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Burden of Proof - Burden of Being Very Convincing

When you make a claim, it is your responsibility to back it up.

That applies to believers in a God of some sort.

It is your responsibility to consider and provide the case against a claim and deal with it.

It is not just about evidence but about people's wellbeing. When you don't know the truth, you are put at risk of harm.
If atheism does not make a counter-claim (that this god or God does not exist) then it is basically about seeing no reason to believe in God. Then the atheist does not need to give reasons for having no belief in God It is a lack of belief and not belief that we are talking about. It is not a claim.

The atheist who believes in no God is going a step further and may, according to many, have to give reasons.

The believer in God certainly has to give reasons.

Some beliefs and ideas deserve less investigation and support from evidence than others.
Even if both believers in the existence of God and the non-existence of God must give reasons then which side has to give the best reasons?
It is said that the absence of belief in God is not belief in the absence of God. Do they mean it is belief in God? It cannot be! Do they mean it is not atheism? It is if God is an action word. God by definition is about relationship is it is a belief in action word. It is about how you live and keep God in everything all the way. The person who has the absence of belief in God is in all essentials an atheist. The argument that the absence of a belief is not the same as the belief in the absence of something does not apply in relation to God.

"It is a basic principle of knowledge...that we ought to believe that things are as they seem to be, until we have evidence that we are mistaken. If you say the contrary - never trust appearances until it is proved that they are reliable - you will never have any beliefs at all. For what would show that appearances were reliable, except more appearances?" Richard Swinburne, Evidence for God.
Let us assume we should take his advice in relation to God and religious doctrine. Swinburne shows that the working assumption that things are to be believed until evidence or proof appears and refutes them is more important than God. It turns God into a convenience not a God. God by definition is that which is wholly good and so alone matters.
If Swinburne is right it does not follow that what he says applies to God. Believing in God is not the same as believing there are 24 hours in the day.
If he were right, what he says would apply better to the idea of an impersonal intelligence making and running the universe than God. You don't need to assume that something doing something is a person when it could be impersonal or mechanical.
It is evidence that tells you what seems to be. His advice could be reworded as saying that you should believe what the evidence seems to say until you find out that the evidence does not say it or is faked. It could seem to you that Santa is real. Where do the toys come from? But that does not mean you should believe in Santa when you get another explanation for the evidence for him.
Swinburne is in fact right. He is just wrong to imagine that the principle of knowledge can include God.
Also it only applies to something that is testable. If you make excuses to avoid accepting evidence against what you believe, you are opposing knowledge. For example, if you start to reason that your parents are lying about pretending to be Santa or that even if they are leaving the presents it is because Santa hypnotises them to get and give the presents to you for him. God as a non-testable idea is out. For example, even if there is total evil in the universe believers say it will not refute God because evil is merely misplaced good and God does not make evil.
Should a claim need evidence?
Some say, "If you make a claim, you don't always need to try and give proof or evidence along with it. You do however if the claim seems ludicrous or speculative, is heretical, huge or will do significant harm if it is wrong. If you challenge the accepted or default position you need to tell people why it is wrong or probably wrong."
All or most people believing something does not make it true. The argument that a claim needs backing only if it is original or unusual or against everybody else is nonsense because truth is independent of what people think.
The correct view is that a claim needs backing no matter how many or how few oppose it. If it is the truth it needs to be shown to be the truth. If you want people to accept the claim or consider it, that is an another reason for providing evidence.
Even if you did not have to try and give evidence for every claim, in the ideal universe, people will support all their claims important or not.
When you make a claim, it is your responsibility to back it up. It is your responsibility to consider the case against it and present it and deal with it.
When you have to provide evidence for what you claim, that is called the burden of proof. The burden of proof is on you. We are not saying you need absolute proof - just enough evidence. You must do your best to show as far as you can that the claim is true or probably true. It could still be wrong but that is unlikely.

Bigger claims need bigger checking ie evidence
The amount of support from logic and reason and evidence you need depends on the claim. The more outrageous the claim the stronger the evidence you need.
The evidence for a claim that a dog eats carrots does not need to be as good as the evidence for the claim that the dog can talk.
If you make an unusual or very implausible claim, you must back it up with proof or at least good evidence to show that your claim is probably true. Good evidence for the truth of a huge or weird claim is by itself not enough. You need enough of it.
Good evidence means that you take account honestly of evidence against the claim and explain that evidence. You cannot dismiss or ignore it or make excuses for denying it. If you do any of these, you are deliberately trying to get people to believe for the wrong reasons or to believe rubbish.

To be careless with evidence for big claims is evil
If you can't provide good proof/evidence you are cheating yourself and your listeners. You are being a baddie. You are risking people believing you when they shouldn't and though we all err, error needs to be challenged for when is it unchallenged you don't know what harm it will do.
For example, all believers in God claim that God has the right to kill us and take life. That is human life we are talking about. It is very serious. We need very strong evidence for God before we can say such a thing. This is not only out of respect for life but respect for God in case he does exist and is innocent of killing. Believers chip in about how pro-life they are. But that does not matter. The murderer is pro-life too just not pro-life in everything. You do not want to worship a God of death. You do not want to worship a God who accuses girls who take contraceptive pills of murdering babies though reason says a ball of cells is not a child.
The Burden and Asserting that God and Religion are wrong
Saying, "I do not believe God is real" might seem to be the same as saying, "I believe God is fictitious". But it is not. The first is only saying that you don't believe but that does not amount to a denial that God exists. It is not claiming that God doesn't exist but only that you haven't seen enough evidence. You are implicitly saying there could be evidence that he exists. Saying, "I believe God is fictitious" is an outright denial.
Though the two statements are not the same, you have to say, "I do not believe God is real" before you can go on to reason that God is fiction.
When believers deny the burden is on them
Conniving believers try to get out of having to provide evidence for their assertion that God exists.
They argue that instead of believers having the duty to show that what they believe is probably correct, it is up to these unbelievers to show that denial of religion and God is probably correct. But believers who argue that way are being dishonest and probably suspect there is no God so they try to avoid having to provide evidence for God for there is none. The rule is, if you assert that something is true or isn't true, the burden of proof may apply. If believers assert God exists they must show he probably does. If atheists say God probably does not exist then it is up to them to show it. Nobody has the right to say that it is only the other side that has the burden of proof for asserting something when they assert something themselves. Fair is fair.

The biggest load?
Non-believers sometimes deny that religion is true and of divine origin or that God exists.
Take the person who asserts religion or God is true.
Take the person who asserts that religion or God is not true.
If both have the burden of proof it does not follow that they equally have it.
Some ideas need less proving or support than others. Some ideas DESERVE less proving or support than others. That depends on how true they are.
Too many faiths are irrational. There is no reality check in them. For the sake of reason, the atheist will have a lighter burden of proof than the believer in God.
Life can be liveable and fine without God and prayer and religion. Thus the burden of proof is heaviest on the believer.
The believer says a suffering baby who nobody can help is not proof that there is no loving God. The God rejecter because he has a lighter burden of proof can say it is. She keeps it simple.

The Burden and merely admitting you are unconvinced about God and religion
Many unbelievers don't actually deny the truth of religion and God. They simply don't affirm that they are untrue or improbable. All they do is reveal that they are unconvinced. They are merely saying they see no reason for agreeing with the believers.
These do not have the burden of proof. These unbelievers in religion and God say that believers have the job of showing them why they should believe too. They are right. There are too many religions and versions of God and you cannot expect them to investigate them all!
But all atheists claim that conclusively disproving God is unnecessary!
Atheism, according to many atheists, cannot be proven true or false for it does not claim anything. It does not claim that there is no God. But surely it claims however that trying to disprove God is unnecessary?
Hard and soft
Take the person who asserts, "There is no God." This is the hard atheist. And think of the person who says, "I see no reason to believe". This is the soft atheist.
The hard atheist asserts that there is no God but also asserts that he sees no reason to believe. So he would agree with the soft atheist that there is no reason to believe. He just goes a step further. Hard atheism then stands on soft atheism.
The burden of proof cannot apply to the soft atheist. You do not have to prove the tooth fairy does not exist to be able to say that you see no reason to believe. It is the same with God.
The burden of proof does not then repose on the soft atheist.
The soft atheist and the hard atheist are closely related. How? A hard atheist describes a person who is a soft atheist but who goes a step further. The hard atheist like the soft atheist says she has no reason to believe. But she adds that there is reason to reject God as well. Soft atheism then is the foundation for hard atheism. Hard atheism appears in the soft atheist framework as a possibility. It is allowed for. The hard atheist is still as much of a soft atheist as the soft atheist is. There can be no hard atheism without soft atheism.
For the hard atheist, it is more important for him to see no evidence for God than for him to get evidence that denies God's existence. The lack of evidence for God is more basic. It is his foundation. The denial of God is built on that foundation.
So we see then that the hard atheist in so far as she is a soft atheist is free from the burden of proof too. It is only the bit of her that is a hard atheist that has to worry about the burden of proof. But in the big picture, it does not matter much.
We conclude that soft atheists are free from the burden of proof. Hard atheists are free too in so far as they are soft atheists and they are always more soft atheist than hard atheist.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
Some say that as believers in God say he exists, it follows that it is up to them to back this claim up and they need to produce satisfactory evidence and perhaps proof - if proof is available. This allegedly presupposes that belief in God is to be considered guilty of credulity and lack of concern for evidence until proven innocent.
Asserting that God exists is being guilty until proven innocent.
Atheism, asserting that God does not exist, is also guilty until proven innocent.
Which one is the lesser "crime" though? Atheism as in the assertion that there is no God.
The believer wants to say there is a God and says God is, so to speak, innocent of not existing until proven "guilty". In other words, he is also all-good until proven bad. A God that is not good is not a God - but a bully called God. But innocent until proven guilty does not apply across the board. If the president is accused of being about to send the world into Armageddon, you have to assume he is guilty and shoot him. Innocent until proven guilty does not apply in extreme cases. It does not apply to God who lets babies suffer horrendously. There is a lack of rapport and empathy in the person who thinks it applies.
Argument from Ignorance
In philosophy, you engage in rational deduction. You think things through in tune with the rules of logic. You avoid contradicting yourself. None of that will help you prove that the tooth fairy cannot exist. You cannot tell for sure what exists and what does not by mere deduction. Atheists are said to think they have proved by mere reasoning or mere thinking that God cannot or does not exist. They are said to be arrogant because you would need infinite knowledge in order to be able to be sure that God could not and does not exist.
That is not true. You do not need infinite knowledge or to know everything in order to refute the existence of God.
Thinking and deductive reasoning do disprove certain things. You know for example that an infinite God made of cheese does not exist. You know that a God with no intelligence does not exist. That would not be a God.
God is a bigger concept than the tooth fairy. The bigger the entity or the more powerful the entity or the more important the entity the better you can show that its existence is unlikely.
God is infinite - there is no power that is not his and he is his own power. That would mean God cannot create things from nothing. God makes all things from himself. But we know that creation is not God. Thus we have proved that God cannot exist.  
Denying that the burden of proof is on the believer
Some thinkers say that when the believer says there is no evidence for God and still believes that the burden of proof is on her or him.
A burden to prove what?
That there is no evidence? Yes for he claims there is none and the whole point about having evidence or non-evidence is that you have to look at it.
That he believes without evidence? God is that which alone ultimately matters so if you believe without evidence you have to explain how God could matter in the absence of evidence. Important things need verification and you are claiming your faith is important.
Our average believer is in no position to say there is no evidence! What if some sign from God took place somewhere and the believer has never heard of it? This great faith is really arrogance. It shows a dislike for evidence. What is happening is that the believer fears there is no evidence and then turns against evidence in the name of faith.
Some say that God is to be found in mundane things. He is not like something that is so out of the ordinary that he needs special proof. He is not out of context in the universe. He is the ordinary. The plant with the pretty flower. The stone in your rockery. The water you sip at the well. God is more like them.


If God is that ordinary then there is no burden of proof on the believer. But is he that ordinary? God is not your teapot but an infinite mystery. The answer is no. The argument is deceptive.
The Burden and Rationality
Atheist scholars sometimes state that top theologians and Christian philosophers such as St Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict XVI and William Lane Craig for example are wrong but they are still rational theologians or philosophers.
This view would reflect the fact that even the most rational of us make mistakes and misperceive things. Some of us endorse irrationality knowingly for we are aware that we have an audience who will lap it up.
But in a world where most people are irrational, surely if you claim to be rational, the burden of proving it or providing evidence for it is on you? And it is.
You know your own mind best. That is why it is your job to prove yourself rational. Nobody else can do it for you. The believer cannot say to the atheist, prove me irrational.
The top theologians may value reason but do they apply it correctly in their studies? Being a rational person means you are only a rational person up to a point. You will still have some funny ideas.
Actions speak louder than words. If you claim your religion is the truth, you will support it well with facts and truths and evidences and look at the opposing side. If you claim to be rational, you will act rational and take great care in what you claim.

Those who say to you that God exists or that a religion is true need to prove the depth of their faith and love for truth by helping you prove it to yourself.

That few even try reflects badly on religion and shows that even if a religion is rational most of its adherents certainly are not.

The atheist baby
An atheist sticks with the basics of atheism and does not claim God does not exist but simply says she has no reason to believe. She lacks belief in God but does not say there is no God. If that is all it takes to be atheist then is it the case that your budgie is an atheist as well? Or if that is too silly then is each baby an atheist?
Atheists answer that you need to be more than a baby to be able to form beliefs, unbeliefs or to have lack of belief either way.
A creature that can form beliefs for or against something can suspend belief too.
If atheism at its root and in its basic form does not claim that there is no God but is a non-claim and is based on the absence of evidence for God then Christians say it cannot be an identity marker. It seems that you cannot call yourself an atheist for an identity is based on what claims you make for yourself. But why not? You can call yourself rational and if atheism is an area of rationality then why not call yourself atheist? What you claim, what you do not claim, what you deny can be part of you. The argument that there are no atheists if atheism is not a claim is bizarre. Christians use it for they want to dehumanise atheists and ignore their self-identification.
True or false
It is said, Only a claim can be true or false. If atheism for many is not a claim, it is claiming nothing, but a lack of belief or the absence of belief in the existence of God then atheism is unable to be shown true or false. If something is not true or false then it is meaningless as in, "The dog ate the non-existent cat."
If atheism says that it does not believe God is real or exists there is nothing wrong with that. It could be right to not believe God is real. So is true or false.
And even if it were not, to say that one does not think God is real is not like saying, "The dog ate the non-existent cat." The argument is full of distortions and lies that are meant to try and make atheists look stupid.
Is belief that there is no God a lack?
Some seem to think that claiming there is no God (hard atheism) is a lack of belief in God! It is a claim. It is a lack in a sense. It is more a claim than a lack and it is a lack in the sense to believe anything is to fail to believe in its opposite. But it is not wholly a lack. The following certainly is a lack: "I see no reason to believe in God so I will not acknowledge God."
Suppose to say, "There is no God" involves a lack. Then that bit of it does not require a burden of proof! How does that affect things? It matters a little. But it is balanced out by the fact that to say that "There is a God" involves a lack of atheism. So it does not matter then.
The "But God is a major claim, others are lesser" excuse
"I believe there is no God" is not an island. It connects to other things. It says loads of things in a few words. It implies a lot. With science, you proclaim that chemistry and physics and everything will never need to ask if God could be at work. So even if saying it is not making a claim about God, it is making positive claims by implication.
Some say that because that statement has such a big and broad impact it needs to be backed up with great evidence. Christians say so. They are trying to shift the burden of proof from themselves and lay an impossible burden on atheists.
If you simply say you will live as if there is no God for there is no evidence then that needs no evidence. The consequences stand on it. But the consequences are to be dealt with separately. They do not change the fact that if you are claiming nothing about God then you don't need to take on a burden of proof.
Positive claims implied by a non-claim have to be dealt with by themselves. There is still no right to treat a non-claim like a claim.
Positive claims come in dozens with the claim that God exists. This makes the burden heavier for believers. Unbelievers don't need to do as much work.
Soft and hard atheism act like beliefs so they are beliefs
Some say that morality collapses if you say there is no reason to believe in God so saying that cannot be called a mere lack of belief when it has such big ramifications and consequences. A lack cannot do all that.
The argument is that if something is said to be claiming nothing it is a belief when it is treated as one. That is nonsense. We can get too attached to anything. It is human nature.
And also, you lack belief in the toothfairy and this affects your life in the sense that you don't even think about her or worry about her. The argument is total rubbish.  Lacking belief in God has the side-effect not the direct effect of ignoring God and thus denying him that way.  A lack can therefore act like a belief and not be a belief.


Looking at the burden of proof from the perception angle


Atheism is firstly a perception that there is no need for God as an explanation for how and why we exist and how we are to live.  The atheist starts off by perceiving that there is no sign of God. If the atheist believes there is no God then that is an offshoot but not a necessary one. The burden of proof is on the person who says they perceive that there is a God.  The reason is that the person who says they perceive that there are no fairies is taking the default and the person who says they perceive fairies is not. We do not need fairies to explain anything. God is supposed to be an explanation which is why believers need to back that up.




The burden of proof or the duty to try to present a decent defence of a claim rests on the person making the claim.

Thus feelings are no good as proof.

Thus their experience is no good.  It is no good to anybody who is not them.  And many people claim to experience things they couldn't have.

They need to present good reasons and good evidence that will make it possible for another to think that what they say is likely to be true.

Not only is their feelings and experience no good it is a violation of the burden of proof. Why? Because depending on them is totally defiant of what truth is all about.


The burden of proof is not just on a person who says x exists but also on the person who says it does not exist. Both are making claims and any claim calls the burden of proof down on itself. The burden of proof rests on the person saying God exists. If you want to check this out with evidence that is fine but does not mean the burden of proof rests on you. It does not for you are not the one making the claim.  The burden of proof demands that the claimant put their evidence where their mouth is but invites you to investigate.   That is why the claimant should not get away with any distortion or lies that he presents as evidence.

Most of our fundamental beliefs about the world are not based on rational and conscious choices.  We should be questioning the evidence and reasons we accept important things more often.
Burden of proof for a loving God is on believer for there is a mystery of evil and no such mystery exists for the atheist. A more accurate label would be a "burden of support" — the key is that a person must support what they are saying.

The duty and need to demonstrate that something is true or probably true arises when a person asserts something as true. The atheist is always largely basing her atheism on the lack of evidence for God. Thus the atheist does not and cannot have the burden of proof in so far as she is not asserting anything. The burden of proof to show God exists rests on the shoulders of the believer. It is not true that those who say that God exists and that those who say he does not have an equal duty to prove. The burden is heaviest on the believers. Atheists are entitled to not bend the knee to God just because they see no evidence.
The lies and distortions coming from Christians on the subject of the burden of proof is disturbing.
Every religion has the burden of proof of showing that it manifests the will of its version of God. That entails showing its God probably if not definitely exists.