I've been reading a conversation between two individuals - A claiming to be atheist and B asking him to prove it, since B does not believe that A is saying the truth and can't be sure if A is really an atheist as A claims.

So I was wondering - is this even a valid argument B has there - to say that B does not believe what A claims since "many people claim a lot of things that aren't really true".

How can A convince B that A is really an atheist?

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    What if I don't believe that he doesn't believe that the other guy really is an atheist?
    – commando
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 16:15
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    Can you label the individuals A and B? I got lost in the second paragraph trying to figure out who he is. Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 18:04
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    @Benjamin - please keep the Bible out of this question since it has nothing to do with it. The question could be addressed to anything else that involves personal claims - for example "how to prove I'm a real racist" or "how to prove I'm homosexual". While noone can know for sure people still want you to prove it.
    – easwee
    Commented Jun 11, 2012 at 9:17
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    Just a Note: The fact that B does not believe that A is an atheist does not imply that A is not an atheist.
    – Amr
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 10:12
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    I would have answered: "is this really the question that you want to ask me? Prove it". Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 18:47

16 Answers 16


As written, the B's argument seems an invalid red herring

Assuming the question is:

Is atheism true or false?

whether either party believes the premise that it is true is simply irrelevant to the argument. There are many things that are true, but which nobody believes. For instance, it's very likely a supernova has occurred which is not yet visible on Earth. A question about the existence of supernova should focus on astronomy, not psychology.

Obviously, we prefer that people who make claims actually believe them, but usually, we can just trust that what they say they believe is true. If A says they don't believe in God, there's nothing to be gained by claiming they are mistaken in their own beliefs.

Was there more to the argument? How did it get to that point?

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    Actually, this answer could be called a red herring. It is true they are two different topics. It is a good point, but it does not answer the question as asked.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 2:05
  • The whole topic was a question about why atheists try to discredit gods (which is kinda already a dumb question to try to discredit something you don't believe in) and it obviously got into a religion vs. atheism fight. At one point a commenter replied to an atheist with the question "Prove me you are na atheist". I guess he was trying to discredit atheism with it but is it the correct way to start?
    – easwee
    Commented Jun 11, 2012 at 11:37
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    Despite all answers having atleast one good argument, I'm gonna choose this one as an answer since it answers my question about the validity of the argument, which was my main concern. Thanks to all for good answers - upvoted all.
    – easwee
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 14:24
  • Making an imperative statement like "Prove you're an atheist!" is not to forward an invalid argument, since it isn't to forward an argument at all. Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 16:41

Atheism is by its very definition a statement that you are not a theist. So before saying, "I am an atheist" I must have been confronted with the concept of theism in order to distance myself from that particular group of theists.

(That by itself is no proof of any theism though, just like the concept of a unicorn does not bring actual unicorns into existence.)

Just like words as health only make sense when there is an concept of sickness to begin with. If people would not become sick, we would not have a word for non-sickness, as it would be conveyed by default whenever we used the term human. Just as baldness only becomes meaningful when people have the ability to grow hair.

This should also avoid the typical counter-argument that this definition would make rocks atheists, as those lack the ability to be theists in the first place. Even though one could describe their external features as atheistic, but that's quite a trivial thing to say.

So when I as a child confronted with theisms, such as Christianity and Greek mythology I treated those stories as fairy tales. So I realized "I was not a Christian", and I was also not a believer in Greek gods, and more and more I learned about all the religions on this planet I realized that I could not identify with anything they claimed to be true (even though not all of them were necessarily theistic, so I also may be better described as non-religious).

The most broadest definition, I can boil theism/deism down to, is the positive claim that one or many divine beings necessarily exist.

And I do not claim that. Hence I am not a theist. Hence I am an atheist.

It may be that B's theism may not fall under this definition, though I do not think of it as likely or a useful thing to do.

Yet in order for me to "prove" my atheism to B's particular religion I would ask him to tell me what his branch of theism entails, and tell him if I agree with it. If I say: "I do not subscribe to the presented claims" it is really all the proof you can take, good reasons approach if you will, even though I may be lying and a believer anyway.

But why would I lie? There are quite a few ad-hoc rationalizations (denial of a god, being angry at a certain god, etc. pp.) and even though I cannot stop B from raising them, it would be the point for me to stop the discussion as futile.

For now, I feel quite rational in my poly-atheism of all the theisms I have yet encountered, and am quite biased in remaining an atheist of all the theisms I have yet to encounter, due to the huge lack of evidence any religion has yet presented and the scientific discoveries concerning the underlying principle of all religions. Yet I could be wrong.

I want to point out that I also start to consider myself as an atheist retrospectively, once I decided to ascribe the term "atheist" to myself.

Just as I think of myself as always being a boy even though I only learned the difference as a small child.

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    This presupposes any religion is right, therefore to disbelieve all religions is to be athiest. This is not so of course, one can believe in divinity, a God, without subscribing to a religion. The belief can be simple, and thus as impossible to convince another of as it would be to disprove it to that believer. You have merely proved (to some degree) that you do not believe in the religions as put to you. Also, there are more than 2 states - there is the third option of not knowing/caring (agnostic), so to not claim devine beings is not to necessarily claim they do not exist either.
    – Wolf5370
    Commented Jun 16, 2012 at 22:43
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    @Wolf5370 Religions do not need divine beings. Hence one can be an atheist but still be religious. I said so. Furthermore, atheism is not the claim that divine beings do not exist. All it takes is not claiming their existence. About your third position: The fence is too small to sit on. Either you identify as an theist. Or you don't. It's binary. Once you don't, you are an atheist by definition. IMO Atheism includes agnosticism as a subset. And it is of no concern that one does not identify oneself as an atheist. As long as you don't identify as a theist it makes you an atheist.
    – k0pernikus
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 13:14
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    @k0pernikus agnosticism is a question of knowledge--one could be agnostic (not be certain that god exists) but have faith that god exists, just as one could be agnostic and simply not believe.
    – philosodad
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 19:23
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    @LieRyan How do the terms "atheist" and "not-a-theist" differ?
    – k0pernikus
    Commented Jul 8, 2012 at 18:28
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    I think it's important to phrase the atheism definition carefully. Atheists do not believe gods / superpowers / divinities exist. The statement "atheists believe that gods don't exist" is a positive statement and implies that atheists are making a claim, which they are not. The distinction is very important because it puts the burden of the proof on the theist side. Your health vs sickness comparison is backwards. Being atheist would be "health" since it is the default state while being sick would be the disturbance (positive claim).
    – ApplePie
    Commented Oct 20, 2012 at 21:33

Its not possible. There is never a way to "prove" that you think this or that. You could always lie. The question is: Why should a person lie about that in such a discussion?

  • I agree it would be good to tell the person why you think they are dishonest. For example, their claim of atheism could conflict with a more trusted source of information such as the Bible.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 2:11
  • @Benjamin: How could a claim of a belief (say atheism) possibly conflict with the Christian Bible, however trusted? Does that Bible say what an arbitrary individual believes?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 2:39
  • @Mitch Yes in Romans chapter 1 specifically verses 18 through 32 and other passages - worldebible.com/romans/1.htm
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 3:55
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    The Bible cannot be used as an argument. First because it has no authority whatsoever unless you "believe" what it says has any truth in it at all. Second because it's a pile of crap.
    – ApplePie
    Commented Oct 20, 2012 at 14:44

It's a clever tactic. Atheists may often presents themselves as believing in nothing without proof. Thus, such an atheist, to be consistent needs to prove that they are an atheist, otherwise, they are inconsistent in believing it.

I believe a more educated end goal for this tack is to point out how hard it is to prove something, and that we often go on things like confidences and convictions or even inductive conclusions, where they present themselves.

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    While it's true that you cannot prove nor disprove Atheism, you don't need a proof to belief in Atheism. A belief is just that, a belief; while it's true some may call out inconsistency if a belief turns out to be false, but in case where the thing you believe in is neither provable nor disprovable, then it is not inconsistent to believe it without a proof.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 22:00
  • @LieRyan, the inconsistency comes from the claim that one does not (or ought not) believe something without proof and lacking proof for something you maintain. Not between Atheism and believing in something without proof. The leverage is against a naive sense of the word "proof". The full effect of this leverage can only be judged by the context of the full argument.
    – Axeman
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 23:57
  • A may need to prove to themselves that they are an atheist--indeed, they must have or they would not believe it--but in order for Anne to believe that she is an atheist she is not required to prove it to the satisfaction of Betty, so the argument is pretty weak.
    – philosodad
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 19:17
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    @Axeman: That depends how you define being an atheist. Some will define it as believing there is no God/superpower (whatever you want to call it) while others like myself will rather say it is an absence of belief in such a power because there is no need for it and also no proof of it whatsoever. This shifts the burden of the proof on the theist side and makes much more sense since they are making a positive claim that something exists, not the other way around (atheists making a negative claim).
    – ApplePie
    Commented Oct 20, 2012 at 16:02
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    @Alexandre - Exactly; the burden of proof in any rational epistemology rests with the believers, not the disbelievers. To suggest otherwise is comically nonsensical.
    – stoicfury
    Commented Oct 20, 2012 at 20:39

The question of how A can prove to B that she is indeed an atheist is quite similar to the problem proposed by the Turing Test, for A to prove to B that she is human. Of course, a clever enough electronic computer can in principle fool B, if he is incautious or not sufficiently sophisticated, that A is human. (Indeed, this has happened already; we just don't take tests involving Eliza, and the people that she can fool, very seriously.) For the same reason, any sufficiently sophisticated theist A can convince an insufficiently skeptic enquirer B that she is an atheist.

Indeed, the Turing Test is in practise a scheme not for testing human-style intelligence, but whether or not the person you're speaking to is in some measure a social peer: whether their behaviour is in accordance to some mental model of someone like you. More generally, it's a scheme for testing whether someone conforms to some mental model that you have of a kind of person or other interactive system. What can be learned from Turing-style tests is whether or not your interlocutor fits a certain mental model for someone who more or less conforms to some standard of behaviour, whether that is human-like or atheist-like.

As with Turing's own position on the Turing Test as applied to intelligence, the question of whether or not A actually has human-style intelligence, or an atheist — which is beside the point — but whether their observable behaviour is close enough to being so, however that behaviour arises, that it is parsimonious to treat them as having human-style intelligence, or as an atheist. This is what we do in everyday life with emotions, political positions, etc. Ultimately, only through their acts can you know them.

  • Very interesting connection to proving personhood. Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 19:04


The most important, crucial and the core of theism is, we believe that there is something could be considered as the root of all powers and having consistent ability (power) to give us hope at the highest level than others.

Whether we have religion or not, as long as we believe there is something could be considered as the root of all powers and having consistent ability (power) to give us hope at the highest level than others, then we have God, whoever it is.


Whether we have religion or not, as long as we disbelieve there is something could be considered as the root of all powers and having consistent ability (power) to give us hope at the highest level than others, then we have no God, whoever it is.

Related to God, we need hope. It asserts we believe there is relation could be provided in between us and God, even for the slightest possibility. There is no ignorance here.


  • "Someone may believe on the existence of God as a creator but someone disbelieve this God has super power". It asserts there is no relation for the purpose that could be provided in between me and God. It's neglected.

    If there is a hope we could count on something, it asserts there is quality of getting help from something, and that what makes something could be involved to our consideration.

    But when we assert that something should be neglected, then, something could be considered as no quality to make a relation for any purpose.

    Whether we believe God has a purpose to something or God has no purpose to something, or God has to interact or God has no interact with us, but when God is neglected with confidence by us (because we consider there is no any kind of relations to God), then this kind of God is meaningless to our life.

    If we consider a galaxy far away from planet earth has no any special relation even for the slightest for us, then we have no concern at all to this galaxy. It asserts no degree that could lift up something (that already being neglected with strong confidence) to a degree as God.

    I consider this issue is an example of wrong perspective, wrong to qualifying,

    it's neglected and it's meaningless to our own purpose.

    It's because there is nothing special about something that could be considered as (God)

  • "Polytheism believes multiple Gods, there is no "root" of power per se, but instead Gods are beings of supreme power"

    "The Root of All" asserts There is God as THE UNCAUSED CAUSE**

    An axiom about distance that, there are two possibilities: it's no distance in between of things or there is a distance in between of things.

    If there is no distance then all Gods is as one God. But if there is a distance, then between one Uncaused Cause (God) to another God (another Uncaused Cause) of Gods is separated.

    There are several assertions related to God, as mentioned above (about the distance and God as The Root of all):

    • Someone lives within God (The Root of All, The Uncaused Cause), and it's possible
    • God (The Root of all, The Uncaused Cause, as The set) lives within someone (the proper subset is within "the set as The Uncaused Cause"), and it's impossible

    • Someone and God are living side by side (there is a distance),

    God is The Root of all (The Uncaused Cause), therefore if there are Gods as more than one The Uncaused Cause(s), then one of The Uncaused Cause is not coming from another The Uncaused Cause. It asserts there is separation in between Gods (The Uncaused Cause(s)).

    And it has consequence, we could only live within just one of The Uncaused Cause(s), and there is no any kind of interactions nor there is no any kind of relations in between us with another God(s) that placed outside our God (The Uncaused Cause).

    Therefore there is only one choice, it's someone is living within God. It asserts the issue (Polytheism believes multiple Gods, there is no "root" of power per se, but instead Gods are beings of supreme power") is simply wrong reasoning. Because there are no Gods as The Uncaused Cause(s) within an Uncaused Cause, and we could only deal with one of The Uncaused Cause(s).

The points are:

  • When we disbelieve God has supreme power, it asserts that there is no hope for us to God. Or, whether we need no hope at all to something, and whether we consider there is no purpose nor interaction from God to us or the opposite, then we don't have hope and we couldn't get help whatsoever to this God, therefore there is no obligation for us to qualify it as something as high as God, because it's meaningless to our needs.

    And when this God is meaningless for us, then this God could be neglected and this God could be considered as nothing (to any possible relations for us). Therefore we believe to nothing (something is meaningless in any possible ways for us) in this case, and this asserts there is no (need) to believe in God. There is no any possible relevance to us.

  • We can only deal with a God as one of The Uncaused Cause(s), therefore "multiple Gods" is wrong

    Meaning, The Root of all is not God(s)


Disbelieving Minimum Requirement for theism (root of all & there is relevant to us as consistent ability that couldn't be neglected by us because there is hope we can count on it) could be considered as atheism.

  • I think it's more than just that, some would define God as a Creator, but do not believe that they have supreme powers. Also, since Polytheism believes multiple Gods, there is no "root" of power per se, but instead Gods are beings of supreme power.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 16:03
  • Hi, an additional assertion already added, please refresh
    – Seremonia
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 8:17
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    Sorry I can't make heads or tails of your argument, I sensed a circular argument (you're trying to prove that God is the root of power, but presumed the conclusion while trying to prove that God does not live within someone) and also introduced multiple controversial premises without asserting their truth: not everyone would agree that God necessarily need to have a purpose, nor that God necessarily have to interact with us, nor that distance makes it impossible for God to interact with us. Also I don't follow how your axiom of distance relates to anything discussed so far.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 11:29
  • Hi, i edited, and additional assertions already added without making any changing to the essence, please refresh
    – Seremonia
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 22:59
  • Atheism simplified: From my point of view, to this point in human history, no one has made a sufficient argument for the existence of a particular god, or for the necessity that some god exists.
    – philosodad
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 19:20

How to prove you are an athiest? Why should I have to prove that I am an athiest? How should I claim; that I should not be other wise. My own consciousness should let me know that I am a athiest. I am an individual, the conceptual use of my mind should be clear of any enforced belief. The earth is flat, as we all know this was a common belief at a point in history. I am mortal, a common belief today. But can I be immortal? Technology is very close to being able too make us immortal or extened our life for hundreds of years. Should I accept the belief of life after death? Only with proof of existence there of. To prove I am an athiest, I only have to live by it.


How can A convince B that A is really an atheist?

To ask B to prove he's a theist.

  • Is it really that easy?
    – iphigenie
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 10:20
  • @iphigenie, yes, this is just a short way to show that it's impossible to prove being reasonable/unreasonable, theist/atheist, and so on. In fact, no one ever proved he is a theist, while atheism is meaningless without theism.
    – Serg
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 20:12
  • I was going to answer exactly that! Sometimes less is more.
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 5:38

Taking the core of the question seriously

Having several answers in place already, I will nevertheless answer myself, because I think most of them do emphasise the point of asking in terms of religious beliefs, but this context of the question may be seen as only an example here.

The point is of course that it is quite questionable to question information a person gives about their mental state in the first place, no matter if it is about religios belief, pain, or the arkward feeling that something is wrong. If someone asks for a proof for a mental state you are reporting about, it puzzles. On a first look, there is no way for doing so, as mental states are not something 'in the world' we could 'objectively' argue about.

As I understand it, there are therefore two different ways of taking the core of the question the moment I can free myself of the heavy burden of theological qestions by simply omitting any particular context:

  1. How can I convince someone who claims that I err on a certain belief I think to have?
  2. How can I convince someone who is outright accusing me to lie about my belief?

I will try to kill two birds with one stone here. For this purpose, the main question may be reformulated as:

How could one prove that a belief really is one's own?

This may be some sort of begging the question, but I actually think this interpretation is truthful to the core of it.

Preliminary work: Definitions

The author that should instantly come to mind asking this (closely linked to questions of self-attribution and conciousness), speaking of professional philosophers, should be Harry Frankfurt. I will therefore base my answer on a paper that is openly available and well aware of this.

The authors of that paper propose to distinguish between robust beliefs that are stable over time (no matter the reason) and fragile beliefs that are not. Regarding what it means for a belief to be one's own they write:

Our suggestion, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that a belief is an agent’s own, or one with which she is to be identified and with which she could accurately identify, if it is robust: that is, stable in a way that qualifies it as characteristic of her.


Taking it that way, the answer is quite easy: Get some persons close to you and let them attest that they have been attributing this belief to you (as characteristic) for a relevant period of time because you yourself did it, as this is exactly the way a belief of one's own is defined. If you have uttered this belief e.g. in videos or social networks, this may help as well.

B now has two options to react, and the validity of his argumentation stands and falls with it: Either he only has been sceptic and accepts supporting facts, or he is ignorant of any given fact and will not accept anything. The first case would be part of a valid and reasonable argument, the second one would be not.

  • What about a cabal of liars? I don't support such an argument, but given Person B's original position - Why would Person B believe additional testimony from another person, if Person B doesn't believe Person A himself? Thanks for the linked citation too! It's interesting and pertinent. Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 19:06
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    @alampert22: I think the main question had been answered before, but I adressed this side-question now as well.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 19:21

Not sure if this is a useful post, but I just can't help but mentioning that movie "The seventh seal" (Bergman). How do people react when they face death (last scene)? It seems that their reaction will give away their true values. Of course this is a situation that cannot be 'faked', so there's not a very practical use of the idea. Your belief is put to proof when you have to act on a situation that requires a personal statement on it as a matter.

  • I am not sure that such a test is valid anyway (even if it was a true test - i.e. the end of the world). We are wired mentally in layers - from animal instinct right up to the top layer of emotion and self aware reasoning. However, the lower levels of consciousness trigger before the higher ones - with slow things we can override base instinct with reasoning (such as not eating when hungry and on a diet) - but fast things will get a more immediate instinctive response (like blinking if something hits us in the eye - or the well know fight and flight reflex). Fear can cause autonomic reactions.
    – Wolf5370
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 13:51
  • @Wolf5370 ok.. if a person is on that "lower level", s/he might react with such a thing as "fight or flight"... but what if s/he prays? I don't consider "praying" a autonomic reaction.
    – Tames
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 13:56
  • Neither do I. My point was - that as the meteor comes crashing into land (or whatever) NOT praying is NOT a valid proof of NOT believing - whereas I guess praying might be considered as such (or last ditch hope).
    – Wolf5370
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 14:16
  • @Wolf5370 I see. It seems to you that in such a situation, people may be reduced to autonomic reactions. I think the opposite may be true - in situations of extreme danger, people will hold stronger to religious beliefs, and even declared atheists may begin to pray. Your statement seems to be close to Hobbes'ideas.. something like "when things go bad, morality and everything else goes down the drain"
    – Tames
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 14:30
  • As I said - depends how fast it happens - and if they are able to build up enough will to suppress the last minute panic. I believe most people, faithful or not, would panic near the end and their instincts to run and hide would take over. Most people's will to survive is stronger than anything else when it actually comes down to it - of course there are those where the opposite is true (from suicide to terrorist wearing explosive vests prove this is so).
    – Wolf5370
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 14:49

You can't prove or disprove atheism, just as you can't prove or disprove God, while science shows that God is unnecessary, it does not rule out the possibility that God exists.

However, whether a person subscribes to the belief of Atheism or Theism, only that person knows. Someone may not truly believe in God, but because of other circumstances (e.g. families, etc) they may say that they believe in God. The other situation where someone claims that they're an Atheist but truly believes in God, is much, much rarer, although you can't rule out the possibility.

For an external observer however, whatever a person claims to be their belief is the best proof of that person's belief. Nobody can claim the right to say that the person is a liar without evidence.

one claiming to be atheist and the other one asking him to prove it, since he does not believe that he is saying the truth and can't be sure that he is really an atheist just by his claims.

To say it in the most civilized manner as anyone could possibly do, that person is an idiot.

to say that B does not believe what A claims since "many people claim a lot of things that aren't really true".

is a strawman, and only someone truly ignorant of basic logic would say otherwise.

This looks to me quite similar as trying to prove that god exists - or am I missing something?

it isn't similar at all, far from it.

  • Thanks for confirming, I was thinking the same, just wanted a third opinion.
    – easwee
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 16:48
  • The claim of belief is the strongest evidence for belief? Can you prove you don't believe that "actions speak louder than words"?
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 2:07
  • @Benjamin: let me amend: "... in absence of any other contradicting evidences". In any case, actions can lie as well, for example, if someone things against their belief which they later regretted. In any case, there is no way to really tell definitively, the only person who have the slightest chance of actually knowing what you believe is you yourself (and even then, you can lie to yourself); but others can only speculate.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 9:38
  • @LieRyan someone could have greater insight into human nature than 'A' and know that 'A' was fooling himself.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 4:23
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    @Benjamin if Betty is convinced that it is impossible for anyone not to believe in God, and convinced of this because Paul of Tarsus said so, then Betty cannot be convinced of anything outside of her own narrow world view and no proof can possibly be sufficient. This makes any discussion of philosophy or religion with Betty a complete waste of Anne's time, and she should just walk away.
    – philosodad
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 19:28

It is impossible to say what "atheism" is without first defining "theism", and then "atheism" as it's negation. The burden is on individual B to make a positive assertion regarding theism and to defend that assertion. For the sake of argument, let's say theism amounts to the assertion by B that there's always a leprechaun on A's shoulder. It's up to B to prove that assertion to A, not up to A to disprove that assertion, or any other similar such assertion, to B.

As to the question as to how A can convince B that A is really an atheist: By saying nothing. It's not a question warranting an answer.

  • The question is how to prove that one is an atheist, not that atheism/theism is true.
    – commando
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 0:30
  • It's an ill-posed question, as others have pointed out in different words. My response had nothing to do with whether atheism/theism is true. It had to do with where the burden of proof lies. Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 1:19

To trust in the testimony of a person when referring to themselves is perhaps a requirement to claiming to be open-minded to a dissenting opinion or proof. Without this willingness to trust and accept someone's self-ascription, Person B is not likely to accept any sort of argument. I would argue that the burden of truth does not lie on the honest testimony of person A, but in the refutation of person B. To argue that Person A is lying, without evidence of Person A's actual contradiction or falsified testimony is an "Argument from Ignorance" - i.e. a proposition assumed true because it is not yet proven false, or assumed false because it is not yet proven true. I would say that the argument is epistemically askew in the OP question because the true "claim" that needs to be fortified with evidence is Person B's assertion that "Person A is a theist albeit in disguise". It is more readily available for Person B to be required to show evidence that Person A is not what they claim to be, through some demonstration that Person A is in fact a theist.

Historically, Person B's position can be likened to the McCarthy era Red Scare or the Puritan era Witch Hunts. This is not to say that theism or atheism is moral or immoral, nor to accuse either side of manipulation or misgivings. I am simply comparing the requirement to prove the negative - e.g. trying to prove "I am NOT a witch".

Therefore, Person A proves they are an atheist by asserting that they are and living as such without contradiction. It is the absence of evidence that illuminates Person B's false position and perpetuates the truth that Person A is an "honest to God" atheist.


Evidently that peculiar argument arises whithin another discussion, which is, "does God exist?". And is another rhetorical manoeveur by theists, to elude discussing their prefered logically contradictory entity. (It is quite a bit impolite, too, but whatever).

Anyway, let's suppose that B is correct, and A is actually no atheist; let's suppose more (which is where that argument leads) that no one can be an atheist, that superstition is ingrained into our DNA and it evolved because it was an evolutionary advantage at some point of our natural history. Let's concede the point. B turns to A and says:

"Indeed, when I am alone after hours, I feel small and afraid, and then I believe that Tash will smother my enemies (and people who think they know my beliefs better than me, as a bonus). But this doesn't prove that Tash exists, it only proves that I, and, according to you, everybody else, is superstitious on some level. So, to the task you are trying to avoid: How can you demonstrate that there is an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God who created a world where "Evil" is plentiful?"

So, you call them on their diversion: the issue is not whether I believe in some kind of god (if for no other reason because your God is not any kind of god, it is one specific god, hopefully very different from Tash), but whether there is a god, and whether that god can in any way resemble your God.

  • Well, it's really an answer to an equally impolite (and disingenuous) argument that atheists like to raise, which is "Prove it." How one is supposed to prove a thing that is somewhere between subjective, personal interpretation and theories of extra-dimensional entities is never answered by the atheists. You might as well ask someone to "prove it" after they say they like broccoli or they believe intelligent life might exist elsewhere in the universe. Asking the atheist to prove they are atheist is a bit snide, but not exactly out of line at that point in the conversation.
    – JamieB
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 16:58

Don't agree with all answer.

  1. First, what is "to be something"? It's just naming. She can be my friend or my lover, doing the same things. So, a statement of belief is impossible to prove.

  2. Second, religious beliefs are logically inconsistent (objective arguments about God existence are contradictory). So, no religious position can be sustained logically.

  3. Negative statements cannot be easily proven: proving an affirmative statement implies just proving a single fact. Proving a negative argument implies negative proofs of all positive cases. In case of negative arguments, the load of the proof rests not on the denier.


It's a rhetorical question.

The real exchange always goes like this, in my experience:

B: God is real!
A: I'm an atheist. Prove your God is real.
B: Prove you're an atheist.

And here we are.

It's not a bad turn-around really, since it highlights the fundamental flaw with what A is asking: prove it how? Extra true because this type of exchange is so frequently happening in the comments section of social media. I often favor a slight variation on this same thing, which is, "Prove you're A". (Ah, I see it says you're "easwee" but I don't know that. Prove it!)

The goal, really, is to establish precisely what it is that A would consider to be a baseline for "proof". Without that, B can't answer A's first question, thus the retort.

It's easy to imagine the exchange continuing:

A: I'm an atheist because I say I am.
B: Okay, I believe in God because I say I do.
A: Okay but prove your God is real.
B: First prove you're real.
A: You can tell I'm real because you're reading my words right now.
B: *triumphantly points at the Bible*

It's silly but it's a trap that A set for himself with that first question, which he had to know was unprovable. I would label it a disingenuous question: an answer was not expected. It was meant to be an "ah ha!" rhetorical moment (and no doubt A thought he was super clever for thinking of it). But if that's the level of discourse that A is going for, then the follow-up question from B is simply a rather snide way of pointing out the flaws in the first question.

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