Bob: It's hard to believe that it has been 65 years since we landed on the moon. I was just a kid, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Know what I mean?
Larry: Ummmm. I don't know how to break this to you Bob, but I don't believe we ever landed on the moon.
B: What do you mean?
L: Just what I said. I don't believe we landed on the moon. I just lack that belief.
B: What about the video footage?
L: Why should I have to say anything about that? You might as well ask a bald man what new hair style he is contemplating. I am not the one making a claim here, you are. I simply lack the belief that we ever landed on the moon. My position is not one of belief, but lack of belief.
B: What about the testimony of the astronauts?
L: Are you even listening? I just told you. I don't have any need to address those things. I just lack the belief that we landed the moon. That's as far as it goes. You are the one who believes we did. It's up to you to prove it.
B: So I guess you think it was a hoax?
L: Bob! You aren't paying attention. I don't have a belief here. You do, but I don't. My position is simple: I LACK the belief that we landed on the moon. You might as well ask a healthy person what disease they have. Why can't you just get that through your head?
B: So what do you think happened?
L: I don't know. And I don't have to know because I am not making any claims. All I am saying is that I lack the belief that we landed on the moon.
B: Ok, but how do you explain the...
L: That's it! I am done with this conversation. I don't know why I even try to talk to people who are so irrational.
According to the American Atheists Center, "atheism is not a belief system," rather, "it is a lack of belief in gods." I can understand the point that they are trying to make--that there is no one, particular, formalized catechism that all atheists confess, aside from the fact that they do not believe in any deities. However, it is really misleading to act like atheism makes no claims at all about the nature of reality. Just like in the hypothetical conversation above, Larry may want to get out from under the burden of proof by insisting that he simply lacks belief in the moon landing, but that position (or non-position) carries certain baggage along with it. I recognize that his explicit statement is merely one of disbelief, but it comes with certain inescapable implications. Minimally, he thinks there is an alternative way of explaining the alleged event. If he doesn't think we landed on the moon, then he is implicitly claiming that the purported evidence is fraudulent in some way. That is a pretty big claim that would need to be established. Granted, it is not explicitly stated in the "non-position" of simply disbelieving, but it is obviously implicit, and it is disingenuous to insist otherwise. In the same way, all atheists, even if they don't agree on all of the specifics (for the record, neither do all theists), by rejecting the belief in God or gods, they implicitly claim that there is an alternative, better way of explaining reality--the origin of the universe, the origin of life from non-life, the origin of information from matter, the origin of conscious life, the origin of intelligence, the origin of morality, the experience of love, meaning, purpose, beauty, creativity, freedom of the will, etc. All atheists are minimally unified in the belief that no supernatural realm exists. Therefore, they also agree that all of these above things, indeed all things, can ultimately be explained as the outworking of entirely natural processes. That is a pretty big claim that needs to be established.
Now, don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that simply because these things are difficult to explain that we should punt to God as an explanation. No. I have no interest in advancing a God-of-the-gaps argument. I am simply trying to expose the philosophical bankruptcy of the popular, "I just lack belief" tactic. Rocks lack belief in God. My dog lacks belief in God (as far as I know). But rocks and dogs aren't atheists. Why? Because they haven't encountered the claim that God exists and come to the conclusion that they think it is false. That activity necessarily requires one to, even if unintentionally, adopt other implicit positions. to say "I just lack belief," is essentially to say, "I don't need to think through the implications of my worldview." Ironically, that is precisely what they chastise theists for doing. The atheist cannot avoid making positive claims (even if only implicitly) about the nature of reality. It isn't simply that they lack the belief that God created life or is the ground of morality, etc, but that they believe something else, something natural, more adequately explains the way things are. For the moment, I am not even saying that they are wrong. My point is simply to point out the problem with the "I just lack belief" tactic.