Taking on the Burden of Proof

I’m going to make this very short.

Today I had a conversation with a non-religious man who believed in some vague, nondescript god. At some point in the conversation, the issue of the burden of proof came up. I accepted the burden of proof. Here’s how the conversation went.

Me: “Your position is a god exists. My position is I don’t believe you. Can you demonstrate the validity of your position? Because I can certainly demonstrate the validity of mine.”

Man: …

The benefit of atheists taking on the burden of proof in this manner is it forces the believer to accept the real definition of atheism. The worst that can happen after that is cognitive dissonance makes a fool of the other person.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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6 Responses to Taking on the Burden of Proof

  1. This reminds me of a discussion my older brother and I had about religion a few months back. He was very careful to say that he had a belief in a deity, and not that he could conclusively prove the deity exists (he’s basically involved with a gnostic belief system called Thelema if I recall correctly).

    At any rate, while your framing of the issue works well for those who want to get away with saying God exists no matter what, it becomes slightly more difficult when they start putting “I believe” in front of everything. I will say that the upshot is that if theists started being that careful, at least they’d be thinking more about what they say to people.

    • Rayan Zehn says:

      Hmm. “I believe god exists” and “I don’t believe god exists.” An interesting dichotomy because both positions can be demonstrated, but the demonstration gets us nowhere. Both are true, yet both are meaningless. Thanks for giving me a late night thought snack 🙂

  2. Can you explain DNA from a natural standpoint?
    This is all the proof you need for God.

  3. From my essay on burden of proof:

    “To recapitulate, when it comes to assertions about God, theists have a burden of proof—if only for themselves, but generally for others too—and atheists usually do not have a burden of proof, and even when they do, it’s generally a burden that was taken on unnecessarily. You may distil that to: theists make the claim, they have to provide the proof, and atheists do not. But that is too broad a stroke for me; I think the nuance is important to understand and recognise.”


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