Lately I have spent a bit of time in discussion with some atheists. When discussing the topic of atheism and its claim, I find some atheists to be disingenuous in their belief, well disingenuous in their discussing it. Some atheists have fallen back on a rhetorical easy chair by maneuvering their claim from “I believe there is no God” to, “I merely lack belief in a God”, thus alleviating them from having to defend a position, that since they make no claim, they have no burden of proof nor a position to defend. But is it true that this kind of atheist has no position to defend? Are they really making no claims?
One must credit the atheist for cleverly attempting to alleviate themselves from defending a negative position. It is nearly, if not actually impossible to prove a negative. Making a claim which requires the proof of a negative puts their assertion in the unique position of being impossible to defend given the nature of the definition of God. Namely attempting to prove an immaterial, supernatural being whose existence is not measurable with the tools of empirical science does not exist, by using the very tools incapable of producing an accurate result. The atheist now punts to what he claims is some form of neutrality.
People who lack belief in subjects have no opinion either way. For example, if I do not know which English soccer team is the best, It can be said I lack belief, I have no information on the leagues, teams, or players. The atheists are not in this position. They think theists-usually Christians-are wrong, that is a position, it is a claim. Claims require defense.
The atheist, once in the discussion has no refuge in his claim of non-belief. Since every claim has only three possibilities with respect to how people can acknowledge it. So for example, “God Exists” you can either affirm the truth of the claim-“God does exist”, you can deny the truth of the claim- “God does not exist”, or you neither affirm or deny the claim- “I don’t know”. The atheist certainly does not affirm the claim, and he does not claim to not know, that’s agnosticism. The only option remaining is denial of the truth of the claim, and now they have taken a position.
Do not be taken in by this rhetoric. By making this ‘lack’ claim, the atheist believes it allows him to sit back and do all the hurling of questions, comments, and challenges at the theist’s claims, and they will for as long as you indulge it. If they wish to maintain their ‘lack’ position however, they must remain silent. Entering the discussion or debate with an opinion opens them to investigation into their conclusions, they must now answer questions, comments, and challenges to their opinions. They know this to be true, which is why they shifted their actual claim, to the seeming non-claim.