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Clashing With Atheists: When The Burden of Proof Comes Into Play

When faith and skepticism clash, the blunder many Christians make is understanding how the burden of proof works.  The waters are muddied by the claim that skeptical non-belief is somehow neutral ground, and therefore requires no defense.  That isn’t entirely true.  Both the believer and skeptic are asserting something, and whenever you are the one asserting something to be fact, the burden of proof comes into play.

President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and author of “Is God a Moral Monster?” put together a short piece to help Christians not be bullied by some of the favorite lines atheists (incorrectly) use to their own advantage.  The link’s at the end.  Here are the highlights.  Each is fleshed out in the article, and the final paragraph is even worth writing down somewhere for when you might need to refer back to it.

First, define your terms — especially atheism. Understand the terms you are using. You can clear up a lot of confusion here and keep the conversation with a professing atheist on track.

Second, the atheist also bears the burden of proof in making the claim, “God does not exist.” Keep in mind: The atheist is actually making a claim to knowledge just as the theist is.

Third, look out for the “atheist’s” slide into agnosticism, from claiming disbelief to mere unbelief.

Fourth, distinguish between the two types of agnostics — ordinary and ornery. You have seen the bumper sticker: “Militant agnostic: I don’t know and you can’t know either.” Notice what this agnostic’s position is. He is not simply confessing, “I just don’t know if God exists” (and perhaps he would like to know). This is the ordinary agnostic position. No, he is taking the ornery agnostic position. He is confidently claiming to know something after all — that no one can know if God exists.

Fifth, distinguish between “proof” and “good reasons.”

Sixth, we have good reasons for belief in the biblical God, but not in mythical beings like mermaids, elves, unicorns, the tooth fairy, or flying spaghetti monsters. When people say that belief in God is like belief in the tooth fairy or Easter bunny, this is a philosophical blunder, a misguided comparison…

Seventh, we should distinguish between two types of ignorance — innocence and culpable — and the agnostic would be quite culpable of refusing to seek.

The original article is found at

Wes Walker

Wes Walker is the author of "Blueprint For a Government that Doesn't Suck". He has been lighting up since its inception in July of 2012. Follow on twitter: @Republicanuck