Feedback on “Not so Different”?

So this series of posts got a relatively low level of page views/comments, and I’m trying to figure out why. I wouldn’t care, except that this is planned to be a book chapter, and I don’t want to put out a book with one chapter that stinks. Did people think, “Looks interesting, but I don’t have time to read something that long right now”? Did the writing style seem off? Or maybe I just needed a better lead paragraph, something like:

Stephen F. Roberts said, “I contend 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.” Some atheist books will have a list of top 10 reasons not to believe in God. But I’d rather have one really good reason, and if I had to pick one, that quote from Roberts’ would be it. And though I’ll discuss a couple other arguments in later chapters, that will be the focus of this chapter. Along the way, I’ll also be responding to a number of criticisms of atheism, from “here’s the proof for my religion!” to “you atheists should really be more respectful.” My goal is that even if this chapter doesn’t turn you into an atheist, by the end you’ll at least better understand the attitude many atheists have towards religion. I don’t think that will be hard, because we’re really not so different.

Anyway, please give me feedback on this.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    Unrelated to the content of these posts, I’d suggest that for any multi-part series of posts, you go back and add links to all parts on each of the posts (and also link to all parts when referring to the series in other posts, such as this one). The more convenient it is to find all the pieces, the more views they’ll get. :)

  • Anonymous Atheist

    Okay, I’ve read all 3 parts now. It seemed interesting and well-written to me. I particularly like your pointing out the misunderstanding of the word ‘god’ due to Abrahamic influences, your response to the ‘certainty’ silliness using Mormonism, and that great Sam Harris quote which I hadn’t seen before. I submitted a comment on part 3 with a suggestion about how you refer to that quote.

    If you want to get into that ‘god’ word topic further, the ways Jews and Christians pervasively treat their god’s title as if it were his name are pretty silly. I see an analogy to Lord Voldemort – ‘Lord’ isn’t the part people worry about saying. ;) Also, there’s a Christian song that came to mind as I wrote this comment: “Our God Is An Awesome God”; why isn’t it just “God Is Awesome”? They don’t think about the implications – why phrase it like that if there are no other gods just as real/plausible (or the opposite) as theirs?

    PS: I see you finally decided you liked my bio rewrite. :)

    • Chris Hallquist


      And it wasn’t a matter of “finally decided I liked,” it was “finally got around to it after putting it off for no good reason.”

    • Anonymous Atheist

      Looks like my comment on part 3 hasn’t been approved yet, fyi. (I assume it’s in the “dared to include URLs” dungeon.)

      • Chris Hallquist

        It actually got straight-up eaten by the spam filter, so I never saw it until now. Oops.

  • Eric

    I read all three parts and enjoyed them, but didn’t comment (I don’t usually comment anyway). I would say that I didn’t enjoy the style of writing as much – it felt like forced formality. Maybe that’s what you’re looking for in your book, but I enjoy reading your normal blog posts more than I enjoyed reading the ones that were written for a book.

  • andyman409

    Strange. Those three posts were the highlight of my day yesterday. Athough I cant say I learned anything new, they were very well composed and an excellent introduction to how the aplogists mind works.

    Sorry, I dont know why they werent more popular. The writing style wasn’t too formal or informal to me.

  • JesseW

    “Not so different” is a rather opaque title, and your alternative lead paragraph also reads rather stilted and confusing, at least to me. It took me multiple re-reads of the paragraph to even figure out that the subject you wished to address were the similarities between believers and atheists with regards to the many gods that neither of them believe in.

    I would suggest you change both the title and the lead to highlight one of the more surprising or dramatic instances of similarity that you discuss, and only then introduce the whole topic.

    Also, while I do love the one-less-god-than-you quip, I have a (probably-unjustified) feeling that it’s trivial, so leading your essay with that encouraged me to think the essay would be trivial as well.

    Hope this helps, and please do mention the essay again (’cause I still haven’t gotten around to it. ;-) )

    • Chris Hallquist

      Maybe I should go for maximally informative chapter titles, Friends-esque, like “the one where…”

      Or just title them the way I title every blog post. With a thesis statement or something similar. “Your religion looks like Mormonism to me.”

    • Chris Hallquist

      Or maybe “Mormonism is what your religion looks like to me.”

  • Physicalist

    Might consider changing the title. “Not So Different” never motivated me to read.

  • Angra Mainyu

    I read them, agreed with much of what you said, and while I could have asked what you meant by ‘supernatural’ or by ‘god’, that is probably a whole other discussion, not what you were asking about.

    Still, to make a suggestion, maybe the following could be clarified:

    You’ll also see what’s wrong with awful lot of defenses of belief in God, because many of those defenses of belief in God would be obviously be silly for Zeus or Thor.

    It may not be entirely clear to others that they would obviously be silly for God too, by their understanding of ‘God’.

    Perhaps, an alternative would be something like: ‘You’ll also see what’s wrong with awful lot of defenses of belief in Yahweh (or ‘the biblical god’, etc.), because if they were sound, pretty much the same arguments would make successful defenses of belief in Zeus or Thor’

    With regard to the use of ‘God’, some of your readers might understand something like ‘Yahweh’ (i.e., the entity described in the Bible as the creator), but others might understand something like ‘an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being, creator of all other beings’, which makes the arguments very different from something that could be used for Zeus or Thor.

    Personally, I reckon that making a distinction between ‘God’ (as ‘an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being, creator of all other beings’) and ‘Yahweh/the biblical god/the Christian god’ might be useful, but that depends on what you’re looking for (though ‘biblical god’ or ‘Christian god’ might raise the question ‘what’s a god?’, though one can avoid that by giving a definition like ‘the entity described in the Bible, and who is claimed to be the creator’, or something along those lines.)

    It’s true that you clarify that by ‘God’ you mean ‘the Abrahamic god’, but in my experience, Christians often equivocate between the two different meanings I mentioned above (and sometimes a few more), which might make stressing the distinction useful.

    Also, the use of a word like ‘Yahweh’ might stress that he’s in the same league as Zeus or Odin. While Christians also usually claim that Yahweh is God (as defined above), one could point out that most of the biblical description does not support that claim.

    Minor quibble: you capitalize ‘God’ in ‘the Abrahamic God’, and ‘the Mormon God’, but not in ‘the Greek gods’, which might subconsciously reinforce a reader’s idea that there is a significant difference, even if placing the Mormon creator on the same league as the Christian one. I would suggest making no distinction with regard to capitalization.

    All that aside, the idea of comparing Christianity with other silly beliefs looks pretty good to me.
    In fact, I’ve read quite a few deconversion stories in which such comparisons played a significant role (though usually they came to realize that on their own).