"You get the argument that their position is different because it is a non-belief, rather like not collecting stamps."
This has always seemed silly to me. When an atheist claims that all atheism is is a lack of belief in god, and that therefore he makes no claims whatsoever and has no burden of proof in a discussion about atheism and theism, I ask him if he lacks belief for a reason. If not, then his position is non-rational, and not worth discussing. If so, then he does, it seems to me, make at least one claim, viz. his reason(s) justifies his lack of belief. If this is so, why is he not obligated to defend *that* claim?
The response I usually hear is, "well I lack belief because there's no evidence," to which I respond, "fine, but you must now tell me what you mean by evidence, what counts as evidence, and so on, and then defend the claim that there is no evidence for god's existence against some claims that such and such counts as evidence for god's existence, so you *still* have an obligation to defend your claim; oh, and you must use the term evidence consistently, so you cannot say that X isn't evidence for god because it fails to meet requirement R, but Y is evidence for this or that scientific theory (or whatever), if it too fails to satisfy requirement R."
Not only that, but if atheism is merely a lack of belief, then it's just a description of one's psychology: search all of S's beliefs, and you won't find the belief, "god exists." But then to say that Jones is an atheist is akin to saying that Jones has red hair. Notice, though, that while we can say it's true *that* Jones has red hair, it's meaningless to say, Jones's red hair is true (or rational, or probable, or warranted, etc.; but if this is the case, then it's just as meaningless to say that Jones's atheism is true (or rational, probable, warranted, etc.). But atheists tell us all the time that atheism is rational, etc. Hence, atheism cannot be merely descriptive, i.e. refer to a lack of belief merely.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Let Me Tell You--Vehemently, And In Great Detail--All About My Hobby Of Not Collecting Stamps
From the comments to this post: