“I Just Believe in One Less God Than You Do”: an Atheist Fallacy? (2 of 4)

“I Just Believe in One Less God Than You Do”: an Atheist Fallacy? (2 of 4) October 7, 2020

The idea behind this argument is that humanity has invented thousands of gods throughout history. The atheist and the Christian both reject these many gods, so rejecting gods can’t be something that Christians are uncomfortable with. Why then complain when the atheist rejects that one final god? (Part 1 here.)

Let’s continue analyzing Christian rebuttals to this argument.

5. The other gods weren’t really gods.

The gods of these pantheons were/are not really gods in the proper sense. In order to call them such is a misunderstanding of what “god” means. In other words, they were functional deities who carried a role that was expedient to the life and happiness of the people. They were the gods of rain, sun, crops, war, fertility, and the like. They were the “go-to” immanent forces who had no transcendence or ultimate creative power. They were more like superheroes from the Justice League than gods. (Source)

Sounds like Yahweh. He was the war god in the early Justice League of Israel Israelite pantheon.

6. The other religions were polytheistic, and that doesn’t count.

I understand perfectly why [atheists] reject all the other gods. It is because they reject polytheism. But I don’t understand how this parallels to the rejection of the Christian God. It is a slight of hand to make such a comparison (effective as it may be). People believe in these two completely different things for completely different reasons and, therefore, must reject the two differently. The same arguments used against these gods cannot be used effectively against the Christian God. Once polytheism as a worldview is rejected, all the millions of gods go with it. I don’t have to argue against each, one at a time. (Source)

In the first place, what’s wrong with polytheism? This author gives no justification for any prejudice against it. I’ll grant that it’s a primitive and superstitious view of the world, but then so is monotheism. (Let’s avoid the temptation to detour into the Trinity to discuss whether Christianity actually is monotheistic.)

If one wants to claim that the invention of monotheism was a bold innovation, Amun-Ra in the Egyptian pantheon was worshipped as the sole god before Yahweh was.

In the second place, the Old Testament idea of Yahweh evolved. The theology of the people who would become the Jews began as a pantheon like those of the cultures around them, and only gradually did Yahweh become the sole god.

See also: The Perplexing Monty Hall Problem and How It Undercuts Christianity

7. It doesn’t count if that god wasn’t a creator god.

This first cause is by definition God. (Source)

Look it up. You won’t find “god” defined as the first cause. We’re not talking about the upper-case version.

Simply put, whoever started it all (the time, space, matter creation) is the only true God. . . . God, while able to interact and love mankind, must transcend all that we see and know. He must be outside of our universe holding it all together, not simply the most powerful actor in our current play.

Other religions from the Ancient Near East had gods who created our world from the carcass of the defeated chaos monster. For example, Marduk, the god of the Babylonians, formed the universe from the body of Tiamat. This story was common enough to be given a name: the Combat Myth. We see hints in the Bible that Yahweh defeated Rahab (another name for Leviathan) in a way that parallels this creation story, which makes Yahweh’s creation story just one of a series of similar stories.

It’s almost as if the Old Testament god didn’t actually exist but was inspired by stories from the surrounding cultures. . . .

8. God must be infinite in greatness, and nothing less will do.

Alvin Plantinga representatively captured the concept of God as a being “having an unsurpassable degree of greatness—that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more. . . .

There is no, and cannot be, a possible world with two or more beings that possesses unsurpassable degree of greatness. (Source)

From this, we conclude that there is no possible world with three beings that possess an unsurpassable degree of greatness. (It sounds like this Christian doesn’t believe in the Trinity.)

Define God (that is, Yahweh) anyway you want, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the thousands of gods—that is, deities—that people believe in.

This author is saying, “What thousands of other gods? There is only one God by definition!” But that’s changing the subject. He’s imagines Yahweh as a privileged example of the set of gods, and we must decide if that privilege is warranted.

Another author provides insight into Plantinga’s definition of God as the greatest possible thing. “Greatest” sounds impressive until we try to define it and find that it’s more debatable than we thought.

The resurrected Osiris asked Horus a question, “What is the most glorious deed a man can perform?”

Horus answered, “To take revenge upon one who has injured his father or mother.”

Are we all on the same page with Horus? If not, then greatest, most glorious, or best may be in the eye of the beholder. (The difficulty of finding the best is made clearer in the Ontological Argument.)

To be continued.

In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.
It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about.
That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is.
It’s not challenging political correctness . . .
that’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.
— Barack Obama, commencement speech at Rutgers


(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 5/18/16.)

Image from M’s photography (license CC BY 2.0)


Browse Our Archives