"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." ~ Stephen Roberts
For reasons that aren't quite clear to me, some people actually believe that this is some type of profound statement. Whenever I read or hear this statement, I wonder why someone would be foolish enough to think that believing less than all of a thing is somehow equivalent to believing none of the thing.
Oh, sure, I understand that it is simply a statement designed to show that if I can fail to believe in certain gods, than I should be able to understand why an atheist rejects all gods. I get that. But that isn't what the statement says -- it says we are both atheists.
Well, our friend William F. Vallicella, Ph.D., over at the Maverick Philosopher has taken on this issue in a post entitled Christopher Hitchens and the "We're All Atheists" Canard. Using the same basic claim about how we're all atheists as made by atheist Christopher Hitchens, Dr. Vallicella notes:
The idea is that since we are all atheists about some god or goddess, we should be atheists about all gods. A howling non sequitur, of course. Consider this parallel 'argument':
We are all anti-scientific about some scientific claim or other in the sense that all of us deny some scientific claim or other and with justification. Thus I deny, and I hope you do as well, Dalton's assertion that water is HO and the pre-Michaelson and Morley contention that light requires for its propagation a medium, the so-called luminiferous ether. Examples could be multiplied indefinitely. But presumably no one will think that one ought to be anti-scientific about every scientific claim.
No one thinks that because many once well-established scientific assertions have been abandoned as false that all scientific assertions ought to be abandoned as false or will be. No one takes the Hitchens-Dawkins 'further step' when it comes to scientific claims. Why should it be any different in matters of religion?
Yup, that's it.
But I personally welcome atheists to continue to make this same claim over and over. It will just remind me, when I read this same claim repeated on website after website, exactly the extent of the free thinking that is actually occuring by those who don't believe in God.