Ken Goodman, writing about atheism in your Nov. 24 issue (“Some finer points and questions on belief”), misunderstands the ad populum fallacy and Otis Page’s use of it. Mr. Page claimed that one good reason to believe that a god exists is the great number of believers throughout history. But even if a god does exist, it is still a fallacy to say the reason a god exists is because so many people believe it; what makes a claim true or false requires other criteria. An ad populum argument only proves that a belief is popular; it does not prove that it is true. Whether something is true depends on the logic and evidence related to the claim. This is easily understood when one considers the possibility of large but equal numbers of people believing opposite claims; in such a case, popularity is useless in determining who is right.
Lastly, it is necessary to repeat that atheists, at minimum, are not making a positive claim about whether God exists; we only need say that no one has shown good reason to believe that any god exists. We lack belief, so we have nothing to prove, we merely wait for others to demonstrate their claims convincingly.