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God new evidence

GOD: new evidence

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Is atheism a belief?

 

This video has provoked a lot of comments. One of the most common responses goes like this:

'Atheism is not a positive belief at all; it is just a lack of belief in any kind of God.  Because it is not a positive belief, it cannot possibly contradict itself.'

At least one person commenting on our video is so sure of this that they do not even need to watch the video they claim they are commenting on!

The claim that 'atheism is not a belief' is a common internet meme. It probably comes from an egregious attempt to shift the burden of proof onto the theist.

A logical problem

The problem with it is not a problem of atheism or of theism. It is a problem of logic:

One of the basic laws of logic is the 'law of non-contradiction.'  In its simplest form, this is often stated as 'A is not non-A.'

This means that 'believing A' is logically the same as 'not believing non-A.'  And 'not believing A' is the logically the same as 'believing not A.' NOT('there is a cat on the mat') is logically equivalent to ('there is not a cat on the mat').

Here is an example:  Along with almost all astronomers and physicists, I believe that the universe had a beginning.  This is logically equivalent to not believing that the universe has always existed. There is no middle ground: either the universe has always existed, or it had a beginning.  To not-believe in one of these options means to believe in the other.  That belief can be as strong or as tentative as you like, but you still believe one thing or the other. 

Two challenges

If you think this is wrong, here are two challenges to you. (This is not intended sarcastically. They are serious challenges to get you to think seriously about this issue):

(1) Express not-a-belief atheism in the form of a consistent logical syllogism.

(2) Provide an example of X, where 'I do not believe X' is not the same as 'I believe not X - the opposite of X'  Any example will do – preferably something that does not have anything to do with theism and atheism.

Because of the law of non-contradiction, what you choose to believe or not to believe has logical consequences. This means that any belief or unbelief can contradict itself.

Here is an example. I am an a-unicornist: I do not believe in unicorns. If at the same time, I believe that I have seen some unicorn tracks, there is a logical contradiction in my belief structure.

So it will not do to say that atheism is not a belief; it is just a lack of belief.  It is logically incoherent.  It will not do either to say that atheism cannot in principle contradict itself. Of course it can. 

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