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Christians' objections to defining atheism as simply the absence of belief in gods can extend to blatant misrepresentation of what should be a simple concept in order to divert attention from what atheism really is. In the case of this myth, we find that people will inexplicably distort the simple nature of "not believing the truth of a proposition" in order to pretend that it's not possible to merely lack belief in the truth of someone's claims. This makes the myth easy to refute.

 

Read Article: Myth: Atheists Cannot 'Lack Belief in God' After Learning About God

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April 21, 2010 at 2:27 pm
(1) Dean says:

Do you believe I have a $20 in my pocket? No? Then you must believe I DON’T have a $20 in my pocket. Hey, once I introduce the idea there may be a $20 in my pocket, you can’t just say you lack belief about whether or not there’s a $20 in my pocket.

April 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm
(2) Daniel says:

Dean,

This is a false dichotomy.

I have no evidence to make me believe there IS $20 in your pocket. I also have no proof that there ISN’T $20 in your pocket. Lacking evidence, I CAN decide to take a neutral position – I don’t know whether you have $20 or not. Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t.

When you show me the $20, I’ll believe in it.

April 21, 2010 at 6:39 pm
(3) Dave says:

You can’t equate the two arguments. I know what a $20 bill looks like. I’ve have touched them, I can describe them to someone so that when they see one, they recognize it. Can you do the same with God?

April 21, 2010 at 9:44 pm
(4) noel44 says:

This is one myth that my theist friends seem most reluctant to give up. It is especially difficult for me as a strong atheist, vis-a-vis the Christian god, to convince them that “atheism” signifies a mere absence of belief in the existence of a deity.

I think that many theists do not cling to this myth due to dishonesty. Rather it comes from a need to recuse themselves from accepting the burden of proof. By attempting to paint all atheists as proponents of positive claims of their own, they attempt to sidestep the issue, perhaps subconsciously, with pleadings of “You, too”.

April 22, 2010 at 12:00 am
(5) sornord says:

Atheists Cannot ‘Lack Belief in God’ After Learning About God?

Wanna bet?

I learned about the Tooth Fairy too and still don’t believe in her/it!

April 22, 2010 at 3:47 pm
(6) babrock says:

I was intending on making about t same post as Sornord except w Santa Clause. Also I am thinking that comparing belief in god to beliefs regarding $20 bills in one’s pocket is different, as I have what I consider ample evidence that $20 bills do in fact exist. How about we compare belief in God to a belief that Santa is in my pocket. If that fat old man can fit down a narrow chimney then why not in ones pocket.

B

April 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm
(7) Seth351 says:

@ Daniel: Knowing Dean, he was being facetious. I argued the same point in the forum a while back, only my example was my ownership of a green pocketknife. I made no claim about my ownership of a green pocketknife, so there was no evidence that I own a green pocketknife or that I do not own a green pocketknife. So the only rational position is lack of belief in either my ownership or non-ownership of a green pocketknife. The fact that green pocketknives exist is irrelevant.

April 23, 2010 at 11:14 am
(8) Naumadd says:

Having knowledge of the non-concept “god” that others suggest is a real entity is not the same as having “knowledge of god”. Let’s not forget that the “atheist” doesn’t and can’t reject this “god” but rather they reject the claims of theists. It’s true, one cannot reject something that does not exist, however, one CAN reject things that DO exist – in this case, the claims of theists. At least, this atheist rejects those claims because they have insufficient observable fact and logically-consistent reason to accept into my own set of beliefs … which are many.

June 27, 2010 at 11:53 pm
(9) Bel says:

One cannot “lack belief” in any concept of which they are aware. You can only hold five positions – you’re neutral/undecided, you don’t know, you do know, you believe, or you do not believe. And there is a distinct difference between saying you “lack belief” and you “do not believe.”

To “lack belief” is to be passive, to hold no opinion one way or the other. “Lack” means “to not have.” It means an absence of specific beliefs. This is the very definition of neutrality! An atheist can NOT claim to have an absence of beliefs. You DO have a belief: you believe that there is no god.

You can’t claim otherwise. Once you’ve been introduced to a concept, you can have a belief about it, or you can have knowledge about it (or both). You can also say that you don’t know or care to know about it. But there is no “lack,” unless you later forget about it completely.

To “not believe” is active… and it’s also just another belief. It is saying, “I believe that there is no god.” That’s you, actively choosing to disbelieve.

This isn’t directed at you personally, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s the whole problem with the “lack of belief” issue. Atheists seem to shy away from any implication that they may hold any sort of beliefs at all. I am generalizing, of course.

The ONLY 100% truthful and factual statement one can make with regards to whether any god exists is, “I do not know.” Since no one knows for certain, any statement other than that IS a belief.

You question why people would argue this point, since it seems like it’s only semantics? I’ll tell you why. To say that you “lack belief” implies that the other’s beliefs are false. The problem is, you do not KNOW that to be the case, and it sounds extremely arrogant. (I am referring to a general belief in god, not to specific elements of Christianity and other mainstream religions that we know are factually false.) To say that you “do not believe,” in an active sense of believing that there is no god, instead implies that you have considered and then rejected the other’s position.

It all comes down to the fact that it really is all about beliefs, and to pretend otherwise in your attempts to “correct” us poor, misguided theists… well, it really is counterproductive to your cause.

- Non-Christian agnostic theist

June 28, 2010 at 6:30 am
(10) Austin Cline says:

One cannot “lack belief” in any concept of which they are aware.

When “belief in” means “belief in the existence of,” of course you can.

Your position is effectively this: once introduced to some proposition, a person must either affirm it is truth or deny that it is true; this is nonsense. It is not only possible to withhold believing it is true or believing it is false, but there are many possible reasons for doing so. This may even be one of the most common reactions to most unusual or strange assertions.

You can only hold five positions – you’re neutral/undecided, you don’t know, you do know, you believe, or you do not believe.

And “do not believe in the existence of gods” is the same as “lack belief in the existence of gods.”

You are making a serious error by conflating denial of the truth of a proposition with simply not accepting a proposition as true.

An atheist can NOT claim to have an absence of beliefs. You DO have a belief: you believe that there is no god.

You are misdefining atheism.

To “not believe” is active… and it’s also just another belief.

In the same way that not having hair is just another hair color.

It is saying, “I believe that there is no god.”

Incorrect. The absence of a belief in the truth of a proposition is not the same as the denial of that proposition.

That’s you, actively choosing to disbelieve.

Beliefs aren’t choices.

This isn’t directed at you personally, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s the whole problem with the “lack of belief” issue. Atheists seem to shy away from any implication that they may hold any sort of beliefs at all. I am generalizing, of course.

You’re also incredibly wrong because no atheists deny that they have beliefs of various sorts.

The ONLY 100% truthful and factual statement one can make with regards to whether any god exists is, “I do not know.”

Prove it.

You question why people would argue this point, since it seems like it’s only semantics? I’ll tell you why. To say that you “lack belief” implies that the other’s beliefs are false.

Prove it.

The problem is, you do not KNOW that to be the case, and it sounds extremely arrogant.

And you have yet to establish that the beliefs in question cannot be known to be false.

You claim that it’s false that a person can claim to know that any gods exist… is that “extremely arrogant”?

It all comes down to the fact that it really is all about beliefs, and to pretend otherwise in your attempts to “correct” us poor, misguided theists… well, it really is counterproductive to your cause.

No, what’s counter-productive is to make a series of false claims, all of which were addressed in the article linked to above. Simply repeating these claims over and over without trying to address any of the responses is not just counter-productive, but it makes it very hard to treat your position seriously.

July 7, 2010 at 5:43 pm
(11) Dave Y. says:

To Bel, your argument is based on CICULAR logic, it is BOGUS, and thats all that needs to said about that!
And to Austin, I have to ask why you bother with the circular logic crew, give them a blanket statement about the difference between logic and circular logic and then ignore them until the can come up with a LOGICAL question, you can’t teach the retarded to think in a straight line until they know what a straight line is, and seeing how they hold the abrahamic traditions as reality, you should assume they have no idea what a STRAIGHT LINE IS!
Morons stay morons until they are taught what makes them morons, being a moron means they will NEVER figure it out on their own.

July 7, 2010 at 6:26 pm
(12) Austin Cline says:

And to Austin, I have to ask why you bother with the circular logic crew,

Don’t assume that my responses are solely for their benefit.

give them a blanket statement about the difference between logic and circular logic and then ignore them

That wouldn’t help others recognize the problems in logic and reasoning that we’re seeing here.

February 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm
(13) Edmond says:

Bel, while I realize I’m 2 and a half years too late for the conversation, your confusion comes from the fact that some of your “5 positions” are actually the same thing.

When atheists talk about “beliefs”, they mean ACTIVE, STANDING beliefs they hold to be true. Being “undecided” means NOT having a currently active, standing belief in something.

For example, the $20 that may or may not be in Dean’s pocket. If you’ve SEEN that $20 go IN there, then you DO have a belief that this is what he has in his pocket. You would say “Yes, I believe that’s true”.

But if you haven’t seen any evidence for that money, then you DON’T have an active, standing belief that it’s true that the money is there. This doesn’t mean that you believe that NO money is there, or that you actively believe that the pocket absolutely is empty. It just means that you can’t say that you currently hold a belief about the money’s existence.

That’s how (most) atheists feel about gods. If we say we don’t believe in God, what we are saying is that we don’t currently hold the active belief that He exists. We might be convinced to START believing, if we see convincing evidence, but the state of being “neutral” or “undecided” is simply the lack of this belief as a current part of the many things which we do believe to be true. To lack this belief is NOT the same as HOLDING the belief that no god exists.

And “knowledge” is just another type of “belief”. The things which we say we “know” are really just things which we BELIEVE we know to be true. But, we could be wrong. We could change our minds with sufficient evidence. But, we all have to rely on our perception of the world by how it is fed to our brains from our senses. “Knowledge” is the strongest of the beliefs we’ve formed in this way, but the limits of our senses (and our brains) means that we must recognize that even knowledge is subject to fallible criteria.

Just my two cents.

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