Let’s talk a little bit about what atheism is, and what it is not. It is not a belief system. It is the absence of a belief system. This is super important if you find yourself in a debate comparing atheism to theism. It’s not a belief that there is no god. It is no belief in a god. Pay attention to the order of the words. It’s vital to understand the distinction. One denotes belief, the other emphasizes the lack of belief. You should never hold the position that you believe that that there is no god. You are in affect stating that there is no god. That is a positive position. Meaning that you may now own the burden of proof. However, stating that you hold no believe in a god is a neutral position, or rather a default positioning. This suggests that provided the proper evidence, you could believe in a god. Until such time as you are shown the testable, predictable, verifiable evidence, you will hold this neutral position. This removes the burden of proof from your shoulders and frees you from the false equivalency to holding a belief. Sounds like I’m playing with semantics, or playing on a technicality, but I’m not.
Usually following this conversation, you may be called an agnostic rather than an atheist. That is absolutely fine. And it’s very true. Yet, it’s not one or the other. It’s both. As mentioned, atheism is not a belief. It’s a lack of belief. As such, you are admitting that you don’t know. Atheist=no god belief. Agnostic=without knowledge. Both are true if you hold no belief in a god. This also means that anyone who claims to be agnostic, and explains that they are withholding a verdict on a gods existence, is also an atheist. Similarly, a theist who claims to believe, but admits they don’t know, because it’s by faith, is an agnostic. However, this agnostic cannot be classified as an atheist because they do claim a belief in a god. This is not to say that if you are open to the possibility of a god that you are a no longer an atheist. An atheist can be open to the possibility. But until they make a claim of belief, they are still an atheist