The Definition Of Atheism

Atheist Symbol

A Change In Definition?

I have talked to various Atheists in recent years, and have learned that they usually define Atheism as a “lack of belief”.  However, if one were to cite the various dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster, American Heritage Dictionary, New World Encyclopedia etc, this definition is not to be found. Historically, Atheism has been defined as the denial of theism, disbelief in God or gods, and other meanings similar. So, why has this definition seem to have changed, and why does it matter? In a word, convenience.

When one is to say they “lack belief” in God or gods, it takes him/her off the hot seat to substantiate a claim of belief; even if that is a disbelief. Some may say that a disbelief is not the same as belief, but in the light of defending a position, it makes me wonder why so many atheists are rather adamant to inform me of their lack of belief instead of their disbelief.  It’s often asserted that the theist has the sole burden of proof to provide evidence for his/her claims while the atheist can just sit back and wait for those to be presented. In reality, it all depends on how the dialogue initiates, but even then there are different dynamics to the equation. For instance, I often read how Atheists -on the various forums I’m a member of- boldly assert that there is no God and that Christianity is a delusion. When asked for evidence of their position, they quickly retract by saying they actually lack a belief in God/gods and shift the burden of proof though they were the one making the initial claim. It is my opinion, that, both sides should share some of the burden to their position or claim  for it to be a fair discussion.

Edit: If an Atheist chooses to debate against the existence of God, he/she can’t later claim that they have a neutral position as Agnosticism, which says “I don’t know”. This stance against can’t be equivocated with “lacking belief” either. They do have a belief (against) that’s what they are sharing when in debate. As previously stated, this muddying of the waters is to punt the ball of any responsibility of proof in the debate. This is intellectual dishonesty. To take a stand, is to take a position, and to take a position is to assert a belief.


About Razor Swift

Rich Christian who is the founder of Razor Swift, seeks to open hearts and minds through the platform of apologetics. It's his desire to approach Biblical, faith, and other issues from a different perspective rather than just preaching to the choir in the Christianese dialect. He maintains that faith and reason mustn’t necessarily be at odds with each other, but can be complementary. May no stone lay unturned.
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4 Responses to The Definition Of Atheism

  1. David Tuey says:

    i would only agree if the atheist were claiming absolute certainty that there is no god. This assertion implies knowing for a fact that there is no god, and would therefor require proof.

    Saying i don’t believe in a god because there is no evidence supporting such a being requires no proof (as the lack of evidence was already stated as the reason). So yes, the religious community does have the burden of proof, in EVERY case except the one mentioned above.

    • razorswift says:

      Can you please define the difference between Atheism and Agnosticism? Thank you.

      • Robert Gilliam says:

        Agnosticism can also be interpreted as a subset of atheism. One who is an agnostic atheist (majority of atheists) will contend that there is not enough evidence for belief in a god. A Gnostic Atheist, on the other hand, rejects the existence of a god. In this case the burden of proof may be partially shifted to this person.

        As an agnostic atheist I do not believe in a god for the mere fact that there isn’t evidence to support one. I do not deny the existence and should enough evidence become available I would gladly alter my beliefs to match.

        Relevant to providing evidence:
        1) Any given statement can be either falsifiable or unfalsifiable.
        2) If a statement is unfalsifiable it can neither be proven nor disproven.
        3) Unless a statement can be proven or disproven we cannot know if it is a true statement.
        4) If a statement is unfalsifiable we cannot know if it is a true statement.
        5) Therefore, statements must be falsifiable for us to know whether or not they are true.
        6) Unless we can know whether a statement is true, it is useless when involved in a discussion concerning the state of reality.
        7) Therefore, a statement must be falsifiable to be of use when involved in a discussion concerning the state of reality.

        This tends to be the general stance of most atheists.

  2. razorswift says:

    “One who is an agnostic atheist (majority of atheists) will contend that there is not enough evidence for belief in a god.”

    I must have been conversing with all of the minority atheists that tell me in the affirmative that there is no God. I’ve been told by so many of these types that belief in God is a delusion, unintelligent, childish etc. I guess the true/real agnostic atheist would reply with the more humble (or uncertain) “God may exist but I just am not sure”. Going around telling people that God is not real is affirming gnostic atheism, in the definitive, therein lies the burden. Thank you for your insight.

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