Does the Theist or Atheist Have the Burden of Proof?

No doubt you are already familiar with the concept of the "burden of proof."  (Unless you have already had some unfortunate personal experience with the criminal justice system, just think about the O.J. Simpson trial or any television drama involving the criminal courts.)  The "burden of proof" is on the prosecutor (the D.A.) to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty.  If the prosecutor doesn't present enough convincing evidence, then the defendant is declared "not guilty."

It is the declared intention of atheists to put the burden of proof for the existence of God on the theists.  They don't want to be put in the position of having to prove the non-existence of God.  They know it can't be done.  As was stated in Positive Atheism magazine:  "one cannot prove a negative existential claim (that is, a claim that a thing does not exist)."  For this reason, the distinction between the weak position and the strong position of atheism becomes very important.  With weak-position atheism, the burden of proof falls on the theist.  With strong-position atheism, however, it is the atheist that carries the burden of proof.  Here is how it breaks down:

  • The weak-position atheist says:  "I don't believe in God because no one has provided me with any credible evidence that God exists."  This position puts the theist on the defensive.  The theist must present evidence to persuade the weak-position atheist.  
  • The strong-position atheist says:  "Absolutely, positively, there is no god."  In response to this dogmatic position, the theistic can say:  "So prove it."  This means that the strong-position atheist must go on the defensive.
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things not to say to an atheist...

(Nine woes will continue in my next blog.)

You know the feeling: some places just aren't a good fit for how you're wired: you keep serving but can't escape the sense that there's just not enough air in the room.

Blogging here at conversantlife.com has been refreshing--I've felt among "my people". Thank you for the warm welcome.

I'd like to offer a chapter of my newest book. Finding an Unseen God inter-weaves two threads of my journey from atheism to Jesus-centric faith...and starts with chapter 52.  Attached is chapter 44: things not to say to an atheist.

I'd be grateful for your feedback if you have the time. There's also a

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FindingUnseenGod Chpt44.pdf176.28 KB

I am an Aatheist

The following Associate Press article appeared in my hometown newspaper, The Staten Island Advance, on Sunday, May 24, 2009. I thought it was great and expressed my impressions every time I hear folks like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, et al interviewed or read from their respective books.

For the record, I don't believe in atheists. I don't believe they actually exist. To be so angry at something requires that one believes it exists. Atheists are too angry at God to actually believe He doesn't exist. 

I think that makes me an Aatheist. 

- Christy 

Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining

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An Atheism Primer

A recent op-ed piece by Charlotte Allen in the Los Angeles Times, "Atheists: No God, No Reason, Just Whining," prompted a flurry of reactions from the atheist community.  The most clever response came from Hermant Mehta, who basically said that atheists should be protected from outrageous claims such as those made by Allen (that atheists are basically boring).  Mehta even compared atheists to Jews, perhaps implying that such claims are tantamount to hate speech.

Exhanges like these, especially in the blogosphere, don't really serve much of a purpose, except to reinforce pre-existing stereotypes.  We need more productive conversations, such as the debate that occurred between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens on the campus of Biola University.

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God in the Salami: The Fine Line Between Faith and Fantasy

I came across a funny story earlier this week... 

A South Florida woman said she was cooking fried salami when she noticed the word "GOD" on the meat, Miami television station WFOR reported.  Nancy Simoes said she had three pieces in a skillet and flipped one of them and saw the letter G.  "Then got the O and I thought to myself how cool will it be if the third letter was a D."
Simoes realizes people may think she's crazy.  "I can't make this up. ... it's there in the burn marks." For 20 years, her family has enjoyed fried salami for breakfast. Now Simoes is wondering how she will preserve the "holy" salami. 
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The Problem of Evil is a Problem for Atheists Too

In conversations with atheists in Berkeley last week, they often raised the problem of evil and suffering as a problem for Christians.  It's not likely, they argued, that God exists given the amount of pain and suffering in the world (actually, several were trying to push the logical problem of evil).  . 

However, the problem of evil is a problem for atheists as well.  Last week, we (New Covenant Community Church's college group and I) spent some time dialoguing with U.C. Berkeley's student atheist club, called S.A.N.E.  In this video, one atheist student attempts to explain what suffering amounts to in an atheistic universe and what he would say to a young girl who is suffering:  

"
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The Berkeley Mission: A New Kind of Mission Trip

Here's an idea.  First, let's get a group of Christian high school students together, many of whom have grown up in the safety of the church, a Christian home or a Christian school.  Next, we'll put them in front of atheists, skeptics, gay rights activists, Unitarian pastors, college students and whoever else we can find, to talk to them about evils of religion and the irrationality of Christian belief.  A recipe for disaster, right?  

Wrong.  

In fact, I've already done it.  For 4 years now, with Stand to Reason.  And it's the most effective training I've ever done with youth.  In 2006, spurred on by my good friend Jim Wallace, founder of PleaseConvinceMe.com and pastor of The Rising Tide church, I developed an "apologetic mission trip" to Berkeley.  Here's a series of blog posts I did about that very first trip.  

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