We're All Atheists?

"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.


Modusoperandi said…
Much as Christian apologetics carries more weight with Christians than it does with non-Christians, this flippant saying works better with non-theists than it does with theists.
Just picture your favourite argument for Christian theism, and the blank or amused looks that atheists give you when you use it.
I wouldn't be an atheist even if I quite believing in God!

Of course I wouldn't join a club that would have me for a member either. But I'm still a Christian.
Steven Carr said…
The claim by atheists is , of course, that Christians automatically dismiss a load of other gods without ever bothering to learn about them in great depth.

And Christians feel perfectly justified in dismissing a god without ever troubling themselves to learn much about said god.
Layman said…
So, Carr is essentially saying that the atheists who use this argument are making a good point in a stupid way.

Not that I buy his explanation. It omits a significant step. It seems to assume that Christians had looked at all those other gods then they would be atheists. That's quite an (unproven) assumption.

Unless of course Carr is trying to argue that Christians who dismiss other gods without looking into them much are like atheists who dismiss God because they haven't looked into Him much. I doubt that is Carr's point, but the parallelism is better.
Monkey Courage said…
Dr. Vallicella's contention that we must all be anti-scientific about certain natural phenomena doesn't not hold water. In fact, it reveals a serious lack of understanding of science.

Take the luminiferous ether, for example. The ether was hypothesized based on the known behavior of waves. Once the hypothesis was tested under the foundations of the Scientific Method, it was proven an inaccurate hypothesis. The nature of science is to propose and test hypotheses and develop theories. Science is the process of provisional knowledge.

On the other hand, there was no test the eventually overturned the concept of Zeus or Marduk or Jupiter in favor of Yahweh or Christ. Christianity became dominant through conquest. Further, the nature of light is currently accepted by the whole of humanity as a proven scientific thesis. Christianity is consciously rejected by at least 2/3 of humankind.

Popular posts from this blog

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?

Where did Jesus say "It is better to give than receive?"

The Bogus Gandhi Quote

Discussing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Revamping and New Articles at the CADRE Site

Exodus 22:18 - Are Followers of God to Kill Witches?

A Botched Abortion Shows the Lies of Pro-Choice Proponents

Jewish writings and a change in the Temple at the time of the Death of Jesus

Tillich, part 2: What does it mean to say "God is Being Itself?"

The Folded Napkin Legend