When Is A God Not A God?
Drew Tipson

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Drew Tipson"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: October 06, 2001 12:26 AM

This is not even entirely true. The Burden of Proof, as I understand it, holds for existential claims (among other things) and the claim that a god exists is an existential claim. Thus, since the one making the claim that something exists is the one who must bring the strong argument.

The Burden of Proof, as I understand it, also holds for claims that challenge a widely held position: since most of us hold to the sphericity of the Earth, then anybody who wishes to posit a flat Earth has the burden of proof. This is why most Skeptics place the Burden of Proof upon the Holocaust Deniers, even though we (Holocaust affirmers) are making the existential claim -- that the Holocaust existed as a historical event. Even then, it's a relatively simple matter to show that the Holocaust story that we have, the one that we continue to tell, is pretty close to the truth.

While I do not think it is the observer's anthropologist's role to second-guess what the subject will or will not call a "god," I still balk at these kinds of definitions. It opens the door to the Fundamentalist Christian telling me that because I submit to liberal scientific method, therefore science is my "god." When they do this, even if they have Toland in mind, I still accuse them of of the dishonest rhetorical fallacy called equivocation (using two different meanings for the same word in the same context).

I will, however, grant the label of "theist" to anybody who uses theistic language simply because it is not my role as observer to accept or reject certain definitions for the word god. This was my point in "The Semantic Dance of Pantheism" even though I am not entirely consistent in that I will go ahead and call Anton LaVey's brand of Satanism a form of atheism.

George H. Smith, Why God? in his latest book, makes an excellent case that we're really dealing in some gray areas, here, but I feel that an atheist who is trying to decide just how far his or her atheism reaches does well to at least try to hammer this one out -- even though there are likely to be no hard and fast answers for this one.

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Drew Tipson"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: October 09, 2001 11:43 AM

Thanks!

The most common example of equivocation that we get is the one which confuses various meanings of the word faith or its verb, to believe. The popular "MO" is to accuse atheists of having faith and generally goes something like this: "Don't tell me you don't have faith , of course you have faith! You have faith that this building you're in will not crumble down on top of us." The flaw here is the fact that the "faith" I denied having is religious faith: that "saving faith" in Jesus (or whatever) which distinguishes religious faith from all other kinds.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule