What do you guys think of WLC's definition of atheism/burden of proof

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fruyian's picture
What do you guys think of WLC's definition of atheism/burden of proof


From what I can get out of it is:
Basically he's using "atheist" the way we use "gnostic atheist", but adding in that anyone that claims to be what we term "agnostic atheist" is really a closet agnostic that is too cowardly to step up and be a "real" atheist. Reasonable certainty that dragons don't exist is sufficient to say, "Dragons don't exist". Nobody then throws a fit that "Well, there might be a dragon sleeping in a dark cavern in the remotest jungle of the rainforest, so you can't say that dragons don't exist, so you can't possibly be an adragonist." Only religious privilege lets people get away with using the "You gotta be 100% absolutely super-ultra-megacertain that gods aren't real to call yourself an atheist!!!" argument. Which is what WLC is doing.

What do you get out of it?

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ashley.twichell's picture
What I got from reading this:

What I got from reading this:

Like most educated theists, WLC wants to come off as intelligent and logical. He begins by saying there's a slight, but crucial difference between saying "I don't believe in God" and "There is no God." His explanation for this is mostly ridiculous and has more to do with the linguistic peculiarities of English rather than any actual difference of meaning. When you say "there is no God", the inherent implication is that you don't believe god exists. Similarly, when you say "I don't believe in God", you can only be saying that you don't believe god exists. What else could you be saying? You don't believe that he's good? You don't believe...what? His "logic" falls apart when you try to think of what else a person could mean by saying that.

The cognitive dissonance in this Q&A is almost unbelievable. After establishing himself as a "logic" expert (by basically confusing people who would rather have someone explain things to them than actually think for themselves), he goes on to assert that atheists of the twentieth century invented this idea that the burden of proof rests with the person who's making a positive claim (i.e. that God exists). Of course they did! That's literally the principal, core tenet that our American justice system rests upon: the burden of proof is upon the prosecution, i.e. the people making a positive claim that a certain individual or individuals committed a crime. For all his expertise on logic, he missed out on probably one of the most basic concepts of logic: you can't prove a negative. Let's say that again: you can't prove a negative. By insisting that atheists are shirking the duty of "proving their own point", he fundamentally misunderstands the art of reasoning and the rules of basic logic. Atheists aren't trying to prove a point, necessarily, they're poking holes in belief systems that other people have set up who ARE trying to make a point.

For instance, I could say that snorblogs exist and they're a rare type of cat-penguin hybrid that possess magical abilities to commune with people over great distances, but are invisible to the naked eye. In no other context but religion would my claim of snorblogs merit even the tiniest bit of credibility. And detractors of my claim would hardly have insults thrown at them, or be forced to alternately prove that snorblogs *don't* exist. How does one go about doing that, exactly? Right, you can't prove a negative. It's utterly absurd to ask someone to prove the non-existence of something. Something is presumed not to exist until it's proven to exist. Snorblogs do not exist because no one has ever found actual evidence of cat-penguin hybrids with telepathic abilities.

When atheists do try to prove that god doesn't exist by pointing out the lack of evidence in favor of his existence, we're usually ignored, dismissed, or told that ultimately, it's not about proof. It's about faith. So what do these theists want? They want you to defend your position, you do it admirably, and then they dismiss your reasoning and say it was never about proof in the first place. Utterly maddening. But this is what happens when you try to engage with people who have internalized a flawed sense of reasoning, who have been taught the value of not thinking, who have been scared and manipulated into believing that knowledge is the root of all evil, and that your own thoughts can't be trusted because if they sway from a certain belief inculcated by other people,then it's not really your thought, it's the work of an evil, supernatural being trying to trick you into eternal damnation. It's literally mind torture. Actual brainwashing.

So it's very frustrating to read a theist trying to argue logically when their core beliefs go against every rule and measure of logic that exists. They try to use the tools of atheism against us, but come out looking even more moronic than before, if that's even possible, which sadly, it is. Unfortunately, many people are swayed by his particular brand of charlatanism.

algebe's picture
It's all rather trivial and

It's all rather trivial and irrelevant really. "There is an important logical difference between believing that there is no God and not believing that there is a God." That makes as much sense as most things you hear from theists. I think the two statements are logically equivalent.

Why is anybody trying to prove anything? Atheists have reached their conclusions based on the balance of evidence (i.e., zero), and we don't need to prove anything to anybody, while theists keep telling us that their religions are based on faith, not logic. So why is this pompous relignoramus responding to the patsy question by pretending to be a logician? The Christian answer should be, "Have faith. Don't question. Don't ask to see the nail holes."

Personally I don't care what theists believe as long as they don't try to infect me with their fantasies. They don't need to prove to me that god exists, and I don't need to prove the opposite to them. All of the conversations I've had with theists on this subject have been initiated by them trying to sell me their fairy stories, some of which are almost as credible as flat-Earth theories.

chimp3's picture
Lane states atheists are

Lane states atheists are making a positive claim when stating "there is no god" and he is correct. Logically we would have to support that claim with evidence\argument. That is easily done by pointing to the total lack of evidence in support of gods existence . I , however, am not a scientist or a philosopher. I can say there is no god simply because I have to draw the line somewhere. Otherwise any claim becomes credible and deserving of precious time in consideration. Life is short.

Dave Matson's picture


Couldn't you just say that God is no more credible than the Easter Bunny? It would be a case of no beef, no belief. Notice that your claim would be about existing evidence and the rational handling of claims without evidence. It's a fine point, but since lack of evidence does not always imply lack of existence you would be on safer theoretical ground.

William Lane Craig seemed to be concerned with what he called the default position. Well, if you don't have the evidence for the Easter Bunny, then you have no rational grounds for holding that belief. There is no default position as to the presumed truth of our Easter Bunny. The rational mind simply rejects it for lack of evidence (we will ignore contrary evidence here). Thus, the Easter Bunny hypothesis is off the table (until evidence can be produced, which would be unlikely in some cases) which is slightly different from taking it off the table because of a positive argument for its non-existence. In that case the Easter Bunny hypothesis is off the table and not likely to return unless the argument falls apart.

Unless it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that no significant evidence is forthcoming, rejecting the God "hypothesis" for lack of evidence is not a compelling argument against God's existence; it is a compelling argument against assigning any current credibility to that claim. William Lane Craig's attempt to play around with the burden of the proof fails because there is no default position.

Atheists win either way. Atheism is wholly justified if god-belief has no evidence to support it. That is, an atheist would reject god-belief for lack of evidence. He or she would simply say that there is no more reason for believing in God than, say, fairies. This is not the same as claiming positively that God does not exist, a claim we don't have to make to be atheists. (Atheists, of course, have many good reasons for positively claiming that various popular gods don't exist!)

chimp3's picture
@greensnake: At one point do

@greensnake: At one point do you tell the kids 'there is no easter bunny". Or are you saying we should say "no evidence of the easter bunny does not rule out its existence"?

chimp3's picture
I came across this argument

I came across this argument earlier: "For something that is weakly observable (i.e pre-cambrian fossils) absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".

Rukbat's picture
When I want WLC to tell me

When I want WLC to tell me what I believe (or don't believe), I'll let him know. Until then I still use the old definition - lack of belief in any god.

MCDennis's picture
What do I think? I think he

What do I think? I think he knows better but is making a great living preaching to the believers -- the already converted

chefu's picture
To make a truth claim you

His argument is moving away from logical thinking :p
truth claims need proof using methods for evaluating or falsifying

There is no god is a truth claim
no proof means a fallacy...

Pitar's picture
I guess I stop at the

I guess I stop at the question asking if I do or don't believe in god. I simply call the question invalid, which asks the inquisitor to qualify himself. This turns the question around on him. He must qualify the existence of a god to qualify the question. He cannot logically do that.

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