10 Reasons Why Atheism Should be Held Propositionally with a Positive Epistemic Status

Most of what I write in my blog is to help people become better critical thinkers using a practical approach. However, often people will have such knee-jerk Pavlovian responses, that they often misunderstand the underlying point that I am trying to make. I find is often due to the same unchanged indoctrinated mindset that some atheists still have after leaving some of the more of the fundamentalist type of theistic belief systems.

As such, I constantly have to remind atheists…you don’t suddenly become some great critical thinker when you leave a religion, or no longer have a God belief. One thing I generally argue in my blog is that I advocate for atheism to be held as a positive epistemic status and held propositionally, and not as a psychological state of mind. There are many rational and sound epistemological reasons for understanding atheism this way,so I finally decided to enumerate them as 10 Reasons Why Atheism Should be Held Propositionally with a Positive Epistemic Status:

1) It allows for a direct response to the question “Does God exist?” to be simple “No” as atheism and “Yes” to theism. (See Draper)

2) It means that atheism can be true (or false). It makes absolutely no sense to say atheism is true unless atheism is a direct belief on the proposition of God existing. If atheism was merely a psychological state, it could not be truth-apt.

3) It makes atheism and theism contradictories such that if atheism is true, then theism is false…both can not be true and both can not be false. (See Oppy)

4) Atheism is generally framed in response to theism, where theism is the belief God exists…this has the co-extensive value of making theism framed in response to atheism, where atheism is the belief that God does not exist. If atheism is framed as mere non-belief that symmetry is broken as the symmetry of “atheist” (as one who holds to atheism, or a person who believes God does not exist) to “atheism” as belief God does not exist. This is the -ist to -ism relationship of a person to the belief being held. (See Malpass)

5) Almost all academia papers on atheism hold atheism as a positive epistemic status and propositionally. Reading a paper with any other understanding of atheism prevents, or at the least inhibits, the reader from understanding the paper in context or with the proper intent of the author.

6) It allows atheism to be expressed in very basic fundamental terms that are unambiguous. If one believes God exists, it can be expressed as “Bp” meaning believes the proposition God exists IS TRUE. If one believes God does not exist, it can be expressed as “B~p” meaning believes the proposition God exists is FALSE. If atheism is held as mere nonbelief, logically it would be denoted as ~Bp which is ambiguous as one could hold God does not exist (B~p) or have no position either way (~Bp ^ ~B~p)

7) It allows for more nuance for those who hold no belief either way, which is well established in academic sources as being referred to as being “agnostic on p” which is often logically denoted as ~Bp ^ ~B~p or ~Bsg ^ ~Bs~g (where s is Subject and g is the position of god existing). This prevents forcing someone to either a theist or atheist, giving a higher axiological value to these terms, as they are more precise, and more nuanced.

8) It prevents a possible special pleading argument from theist that they could make by claiming theism is merely not believing God does not exist. If atheism is to be held merely as non-belief in the existence of God, there is nothing rationally preventing theist from holding theism as non-belief in the non-existence of God. Failing to allow them to do so, would be textbook special pleading. (See WASP argument)

9) Every belief has a coexisting non-belief component. If you believe a proposition true, you do not believe the negation of the proposition. Every belief implies a non-belief. (Ex: If you believe circles are round, it means that you do not believe that circles are not round. If you believe circles are not square, you do not believe circles are square). By using atheism as nonbelief, if theist were to use theism as nonbelief as well, this would result in a semantic collapse where the term “atheist”, “theist” and “agnostic” all could merely refer to a person who just has no belief one way or the other on the proposition of God existing or not existing. (See ASC argument)

10) It removes any claims from theist of atheists trying to dishonestly subsume agnostics (those who have no position either way) as atheists. This is usually done by various atheist activists groups for demographic reasons, which is why groups like American Atheists or Atheist Community of Austin want all non-believers to be considered atheists for “voting” power and to help normalize atheism, especially in politics. While that is a possible utilitarian reason to have agnostics be under the category of “atheists”, it is certainly not an epistemologically honest way to go about it. If atheists want to change the landscape to normalize atheism, they can’t do it by using inherently shady means, as that undermines their entire movement foundationally.


Author: Steve McRae