In his article, "Atheological Apologetics," Scott Shalkowski argues that there is no reason to believe that the theist necessarily has the burden of proof in the debate of God's existence. The strength of his argument lies in his assumptions about facts, knowledge, and justification, positive and negative existence claims, and the relevance of context in a debate. First, Shalkowski argues against Anthony Flew who states in his book, The Presumption of Atheism, that general features about knowledge claims "entail the theist (who is the affirmative side of the debate) to first, introduce and defend his proposed concept of God; and, second, to provide sufficient reason for believing that this concept of his does in fact have application." Flew uses his claims about knowledge and justification to support what he calls the "presumption of atheism." Secondly, Shalkowski is concerned with the distinction drawn between positive and negative existence claims. He argues that there is nothing intrinsic to positive claims that saddles them with the demand for grounds that exempts negative claims from the same demand. He rests this argument on the concept of context relativity and tries to show that in certain contexts the negative existence claims have a burden for grounds that positive ones do not, and therefore concludes that there is nothing intrinsic to positive claims that suggests that they should bear the burden of argument. I will argue first, that a presumption of atheism is justified but it is not the same presumption of negative atheism that Flew argues for. I do not take Flew's presumption of atheism because Flew does not believe that context plays a role in the application of this presumption and I feel that this is a necessary ingredient to the presumption. Second, Shalkowski's parallel between positive and negative existence claims is ill-founded, and his main point about context relativity ignores the relevance of what today's context is and consequently damages his own position. Further, I will argue that in a scientific era, with the help of rational tools like Ockham's Razor, the presumption for theism is irrational and a presumption of atheism in the traditional sense is justified.


Law | Philosophy