Atheism Is Not the Lack of a Belief/Claim
(1)Atheism is not a claim; it is the lack of a claim––the lack of belief in Theism. We’ve heard that one many times. At least, I have. What follows below will be a dialogue between myself and an imaginary atheist who thinks (1) is the way to go about handling Theism.
A. Atheism is not a claim and so it shoulders no burden of proof. It is the lack of the belief in Theism.
B. So it is a lack of a claim, and thus not a claim, yes?
A. Yes, that is what I said.
B. Just making sure. So a claim is simply a proposition?
A. What is a proposition precisely?
B. Well, it is a claim about reality.
A. Oh! Certainly then; atheism is not a claim about reality, but a lack.
B. So it is not a proposition and certainly not a command?
A. Yes, it is neither a proposition nor a command.
B. If atheism is neither a proposition or a command, I have no idea what it means. Is it not babble crammed together with letters?
A. No, no! It is certainly not babble! You misunderstand me. Think of some being in a far off galaxy known as Zoidyxilumop. Do you not lack a belief in such a being?
B. I did! But now that you’ve mentioned it––now that you’ve mentioned the proposition that Zoidyxilumop exists––I no longer only lack a belief, but also deny the proposition that Zoidyxilumop exists.
A. What are you getting at?
B. It’s all good and well to say I lack belief in x when I have no idea of the proposition x, but when I am aware of such a proposition, then I do have some belief about it. That is to say, I no longer only lack a belief, but affirm or deny a proposition, or maintain that I believe neither that it is or that it is not.
A. You say Zoidyxilumop does not exist? How could you say that?
B. I can be quite confident that no such being exists. You did make him up after all. Either way, you did not respond to what I said.
A. I am not quite sure what to say.
B. Now it is time I ask you an important question: do you have knowledge that there is such a proposition as that God exists?
A. Yes, I do know that such a proposition exists (in the mind).
B. So you cannot simply lack a belief in it. You either affirm, deny, or withhold judgement about it. And since you think the proposition God exists is not true of reality, then an affirmation of the opposite is explicit in your denial.
A. But what about babies? They lack belief in God?
B. Yes, they lack belief in the proposition that God exists, and in the proposition that God does not exist. They are babies after all! You on the other hand do not only lack belief, but also affirm the opposite.
A. So is Atheism a claim?
B. Yes, it is. Atheism is the claim that God does not exist, and since such a claim/belief excludes belief that God does exist, it is the lack of such a claim. Yet it is more. It is the lack of a claim, but also the affirmation of the denial of that claim. We might distinguish between Ignorant Atheists (those that know nothing of the proposition that God exists – for instance, babies) and Atheists (those that do know of such a proposition and indeed deny it).