The Burden of Proof and Non-Belief

The Burden of Proof and Non-Belief

 About two years ago I became interested in the new atheist movement and began to spend some time reading and contemplating it.  As I got into it, it struck me how much stress the new atheists puts on the question of who has the burden of truth[1] and on their belief that atheism should be categorized as a non-belief and not a belief.  It seemed that the significance they gave to these beliefs in their blogs diverted the attention away from the question of ‘does God exist’ and on to peripheral subjects[2]. At first this puzzled me and then it dawned on me how crucial these beliefs are to their thought system.

Why are these beliefs so important to new the atheists?  My suspicion is that some of them on the top of their intellectual food chain know that human reason can question and deny almost any belief.  Reason can  lead you to doubting your doubts.  So, how do you avoid this?  By simply declaring your thought system as an non-belief, making it immune to doubting and skepticism.  You never have to question it, for how can you question a non-belief?  So in essence, you can be a true believer without believing anything.  Ingenious to say the least.

What about the burden of proof?  Everyone who has dabbled in philosophy knows that you cannot prove empirically metaphysical ideas, you must infer them from facts and the inferences you contribute to the facts.  These inferences can always be questioned and doubted.  The atheist knows that the hard work is not questioning the inferences but creating them.  So, in their discussions with believers most stoop to the level of criticism.  This is why we find very few arguments against the existence of God and numerous arguments against the arguments of the theist, which proves nothing but the strength of the argument.

Some atheists have gone so far as to declare their un-belief as an absolute, claiming to have proven atheism[3], even to the point of criticizing and attacking agnosticism, which is the very state of mind that doubting is grounded on.  The agnostic says I do not know, therefore ‘I should question everything including my doubts’[4].  On the other hand some atheist[5] say you should doubt everything, but not your doubts about the existence of God and of course whatever else they deem as important.  Now I admit that atheism is the more manly and brave position rather than agnosticism, but it’s not the most rational or consistent position, from a doubters (skeptics) and believers point of view.

[1] I have a number of articles on my website about the burden of truth.  The technical definition of burden of truth basically says that it falls on the person making a positive affirmation. However, you can make a positive affirmation on a negative.  Example: there is absolutely no God.  Most reasonable people will admit that this statement cannot be proven beyond a shadow of doubt but the statement itself demands evidence or else it is simply an empty statement.  If not then why do atheists argue about it all the time?

[2] In one exchange the new atheist spent so much time arguing about the burden of proof we never got to the subject of the existence of God.  The young man seemed incapable of simply carrying on a conversation about the question, ‘does God exist’.

[3] Not many will make this assertion.  However, a few are brave enough.

[4] The true skeptic believes that the way to truth is through doubting.  Thus if you stop doubting you close off the source to truth and actually become a believer.  Atheistic absolutists’ are true believers in that they brand their abstract reasoning as absolute, and put their faith in it.

[5] These atheists are true believers, that believe that reason is pure and therefore can be absolute.  Of course reason is never pure and human knowledge never reflects reality totally.