The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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Theism: The Burden of Proof

Before proceeding any further, it is imperative to be clear, when it comes to the issue of the existence of God, on which side the burden of proof lies. The theist, of course, makes a positive claim that God exists; he believes in the existence of God. The atheist, the natural position for the skeptic on theistic issues, on the other hand does not make a positive claim.

The believer may protest: isn't the skeptic here also making a claim: that God does not exists? This protest however is erroneous and is based on a misunderstanding of the skeptic or atheistic position; the skeptic does not assert that God does not exist, he simply says that he is without any belief in theism.

Let us elaborate on this in more detail. Traditional theists and philosophers have defined atheism as the belief that God does not exist. Stated this way atheism is a positive belief, and the burden of proof of God’s non-existence must then fall on the atheist just as the burden of proof of God’s existence falls on the theists. Atheists themselves however, do not use such a definition of their position; and for a very good reason-for it is etymologically incorrect. The prefix “a” in any English word means “without”, thus amoral does not have the same meaning of immoral but simply means without morals. Similarly atheism means simply without theism or without theistic beliefs. As the atheist philosopher George H. Smith said:

Atheism , in its basic form, is not a belief: it is the absence of belief. An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that a god does not exist; rather, he does not believe in the existence of a God. [1]

Most people are atheist when it comes to the gods of Greeks without any positive proof that they do not exist. They are atheists as far as these gods are concerned for the same reason modern atheists are to the Christian God: there is simply no positive proof that such a thing exists.

Thus the burden of proof falls squarely on the believer. If the believer is unable to provide positive proof of God's existence, the skeptic is justified in his atheism.

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References

1.Smith, Atheism: p7

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