Problem with Defining Atheism as Just a “Lack of Belief”
Should atheism be defined as merely the “lack of belief” in God? The New Atheist community has sought to redefine this word from its traditional meaning. (See Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy link below for more on this.) But the problem with this new definition is that it doesn’t capture what New Atheism is really all about.
Describing atheists as simply “lacking belief” does not tell us why they lack belief. Do they lack belief because they’ve never heard of the concept of God? Or do they lack belief because they’ve never heard of any good arguments for God’s existence? Have they failed to properly understand the arguments?
Or are they biased against them? Or do they just think the evidence is evenly balanced? Perhaps they simply regard the idea of God as a meaningless concept?
The vast majority of New Atheists would answer these questions with a resounding “no”. But this simply shows that their definition does not accurately describe their position. Dr. Frank Turek summarizes the problem.
…if atheism is merely a lack of belief in God, then atheism is just a claim about the atheist’s state of mind, not a claim about God’s existence. The ‘atheist’ is simply saying, ‘I’m not psychologically convinced that God exists.’ So what? That offers no evidence for or against God.
Paul Draper, “Atheism and Agnosticism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, August 2, 2017, https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/atheism-agnosticism/.
Frank Turek, “Is Atheism a Lack of Belief in God?,” Cross Examined.org | Christian Apologetics Organization, July 19, 2014, https://crossexamined.org/atheism-lack-belief-god/.