exists.”
In short, the attempt to redefine atheism is merely an attempt to make no assertions so no facts need be offered. The attempt to redefine atheism, however, is not in accordance with the standard definitions of atheism that encyclopedias of philosophy employ which is that atheism is a denial of the existence of God or gods.

I shall say nothing here about the dangers of faith, or why I think the very nature of faith goes against curiosity, knowledge, and truth. I’ll only say that faith is, by ‘standard definition’, as it were, the belief in something without evidence, and atheism is the absence of faith in god. What that means is this: I refuse to believe in god until you show me evidence supporting its (I see no reason to give a non-existent entity a penis, and a male pronoun to go with it) existence.

Like PZ Myers argues, absence of evidence isn’t proof of absence, but it is indeed evidence of absence. The fact that even after millennia of trying, human beings haven’t been able to come up with evidence for the supernatural means that there probably isn’t anything supernatural going on. Again, this isn’t proof that there isn’t anything supernatural going on, but it is evidence.

Atheists do, therefore, make an assertion. I assert that I don’t believe in god, that I see no reason to believe in god and that this is because there is no evidence for the existence of a (or two or many or a few trillion)  god(s). And, as Douglas Adams said, I am quite happy marvelling at the beauty of the garden without expecting fairies under the soil.

Which brings me to this: it’s stupid to brand a widely varied set of people with one tag, and allege that they are conspiring to ‘redefine’ something. But then, we’re talking about conservapaedia; this is probably the least stupid thing they’ve done in a while.


10 thoughts on “A redefinition of Atheism?”

  1. The burden of proof is very well explained by Bertrand Russell’s teapot analogy where he claims that one doesn’t believe in the existence of a hypothetical Chinese teapot orbiting the Mars because you just don’t.
    But if someone were to come along and claim that it were true, the burden of proof is on the that person and not on the one who shuns him/her as insane.
    In that sense, as Richard Dawkins puts it, we are all “a-teapotists”. To me it is an obvious corollary that we all ought to be “a-theist” too.

  2. Sorry to intrude, but there is plenty of evidence for God’s existence if you take the time to study theism. The horizontal and vertical cosmological arguments, the teleological argument, the ontological argument, the moral argument. Not to mention that there is a lack of evidence in some of these areas from a naturalist’s perspective (the cosmological argument is a biggie here).

    Read C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” for a good explanation of the moral argument. Watch a William Lane Craig debate on YouTube for the cosmological and teleological arguments. The evidence is out there if you know where to look.

    Thanks for your time. 🙂

  3. Not trying to sound rude here, but how can you be so confident if you take no time to study the evidence? That’s ignorance bordering on apathy. And even if you decide that there is no conclusive evidence, the saying “Absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence” is sufficient. I would do your homework before making such a bold assertion.

  4. That’s so nice of you. Again the point was made before but do look up “Argumentum ad Ignoratiam”. Cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments are mere instances of wishful thinking. You are only filling up gaps in our “current” understanding with the word God. I can do one better than you and call him (/it) Santa Claus. At least he brings presents. Maybe reading Chapter 3 of God Delusion might help.

    Regarding the moral argument, scriptures are the last place you would want to look for morals. Morality is innate. Don’t tell me you have to read a bloody book to tell you killing is bad.

  5. @ the believer, since assigning homework seems to be all the rage, might I refer you to PZ Myers’ article about the ‘absence of evidence…’ thing? Proof and Evidence are not the same thing, you know. Well, maybe you don’t.

    @ Nair, Nicely said. I see also that you’re into the whole assigning homework thing too, and keeping up with current fashion!

  6. “I would do your homework before making such a bold assertion”

    I was responding to this. I wish I had a friend who did all my homework.

  7. I wish I had a friend who did all my homework.

    …or a random dude from the interwebs.

    More seriously, the believer’s being all snooty, I grant you, but it isn’t wrong usage.

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