The Reconquista Initiative
Lack-of-Belief Atheism and a Rule of Thumb
In the essay “Introducing Bullshit-Atheism”, it was argued that, for the sake of intellectual honesty, atheism needs to be divided into two new forms: namely bullshit-atheism and honest-atheism. It was also pointed out that the term bullshit-atheism is meant to be, at least in part, a rhetorical device which can undermine the atheist’s own rhetorical strategy of using so-called lack-of-belief atheism as a way to avoid the burden of proof for his disbelief. And now, in this particular essay, a rule-of-thumb concerning bullshit-atheist shall be offered to the theist, and this rule-of-thumb is one which every God-believer should consider using when dealing with a self-described lack-of-belief atheist.
In essence, given the sometimes disingenuous nature of the atheist’s self-described lack-of-belief, each and every God-believer needs to ensure that they are never hoodwinked by an unbeliever’s use of the generic term ‘atheism’. Indeed, since many modern atheists hold a multitude of God-related positive beliefs as well as a number of positive beliefs which directly oppose certain types of theism, and yet they conceal this fact behind their so-called lack-of-belief, then, in light of this fact, and as a good and reasonable rule-of-thumb, what every theist should do is assume that each and every atheist interlocutor that he interacts with is actually more of an atheistic-naturalist with positive atheistic beliefs rather than not, and then the theist needs to maintain this presupposition until and unless it is clearly demonstrated not to be the case. Indeed, upon hearing the word ‘atheist’, the God-believer should assume that who he is dealing with is actually someone akin to a philosophical-naturalist or materialist, and only after being provided good evidence to the contrary should the theist drop this assumption.
In practice, what this rule-of-thumb means is that in any potential debate-like interaction with an unbeliever, the theist should immediately seek to determine what the unbeliever’s unbelief really entails. Indeed, before any substantive engagement with an atheist occurs, and in order to prevent the atheist from shifting from honest-atheism to bullshit-atheism for rhetorical purposes, the theist should readily press the atheist to explain what he believes until it is clear just what that particular unbeliever’s beliefs about God actually are (and, of course, the atheist can and should do the same with the theist). Additionally, if the unbeliever’s atheism is exposed as honest-atheism rather than bullshit-atheism, which it most usually will be—unless the atheist just breaks-down and admits that he is really more of a straight agnostic than an atheist—then the theist should not let the atheist get away with avoiding the burden of proof that his honest-atheism requires him to meet.
Now, for the atheist’s role in this whole issue, it is proposed that each self-aware and self-described atheist seriously consider the following: 1) whether they genuinely hold an actual lack of belief about God’s existence in their day-to-day lives, and whether they should thus be labeling themselves as agnostics rather than atheists, or 2) if they really do hold to something more like atheistic-naturalism as their main point of view, and if they should thus be up-front about this positive position and not shy away from it, even when it means shouldering a share of the burden of proof. In essence, if an atheist really holds to honest-atheism rather than bullshit-atheism, then such an atheist should simply admit that his atheism is chock-full of burden-bearing positive beliefs and then defend those beliefs to the greatest extent possible rather than playing the shell-game that is bullshit-atheism.
However, in saying the above, it is realized that many self-described atheists do appreciate the difference between bullshit-atheism and honest-atheism, and these atheists, to their credit, do indeed make it clear that their atheism is not merely a lack of belief but is actually a positive point-of-view full of burden-bearing beliefs. Such atheists, furthermore, accept that they have a burden of proof for their position. And so again, such atheists are to be commended for their honesty. However, at the same time, the fact is that other atheists—as learned from experience—either do not or will not appreciate the need to make a clear and overt distinction between bullshit-atheism and honest-atheism, nor will they wish to make this distinction widely known given the burden of proof requirement which doing so will suddenly place on them. And so, regardless of what is said here, many atheists will continue claiming that their atheism is nothing more than a mere burden-less lack-of-belief concerning the existence of God even though, in reality, it is likely much more than that. Furthermore, such atheists will continue labeling themselves as atheists rather than adopting the term agnosticism for their point-of-view. And this is why, in the end, a rhetorical tool like the label ‘bullshit-atheism’ is needed, and it is precisely why that label should be used.
And so, the long and short of it is this: given that many atheists are not more upfront with the types of positive burden-bearing beliefs their point-of-view actually entails, theists, by extension, thus need to be wary of any self-described lack-of-belief atheist. Consequently, until and unless shown otherwise through robust questioning, the theist should assume that any atheistic unbeliever that the theist is speaking with, is more of an atheistic-naturalist than a mere lack-of-belief atheist; and by following this simple rule-of-thumb, the theist will ensure that he is not readily fooled by the all-too-often used con-game that is bullshit-atheism.
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Anno Domini 2017 01 22
Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam