Anyone who can utter or attempt to defend the position―as Alister McGraph did―that theism is a reasonable position because “atheism… rest[s] on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis” simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Reasonable conversations do not work that way: they do not attempt to destroy an opposing view (presented accurately, or not) and then simply fill the vacuum left behind with whatever their fancy is that day.
Even that is not a wholly accurate criticism of McGraph’s dumb little sentence: the removal of atheism does not create a vacuum; atheism is the vacuum. Atheism is simply not believing religious answers by the merit of being religious. It is a vacuum in which other conversations are to take place. Religious people are as welcome to the table as everyone else, but they do as everyone else at the table must do: provide a rigorous evidential or logical defense of their position. Merely attacking other views does not count as that payment, and it does not lend merit to whatever view you’ve arrived with.
Take my favourite practice question, one to which only a select few have a special access to the answer: what colour are are my pants? (That’s “underwear” to nearly every other “English”-speaking country.) I think we should be in agreement that ‘the idea that I am not wearing red pants rests on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis’, which is to say ‘there’s no good reason to believe my pants aren’t red’. A-red-ism is an indefensible position, by McGraph’s logic. Therefore, my pants are red.
If the nonsense of that logic isn’t jumping out of the screen at you right now, you may want to reconsider whether you’re actually equipped for conversations like this. You should not believe ‘Allallt’s pants are red’ just because you have noted there’s no evidence supporting the claim ‘Allallt’s pants are not red’. You should actually await the evidence that supports the claim.
To further highlight how wrong McGraph is, we’ll delve into the complexities concerning my pants: There is (clearly) a school of thought that supports the idea my pants are not green, “a-green-ism” and a ‘sophisticated’ reformed school of thought that concerns itself not with colour, but with patterning; “a-polka-dot-ism” is one such reformed school of thought. Both these schools of thought rest on an equally unsatisfactory evidential basis. If anyone is to take McGraph’s reasoning seriously, suddenly the only possible answer is that my pants are at least bi-chromatic with polka dots. We have gone quite far down the rabbit hole of trying to decypher the nature of my pants without asking one very simply question:
Am I wearing pants at all?
You may defend that I am wearing pants by noting that ‘a-pant-ism’ rests on a less than satisfactory evidential basis, thus a-pant-ism is untenable, therefore only pant-ism is rationally believable. Your dissenters will note, also, that pant-ism rests on a… well, you get the idea.
The mistake here is in assuming that one must hold to a specific, defined, positive belief; that just because a question has been asked, you must believe one of the answers presented to you. (Like going into a McDonalds and assuming that menu represents all the foods in the world.)
The fact is that, save from a select few people with special access to this knowledge (who you are under no obligation to believe), a-pant-ism and a-chromate-ism (regarding my pants) are the only defensible positions.
A-pant-ism is not the belief that I am not wearing pants. (Neither does that sentence force the definition of a-pant-ism to be the belief that I am wearing pants.) A-pant-ism is to not hold any belief regarding my pants at all. No position―briefs, Y-fronts, boxers, non-existent―is defensible. Equally, a-chromate-ism is not the believe in a pair of pants without colour. It is simply not believing any colour at all.
The topics of Pants and Colour have no reliable evidence in their favour; there is no satisfactory evidential basis for the discussion at all, and as such, that’s the very reason a-pant-ism and a-chromate-ism are the only defensible positions on the topic. One should be without a belief if there’s no worthwhile evidence pertaining to the topic.