Atheism is constantly and consistently misrepresented. This misrepresentation does not always stem from Machiavellian intentions, or through misplaced motives, but sometimes, through misunderstanding. Atheism falls victim to broad generalisation. Theists would argue that it takes an inordinate amount of faith to state that God does not exist. They would be right. You can not prove God does not exist. So then, why is Atheism the logical conclusion when posed with the question; “Is there God?”
I will ignore the majority of arguments for the existence of a God, Abrahamic or otherwise. There are too many arguments to list then discuss each and every one of them, in this short five hundred word musing. The argument I will focus on is awfully apologetic. However, it is the theistic argument which I consider to hold the most weight, and is the hardest, if not impossible to refute. It does this because it fails to make any substantial claims, substantial claims which can be empirically disproved. There are no claims of water in to wine, no epic journeys inside a whale, and no squeezing every known creature on to a giant wooden boat, in which the conditions would have given nightmares to even the most callous of circus trainers. This argument is obtuse in it’s abuse logical fallacies. This argument attempts to shift the burden of proof by demanding the non-theist justify his claim that there is no God. This argument is, to put it blatantly; prove that God does not exist.
The initial reaction is to blurt out in retaliation: “Prove there are no unicorns, prove there is no Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Russell’s Teapot!” While this verbose rhetoric does reiterate that the burden of proof lies on the person making the claims of divine existence, not the person expressing skepticism, it does does raise a deeper epistemological issue. From the perspective of the believer, and the starting premise that God exists, the burden of proof lies on the atheist. This is very handy because depending on your definition, nobody can prove that God does not exist. From the perspective of the the is, any claim against this presupposition, is the deviation from the norm and the competing hypothesis. Based on his frame, the concept that there may be no god is the theory upon which the burden of proof lies.
There is some validity to that point, but the validity is dependent on your definition of the word ‘God’. It is very easy to disprove Yahweh or the God of the Christian Bible, but if your definition of ‘God’ is a supreme power outside of our realm of understanding, then we have to suffer epistemological limitations. If your definition places the concept of God outside the limits of what we could possibly understand then yes, we can not disprove the existence of this God. To claim this God can not exist is foolishly naive. To claim this God exists does require faith.
This is where the major misunderstanding occurs. This is where Atheism is constantly and consistently misrepresented. Most atheists worth their salt, exercising critical thinking skills, would not go out on faith and say categorically that this God can not possibly exist. Instead, they would argue that there is no reason to think this God does exist. If your definition excludes it from the bounds of possible knowledge, then by definition, refutation is impossible. If we have no way to prove or disprove this God, then what use is the belief in it? What use is agnosticism? Yes, this god might exist, but the chance is so inconceivably small, and if it is by definition unknowable, then is hardly worth worrying about, is it?
The assumption that this unknowable god doesn’t exist is much more useful. To quote Tim Robbin’s character in the movie Shawshank Redemption; “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”