A common atheistic rhetoric that atheism is just “a lack of belief’ has been the subject of a lot of debate over the past decade. Here I will discuss that rhetoric in theory and in practice. It is my contention that not only is the rhetoric not accurate or helpful, but in practice atheists consistently go far beyond a lack of belief. This assertion, that atheism is a lack of belief, commonly goes hand in hand with the assertion that atheism is thus a default position. The more I’ve been discussing this the more I think that defining atheism as a lack of belief actually weakens the atheistic position. I almost want to go along with it because if we allow that position through it will become easier for theists to simply dismiss atheism as a trivially true statement of subjective psychology than a substantive philosophical option.
Fortunately, integrity cannot allow me to argue against weak positions as if they are the only positions. I think that atheism defined as the belief that God(s) do not or probably do not exist is an much more robust position because it seems the perfect storm of a very minimal burden of proof as a position of negation but also that it does not suffer the potential problem of equitation between different usages. Not to mention it escapes the criticism of being a redefinition for polemical purposes. Much ink is spilled simply over the semantics and etymology of the word “atheism” without actually getting to the real issues at hand.