Philosopher Doug Krueger once made the interesting observation that whenever theists want to boast about their alleged successes in debates with atheists, theists always describe their opponents as “best-known,” “foremost,” the “most famous,” or the “most prominent.” For example:
- The blurb for the book on the second Habermas-Flew debate describes Antony Flew as “the world’s best-known philosophical atheist.”
- The back cover of the Moreland-Neilsen debate book describes Kai Nielsen as “one of today’s best-known atheist philosophers.”
If I were to generalize a bit, it appears there is interest in answering the following questions:
- For any purported atheist, is the individual recognized as an atheist by other atheists?
- Who is the most prominent atheist philosopher (living or deceased)?
- Who is the most prominent living atheist philosopher?
- Who is the “best” atheist debater?
- Who has the strongest arguments for atheism?
- Which atheist has the best rebuttals to theistic arguments?
- For any given atheist, are their arguments for atheism representative of what you consider to be the best arguments for atheism?
This got me thinking about an idea. Anyone who is a sports fan is familiar with various polls that rank teams and players in different sports, such as ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings, the National Football League’s Pro Bowl, the AP College Football Poll, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and so forth. You get the idea. It would be interesting (and potentially useful) if atheist philosophers, debaters, and activists were to do their own poll or ranking of fellow atheists, similar to the polls and rankings we see in the sports world. (This could be potentially useful to both sides, insofar as it might help address a situation where Christian debaters select a particular atheist as their debate opponent, claim that the atheist is a better spokesperson for atheism than he or she is, and then other atheists are disappointed in the selection of the atheist spokesperson.) Of course, this idea raises all sorts of logistical questions, such as what exactly would be voted on, who gets to vote, when would the vote occur (i.e., how often), how will the votes be counted, and so forth. But if this idea were perceived as useful, I’m sure that these issues could be figured out.
What do you think? Would the idea of “ranking” atheist philosophers, debaters, or activists be useful?