Must I assume atheism to be true in order to refute it?

by Matt Slick

Email:  Hope you can help me with a problem I'm having:   In any argument, do you assume that what your opponent is saying is pretty much true in order to refute it? For instance, if I'm arguing against atheism, must I assume atheism in order to refute it? Just for argument's sake of course to see if it's wrong.

Response:  Whenever I discuss atheism with an atheist, I try to put the emphasis on the atheist and his position. I do not assume that atheism is true as an argument.  Instead, try to get the atheist to prove his position.  

I have various arguments that I use to establish God's existence; and whether or not the atheists accept them, it does not invalidate those arguments. But again, I often will ask the atheists to give me rational arguments for why atheism is true. Note, though, that atheism is basically a negative position and that I am not asking the atheist to prove that God does not exist.  That is far too difficult a proposition to impose upon anyone.

Instead, I ask the atheist to give me support for his open denial of God or lack of belief in God or whatever it is that he defines his atheism as. Usually at this point I discover several problems in atheist argumentation. For example, an atheist might say that you cannot prove that God exists. Of course, this is not a logical statements since the atheist does not know all possible proofs. Or, an atheist might say that there is no evidence that God exists. The problem with this argument is that he does not know all possible evidence and can, therefore, not authoritatively claim that there is no evidence for God's existence. I listen to what the atheist says, and then I try to find any logical fallacies or invalid assumptions on his part. 

I also sometimes ask the atheist what would constitute sufficient proof for God's existence and then try to discuss with the atheist whether or not his criteria is sufficient.  If the atheist says that he does not know what would constitute sufficient proof, I respond that he is not thought through the issue sufficiently.

Usually, the conversation will go well. However, I must admit that many times the atheist becomes more argumentative and less logical.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.