In any serious discussion, everyone needs to participate. All people bring an opinion into every discussion and everyone needs to support it. Most people understand this, but sometimes someone comes to the table under the impression that their view is correct by default.
Some people like their worldview is ‘ground zero’, so to speak. Some of the more ‘evangelical’ type atheists, for example. Adding anything, such as God, departs from that default ground zero. However, in any discussion there is no default position, since once a proposition is offered, there are only three options, and two of them must be defended.
You can agree with the view. If someone says “A is true”, and you agree A is true, there is nothing more to discuss. Enjoy the weather.
You could also deny the idea. Someone says “A is true”, and you disagree, your position of skepticism does not protect you from defending your denial. Neither the one affirming, or the one denying A is correct by default. Since before the claim is made, there is no position at all, there is nothing to defend. But once A is offered in either direction, no one is correct by default. Even a denial is a position.
Here’s why denying A offers no privilege. People hold beliefs. They don’t not hold beliefs, or hold non-beliefs. I’m not even sure it’s possible to not believe something in the sense the Atheist advances the idea. For example, when my daughter doesn’t turn in her homework claiming the dog ate it, the teacher either believes the dog ate it, or the teacher believes the dog did not eat it.
I think the only condition where someone lacks a belief, or doesn’t believe something, is when they haven’t been introduced to the idea. In the above example, before my daughter did or didn’t turn in the assignment, her teacher lacked belief in a reason for her future failure to turn it in. It could be said that the teacher lacked belief in why the assignment was missing. However, once she introduces “the dog ate it”, the teacher begins to form beliefs. It can not be said that she begins to form non-beliefs.
So how does this apply to the theological debate involving the Theist and Atheist? The Atheists are attempting to deflect responsibility for defending their beliefs. They argue that because they don’t hold a belief (in a god) they have nothing to defend. They believe it serves to take the pressure off them in the discussion. To witness just how evasive the Atheists are willing to be, just ask the yes or no question: Does God exist? The Atheists who prefer to use the “non-belief” rhetoric, will not answer with a yes or no. The will answer be highly deflective, resembling something like: I lack belief in any god. Or, I hold no belief in the existence of any god. Every so often you’ll get one who will answer with an unambiguous ‘no’, but good luck trying to get a reason that doesn’t blame the Theist.
It will prove difficult if not impossible to persuade the Atheist to tell you what they do believe about God. To be sure, the Atheist does hold a belief. The belief is: God does not exist.
The only one with nothing to defend is the person who says they haven’t made a decision either way. Here you are neither affirming or denying A, and thus are offering no position, and have no burden of proof. It is only this soft-Agnosticism which bears no burden. But this is not what the majority of Atheists are saying though, is it.