Atheism and the Burden of Proof

January 29, 2013 | 2 comments

I was recently asked to name the most common argument made by atheists today. I have to say, the atheists I’m in dialog with tend not to make arguments for atheism. Rather, they appear preoccupied with redefining their terms, maintaining that atheism is not a claim to knowledge but merely a suspension of belief. 

This is incorrect. The way the term atheist is normally used, it refers to a person who rejects the existence of God. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy states: “According to the most usual definition, an atheist is a person who maintains that there is no God.”

We already have a perfectly good word in the English language for a person who withholds belief in God: agnostic (from the Greek roots a- [not] plus gnostos [known]). If your position is that you do not or cannot know if God exists, then you should call yourself an agnostic.

Trying to redefine atheism to mean something less resolute is a move some atheists make because they don’t think they can make a compelling argument against the existence of God.

Furthermore, there seems to be an implicit admission here: that the traditional arguments against the existence of Godsuch as the argument from evil, or the inconsistency of the nature of Godfail. If they worked, or were at least compelling, the atheist would use them.

Ultimately, anyone who is trying to convince another person of his position must shoulder the burden of proof. If someone who believes in God wants to convince someone who doesn’t, then he must offer evidence for his case. If a person who does not believe in God wishes to convince a believer, then the burden of proof is on him.

Therefore, if you are an atheist, you do indeed have to shoulder the burden of proof if you want to convince others of the claim “There is no God.” That is as much a claim to knowledge as “There is a God.”


Matt Fradd is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Outreach for Integrity Restored, as well as their Director of Content Development. He is the editor of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women who Turned From Porn to Purity and coauthor of Victory: A Strategic Battle Plan for Freedom in the...

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Adam Charles Hovey - Trenton, South Carolina

The burden of proof is not on the theist, but the atheist, as the non-believer is the one making the assertion.

February 9, 2015 at 7:15 pm PST
#2  Ann Onymous - City, California

The burden of proof is on the one making the claim.
Atheists do not "claim" that there is no god, they OBSERVE that there is no god. The burden of proof is on the theist who CLAIMS that there is a god. This is a positive claim - you intentionally ignore the requirement that a BURDEN of proof is upon the one making the POSITIVE claim, not on the refuter or denier of that claim. There is no such thing as a logical CLAIM that god does not exist, only the CLAIM that a god DOES exist.

Furthermore, if you really insist on requiring proof of the atheist, their answer is quite simple: You prove that your claim is true, i.e. PRODUCE this god of yours for examination, as nothing less constitutes proof. Your utter failure to produce god in ANY meaningful form is the proof that your god does NOT exist.

Now grow up, let go of your fantasy world and welcome to reality. I'm sorry it's a bit harsh right now, but that will get better when all the superstitious liars, like Matt, mature and accept reality.

July 1, 2016 at 1:37 pm PST

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