The Instigator
Burncastle
Con (against)
Winning
5 Points
The Contender
Guidestone
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

Do atheists have a burden of proof?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Burncastle
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/31/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,598 times Debate No: 55587
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (52)
Votes (1)

 

Burncastle

Con

This debate is a follow-up to a conversation I had with a fellow debater (http://www.debate.org...).

In this debate, I will argue that atheism (and, by extension, the rejection of any claim) does not have a burden of proof. This means that one's atheism can be rationally justified without adding evidence that "atheism is true" (whatever that means).

Indeed, the rejection of a claim (i.e. There is a God) is simply the state of not being convinced that the claim true; it is not the state of being convinced that the claim is false (i.e. There is no God), which would require more justification.

In a syllogism (for clarity):

P1: Any position that simply rejects a claim does not have a BoP
P2: Atheism is the rejection of the claim that there is a God
C: Atheism does not have a BoP.

I would like to know something: what is my opponent's position on the existence of fairies? In other words, does my opponent believe the claim "Fairies do exist"?

I will leave it at that for now. The rest of my arguments will depend on my opponent's exact position and how he answers the question above.
Guidestone

Pro

I accept this debate, and hope that we can come to a mutual understanding.

Firstly, some definitions are needed. According to Merriam-Webster

Atheism: a disbelief in the existence of deity, or the doctrine that there is no deity [1].
Agnosticism: a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not [2].
Theism: the belief that God exists or that many gods exist [3].

These represent the three possible answers to the question "Is there a deity?" No is Atheism. Yes is Theism, and Maybe is Agnosticism.

Firstly, I will address my opponents' claims. According to my opponent "Any position that simply rejects a claim does not have a BoP". What if I reject the idea that Mars is red? Is it up to me to prove my position or up to my opponent to prove me wrong? The answer here is simple, anyone making a truth claim such as, Mars isn't red, or God doesn't exist requires evidence/proof. Further, my opponent's syllogism can be turned around like

P1: Any position that simply rejects a claim does not have a BoP
P2: Theism is the rejection of the claim that there is no God
C: Theism does not have a BoP.

Obviously, this is absurd. However, if my opponent's syllogism is valid, there is no reason why this one isn't valid.

Dealing with fairies. I must say I am a fairy agnostic because I have not been involved with the question if they do exist or not which means I do not have a definite belief about whether fairies exists or not. Similar to being a Global Warming agnostic since I have not involved myself in that topic much either.

Now I will present my arguments for my position

1. Atheism is a belief.

The existence of God cannot be proved/disproved scientifically. This is because of the limitations of science. Science studies the natural world like cats, planets, humans, etc. However, any god would exist outside of nature, and therefore, could not be studied like we could study Mars. That is the job of Theology. Concluding, this is inherently a theological debate based on beliefs. To refute this point my opponent must show that there is a way to know for certain about things outside of nature.

2. Atheism is not the default position.

Atheism would not have a burden of proof if it was the default position to the question "Is there a deity?". However, the true default position here is actually agnosticism. This is because agnosticism is making no claims about God. "Unlike agnosticism, which leaves open the question of whether there is a God, atheism is a positive denial. [1]" Since people are not born with beliefs, and since they do not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not they must be persuaded to atheism. This builds upon my previous point which shown that atheism is a belief.

I will sum it up in a syllogism.

P1: A
theism is a belief, that is not the default belief.
P2: Any non-default beliefs must be justified by reasons (has a burden of proof).
Debate Round No. 1
Burncastle

Con

It would seem that this debate is going to be much shorter than I thought, since my opponent's arguments are based on a misunderstanding of what atheism (and agnosticism) actually is.

The definition of atheism that is held by the vast majority of atheists AND by the vast majority of dictionaries (see below) INCLUDING the one that my opponent has presented can be summarized as follow:

Atheism is the rejection of the claim that there is a God (or Gods).

My opponent also makes a common mistake; he assumes that atheism and agnosticism are mutually exclusive, when in fact they are not. While atheism addresses a question of belief, agnosticism addresses a question of knowledge. I, for example, am an agnostic atheist which means that I do not KNOW whether or not God exists, but I do not BELIEVE that he does. Most people tend to mix 'I do not believe XYZ' with 'I believe XYZ is false'; while the latter would require proof and evidence to be rational, the former doesn't since it is not a claim, it is the rejection of a claim.

My opponent asks 'Is there a deity?' and proceeds to give the answer that each view would give, two of which are incorrect. Here are the correct answers:

Theism: Yes
Atheism: I do not believe so
Agnosticism: I do not know

Now, my opponent rejects the idea that someone who simply rejects a claim does not have a BoP and gives the following example:

'What if I reject the idea that Mars is red?' Well, rejecting that claim does not give you the BoP. The BoP is on the person that claims that Mars is red, which can be supported by numerous photographs.

'The answer here is simple, anyone making a truth claim such as, Mars isn't red, or God doesn't exist requires evidence/proof' I agree with that statement 100%. The problem is that my opponent is again confusing two statements:

- 'I reject the idea that Mars is red' The person saying this does NOT have a BoP
- 'Mars isn't red' The person saying this DOES have a BoP, since they are claiming that Mars is IN FACT not red, which is a truth claim.

My opponent then makes a syllogism that is logically valid, but unsound since the second premise is false according to his own definitions.

On the question of fairies, my opponent claims that he does not 'have a definite belief about whether fairies exists or not'. The problem is, there is no middle ground between 'I believe XYZ' and 'I do not believe XYZ'. My opponent is again confusing 'not believing' with 'believing it's false'. Unless my opponent actually believes that fairies do exist, he is an 'afairyist'. As a general rule: unless you actively believe that XYZ is true, you are an 'aXYZist'.

'The existence of God cannot be proved/disproved scientifically' I agree, and that is one of the reasons why I am an atheist; because God (or at least some versions of it) is an unfalsifiable hypothesis.

'However, the true default position here is actually agnosticism.' Correction: the true default position is agnostic atheism; not knowing AND not believing.

'This builds upon my previous point which shown that atheism is a belief' Atheism is not a belief, it is the rejection of a belief.

My opponent makes another syllogism that is logically valid, but unsound since the first premise is erroneous for reasons I have mentioned earlier (i.e. atheism is not a belief).

In short, my opponent is erroneously describing atheism as a 'belief' in order to say that atheists have a burden of proof. My position is that since atheism is NOT a belief, atheists do NOT have a burden of proof.

Definition of atheism:

http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.merriam-webster.com...
http://dictionary.reference.com...
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...
http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

While I agree that some websites offer two definitions (the second being 'the belief that there is no God'), I believe I made it perfectly clear in the first round that I was referring to the definition most commonly used, which is that atheists 'lack a belief' in God, meaning that they do not believe he exists.

Plus, the etymology of 'atheism' also supports my definition: http://www.defineatheism.com...

I await my opponent's response.
Guidestone

Pro

I thank my opponent for their responses.

1. Rejection vs. Claim.
"I reject the idea that Mars is red"
"Mars isn't red'"

These phrases are saying the exact same thing with different words, but however my opponent think only the second one has a burden of proof.

In that case I could say my position is not "atheist have a burden of proof" but "the rejection of the claim that atheist don't have a burden of proof".

Rejecting a claim is the same a claiming it is false. You reject a claim because you believe it is false, you would not reject a true claim. If you didn't reject it because you believe it is false then why was it rejected? Further, What if I were to say Theism is not the assertion that 'There is a God', it is rather the rejection of the claim 'There is no God'?

2. Definition of Atheism

Atheism is a positive denial [1], meaning it makes a claim that there is no God; therefore, there is some burden of proof on the atheist. Consider this, if someone ask you why are you an atheist unless you say "because no one has proved me wrong" then you must believe there is some proof behind your claim.

For the question "Is there a deity?" my opponent falsly claims two are wrong.

We agree on theism
Agnotism: My opponent need to understand the definion of maybe. Maybe: "something that is not known for certain [2]." Esentially we gave the same answer.
Atheist: If I asked the question "Did you close the door" you might respond "I beleive I shut the door." or "I don't believe I left the door open." saying either of these communicates the exact same idea. Also does "I believe there is no god" or "I do not believe god exist" Just by switching a few words doesn't change the idea behind what is being said. Atheist say "no" to the question if god exist.

3. Agnosticism

Agnosticism and Athiesm are mutually exclusive. With the term agnostic atheist is using a different definition of agnosticism that was not defined anywhere. My opponent is using agnosticism as possibly which is not what agnostisism was defined as earlier. Also, as stated earlier there is no way to know for certain if God exist or not which would make every a "agnostic" Theist/Atheist. Also, as mentioned earliar anything you can not know is a belief. My oppoenet said "I do not KNOW whether or not God exists", so there is some belief if he rejects gods existence. To all questions that can not/ have not been proven with certainty the defualt answer is Maybe/I don't know which is agnosticism.

4. Fairies
My opponent claims there is no middle ground on the question "Do faires exist?". This is wrong. There are always mutiplute degrees of certainty like possibly, probably, maybe(agnostisism). These are valid answers to a question like this.



Sources
[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com...



Debate Round No. 2
Burncastle

Con

I also thank my opponent for their responses. I will keep on using the same separations for clarity.

1. Rejection vs. Claim.

My opponent claims that rejecting the truth of a statement is identical ("exact same thing") to claiming that the statement is in fact false. In order to make a truth claim, the speaker must at the very least BELIEVE what he is saying, otherwise that person has no reason to make this claim (let's leave "lying" out of this debate).

What does it mean to "believe"? Well, belief is the result of being convinced; we start believing something when adequate evidence has been presented to support the truth of the claim. Up until the point where such evidence is presented, belief is NOT given to the claim.

And this is what I meant when I said that there is "no middle ground between 'I believe XYZ' and 'I do not believe XYZ'"; one either believes a claim, or he does not. Not knowing whether fairies exists is included within the rejection of the claim that they DO exist.

Consider the following: Someone asks "Do fairies exist?". In this case, for most people, the honest answer is "I do not know". Why? Because "Do fairies exist?" is NOT a claim, it is a question. In reality (and regardless of people's beliefs), there are only two possibilities:

1) Fairies do exist
2) Fairies do not exist

Asserting any of these two possibilities comes with a burden of proof. Now, my opponent is making the following mistake: he assumes that afairyism is 2 and that fairyism is 1 (effectively splitting the burden of proof), but that is not case. Afairyism and fairyism BOTH address 1; while the latter is asserting it, the former is simply unconvinced of the truth of it.

Let's translate this into the topic of this debate:

Question: Does God exist?

1) God does exist
2) God does not exist

Asserting any of these two possibilities comes with a burden of proof. Now, my opponent is making the following mistake: he assumes that atheism is 2 and that theism is 1 (effectively splitting the burden of proof), but that is not case. Atheism and theism BOTH address 1; while the latter is asserting it, the former is simply unconvinced of the truth of it.


2. Definition of atheism.

"Atheism is a positive denial" A positive denial has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with atheism (or with the concept of burden of proof), and my guess is that my opponent did not bother look up the definition of "positive denial". A positive denial is "Giving yourself permission to temporarily disregard situations which need not be addressed at the moment" (http://www.winona.edu...). In other words, it is basically procrastination. How is that related to the topic? I do not know.

"If I asked the question "Did you close the door" you might respond "I beleive (sic) I shut the door." or "I don't believe I left the door open." saying either of these communicates the exact same idea." I disagree; just put this example in the above model (question and two possibilities) and it becomes clear that they do NOT communicate the EXACT same idea. As I said, there is a difference between a question and a claim; saying "I beleive (sic) I shut the door." is addressing the CLAIM "You shut the door", while saying "I don't believe I left the door open" is addressing the CLAIM "You left the door open". Moreover, this analogy is weak because the scope is too small: people would tend to believe that these two statements mean the same thing because they are both based on the evidence that the person probably remembers actually closing the door.

"Also does "I believe there is no god" or "I do not believe god exist"(sic)" Simply put: no.

"Just by switching a few words doesn't change the idea behind what is being said." This fails both as a general rule ("I like brown potatoes" vs. "I do not like brown potatoes") and as a specific rule in this context. The change of phrasing is EXTREMELY important in this context.

"Atheist say "no" to the question if god exist. (sic)" Well, apparently my opponent knows me better than I know myself.


3. Agnosticism.

"Agnosticism and Athiesm (sic) are mutually exclusive." No they are not. As I have said earlier, atheism addresses a question of BELIEF and agnosticism addresses a question of KNOWLEDGE. So not only are they NOT mutually exclusive, but atheism almost necessarily leads to agnosticism (since you can not really know something you do not believe). According to some philosophers, knowledge is simply an extreme form of belief.

"Also, as stated earlier there is no way to know for certain if God exist or not which would make every (sic) a (sic) "agnostic" Theist/Atheist" I agree with that statement. Depending on my opponent's definition of "knowledge", agnosticism may be a completely useless term.

"Also, as mentioned earliar (sic) anything you can not know is a belief." No, it isn't, not by a longshot. It is actually a LACK of belief.

"My oppoenet (sic) said "I do not KNOW whether or not God exists", so there is some belief if he rejects gods (sic) existence." For the umpteenth time, rejecting the truth of a claim is NOT the same thing as claiming that the claim is false.

"To all questions that can not/ have not been proven with certainty the defualt (sic) answer is Maybe/I don't know which is agnosticism." Not knowing whether or not something exists almost NECESSARILY leads to a lack of (rational) belief in the existence of that thing.


4. Fairies.

I have already addressed the question of fairies in this round.


In conclusion, my opponent's arguments have failed since they are based on erroneous assumptions and misunderstandings of definitions. I believe I have given sufficient reasons why atheists do NOT have a burden of proof and I would therefore encourage the audience to vote CON.
Guidestone

Pro

I thank my opponent for his insightful response, although there are some problems.

1. Rejection vs. Claim


I will use my opponent's structure here.

Question: Does God exist?

1) God does exist
2) God does not exist

These are the only two possibilities as shown by my opponent. These are contradictory claims, which means they both cannot be true, or both be false. Since they both cannot be false one must be true.

Theism says "I believe God exist". This affirms/asserts option 1, which means option two must be false.

Atheism says "I do not believe god exist". Unlike theism which affirms one, atheism denies one. This says option one is false, and since both options cannot be false it implicitly affirms/asserts option 2.

This shows that by taking a stance, affirming or rejecting, you assert one of these ideas, and as my opponent said "Asserting any of these two possibilities comes with a burden of proof".


My opponent never answers this from the previous round "Rejecting a claim is the same a claiming it is false. You reject a claim because you believe it is false, you would not reject a true claim. If you didn't reject it because you believe it is false, then why was it rejected? Further, What if I were to say Theism is not the assertion that 'There is a God', it is rather the rejection of the claim 'There is no God'?"


2. Definition of atheism

Is shows that my opponent did not read the context of positive denial, which gave him a wrong definition. The full sentence was "Unlike agnosticism, which leaves open the question of whether there is a God, atheism is a positive denial" [1]. Seen here this says agnosticism does not know if God exist or not, and that atheism isn't like agnosticism because it takes a positive stance against the existence of god, or it positively denies the existence of god. Hopefully, this cleared some things up.

As shown above, atheism affirms the idea that there is no god, the question we are debating in this section is whether it explicitly denies & implicitly affirms it or implicitly denies & explicitly affirms it. Either way this forwards my resolution that atheist have a burden of proof.

3. Agnosticism

As shown earlier atheism claims/beliefs, there is no god, and agnosticism was defined as "a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not". These are contradictory valves which means they both can not be held. My opponent never addressed the fact that they used a different definition of what was presented. By the way both atheism and agnosticism are defined they are mutually exclusive.

4. Fairies

It is important to remember this section was about the beliefs of fairies existing in which case you can hold a wide scale of beliefs such as "Faries probably exist", "Faries probably don't exist", "Faries could possibly exist", "Faries don't exist", etc.



Concluding, with the use of logic and reason I have shown how atheism does assert that God doesn't exist. This as with any other truth claim requires a burden of proof.

Sources
[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...


Debate Round No. 3
52 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Burncastle 2 years ago
Burncastle
There is no official name for that (just like there is no name for a person who believes fairies do not exist) although some people like to say "strong atheism". I do not really mind as long as you do not out atheists in the same basket.
Posted by Adam_Godzilla 2 years ago
Adam_Godzilla
If this is all so. What do we call a person who absolutely believes there is no god?
Posted by Guidestone 2 years ago
Guidestone
I wouldn't have such a problem with this if
1. Sagey didn't show such clear confirmation bias
2. Sagey didn't havs such a low elo rating, meaning poor debater.
3. There was more than Sagey's vote.
Posted by Guidestone 2 years ago
Guidestone
You are implying it with the rejection of the claim that there is a God.

You never address the point showing that saying You are rejecting the claim because you don't believe it is not true because the person hasn't met the burden of proof. If it is not true then it must be false.

"I don't think it is true you committed the crime" (not true)
"I think it is false that you committed the crime" (false)

These communicate the same idea. They both reject the claim that you committed the crime.

"I don't think it true that God exist" (not true)
"I think it is false that God exist" (false)

These communicate the same idea too. They both reject the claim that God exist.
Posted by Burncastle 2 years ago
Burncastle
You are either incredibly stubborn or you are trolling us. Both Sagey and I have already told you a million times that atheists ARE NOT CLAIMING THAT THERE IS NO GOD. One more time for the sake of clarity:

ATHEISTS ARE NOT CLAIMING THAT THERE IS NO GOD.

You keep on asserting that we believe things that we do not actually believe, and it is getting rather annoying.
Posted by Guidestone 2 years ago
Guidestone
Put very simply you avoid my direct question to you.

Question: Does God exist?

1) God does exist
2) God does not exist

These are the only two possibilities as shown by my opponent. These are contradictory claims, which means they both cannot be true, or both be false. Since they both cannot be false one must be true.

Theism says "I believe God exist". This affirms/asserts option 1, which means option two must be false.

Atheism says "I do not believe god exist". Unlike theism which affirms one, atheism denies one. This says option one is false, and since both options cannot be false it implicitly affirms/asserts option 2.

This shows that by taking a stance, affirming or rejecting, you assert one of these ideas, and as my opponent said "Asserting any of these two possibilities comes with a burden of proof".

Is this not true? If it isn't please show me where it is wrong.
Posted by Sagey 2 years ago
Sagey
I'll put it very simply

Believers in God say that God Exists and Everybody must believe in God.
Non-Believers say Believers have no evidence for God, so we can ignore their claims.

Believers are making a Positive Assertion.
Non-Believers (Atheists and Agnostics) are saying that Positive Assertion made by Believers is unverified and thus improbable.

The Believers are making a positive Assertion, thus have a Burden Of Proof, the non-believers are only claiming that Believers have not met that Burden Of Proof commitment.
That is all it has ever been.

When Believers stop claiming God Exists and that we should all worship God, the Non-Believers will stop attacking Believers for not making their BOP commitment, thus the arguments will end.

It is only the Theist's assertions that have caused all the arguments, nothing more.

If they stop making their grandiose assertions, non-believers will simply vanish from the public eye.
Posted by Guidestone 2 years ago
Guidestone
You are rejecting the claim because you don't believe it is not true because the person hasn't met the burden of proof. If it is not true then it must be false.

"I don't think it is true you committed the crime" (not true)
"I think it is false that you committed the crime" (false)

These communicate the same idea. They both reject the claim that you committed the crime.

"I don't think it true that God exist" (not true)
"I think it is false that God exist" (false)

These communicate the same idea too. They both reject the claim that God exist.

It is not that you are lying, just misunderstood.
Posted by Burncastle 2 years ago
Burncastle
"Rejecting a claim is the same a claiming it is false. You reject a claim because you believe it is false" No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no and no.

I have already told you countless times that this is NOT the case. You reject a claim because the person who presents it to you has not met their burden of proof.

I am telling you right now that I do not believe that God exists.
I also do not believe the claim "There is no God".

What do you make if this? Am I lying?
Posted by Guidestone 2 years ago
Guidestone
They reject the claim god exist. Rejecting a claim is the same a claiming it is false. You reject a claim because you believe it is false, you would not reject a true claim. If you didn't reject it because you believe it is false then why was it rejected?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Sagey 2 years ago
Sagey
BurncastleGuidestoneTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro did not really demonstrate that Atheism is not the default position, only made an assertion without evidence, Con clearly demonstrated that Atheism is a rejection of Theism, not an Assertion. Atheism simply rejects Theistic evidence for God, not making a claim of No God, just a claim that Theism has no evidence for its Assertion of God Exists. This has been demonstrated in Secular communities where Atheism disappears as they have nothing to oppose within that community.