The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Atheism Has No Burden of Proof

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/20/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,858 times Debate No: 61698
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (20)
Votes (2)




BoP is on myself as Pro and Instigator to prove the resolution.

My BoP requirement is to demonstrate that my case is rationally justified despite Cons rebuttals.

The definition of Burden of Proof and Atheism are subject to debate.

First round is for acceptance only. No new arguments in round 4.

All other standard debate rules apply.


I accept and await my opponent's argument.
Debate Round No. 1


The Burden of Proof

The BoP can have different interpretations in our society. As this is a philosophical debate we are clearly discussing the philosophic BoP which Wikipedia defines:

"The philosophical burden of proof or onus (probandi) is the obligation on a party in an epistemic dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position"[1]

By accepting this non-controversial definition the obvious point to address becomes that of what saddles a person with this burden. Some might claim that the party which is defending the more unreasonable position has the burden, however application of this idea forces one to beg the question for until one can establish whether the BoP has been satisfied, one cannot determine the reasonableness of a position. That is why it is overwhelmingly accepted that the BoP necessarily falls onto the side which is making the claim, and when placed into practice it becomes obvious why this is so.

If I were to claim that magical ferries exist then there would be nothing to stop encyclopedias from being forced by obligation to list my claim as fact other than someone proving it wrong. Of course that's simply not how it works. It does not matter if the claim has not been proven false, if I or anyone making a claim expects others to accept it as true then I must provide sufficient evidence to justify it. This applies to all claims. Some would say that simple claims do not require a burden of proof, however this is false. The fact is that simple claims are often rationally supported by nothing more than the claim being made. For example if I state that I went shopping yesterday, then my say so alone gives one sufficient rational justification to accept that my claim is true thus my burden is satisfactorily upheld.

Dictionary Definitions

I will again refer to Wikipedia:

"Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists" [2]

I use Wikipedia here because it highlights the fact that there is no clear accepted definition of Atheism. There are plenty of dictionaries that define atheism as an assertion or claim, but there are also plenty that do not. According to the BoP argument above, the definition is one that must be answered in order to uphold the resolution. And to answer it we must determine what one should reasonably accept as the definition by discussing the implications of the proposed definitions. The following argument will do just that.

Properly Applying the Burden

1. Theism and Atheism Address Belief

A statement of whether one is a theist or an atheist is a statement about what they believe regarding the existence of God. That is evident by the definitions.

2. Reality vs Belief about Reality

I think we all understand that there are only 2 options regarding the existence of God; He either exists or he does not. However since theism and atheism address belief, the way we categorize one's belief about this question must be thought of differently. One can believe God exists, believe that there is no God, or not hold a belief either way. Because of this fact there are now 3 potential categories, which poses a problem considering that there are only two options in reality regarding the question.

3. The Two Prongs of a Dilemma

The problem posed in point 2 often leads to unproductive discussion by confusing what any argument for or against a proposition accomplishes. This problem is so because it makes the grand mistake of trying to address two prongs of a dilemma simultaneously. To expand allow me to use a court room example:

A defendant on trial for murder is either guilty or innocent of the crime. Those are the only two options in reality. So imagine a courtroom where we have one side defending the guilty prong and the other side defending the innocent prong. Imagine that the guilty side shows evidence of the defendant's finger prints on the murder weapon, and the innocent side shows evidence of the defendant being out of state that the time of the murder. The guilty side responds by proving that the video footage of the defendant is not actually the defendant, so he was not necessarily out of state. The innocent side shows that the finger prints on the murder weapon were not that of the defendant. So in short, both sides refuted the other side's case. What is the outcome of this exchange?

There is no meaningful outcome because we're back where we started, with neither side substantiating their burden. The problem here is that each prong is an assertion on its own, which means that both sides had the burden of proof. So in the act of each side arguing their positions, they are actually having two different debates at the same time. This is how addressing two prongs simultaneously leads to confusion as to what each argument means and which side it should apply to. It is an extremely unproductive way of trying to rationally address an issue.

4. Categorizing the Positions

To fix this problem we focus on one prong at a time. Courtrooms do this by focusing on the prong of guilt which necessarily gives the prosecution the burden of proof. "God exists" is one prong of the God dilemma. "God does not exist" is the other prong. Since there is no dispute as to the definition of theism, we must look at which prong theism addresses in order to know which one atheism addresses. Theism is a belief in God, thus someone who holds no belief either way is not a theist. The proposition "God does not exist" is therefore not the prong theism addresses because a theist and the person who holds no belief would both reject this proposition resulting in the two sharing the same position on that prong, which is a logical contradiction. They can't share the same position while being on different sides of it. The prong "God exists" is therefore the correct proposition that theism and atheism address.

This forces us to categorize the person who has no belief either way as an atheist, because that is the contrasting position on the proposition theism addresses. And since there is no dispute that the person who believes God does not exist fits into the atheist category, we now have a commonality by which we can define the position. That commonality if the lack of belief in a God.

5. Not Believing Proposition A =/= Believing proposition B

Since the lack of belief in God is the only commonality between the latter two I just discussed, we can easily conclude that someone saying that they do not believe in God is not the same thing as saying that they believe God does not exist. And since the person who does not believe in God is therefore not necessarily making any assertion, that position does not have a burden of proof.


A common argument against the resolution is that the person who holds no belief either way is an agnostic not an atheist, which therefore places only people who believe God does not exist in the atheist category. This is first off a failure to understand what point 3 I just emphasized regarding the importance of dealing with one prong at a time. But it is also more importantly a misunderstanding of what agnosticism actually is. I will again refer to Wikipedia:

"Agnosticism is the view that the truth values of certain claims - especially claims about the existence or non-existence of God, as well as other religious and metaphysical claims - are unknown or unknowable" [3]

As the definition makes clear, agnosticism does not address one's belief about the actual proposition in question. It instead address the question as to whether the claim itself is knowable. The term is not mutually exclusive with theism or atheism. One can believe God exists but also believe that the claim "God exists" is not a knowable claim (agnostic theist). One can also not believe in God while believing that God claims are not knowable (agnostic atheist). Therefore agnosticism does not address the actual proposition that theism and atheism address.

Atheists Define Atheism

If you were just starting out in politics and wanted to understand what the Democratic Party stands for from their point of view, would you go seek that information from a Republican? Clearly not because we understand that when labeling a set of beliefs, the people who understand the beliefs are generally the ones who hold them. It is completely asinine to try to define someone else's position, which is exactly what theists do when trying to define atheism. And this is exactly what is happening and why there is so much confusion about this definition. The vast majority of people who label themselves atheists ascribe to my definition. It is the job of the people who do not hold the position to understand what the label means for the same reason that we do not allow the Democratic Party to layout the official core principles of the Republican Party.

I've said enough for now. The resolution is affirmed.



I thank my opponent for his argument, I shall now rebut his and present mine.

1- Definitions

I agree with the definition of the philosophical burden of proof; it is as you said, non-controversial. "blablabla, because..." is a claim; if no reasoning is to be provided afterward then it is no better than an opinion.
However, notice that the claim that a proposition is false is still a claim; thus requires a burden of proof. Of course, inductive reasoning is a very significant source of knowledge, consequently we can't get absolute certainty about most things in the world (problem of induction), however it would be rational to predict an overwhelmingly likely possibility based on evidence; we predict that our food isn't poisoned, won't get a car crash going to work, our friends aren't conspiring to harm us, that our eyes produces accurate images, that our memory is accurate, that the sun isn't going to explode next week, etc... despite not having absolute proof, but rather evidence can be provided and inductive arguments can be constructed that suggests the predictions to be immensely more likely.

Regarding the definition of Atheism, I find the broad/inclusive definition nonsensical. So we learn that they reject the belief that one or more deities exist, however, if anything, a more appropriate term would be "non-Theist" or "non-Deist". So what is their intellectual position and what do Atheism stand for? Do they also reject the notion that no deity exists, meaning that they believe they didn't do enough research to conclude whether a deity exists or not, or believe that it is impossible to validly conclude whether a deity exists or not?
Lets take this example: Lets assume Mr. X's car can either be red or blue. I lack belief that Mr. X's car is red. So does this mean that I believe the car to be blue? Does this mean that I also lack belief that the car is blue, and I don't have the capability to know it's color? Does this mean that I also lack belief that the car is blue, and I don't know it's color yet? The point is: "Lack of belief" is not a conclusion or intellectual position, and while it narrows the possibilities it still addresses multiple intellectual positions. If you reject a position, you necessarily take an alternative position. The educated (excluding temporary ignorance) intellectual positions regarding the ontology of God are:

1- Belief that God exists.
2- Belief that God does not exist.
3- Belief that it is unknowable whether God exists or not.

As a Theist, I lack belief that God does not exist, but I believe that God exists, otherwise I'd go with the third option.

You stated that Atheists should define Atheism. Fair point as long as the definition isn't changed on a whim or in the middle of the argument/debate (fallacy of equivocation).
Now, based on the wiki definition Pro provided, I can see two possibilities:

1) My opponent must defend the application of the resolution on "broad Atheism": "There are no dieties".
2) My opponent must defend the application of the resolution on the collective positions within Non-Theism/a-theism, or as the definition states: "narrow/inclusive Atheism".

I believe that it is quite unreasonable for Pro to take option #2, as he must defend the application of the resolution on countless non-Theist disciplines, some of which I gathered are, assuming Atheist=Non-Theist:

- "Broad" Atheists: Disbelieve in all god(s).

- "Narrow" Atheists: Disbelieve in certain god(s).

- "Strong/Positive/Explict" Atheists: There is(are) no god(s).

- "Weak/Negative/Implict" Atheists: Lack of belief in god(s) [Leading to other types of Atheism].

- "Gnostic" Atheists: It is certain that god(s) does(do) not exist.

- "Strong Agnostic": It is impossible to know if god(s) exist or not.

- "Weak Agnostic": It is not currently possible to know if god(s) exist or not, but maybe someday.

- "Ignostic" Atheists: The term "God" is devoid of meaning.

- "Pragmatic" Atheists: It is not important whether God exists or not.

- "Deistic" Atheist: There is a higher power, but it doesn't do much.

I am sure there are more, however if my opponent takes the less specific definition, he must defend the resolution for them all.

2- Burden of Proof

The burden of proof for the assertion embodied in the resolution is carried by Pro, meaning that I am only obligated with a burden of rebuttal, in which I respond to my opponent's arguments and attempt to refute them. However, I am free to provide arguments and evidence for statements and antitheses that contradicts the debate's resolution.

My opponent, must demonstrate that the set of beliefs and claims within the doctrine of Atheism (as defined by my opponent) are not under the intellectual obligation to have a burden of proof, or the obligation to justify the doctrine with reasons in the form of logic and evidence.

3- Rebuttal

I shall address the points my opponent presented.

3a- Theism and Atheism Address Belief

I agree on the self-evident statement. However, would this mean that the resolution is self-evidently false? Based on the definition provided for the philosophical burden of proof, parties are obligated to provide sufficent warrant to justify their intellectual position.
I kindly ask my opponent to clarify the apparent contradiction with the debate's resolution.

3b- Reality vs Belief about Reality

I agree on the possibilities proposed by my opponent; the existence of truth is undeniable. However, how and whether we can make a sound conclusion that pinpoint that truth is the question.

3c- The Two Prongs of a Dilemma

I am not sure why my opponent uses court and legal burden of proof as an analogy when we are using a philosophical burden of proof for this debate,whether deities exists is a metaphysical question which warrants a philosophical burden of proof as specified at the beginning of my opponent's argument.. The legal burden of proof is generally carried by who goes against the consensus, this is generally has the same effect as the burden being carried by who makes the claim. Of course there are practical reasons for presuming innocence such as preventing tyranny.

Is my opponent implying that there is no such thing as burden of rebuttal in court cases? The court system does not support the negation of a claim of innocence without any negating logic or evidence from the prosecution (or skeptic).

When the party upon whom the burden of proof rests has made out a prima facie case, this will, in general, suffice to shift the burden.
-Black's Law Dictionary (1)

Rejecting the burden of rebuttal is equivalent to saying: "I don"t accept your evidence, and I don"t have to say why". This is an anti-intellectual and an irrational position.

3d- Categorizing the Positions

This ties in with the whole definition problem; where what you mean by "Atheist" isn't the classic "believe god doesn't exist", but instead Pro exchanges the definition with "Non-Theist", which includes Agnosticism and pretending that this is all there is to Non-Theism. It doesn't work that way. As explained above, temporary Agnosticism is simply an admittance of ignorance thus not an intellectual position, therefore an Agnostic is takes neither a Theist position nor any sort of Atheist position, unless the position is that it is impossible to get a conclusion regarding existence of deities.

3e- Not Believing Proposition A =/= Believing proposition B

And a person who does not believe that God does not exist is not the same as believing that God exist because he might also not believe that God exists. Therefore a non-Atheist (including Theists) have no burden of proof since they might be Agnostic and have no assertion or burden of proof?
Unless the Agnosticism is based on temporarily ignorance rather than the belief of collective inability of humans to answer whether deities exists or not, it has burden of proof since it calls alternative Theists and Atheists positions irrational.

3d- Agnosticism

Tsk tsk. An Agnostic (regarding ontology/existence) Atheist/Theist is simply a coverup using the theft of the position of Agnosticism and the false statement of: "I have no god theory", to cover for intellectual weakness. You either have valid reasons of logic or evidence for your belief, or you do not. You either can can justify your position, or you cannot. It simply an admitance that their belief is completly irrational and completly devoid of reasons and evidence, otherwise why call themselves "lacking knowledge on the existence of X, while believing that X exists/does not exist". This position, and others which hold that it will not or need not to be justified or have reasons for their existence,are absurd and can be called intellectually dishonest, furthermore they contradicts the definition of the philosophical burden of proof as they reject the intellectual obligation required.
However, you can plausibly be a Theist and an agnostic regarding something other than existence, like the charactristics and attributes of a diety for example.

4- Argument

The softest of Atheists claim that the Theist's arguments are false or irrational. Being a claim, it has a burden of proof.
I rest my case.

5- Sources

Debate Round No. 2


1- Definitions

Con states that rejecting a claim requires one to take the alternative position. That is simply not the case. If I ask a girl out on a date and she rejects me, that doesn’t mean that she accepted a date with someone else. In the same way, rejecting a claim says absolutely nothing about what claims you accept. To reject, disbelieve, nonbelief, etc… all point to the same thing, which is what a person does not accept. Talking about what a person does accept is a different conversation.

Con claims that lack of belief is not an intellectual position. This statement is nonsensical. A position itself is neither intellectual nor non-intellectual. What is or is not intellectual would be the means by which a person arrived at their position. A person who believes in God because it rains, and rain is therefore God tears… is a theist. Yet I am pretty sure Con would not consider that position intellectual. So unless Con is arguing that theism is also non-intellectual, how they arrived at their position is irrelevant to this debate.

Con claims that I must either defend “Broad Atheism (there are no deities)” or defend every other application of atheism. That is plain nonsense. The fact that there are many different types of atheists only helps to prove my point. When talking about a strong atheist, weak atheist, gnostic atheist, etc… the commonality between all of them is that none of them accept the proposition “God exists”, aka they all lack belief in a God. And if lack of belief in God is what allows all of them to fit into the label “atheist”, then that is what the word refers to. Everything else is just separate ideas that Con is trying to bootstrap onto the definition.

Con tries to offer an alternative term by asserting the lack of belief in a God as a “non-theist”. What Con doesn’t seem to understand is that this is exactly what atheism means when broken down linguistically. “A” in English is used as a negative prefix which simply means “not”[1]. Examples of it are asexual, atypical, apolitical, etc… If someone said they were asexual does that mean they are asserting some opposition to sex? No, it simply means they are not sexual. If an event falls into the category of being apolitical does it mean that it is about anti-politics? No, it simply means that it is not about politics. The word atheist works no differently, so there is no need to invent a new term.

3a. Theism and Atheism Address Belief

There is no contradiction to the resolution on this point as Con seems to think. What he seems to be implying here is that if atheism is a lack of belief then atheism cannot address belief. This is not the case for the same reason that the term asexual still addresses a person’s sexuality. Belief is the topic. Lack of belief is one of the positions a person can hold on that topic. To say otherwise is nonsensical, since “lack of belief” contains the very word being discussed.

3b Reality vs Belief about Reality

No apparent disagreement here

3c - The Two Prongs of a Dilemma

Con completely misunderstands the courtroom analogy. The legal burden of proof is nothing more than the application of the philosophical burden in a legal setting, which just means that there are rules such as which side carries it and to what standard the burden must be met. Con’s claims as to what the legal burden is, is just plain false. Consensus has absolutely nothing to do with it. The legal burden is always on the prosecution. The reason why is the exact same reason why the burden is on theists; because of the proposition being addressed. Jurors are asked to address the proposition “the defendant is guilty” so the prosecution necessarily carries the burden. Since theism/atheism are positions on the proposition “God exists”, theism necessarily has the burden. This is how any BoP works.

By misunderstanding the legal burden Con has completely missed the point of the analogy. Again, the reason my hypothetical trial went nowhere was because there were two different sides defending two different propositions, so both sides had a burden of proof. This is how discussion on any subject gets extremely muddled. Conspiracy theory debates are famous for this. Typically in conspiracy debates you have one side arguing that the conspiracy theory is nonsense while the other argues that the “official account” is nonsense. Those arguments tend to go nowhere very fast, because in that case neither side is accepting the burden.

The problem in both of these example is the same; the sides have not agreed on a specific proposition to discuss. Without a proposition it cannot be determined who has the burden because it is not made clear what either side is supposed to be accomplishing. And without each side knowing what they are supposed to be accomplishing the discussion becomes a free for all where each side argues whatever they wish.

This was the point, and I would argue the most crucial point in this debate. Con has offered no arguments to refute anything I have said about how productive intelligent discussion works. So unless he is arguing that productive intelligent discussion is not the goal, his entire case becomes completely irrelevant.

And no, I said nothing about either side not having a burden of rebuttal. The debate is about whether Atheism has a burden of proof. The burden of rebuttal comes afterward and is therefore completely irrelevant.

3d- Categorizing the Positions

Will respond in the agnosticism category, since that is all Con attacked here.

3e- Not Believing Proposition A =/= Believing proposition B

Con is once again trying to manufacture a burden of proof by bootstrapping claims onto atheism. The proposition we are discussing is “God exists”, not “position X is irrational”. A person who believes one may also believe the other and might believe the other in most cases. That is irrelevant because no matter how Con tries to spin it, it is still a different proposition. If Con disagrees then I advise him to Google the first law of logic.

3d- Agnosticism

Con here states: “You either have valid reasons of logic or evidence for your belief, or you do not”. The reasons why one holds a belief is completely irrelevant to the question of what belief they hold. Con is yet again tacking on all kinds of things onto the position that have no relevance. The reasons one has to defend their position are discussed in the act of defending their position. That has no bearing on what responsibility they have before that discussion begins which is what the BoP determines.

Aside from that Con still does not seem to understand what Agnosticism is. I provided the definition in the previous round, Con ignored it and asserted that agnosticism is what he says it is because he says so. That is not how debate works. So once again, agnosticism deals with a person’s position on whether God claims are knowable. So the proposition is “God claims are knowable”. An agnostic is someone who does not accept this proposition. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether the person holds a belief in God. Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive.

4- Argument

Yet another attempt of bootstrapping by Con. That is still not the proposition the respective positions address.


Con made no attempt to refute my points as to why we address one prong of a dilemma at a time, and what prong theism and atheism address. The burden of proof is determined by these two simple points. Cons attempts to redefine atheism as well fail. He gives no reason why “non-theism” should be accepted when “a-theism” already addresses the same thing, and every other attempt he made relied on distorting other definitions (as with agnosticism) or attempting to manufacture a burden onto a position by bootstrapping on other ideas to it. What I found most interesting here is that he actually lists a number of different types of atheists without realizing that this only proves my point. If they can all be classified as atheists and the only commonality is a lack of belief in a God, then a lack of belief in a God is necessarily what defines an atheist.

The resolution stands affirmed.



1- Definitions

1a- Rejecting a claim

My opponent strawmans or misunderstands/misread my argument. I did not state "one requires to take THE alternative position", I stated that you require to take AN alternative position. Therefore your analogy in no way disagrees with my position.
My opponent begs the question by adding "non-belief" as a position. If the Atheist position correctly asserts to be "no position", then what is the support for the assertion that it is correct and ought to be taken? Furthermore, is my opponent claiming that you can validly reject a claim without providing justification?
My opponent contradicts himself by stating: "In the same way, rejecting a claim says absolutely nothing about what claims you accept. To reject, disbelieve, non-belief, etc… all point to the same thing, which is what a person does not accept".
Wouldn't that be, you know, accepting something other than what you have rejected, which means taking an alternative position? By my opponent's logic, if I call my position non-Atheism; The disbelief that God does not exist, then I have no burden of proof because I have not stated what my position is and I need not justify my rejection, thus it is the Atheist's burden of proof to prove that God does not exist.

As I previously stated without being disputed by my opponent, the alternative positions are:
1- God does not exist
2- It is impossible to know whether God exists or not.

Both make a claim and have a burden of proof.

1b- Intellectual position

My opponent misunderstands my argument; "intellectual position" means reaching a logical conclusion, obviously this means that the people who have accepted the argument leading to this conclusion believe it to be intellectual. Whether the position is rational/irrational or sound/unsound is to be evaluated.

1c- Defending Atheism

Based on the resolution and definition you provided, you have to defend Atheism, period. My opponent acknowledges that strong Atheism, weak Atheism, Gnostic Atheism, among others are considered Atheism. Therefore, if any of them do not fulfill the resolution, then the resolution fails. My opponent claims that I bootstrapped into the vague definition that holds multiple views, however what did I state that Pro did not agree with exactly?

Until recent times, Atheism traditionally meant the explict belief that God as defined by major religions or his activities do not exist (1, p.451). So basicly, if you disbelief in Atheism, you could believe in Agnosticism or Theism. If you disbelief in Agnosticism, you could believe in either Atheism or Theism. If you disbelief in Theism, you could believe in either Atheism or Agnosticism.
When I call Atheism non-Theism (or if you prefer: negative Atheism), I am not referring to an intellectual position, I am refeering to a psychological state that can include different sets of beliefs.

Pro's analogies are regarding behavior, which are often ethically-neutral, when Atheism is addressing belief. You surely don't see apolitical folks raising money, conferences, churches, etc... or have individuals strongly advocating people to be apolitical. This can only work if belief is involved (Like: Citizens being apolitical is good for society).

2- Burden of proof

My opponent acknowledges that Atheists make claims and must justify their position, however he tries to appeal to ambiguity in order to try to hide what is equivalent to a concession.

In a nutshell, some Atheists found it too troublesome to provide either logic or evidence in support of their ideology regarding God's [defined as: Immaterial first cause] existence. Therefore, these Atheists disingenuously resorted to deny their actual ideology and avoiding answering whether there is a God or not.

3- Rebuttal

3a- Theism and Atheism Address belief

An apparent strawman or an inability to detect the contradiction by my opponent.
Pro stated in his original argument: "A statement of whether one is a theist or an atheist is a statement about what they believe regarding the existence of God".

Comparing with the provided definition for philosophical burden of proof, according to Pro's position, if I ask an Atheist why he believes what he believes, I am to accept his position and deem it justified afterward even without him providing an answer, explanation, or reasoning.

3b- No dispute

3c- Two prongs of a dilemma

My opponent states that the burden is always on the proposition, however my opponent also claims that when the Atheist claims the claim to be false or claims that God does not exist, that claim is not the same thing as a claim, and need not be justified as if the said claim was actually a claim.
Your analogy falls flat as the claims: "God does not exist" and "It is impossible for humans to validly conclude whether God exists or not" can be the proposition being addressed as well; therefore Atheists would have burden of proof in this case and the resolution fails.

My opponent states that his courtroom example displays absurdity, however that is not the case as I demonstrated with quote about how the burden needs to shift from Black's Law dictionary. I ask my opponent to present an example in which the defense do not attempt to rebut the prosecution without the example being absurd.
The claim or "resolution" in that court is "The defendant is guilty" (Hence, the judge declares: "not guilty"), therefore the defense is not obligated to defend the claim "the defendant is innocent", only "The claim that the defendant is guilty is false" by refuting the argument presented. However, they are free to prove a contradictory antithesis such as "the defendant is innocent" to assist in negating the prosecutor's case. Now replace "the defendant is guilty" with "God does not exist", or "It is impossible for humans to know whether God exists or not", and based on your example Atheists has a burden of proof, thus negating the resolution.

As for your conspiracy theory example, as long as the sides give reasons in the form of logic and evidence, then by the definition for the philosophical BoP, they have fulfilled their obligation/intellectual responsibility and burden to justify their position of acceptance/rejection. I ask my opponent to define what he meant by the word "burden"; it seems to have meant "Have one side need not to justify their claims (including that another claim is false) and be taken and accepted for granted, while the other side must provide logic and evidence to support their claims".

I ask Pro this question: If an Atheist makes the proposition: "God does not exist", does he have a burden of proof or not?

Are we having two unproductive debates at the same time since I provided arguments? The goal of the opposing side is to negate the other side's position, this can be done be refuting all their arguments and justifications for their position or by proving an antithesis position that contradicts other side's position.
It is bewildering that my opponent claimed that no rebuttal was provided regarding what he believes to be a productive intelligent discussion when the whole support for his argument was based on an analogy which I provided a rebuttal for. Furthermore, my opponent seemed to concede the debate in that same argument: "The problem here is that each prong is an assertion on its own, which means that both sides had the burden of proof". Here, my opponent confirms that Atheists CAN have a burden of proof, this is enough for the resolution to be negated.

The burden of rebuttal has the exact same functionality as the burden of proof: One side claims that the opponent's arguments are false and justifies their position. Thus, it falls under the definition of the philosophical burden of proof. Does my opponent concede that Atheists carry this burden?

3d- Moved to Agnosticism

3e- Not Believing Proposition A =/= Believing proposition B

Pro states that the proposition being discussed as "God exists" while we are discussing Atheism. The proposition is "God does not exist" or "It is not possible to know whether God exists or not". By definition, unless the Agnosticism is temporary/personal an Agnostics claims that whether God exists or not is unknowable, therefore it also claims that classical/positive Atheists and Theists are irrational since they claim to know something that is unknowable. My opponent continues adding empty words like "bootstrapping" without providing an explanation of what was added.

3d- Agnosticism

My opponent is either unable to spot a glaring contradiction or he does not acknowledge the law of non-contradiction.
Is: "I know something that I do not know" a contradiction?
If the answer is yes then my point regarding an Agnostic (regarding the existence of God) gnostic Atheist/Theist being incoherent stands.

Theism and classic/Gnostic Atheism claims that the beliefs regarding God are knowable. Agnosticism claims that the beliefs regarding God's are unknowable. Thus, they both deal with and answer whether beliefs regarding God are knowable or not and are mutually exclusive.

4- Argument

4a- What the respective positions address

Pro leads to yet an other contradiction. By definition, an Atheist believes the Theist's arguments to be false, otherwise it means that the Atheist accepts the Theistic conclusion and the Atheist is not an Atheist. Unless Pro is claiming that Atheists believe the Theist's arguments to be not-false, then that is exactly with the respective positions addresses.

4b- Second Argument

1- Atheism [Read: Non-Theism] includes a set of beliefs.
2a- A belief contain propositions.
2b- The beliefs that fall under Atheism contain propositions (Like: "Deities do not exist", "The term God is meaningless", "It impossible for humans to know whether deities exists or not").
C: Therefore, at least for some Atheism, Atheism demonstrably has a burden of proof.

5- Sources

Debate Round No. 3


Unfortunately, Con has spent nearly the entire round arguing with a strawman. In addition many of his rebuttals were redundant so rather than a point by point response format, I will lay out my case from A-Z addressing each of Cons objections along the way.


Saying that atheism has no BoP is not the same thing as saying that atheists have no BoP. Con repeatedly tries to argue that if an atheist makes a claim then that atheist has a BoP. Indeed he does. However atheism is not a claim, it is a response to a claim. So to answer Cons question; Yes, if an atheist says "God does not exist" then he absolutely has a BoP. But as I have made abundantly clear, "God does not exist" is not atheism. It is instead a claim that falls into atheism.

Con continues to argue that I have to defend every type of atheism, which is absurd. Imagine a person who believes that a woman should be allowed to have an abortion after 8 months. Would that person be considered Pro-choice? Yes. Does that mean that every Pro-choice advocate is obligated to defend that belief? No. It doesn't matter if the belief falls into the Pro-choice position, that doesn't make Pro-choice "the belief that 8 month pregnant women should be allowed to have abortions". In just the same way, "God does not exist" fits into atheism, that doesn't make it atheism. And if Con still wants to argue that I have to defend all types of atheism then the same would hold true for him. The guy who believes in Zeus is just as much of a theist as the guy who believes in Jesus, so if Con is a theist then according to his argument he would have to defend both.

I am not sure how to make this point any clearer, a belief that is consistent with a position does not suddenly equate the position with that belief. Therefore, if my argument shows that the position of atheism is simply the lack of belief in God, then all of Cons bootstrapped propositions like "God does not exist" or "God claims are unkowable" or "God is useless", can all be dismissed because those are all separate propositions from the one we are actually addressing.

Lack of belief

To show that Atheism is simply the lack of belief, I will start by going back to the commonality argument which Con never directly responded to. I explained that when we have a group of anything in which we attach a label to, the label is defined by that commonality. This is basic English. We don't call someone a Puerto Rican because they dance salsa or because they eat rice and beans. We call them a Puerto Rican because their family heritage goes back to Puerto Rico. Their heritage is the one commonality amongst every Puerto Rican, so that is what the word actually refers to. The same goes for phones. Some have internet, some play movies, some have navigation. None of that matters. If it makes phone calls then it is a phone, if it does not make calls it is not a phone. It's that simple. So going back to the topic, some atheists believe there is no God, some believe the term God is useless, etc... none of that matters. They all lack belief in God. That's the one commonality amongst all of them so that is what the word actually refers to. It's that simple.

Also, Con still argues that lack of belief makes someone a "non-theist" yet ignores the fact that this is exactly what "A"-"theism" means. He says my other examples only address behavior, which is not true. Someone who is asexual is someone who is simply not turned on by sex. That has nothing to do with their actions. It is instead all about their mindset, so Cons rebuttal fails.


Con strawmans my interpretation of agnosticism as "I know something that I do not know". Con seems to be unaware that belief and knowledge are two different things. To make this point I will simply ask: is the statement "I believe X is true, but I don't know that X is true" coherent?

Of course it is. Knowledge is stronger than belief, so the position that God claims are unknowable does not negate a person from believing God claims. This is why the terms are not mutually exclusive. So to illustrate one last time:

Agnostic Theist: "I believe God exists, but I do not believe one can know whether God exists"

Agnostic Atheist: "I do not believe God exists, and I do not believe one can know whether God exists"

The very fact alone that both of these positions are perfectly coherent negates all of Cons attempts to classify Agnosticism as a third category in between Theism and Atheism. It addresses a separate proposition which says nothing about whether a person holds belief in a God.

The Proposition

In round one I gave a non-controversial and unchallenged definition of theism as the belief that God exists, and pointed out that this leaves us with only two propositions that address this definition: "God exists" and "God does not exist". Everything else is irrelevant. I also pointed out that there are three possible positions with respect to these two propositions: 1) Belief that God exists, 2) belief that God does not exist, or 3) no belief in either proposition. So it comes down to how we treat position 3. We can either give it its own separate label, or we can combine it with one of the others. And since position 3 clearly does not fit into theism, that narrows us to only two possibilities: Keep it separate, or combine it with atheism.

And the reason we combine it is because of the arguments I have already made. First, because "A"-"Theism" = not a theist. Second, because that is how atheists define atheism and you don't get to define my position. Third, because from a practical everyday life standpoint there is no difference between not believing either proposition, and believing God does not exist. Our understanding and approach in dealing with observable reality remains unaffected by this distinction so there is no practical reason to put these positions under separate labels. And fourth, to have productive intelligent discussion we address one proposition at a time...

Prongs of a Dilemma

I find it ironic that Con implies I am trying to use this argument as an excuse to not have to defend my claims when that same implication on him seems to be the only sensible thing driving his argument. When we classify lack of belief as a completely separate position from theism and atheism then one of two things happen:

1) The theist argues with a "God does not exist" atheist allowing him to declare the burden of proof split. In this case neither side upholding their BoP produces no meaningful result.

2) The theist will simply dismiss the Non-theist/atheist as someone who holds no belief in anything thus is not worth a discussion with.

In either scenario, the theist gets to protect his/her beliefs from defeat by never holding a true burden of proof.

This is once again why we address one prong at a time. It is the irrelevancy of the opposing sides actual beliefs that keep the discussion on the proposition focused. It is true as Con argues that the opposing side can present arguments for an alternative proposition without rendering the debate unproductive. That is because arguments in support of an alternative proposition do not distract us when we know what the actual proposition in question is.

If in a criminal trial the defense negates the prosecutions argument, we know to shift the argument in favor of the defense. If however in the same trial the prosecution negates the defenses argument for innocence, then we know not to shift the argument in favor of the prosecution because the BoP is on the prosecution. It is not the arguments that change without a clear BoP. It is the way the arguments are evaluated, which affects our ability to determine whether a given proposition should be accepted or not accepted. When we don't follow this we tend to accept beliefs based on logical fallacies such as argument from ignorance (I don't understand X, therefore Z) when we should be saying "I will accept Z when it meets its burden of proof".

Now I am sure Con will take this entire point and claim that it applies just the same to the "God does not exist" believers, therefore there is no reason it must apply to theists. However, aside from the other arguments I have already presented above and as I have already pointed out; Compared to non-belief, it is theistic claims that impact our lives and our society. Theistic claims are what make people get up and go to church every Sunday, spend their lives studying a very long book, saying prayers before every meal, etc... Any claim which makes that kind of an impact needs to be properly evaluated. The "God does not exist" claim changes nothing about the way we live as opposed to no belief at all, therefore the "God exists" claim is the claim we as a society should focus on.

Wrap Up

The arguments I have made above clarify my case and addresses Cons rebuttals. I will now offer some quick responses to arguments that may need further clarification:

Con asks if I believe that atheists have a burden of rebuttal. Of course they do. The burden of rebuttal is not the burden of proof. This debate is about the burden of proof.

Con characterizes the BoP as something that shifts back and forth based on the discussion. That is false. The BoP is always in relation to a particular proposition, which remains the focus throughout the discussion. Saying that someone does not have a BoP is not the same thing as saying that they have no responsibility at all. It means they do not have the responsibility of convincing anyone to accept the proposition, only to not accept it. Not accepting something does not = accepting something. It takes more work to get one to accept something, which is why the shouldering the BoP means something.

Con strawmans my case as arguing that atheist's beliefs must be accepted. No, I am arguing that when discussing the proposition "God exists", the atheist's beliefs about other propositions are irrelevant.
No further relevant arguments to respond to. The resolution is negated.



My opponent accepts that Atheists have a BoP, however he denies that Atheism itself has a BoP. This is ridiculous since an Atheist is someone who follows the doctrine of Atheism, and is defending the position of that proposition; the BoP of Atheism.
I remind my opponent of the law of identity: If it is Atheism, then it is Atheism. "God does not exist" fulfils the requirements of the definition of Atheism; the only way this statement can be coherent and non-contradictory if disbelief in the statement "God/deities exists" is accompanied. Taking the law of identity and non-contradiction in consideration, is someone who says "God does not exist" an Atheist and necessarily holds the psychological state of Atheism (disbelief that God/deities exist) or not? I believe the answer should be quite clear. This is literary all it takes to negate the resolution; one type of Atheism which has the burden of proof is more than enough, and the resolution is indeed negated.

Regarding Pro's pro-choice analogy, this is an obvious strawman or redherring. My statement was that he is required to defend the application of the resolution on every type of atheism for the resolution to hold. It is self-evidently irrational to hold multiple contradictory beliefs, and I never implied or claimed that. A more appropriate analogy would be someone claiming that pro-choice makes no moral statement because that person defined pro-choice as the psychological state of "disbelief that it is immoral to abort fetuses for convenience (which may or may not include the psychological state of 'the disbelief that it moral to abort fetuses for convenience' as well)", so all it takes to refute the resolution is to show that all or some pro-choice positions make moral statements. Forgive the rough definition.

Pro attempts to argue that a psychological state that includes multiple BoP holding positions, which have that psychological state necessarily, does not have a burden of proof. This is incoherent; someone who hold the proposition "God does not exist" necessarily "lack of belief that God exists" by definition, someone who claims "A deity's existence or non-existence is unknowable" necessarily "lacks belief that God exists/does not exist" by definition. By definition, they are Atheists who lack belief in the existence of deities, and they have burden of proof. regarding their position

Lack of belief

I remind my opponent of the statement that Theism can also be defined in the same way as lacks belief (that no deity exists). However, my opponent insisted that Theism have burden of proof in his prongs of a dilemma action. Therefore, it does not follow and is hypocritical to conclude that Atheism has not burden of proof on this principle. This changes the terms into nothing-ism, and based on that some Atheists are Theists, and some Theists are Atheists.

The logic behind this "change of understanding" completely falls apart under examination. Lets take the proposition "a deity or deities exists" or the proposition "no deity exist", and inspect the possible reactions:

1- A person understands the proposition and accepts it. He has a god-theory.

2- A person understands the proposition and rejects it. He has a god-theory.

3- A person understands the proposition but completely forgets it. He has no god-theory.

4- A person understands the proposition but does not care, so he does not care to engage or discuss it.

5- A person does not understand the proposition neither accepts or rejects it, and remains bewildered by it (due to language/communication or confusion regarding concepts). He has no god-theory.

6- A person never hears the proposition and can't reject or accept it. He has no god-theory.

7- Rocks, mud, dead amoeba, and other material that can't gain knowledge can't reject or accept the proposition. They have no god-theory.

We can say with a large amount of certainty that number 3 to 7 lack a god-theory and truly have no opinion on the matter. Does any category other than category 2 apply to someone who calls self an "Atheist"? Hardly. Under this new understanding, Atheists lack the ability to gain knowledge, akin to rocks and mud, or do not understand and are bewildered about the concept of deities, or they simply do not care. Obviously, none of these are the case and we are left with option two, which can be due to a multitude of reasons (The concept is a paradox, no sound supportive argument exists, the opposite is true etc...). Therefore, my opponent's case by appealing to "lack of belief" falls apart.

I prefer to use non-Theist simply because it prevents the unnecessary task of inventing new terms. When you propose a truth statement to someone, the three answers are:

1- True. [rejects 2 & 3]
2- False. [rejects 1 & 3]
3- I don't know ("need more research" or "it is impossible to know"). [rejects 1& 2]

Since you defined Atheism as rejection of answer 1, and I may define Theism as rejection of answer 2, does this mean that we need to invent new terms to address every answer individually when it comes to an immaterial first cause? Discussion is simply more fruitful and efficient if we stick with Theist, Atheist, and Agnostic.


Pro advocates irrationality and disregard of the BoP, when the definition states that obligation exists on all to warrant reasons for their belief. If the belief is not based on reasoning; statements of logic or evidence, then the belief is based on irrational emotional reasons. When a belief is taken, the belief must be accompanied with reasons for the belief , otherwise there is absolutely no reason to think that the belief has any value. The position that God claims are unknowable negate a person from rationally believing God claims. Unless my opponent is making an equivocation between irrationality and rationality, I don't see an argument.

The Proposition

Pro ignores that he gave a controversial and challenged definition of Atheism, which includes the belief that God does not exist. My opponent attempts to defend the exclusion of Theism in his weird combination of "not belief" and "belief".
The first reason makes no point; according to the law of double negative, A Theist is also not an Atheist, so I don't see the conclusion. He then proclaims that only he, as an Atheist, gets to define his beliefs, but doesn't tell us how the situation of Atheist is different than Theism. The third argument Pro proposes is that since a lot of Agnostics irrationally believe without evidence or logical basis that there is no God, then we should accept their irrational position based on popularity/population, this does not follow. Finally, he appeals to his standards of a "productive intelligent discussion", which is essentially the claim that when an Atheist makes a claim it is not the same thing as making a claim, and explained in the prongs of dilemma section.

Prongs of a Dilemma

My opponent begins his argument with a Tu Quoque/redherring fallacy; he does not deny the error of his position and his intention to find an excuse to not defend his claims (As obligated by the definition of the BoP), he distracts with the accusation "Well, you too!". Based on this, the foundation of his argument has no merit (on a side note: his accusation is false).

It seems that pro introduced the concept of a "true burden of proof", this invokes the no true Scotsman fallacy in which definitions are arbitrarily changed on a whim to ambiguous standards. The philosophical BoP is an obligation on ALL parties to provide sufficient warrant for their position/claims. That's it.
My opponent not accepting that the burden of proof is on whom claims (including claiming the argument to be false and claiming the position to be false) sounds like an attempt at justifying a fallacy fallacy:

Person A: Obama is a democrat because the sky is blue.
Person B: Your argument is non-sequitur and non-valid. That you are wrong proves that Obama is not a democrat.

As I stated above, the number of Agnostics who irrationally believe that God does not exist based on emotional reasons rather than logic or evidence is irrelevant in a rational debate, otherwise you would have to equally accept agnostics who irrationally believe that deities exists based on emotional reasons rather than logic or evidence. The issue of what first creator is, whether it is a deity or random chaos, affects beliefs on a multitude of issues such as morality, purpose of life, value of human life, and so forth, stating that it does not affect society or a community is false.

Wrap up

Pro did not contest the point that the burden of rebuttal fits perfectly with the provided definition of the philosophical burden of proof. Thus on this basis, conceding that Atheists have a burden of rebuttal is equivalent to conceding that Atheists have a burden of proof.

Regarding the burden of proof shifting, I have already provided a source from Black's law dictionary. The burden of proof is fulfilled by providing sufficient warrant for a position, and once sufficient warrant is provided, this shifts the benefit of assumption. It seems strange that my opponent proclaims that someone does not have a BoP, and then describe the BoP when describing their actions.

Pro seems to be promoting a system of radical skepticism which does nothing but deny. The endeavor of such system is to attempt to destroy knowledge without seeking knowledge itself. Without seeking the truth, new knowledge, evidence, or attempting to answer questions, nothing can be called more false than the other. This type of radical skepticism devolves into an irrational: "The truth is whatever the Atheist says it is".


I hope all parties benefited, doubted, and learned from this debate.

Pro did not provide any convincing arguments with strong and valid foundation. Furthermore, it is the case that the resolution was conceded by Pro on multiple occasions. Thus, I believe that it is reasonable to conclude that the resolution is negated judging by the content of this debate.
Debate Round No. 4
20 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Double_R 3 years ago
It helps to read comments in context before responding.

mrsatan seems to think that any belief regarding God claims qualifies as theism, which lead him to the absurd conclusion that a person who believes God does not exist is a theist.

I am pointing out that "belief regarding God claims" is not the definition of a theist.
Posted by Dragonfang 3 years ago
Defining Theism, are you?
So Theists don't believe that some God claims are true or false?

How isn't "God exists" not a God claim?
Posted by Double_R 3 years ago
Theism is not a belief regarding God claims, it is the belief that a God exists.
Posted by mrsatan 3 years ago
Personally, I consider "strong atheist" to be a misnomer. One who believes no Gods exist is not an atheist. That is a theistic belief, a belief in the existence of a God or Gods, or more accurately, a negative belief in the existence of a God or Gods.
Posted by Double_R 3 years ago

Debate votes are based on the arguments in the debate, not your personal opinion of the resolution. Cumulative dictionary definitions is something I addressed in round 1 and Con never challenged it despite my preparedness for that discussion.
Posted by SweetLiberty 3 years ago
I read through the debate and was generally impressed by the way both sides conducted themselves.

The burden of proof originally lies on those who make a positive claim for any argument: "Zeus exists, UFO's exist, Bigfoot exists, etc.", and the natural state should be one of skepticism (doubting the validity of any claim until presented with sufficient evidence to believe the claim). After examining the proponent's evidence and finding it lacking, it is logically justifiable to take the contrary position: "I don't believe that Zeus, UFO's, or Bigfoot exist based upon the unpersuasive present evidence". This is not to say that one is justified in maintaining their contrary position should future compelling evidence come to light. But there is absolutely no burden here for the non-believer to come up with additional evidence that DISPROVES a position which lacked persuasive evidence in the first place. The only obligation of the skeptic is to provide reasons why they find the proponent's evidence (or arguments) lacking - NOT to prove the negative. So stating a belief used in the debate that "God does not exist" does NOT shift the burden of proof to the non-believer if that non-believer bases their position on lack of compelling evidence presented by those who make the positive assertion "God does exist". Therefore, the atheist never has the burden of proof shifted to them UNLESS they make the bold assertion that they can indeed prove the negative - providing evidence or logical proof that god does not exist.
Posted by republicofdhar 3 years ago
Wonderful debate, real food for thought, and well argued on both sides.
Posted by Double_R 4 years ago
If you want to know what I am saying then read the debate. None of that was in there.
Posted by cheyennebodie 4 years ago
So, what you are saying is that atheism is tiptoeing through the tulips without a care in the world. Don't have to prove there is no god. Just go merrily on your way, and when the end comes, just kiss existence good by.
Posted by Double_R 4 years ago
Thanks, I appreciate the support but it's not fair to Con to make arguments in the comment section while the debate is still ongoing.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by 1Credo 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con's arguments for why the atheist must also shoulder the burden of proof were not adequately addressed. I agree with Pro that the burden of proof will depend on the definition of atheism given by the atheist. However, it seems to me that the cumulative dictionary definitions of atheism certainly warrant a burden of proof. Any "atheist" who holds a position contrary to these dictionary definitions would not seem to me to be much of an "atheist" at all.
Vote Placed by republicofdhar 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a very illuminating debate indeed. In my view, the entire debate came down to the following question: Is atheism a lack of belief (and therefore a response to a claim of belief) in God or gods, or is it the categorical claim (and therefore it necessitates a BoP) that God or gods do not exist? To this end I find that Pro provided marginally better arguments. Just as a believer of God does not have to defend people's belief in the Christian God, Allah, Krishna, Zeus and Thor, but in the concept of God, so an atheist cannot be asked to defend all possible variants of atheism. This could even lump Con into the argument, as belief in Allah is disbelief in any other God and can therefore be construed as a form of atheism. A religious person cannot be expected to disprove every other deity (known or unknown) to prove the truth of his own. For this Pro gets points for arguments. I commend the debaters on a truly thought provoking debate.