By Prayson Daniel
When majority of atheists are asked to give an argument(s) for holding their position, Burden of Proof counter-argument is often given ” The burden of proof is on you believers, to offer some sort of evidence that God exist” to avoid the question. I coined a name for this maneuver,” the rabbit back in the hole!”.
In this article I will try to explore, what is Burden of Proof and atheism. The Aim of this article is to to answer the question of whether atheists are in deed off the Burden of Proof’s hook(namely giving support of their position they hold)
Mid-twentieth century atheists promoted the “presumption of atheism” as a default position, namely at the face value, this would appear to be a claim that the absence of evidence for the existence of God, we should presume that God does not exit. Thus a theist ought to bear a burden of proof to proof that God exit.
Should Christian agree with this presumption of atheism? Are atheist off the hook in giving arguments for holding there position?
N.B: Presumption of atheism commits argument to ignorance.
Burden Of Proof:
They are two type of burden of proof to be considered: Legal burden of proof and philosophical burden of proof.
The legal burden of proof is an obligation that remains on a single party for the duration of the claim.
The burden of producing evidence means that in general the party that cites specific facts for the substantiation of its claim also has the burden of producing the evidence to prove these facts. This burden depends on the substantive law governing the claim. Permissible presumptions and legal rules can shift the burden in various situations.( Heinrich Nagel”evidence.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Web. 03 Mar. 2011.)
The philosophic burden of proof is an obligation on a party in an epistemic dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position.
Atheism And Burden of Proof
Late Michael Martin, a leading atheist philosopher notes the following in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism:
If you look up “atheism” in a dictionary, you will find it defined as the belief that there is no God. Certainly, many people understand “atheism” in this way. Yet this is not what the term means if one considers it from the point of view of its Greek roots. In Greek “a” means “without” or “not,” and “theos” means “god.”1 From this standpoint, an atheist is someone without a belief in God; he or she need not be someone who believes that God does not exist.2 Still, there is a popular dictionary meaning of “atheism” according to which an atheist is not simply one who holds no belief in the existence of a God or gods but is one who believes that there is no God or gods. This dictionary use of the term should not be overlooked. To avoid confusion, let us call it positive atheism and let us call the type of atheism derived from the original Greek roots negative atheism.
No general definition of “God” will be attempted here,3 but it will prove useful to distinguish a number of different concepts of God that have figured in the traditional controversies and debates about religion. In modern times “theism” has usually come to mean a belief in a personal God who takes an active interest in the world and who has given a special revelation to humans. So understood, theism stands in contrast to deism, the belief in a God that is based not on revelation but on evidence from nature. The God assumed by deists is usually considered to be remote from the world and not intimately involved with its concerns. Theism is also to be contrasted with polytheism, the belief in more than one God, and with pantheism, the belief that God is identical with nature.
Negative atheism in the broad sense4 is then the absence of belief in any god or Gods, not just the absence of belief in a personal theistic God, and negative atheism in the narrow sense is the absence of belief in a theistic God. Positive atheism in the broad sense is, in turn, disbelief in all gods, with positive atheism in the narrow sense being the disbelief in a theistic God. For positive atheism in the narrow sense to be successfully defended, two tasks must be accomplished. First, the reasons for believing in a theistic God must be refuted; in other words, negative atheism in the narrow sense must be established. Second, reasons for disbelieving in the theistic God must be given.(Martin, Companion To Atheism p.1)
Two Tasks For Positive Atheism To Be Successful
- Refutation of the Reason for believing in a theistic God(base for negative atheism)
- Giving Reason for disbelieving in the theistic God
In short, a reasonable atheist need to have reasons for holding his/her position. The rabbit hole is not an opposition.
As defined above, philosophic burden of proof is an obligation on a party in an epistemic dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position.
An assertion that “There is no God“ is an epistemic dispute, as much as claim ” There is God”, Therefore both these assertions require sufficient justification/warrant for their position.
Thus “The burden of proof is” not only “on you believers, to offer some sort of evidence that God exist” but also to atheist to offer some refutation for existence theistic God, and give reason of disbelief in the theistic God.
Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-84270-9 – The Cambridge Companion to Atheism Edited by Michael Martin, Excerpt