When I see atheists represent their position online they most often say that they “lack belief in God.” The clunky nature of this statement bothers me. It also bothers me that the line has been distributed via the internet to such a degree that Christians see it as an atheist mantra. There’s no such thing.
The origin of “lack of belief” lies in atheist efforts to make it explicitly clear to theists that the burden of proof for God lies squarely on the believer’s shoulders. It’s as if they are afraid to admit to active disbelief because that would be a stance that requires a defense. Newsflash, we all should be able to defend our atheism. Among all the beliefs I hold, my atheism is among the easiest to defend.
As for the burden of proof, the concept should be discarded on this issue. The majority of theists and atheists alike agree that there can be no proof nor disproof of God. Evidence may be presented to make God’s existence more or less probable, but the sole path to certainty is through faith--which is only possible in the absence of proof.
Atheism is a belief. We aren’t born atheists, we are born with no concept of religion. The most accurate label that may be applied to an infant in regards to God is ignostic. To be an atheist you are answering the question of “do you believe in God” in the negative. No, I do not believe in God. I believe there is no God. I lack a belief in God. I reject the God hypothesis. All these statements apply to me and mean essentially the same thing. Let’s not hide behind semantics.
P.S. I did a poll within the main atheism community on Google+. Members "+1"ed the statement or statements that applies to them. Here are the results.
- "I don't believe in God" with +58
- "I lack belief in God" with +17
- "I know there is no God" with +33
For more, check my Quick "Lack of Belief" Follow-up.