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Is atheism the default posistion on questions of faith?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/13/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 521 times Debate No: 45834
Debate Rounds (4)
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Some people state that atheism is the neutral position or the default position when discussing matters related to faith. Absent of any evidence either way the possibility of the existence or nonexistence of God is equally probable. Atheism biases toward the position that God does not exist no matter how you define atheism. It is not rational to bias toward one conclusion over the other prior to investigation. I am arguing that the appropriate default or neutral position is soft agnosticism. Put another way, it is saying "I don't know, but I'll examine the evidence." Atheist base their argument on their experience and assumptions. If I base the same argument on the experience and assumptions of about 99% of the human race then the default position would be to accept belief of some kind until there is disproof. Atheists arguments are not based on logic or reason but on personal prejudice.


When I was debating you in the comments of our last debate, I was supporting atheist agnosticism (i.e. 99 % sure). So, no, absolute atheism (100% sure there is no God) is not the default position. In any statement that claim that something exists or claim that something has happened, the burden of proof lies on the claimer. This is the position I will be supporting. The default position to such a statement is not to rule out its existence completely, but to maintain a belief in its untruthfulness until evidence is produced. Here are two examples of logical execution of this idea, posed as dialogues between 2 people, a claimer and a skeptic.

"I believe that that the hormone vasopressin has a direct connection with water retention in the kidney."
"Ok. Can you provide evidence? Until then, I cannot definitively say that vasopressin has no correlation with water reabsorption, but I can safely assume that it does not. This is because there are so many possibilities (i.e. anything that is not vasopressin could also theoretically have this effect). It seems foolish, even if they all are equiprobable, to bet, without evidence on one over all the other options in the world."
"Ok. Here are studies that prove vasopressin has a connection with water reabsorption in the kidneys.;
"I now believe that vasopressin has a connection with water absorption in the kidneys because you have provided evidence. Thank you for expanding the sphere of human knowledge."
"You're welcome."

The sceptic has been provided enough evidence to accept the hypothesis of the believer/claimer. Thus, the default, skeptical disbelief, has been replaced with belief. Here is my next dialogue.

"I believe that there is an invisible man who can read my thoughts who lives in the sky. He loves me and cares about my actions, but He does not like it when I work on Saturdays."
"Ok. Can you provide evidence? Until then, I cannot definitively say that there is not an invisible man who can read your thoughts who lives in the sky and that He loves you and cares about your actions, but he does not like it when you work on Saturdays. This is because there are so many possibilities (i.e God does not care whether you work on Saturdays, God is a banana cream pie, there are three gods which are all banana cream pies, there is no supernatural being etc.). It seems foolish, even if they all are theoretically equiprobable, to bet, without evidence, on one over all the other possibilities."
"Well, for evidence, I can provide a book written by many different authors, translated many times, written in the first century that claims it is true."
"Seeing as you are unable to provide serious evidence for your claims, I maintain that although they could potentially be true, they are very unlikely to be so."

These "dialogues" are, of course, an exaggeration. No one would actually have these conversations. But they do illustrate what I am saying. Someone is innocent until proven guilty. Any statement is assumed to be false, because there are so many possible alternative explanations (photosynthesis is fueled by sunlight, photosynthesis is fueled by the flatulence of ancient astronauts, photosynthesis is powered by energy from the splitting of chlorine, etc). The list goes on and on. If we were given no evidence to suggest that photosynthesis is powered by the sun, or if we were given a book written in the first century by people who could not calculate the value of pi that said photosynthesis is powered by sunlight, it would be foolish to therefore say "photosynthesis is powered by sunlight."

The burden of proof lies on the people making the claims. Can you imagine if we made the reverse the staple of the justice system? For every crime committed, we would have to assume guilt of all suspects, then work to prove them innocent. By using innocent until proven guilty, we make the assumption that someone is only notable if they actually committed the crime. We do not narrow down from a list of infinite suspects, We work to provide evidence that puts a minimal amount of people on the lost of suspects.

The same is true for religion. There are an infinite amount of possibilities as to who the creator of the universe is, or even if there is one. We do not search for evidence eliminating each potential belief until we have one true religion left. We make assumptions based off of the evidence we are able to provide. That is why atheist agnosticism is the default, when provided with no evidence, for the claims we make about who created the world. That is the way it should be with any statement that claims something exists. Most of the time we cannot disprove it, but we also cannot prove it. Anyone who feels that a belief is true only because it cannot be disproven would sincerely believe in unicorns.
Debate Round No. 1


I think that it would be helpful to start out with some definitions first. Most atheists I talk with define atheism as: "To lack belief if god or gods". I'm going to demonstrate why that is not the proper definition of atheism and cannot be. First off let's look at what the experts have to say that the definition is:
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: ""Atheism" means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God."
Websters Dictionary: 2
a : a disbelief in the existence of deity
b : the doctrine that there is no deity
noun (Concise Encyclopedia):Critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or divine beings.
American Heritage Dictionary: Atheist: Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods. (Just in case an atheist wants to appeal to the word "Disbelief in the definition; I have bad news for you American Heritage defines disbelief as: Disbelief: Refusal or reluctance to believe which is deliberate and active. This as opposed to a "Lack of belief" which denotes simple absence and is passive.)
Cambridge Dictionary: Atheism: the belief that God does not exist.
Cambridge Encyclopedia of Philosophy was the only resource that partially supported the atheists definition by stating that it was commonly used.
What we learn from this analysis is that atheism is in no way a passive lack of belief. It is not simply a pure intellect unpolluted by spiritual gibberish. It is an active, deliberate, willful and sustained rejection of belief in god or gods. This immediately disqualifies atheism for consideration as our default position to begin an investigation of spiritual matters as you would already have your mind made up before you began.

The definition "To lack belief in god or gods" is inappropriate because it is unclear and misleading. One, it is unclear in that it leaves you with the inability to distinguish between, soft agnosticism, Buddhism, Taoism, Animism, Ancestor veneration and atheism. Second it is misleading because it seems that the intent of the definition is more to cloud peoples understanding of who atheists are than it is to clarify who they are. Atheism suffers from incoherence. To actively disbelieve in god he must think that he has exhaustive knowledge of the Universe, outside of the Universe, and at all times in the present, future and the past. To be able to do that he would have to be god. The belief is self defeating. Even the idea that "I very or quite sure there is no god suffers from this problem." Strong agnosticism or the statement "We cannot know if there is a god" has exactly the same incoherence in it. So it appears that in light of this embarrassing problem atheists seek to escape responsibility for it by playing a word game. Rather than being honest and saying "I don't believe in god" or "There is no god" which is clearly what is implied by their behavior and words; they invent a clever definition for their beliefs and then even claim that they aren't beliefs! As if their ideas were simply fact! Which is also what is implied when atheists demand that their beliefs be taken to be the default position. I wonder if atheists understand just how arrogant and offensive to just about everyone else that really is. In reality better than 99% of human beings throughout human history have had a faith of one kind or another. It would appear that faith is the default possession of humanity as nature gave it to us. It would be far more reasonable for us to start from there. My suggestion is far more modest. I suggest simple neutrality for those who are undecided. Soft agnosticism or the doctrine that "I don't know" is the safest attitude to take when approaching the unknown.
My opponent brings up unicorns and implies that we don't discuss them we just assume they don't exist. Why should we be neutral on the question of god. The answer is because we are not debating the existence of unicorns nor are billions of people devoted to worshiping unicorns or it would be an appropriate topic for exploration. Oddly, by the way, there are unicorns but they aren't horses, there are some goats who manifest a single horn and so appear to be a unicorn.


aasib forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


JonathanDJ forfeited this round.


aasib forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


I don't know what to say because my opponent never posted a response.


aasib forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by MartinKauai 3 years ago
"Atheism biases toward the position that God does not exist no matter how you define atheism."

JohnathanDJ, this is clearly not correct. It is a lack of a position because their is no claim being made (besides hard atheism). Atheism is nothing more than analyzing theistic claims and withholding judgment, and therefore withholding belief, for one reason or another. Atheists have bias, but this is specious. Strictly speaking, everyone has bias to some extant. This does not demonstrate that atheism as a default position is an illusion.

"What we learn from this analysis is that atheism is in no way a passive lack of belief."

This is not an analysis. All you did was grab dictionary definitions and assume they accurately reflected atheism. You're placing too much emphasis on words. We give meaning to words, they don't give meaning to us. Most atheists simply "lack" belief, which demonstrably makes your entire argument a misrepresentation on semantic grounds. You're argument is possibly valid for hard atheism. Beyond that, you're running in circles.
Posted by dawndawndawndawn 3 years ago
Posted by Sagey 3 years ago
In actual fact, in spite of the debate topic: Secularism is the more Neutral position on Faith, not Atheism.
Secularism is essentially an "Don't Know" or even a "Don't Care" position, like Agnosticism.
So essentially Secular Societies are Agnostic Societies or Neutral.
Though it has been noticed that in societies where Religion is prevalent, Atheism is visible and considered a nuisance by religious fundamentalists.
But, when a society becomes Secular, atheists and atheism disappear and invisible.
So it only appears that Atheists are active while they see religion a threat, neutralize the threat of religion and Atheists stop being active.
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