Extraordinary Claims (The Atheist’s Burden of Proof Revisited)

Fundamentalist Atheists often claim that Christians are making “extraordinary claims” and therefore Christians are the ones that have “the burden of proof” and they use this to try to disarm the Christian from arguing further or they will use this as some sort of dismissive escaping device when an a challenge to the atheistic position is made. Brian Knapp has already shown that Atheists have a burden of proof but I would like to extend his post a little further.

Often the topic of the burden of proof gets mired down in misunderstanding and sadly in willful ignorance when speaking with fundamentalist atheists. There isn’t much one can do to explain a position or even an argument to someone who does not want to understand. All one can do is simply to pray for them. So be keen and use wisdom.

Now as to the extraordinary claims that any atheistic worldview must make it is helpful to point out that the term “extraordinary” when used by fundy Atheists as explained in the previous paragraph, is a rhetorical device and should be treated as such. It is a standard of degree of deviation from what is not an extraordinary claim from the very position that is in contention. Therefore the fundy Atheists is left with “claims therefore burden of proof” to which the fundy Atheist says “Atheism doesn’t make any claims since it is simply the lack of a belief in God.” Besides this being a controversial definition, if one grants it there are still implicit claims. Let’s call this definition of Atheism by Fundamentalist Atheists: A` – “Atheism is the lack of belief in God.”

First of all, the one claiming the definition of A` needs to show that A` does not make any claims regarding the self. Second, it would need to be shown that A` does not make any claims regarding the external world. Third, it would need to be shown that A` does not make any claims about what method is to be used to obtain knowledge. Fourth, it would need to be shown that A` does not make any claims regarding the worldview being advanced by the Christian.

Clearly A` makes plenty of claims regarding the points above and the Triune God of Scripture makes plenty of claims about them as well. In fact, Romans 1:19,21 explains that all people know God; knowledge of God by virtue of being created by God. This sort of claim is denied outright for someone who holds to the classical definition of Atheism but an A`ist is forced to posit agnosticism towards this knowledge or to posit that it is a false claim. If the A`ist chooses the latter, the A` is making a positive claim that the Triune God of the Bible does not exist. If the A’ist claims the former than it is quite clear the A’ist is claiming Agnosticism and falls into a self-contradictory position as shown in the linked post.

You may recognize that so far I have simply restated Brian’s post in my own words. Now let’s take a look at a few of the extraordinary claims made by Atheists most often in the comments and over twitter against Brian’s post:

  1. Physical evidence is the only valid evidence.
  2. The post is dishonest.
  3. Circular reasoning.

The first is simply case study in the point of this post because the Atheist is claiming that only a specific type of evidence is valid and dismissing other evidence as invalid. This decision is made upon presuppositions about the external world and how knowledge is obtained. The second claim just does not explain why Brian’s post is dishonest; rather the claim asserts that the post is dishonest to be an escaping device by way of red herring. The third claim that Brian’s post is using circular reasoning to prove that God exists makes one wonder if those who assert it even read the post as it is clearly not a direct argument for the existence of God. Rather, the post is exposing the dishonest claim that Atheists have no burden of proof.

In summary, the argument Brian and I are making could be shortened as follows:

Person P assumes X about what is, can be, how anything is known.
X necessarily makes positive claims about what is, can be, how anything is known.
Therefore P has a burden of proof when X is challenged with any flavor of  ~X (any flavor of non-X worldview).

This is clearly not circular reasoning or directly proving that God exists. Well, clearly if one actually reads the post. One can only guess that fundy Atheists are copying arguments from Reddit or The God Delusion against classical apologetics without trying understand what is being said in Brian’s post. One cannot help but see these irrelevant assertions as evidence that puts some razor sharp teeth to this post.


4 Comments

Steven S.

I see your shortened argument.

What I fail to see is why it differentiates between an atheist and a non-atheist position; it would appear the burden of proof is evenly divided.

X can be either a theist or an atheist position, and in both cases, a positive claim is being made.

In essence, “God exists, and fulfills conditions X, Y, and Z” is the positive claim being made by the theists in this argument, and “It is possible to create a sufficient epistomology without a divine being” the argument for the atheists.

Which one you find more likely to be proven is subject to discussion. 😉

defectivebit

I see your shortened argument.

Shortened? This is the first post I have made concerning this topic.

it would appear the burden of proof is evenly divided.

Good. l am glad you noticed that given X and ~X would constitute all worldviews. However I’m not sure what you mean by “evenly” divided. There isn’t a gradation of burden for different worldviews. In other words, it is not as though X has a higher degree of burden than ~X.

X can be either a theist or an atheist position, and in both cases, a positive claim is being made.

You are on the right track.

In essence, “God exists, and fulfills conditions X, Y, and Z” is the positive claim being made by the theists in this argument,

This is not what we argue but if someone says this they clearly have a burden of proof.

…and “It is possible to create a sufficient epistomology without a divine being” the argument for the atheists.

One of the many things yes. But notice that there are ideas of sufficiency, possibility, and even what a “divine being” is.

Which one you find more likely to be proven is subject to discussion.

As in the previous comment notice that ones conception of probability from within their worldview will inform which one is more likely. So, in the end, it isn’t about which is more likely, rather it is about which is true.

Steven S.

I see your shortened argument.

Shortened? This is the first post I have made concerning this topic.

Sorry, didn’t mean to be unclear: I was referring to seeing:
the argument Brian and I are making could be shortened as follows

which was the form I used later.

(Below things may get a bit confusing: I’m not sure how to get the blockquoting to work, and I sometimes quote multiple levels deep.)

I wrote:
it would appear the burden of proof is evenly divided.

And you replied:

Good. l am glad you noticed that given X and ~X would constitute all worldviews. However I’m not sure what you mean by “evenly” divided. There isn’t a gradation of burden for different worldviews. In other words, it is not as though X has a higher degree of burden than ~X.

From this specific argument, no; later I believe I make points as to why one position does.

In essence, “God exists, and fulfills conditions X, Y, and Z” is the positive claim being made by the theists in this argument,

This is not what we argue but if someone says this they clearly have a burden of proof.

To my lights, any level of presuppositional argument carries with it not only “X exists”, but “X fulfills conditions X, Y, and Z” where they are conditions such as “makes reasoning possible”, etc.

…and “It is possible to create a sufficient epistomology without a divine being” the argument for the atheists.

One of the many things yes. But notice that there are ideas of sufficiency, possibility, and even what a “divine being” is.

Indeed; I’m not saying that the issue is clear; I’m trying to define the terms of what each side has to prove, before which the question remains logically, at least, undecided.

So, in the end, it isn’t about which is more likely, rather it is about which is true.

Indeed. The argument *begins* there. 😉 My point was simply to make clear what the beginning points were.

defectivebit

From this specific argument, no; later I believe I make points as to why one position does.

Indeed; I’m not saying that the issue is clear; I’m trying to define the terms of what each side has to prove, before which the question remains logically, at least, undecided.

I showed why the first isn’t the case. However, if you are interested in the method for determining what worldview is true, I can point you to our Intro series by C. L. Bolt, specifically parts 2, 3, 9, and 12. Our chat channel is available if you would like to discuss this point further. It is often populated with at least one of the contributors to this site.


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