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.