It’s “Just” One More God

1=0If one follows the debate between theists and atheists, one isn’t likely to go a week without hearing someone declare “we’re both atheists, I only reject one more God than you”.

This has always struck me as the logical equivalent of a solipsist (who thinks all of reality is an illusion) claiming “we’re both a-universists, I only reject one more universe than you”, or even a religious person saying “we’re both a-secularists, I only reject one more secular philosophy than you”.

Part of me can’t quite accept that this is meant seriously, but the passion with which it is often pressed seems undoubtedly sincere. The only support I get for these kinds of claims is the statement that things like the universe are supported with evidence (apparently, this is why the “a-universist” doesn’t apply).

The first thing to note here is that this makes the whole “one more God” point moot. It really doesn’t add anything to the discussion, and we should just skip to the “no evidence for God” argument (and discuss why it is a demonstrably bad one).

The only real reason to proudly assert a claim that shows such blatant disregard for basic philosophical distinctions is, I think, because it sounds good so long as you don’t actually think about it too carefully. It makes for an excellent sound-byte in the dorm room or on the internet. This is the level of nearly all of the arguments against theism I hear.

But all positions have weaker, as well as stronger, points. And this leaves one to wonder, if a position does this poorly in the areas it chooses to bring up as its strengths, what must be the problems when we get to the truly weak points?

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49 responses to “It’s “Just” One More God

  • indytony

    My liberal, secular college professors taught that everyone, even avowed atheists are actually theist, because they defined “God” as “Our Ultimate Concern”.

    I now think it is more likely for people (professing atheists and Christians alike) to be functionally poly-theistic, as we pay our allegiance to whatever we think at the time will serve us best.

    The real challenge and ultimate worthwhile adventure, as called for in Scripture, is to be truly monotheistic

  • makagutu

    I think you miss the point completely. One this is not a strong argument for atheism but even if it were, you haven’t shown how it is weak as an argument. You don’t believe in Jupiter or Apollo because you have no evidence for their existence. The atheist has no belief in any god, yours included so where is the problem with the argument?

    • Debilis

      First, you are presenting the “no evidence” argument I referenced.

      To answer that, this is not the only (or even main) reason why I don’t believe in Jupiter or Apollo. Rather, I don’t believe in them because of the positive evidence that they don’t exist in addition to the lack of evidence in support of them.

      That is to say that they are the physical beings who create physical effects (as most proponents of the “one God further” argument seem to think the transcendent God of monotheism is). This is open to physical falsification in the way that answers to metaphysical questions cannot be.

      As to the God I’m referencing here, not only have I not seen any good evidence that such a God does not exist, but I have seen evidence that he does.

      Therefore, I don’t see this as a valid comparison.

  • thunderhawkbolt

    Jesus was supposed to be physical, but we find no historical evidence of his existence in histories from any of his peers. Apollo is living in the home of the gods on Mt. Olympus, so of course you can’t see him. And the moving the sun thing was symbolic, not literal. There goes that argument.

    At to the elephant; if I told you it was invisible and intangible, as Christians do with their god, there is no way you could prove me wrong. It is impossible to prove a negative – especially when the goalpost gets moved, over and over again.

    • Debilis

      To which peers are you referring?
      I’m not aware of any historian who is:

      1. Considered to be a peer of Jesus Christ,
      2. Wrote about first century Israel,
      3. Didn’t write about Jesus Christ, and
      4. Wrote anything that has survived for us to find.

      Could you clarify?

      Regarding the elephant (and the same goes for Apollo): You would not be talking about an elephant any more. Yes, if you slowly change the definition of the word “elephant” until it matches the definition for “God”, my refutation won’t apply to your “elephant”. But this does not support your point.

      But no one is moving goal posts. This has been the definition of God since the beginning. God precedes matter, and is therefore not material. This is hardly a new addition to the concept of God.

        • Mark Hamilton

          I don’t like linking to wikipedia, but since you started it…

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus#Key_sources

        • thunderhawkbolt

          Nope. I was asked for a list of historians. I certainly will not accept Wikipedia as an argument, only a simple source for the basest information. If you would care to pick your best source/argument and present it, I’ll be happy to read it and respond. (And I really hope you choose Josephus.)

        • Mark Hamilton

          Your orginal objection was “we find no historical evidence of his existence in histories from any of his peers.” This is factually untrue, and I believe you know it. Josephus and Tacitus both mention his existance. As far as his “peers” go we have the gospels. Matthew and John were both written by disciples of Jesus, and Mark was written by a contemporary of Peter, another disciple of Jesus. Luke wrote his gospel, and claims to have “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” Now you can feel free it claim that all these sources were mistaken, lying, or unreliable but nevertheless they are histories written by Jesus’s peers or by 1st century historians.

        • thunderhawkbolt

          That’s not correct. Josephus’ only legitimate mention of anyone named Jesus was to say, ‘James the brother of Jesus.’ Just as it is today, Yeshua was an incredibly common name. The other passage from Josephus has been discounted as a forgery by secular and religious scholars alike.

          As to the gospels, I suggest you check your dates. The first one written was not written until at least 75 CE. From reading the epistles of Paul, it’s pretty obvious he had no knowledge of them during his lifetime.

        • Mark Hamilton

          That date can be debated. For example, if the gospel of Luke was written after 75 AD then why is there no mention of the rebellion in Jerusalem in 66 AD, or the subsequent sacking of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in 70 AD? Luke doesn’t mention them in Acts either, which suggests that Acts at least was written before those events. But even if the gospels were written in 75 AD or later that still makes them first century documents written by Jesus’s peers. Jesusis siad to have died in the 30s AD, which puts the writing of the gospels only 40 years afterwards. If Jesus did not exist, then why do we have no records from this time period refuting the gospels story? It is hard to believe that early Christians would be succesful in fabricating an individual who thousands believed could work miracles and who was publically executed in Jeruslelum only 40 years after the fact. People would have said “What Jesus are you talking about? We were there, and we never heard of this person!”

          You point out that the Pauline epistles likely predate the gospels. I agree with you: and Paul writes extensively about Jesus. So we see from his writings that there is record of Jesus even before the gospels were written. His epistles push knowledge of Jesus even farther back. If it is hard to believe that such an individual could be fabricated 40-50 years after his supposed death, then it is even more ridiculous to believe he could have been fabricated less than 40 years later!

        • thunderhawkbolt

          I just typed a long reply and then lost it… so this will be short.

          They did not get the history right in the Gospels. There was never a census that would have caused Mary and Joseph to go to Jerusalem. There was never a “slaughter of the innocents” that would have made them flee. I could go on about rulers who are mentioned who weren’t actually in power at the time. This was not the Dark Ages; the Romans kept impeccable records.

          As to making up a story and fooling people… ever heard of Mormons, Scientologists, or pretty much any religion you don’t follow? Yours and theirs all started the same way.

        • Mark Hamilton

          That may or may not be so (and there is room for debate on the census and slaughter of innocents) but regardless you began by saying “we find no historical evidence of his existence in histories from any of his peers.” I believe I have adequetly shown this to be untrue. We have the gospels, the epistles, and Tacitus (I’ll leave out Josephus for your sake) all recording that Jesus was a physical man who existed.

          If that’s not enough for you, alow me to quote some actual historians on the subject. Historian Bart Ehrman (who is not a Christian) said in his book “Forged: Writing in the Name of God” that “He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees.” Classicist Michael Grant wrote in “Jesus: A Historian’s Review of the Gospels” that “In recent years, ‘no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.”

      • thunderhawkbolt

        I just went back and read your post again and would like to ask how you know your god preceded matter? And would like to ask whether you think your god interacts with the universe and particularly this planet?

    • Debilis

      I’d say all of those people can be said to be peers of Christ. Now, which of them fulfill points 2,3, and 4?

      The idea that God preceded matter is the traditional understanding of “God created the heavens and the Earth” (long since believed to be idiom for all physical things).

      Can a non-physical thing interact with the physical? I don’t yet know why this isn’t possible.

      But (as I assume you’re driving toward the “let’s test for physical effects” argument), this sort of interaction would be more like the way Shakespeare interacts with Hamlet than the way stars interact with Earth. Physical tests aren’t going to allow Hamlet to discover Shakespeare.

      • thunderhawkbolt

        Your idea that a god preceded the universe comes from an older idea that a god preceded the universe. That’s in no way logical.

        As to your next point, we exist in the physical world, Hamlet does not. The analogy doesn’t work.

    • Debilis

      I don’t know of any argument which establishes this position as logical. Would you mind explaining?

      Regarding Hamlet, it is an analogy. The example was never meant as a perfect parallel, but simply to explain. That being the case, do you have any argument at all that all which shows that there is nothing in reality that is not physically detectable?

      If not, why should anyone believe that?

      • thunderhawkbolt

        You will need to explain which part you found illogical. I just stated that you have no evidence and you affirmed that by using an appeal to popularity fallacy.

        As to Hamlet, you are welcome to continue using analogies, but I’ve asked for proof, not anecdotes.

        As to the rest, the default position should be to not believe there are things beyond reality until they are demonstrated. Do you also automatically believe that people have tracked Bigfoot and been abducted by aliens?

    • Debilis

      I found the view illogical on the ground that I’ve received only assertion as support of the idea that God’s preceding the universe is illogical. Do you have a reason why you think that? If so, would you please let me know what it is?

      You’re free to ask for proof, but I wasn’t arguing for anything being proved. I pointed out a possibility. If you are claiming that anything which exists is physically detectible, it would be you that needs to support that.

      Last, the comparison to things like bigfoot ignores the difference between the physical and the metaphysical. Isn’t it obvious why physical evidence is pertinent to the one in a way in which it is not pertinent to the other?

      • thunderhawkbolt

        There’s no evidence for the existence of the metaphysical, so your question as to seeing the difference in evidence is irrelevant. As for your first paragraph; everything that we have detected and have any knowledge about has been physical – everything else is imagination and “possibility.”

        You are proposing things that have absolutely no evidence of existence and are asking me to prove they don’t exist. If you don’t see how ridiculous that is, I’m pretty much ready to dust off my feet and just say “thanks for the conversation.”

    • Debilis

      There’s quite a bit of evidence of the metaphysical. I’ve just been discussing the existence of contingent objects below, in fact. I’ve discussed other evidences as well (such as certain aspects of the mind).

      But, more briefly, we have knowledge of many things other than the physical. Saying otherwise is a bare assertion. I don’t see any reason to believe it, and several reasons not to.

      • thunderhawkbolt

        No, there’s not. And I’ve read what you’ve said to the other poster and it is convoluted and illogical. Mentioning the multiverse, something that is hypothetical, as evidence for your claim is beyond reason. Even if that does turn out to be true, then it will not be supernatural, it will be natural. The other person you are speaking to seems to be handling him/herself well and I will leave you two to it. I’ve lost interest. Thank you for the conversation.

    • Debilis

      You’re certainly free to go if you’d like, but to respond:

      This is why I’m insistent that people who demand evidence clarify what they mean by evidence. What they consider acceptable seems to move around quite a bit by standards they will not give me.

      As such, simply calling this illogical doesn’t do anything to show that to be the case.

  • The Great Antagonizer

    But there are Muslim theologians who claim the same as you. How do we know is correct?

    • Mark Hamilton

      There are Muslim theologians who claim that atheists using the argument “You’re an atheist too, I just believe
      in one less god than you” don’t add anything to the discussion? If so, great, I agree with them as well.

    • Debilis

      When a Muslim shows up to debate, I’ll be delighted to have that discussion.

      Until then, we don’t need to answer that question in order to show that theism is a more reasonable position than atheism.

      I doubt that you’d agree that you have to show that platonic atheists are incorrect before you can refute theism. But let me know if you would agree with that.

    • Debilis

      No dodge. If you are seriously willing to defend that Islam is the truth, I’ll be happy to explain difficulties with that position.

      But the position I’m currently explaining the difficulties with is atheism. There is no reason whatsoever why I should have to prove that Islam is false in order to do that.

    • Debilis

      Very well:
      The Muslims cannot produce an adequate explanation as to why the statements of Christ claim things they claim he did not believe. Nor can they explain why many of the stories in the Koran (which were supposedly revealed by God directly) have turned out to be word-for-word copies from the gnostic gospels.

      Now, you are free to defend Islam from these facts if you wish. But, as you insist that we all defend our positions from any flank, I would like you to defend your atheism against platonic atheism, solipsism, the teleological atheism backed by Thomas Nagel, and nihilism to start.

      I’ll ask about a few more when you are done with those–or we can simply argue those positions which people here are actually supporting.

      • The Great Antagonizer

        Alright, I’ll tackle these one by one.

        First, you don’t know what Jesus believed or didn’t believe. It is equally possible that the Bible is incorrect as is the Koran. Just because the Bible says that it’s correct, doesn’t work as real evidence.

        Second, plagiarism is quite an audacious accusation coming from someone who believes in the Bible. There is little in the Bible (old and new testaments) that was not copied from somewhere else. The stories and exact quotations were taken from prior sources such as the Torah, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Epic of Gilgamesh and many Greek myths, to name a few.

        Check out the following web site for a compilation of the Bible’s greatest plagiarisms:

        http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/21084

        Third, you make a strange proposal at the end. You state that “as you insist that we all defend our positions from any flank, I would like you to defend your atheism against platonic atheism, solipsism, the teleological atheism backed by Thomas Nagel, and nihilism to start.” I’m not sure if you realize why this doesn’t make any sense. I’m happy to respond to any counterarguments, but how can I respond to entire ideologies? I didn’t ask you to rectify the Bible according to all Islamic beliefs. That would be an encyclopedic response.
        I am fine if you ask me any specific question about my beliefs compared to another belief system.
        I do find it quite amazing, however, that you somehow know how to classify my belief system so specifically when you haven’t asked me what my belief system is. In fact, I don’t think I could classify myself, so this seems like you have painted this marvelous caricature of me in your mind. That’s flattering, but I think it’s safe to assure you that it’s probably not accurate.

    • Debilis

      I haven’t once appealed to the Bible as evidence, but Muslims accept the teachings of Christ. Hence, if you’re going to attack their authenticity, you aren’t defending Islam.

      I’m not accusing Muslims of plagiarism. I’m pointing to evidence that what they believe are truths revealed to Muhammed from God were actually taken from other sources. Whether or not this happened with the New Testament (it didn’t) is immaterial.

      That website is defending atheism. None of those claims would support Islam. So, are you agreeing that we should set down Islam and move on to atheism? I’d be more than happy to.

      I’m being asked to respond to the entire ideology of Islam. It is no less reasonable to ask that you respond to Platonism. I didn’t receive a specific question about it either, but just a demand that I deal with “Muslim theologians”.

      So, if you want a more specific question, how do you explain the existence of contingent objects? This is something that both myself and a Platonist would ask.

    • Debilis

      A contingent object is anything which does not exist necessarily. That is, it is logically possible for it to not have existed.

      Physical objects are probably the most obvious example. It is logically possible for a particular chair to not have existed, so there must be an explanation why that chair does exist.

      But, if that explanation is another contingent object (say, a chair-maker) then it, too, needs an explanation.

      Nearly all thinkers in history would agree with the Platonists, who say that, in order to avoid an infinite regress, there needs to be something which is necessary at some point. That is, something for which it is logically impossible for it to not exist.

      The problem is that people who think that all reality is physical are among the few people in history who deny this. They claim that there are no such objects, but only the physical, contingent reality we experience with our senses.

      So, how would you propose that we get out of this infinite regress?

      • The Great Antagonizer

        You are, I believe, misrepresenting what I’ve said. I am saying that YOU cannot know that there is anything beyond the physical, and neither can I. We can therefore not assume that something confusing is beyond the physical.
        Whether there is actually something beyond the physical is a completely different question. However, it’s a question that humans would have no ability to speculate on since all of our experiences come from the physical world.

        Next, the issue you’re talking about when you talk about “contingent objects” (why do you need to resort to obfuscation for such a simple idea?) is something that everyone has thought of: how did the universe begin? The question is simple, so a simpleton might think that the answer is simple: God did it. However, this childish answer resolves nothing. If God did it, who or what created God? If you claim that you know that God is metaphysical, then how can we know that there isn’t another God that isn’t meta-metaphysical? You cannot expect people to just trust you that the regress ends at God.

        Scientists have theories about how the universe began, but of course, they don’t say their theories with the certainty that you make your claim. This is the problem with religion. It makes believers into arrogant experts in everything. Yet, regardless of how cock-sure the believer is about their answer that “God did it,” this mode of reasoning always leaves something to be desired even by the most sheep-like of followers.

        I am not ashamed to say that there are some things that I don’t know in the universe. I am humble enough to say that. Just because you claim to know everything doesn’t make you smarter, it just exhibits your pride for everyone to see.

    • Debilis

      I, too, feel that I’m being misrepresented. I’ve never asserted that anything is beyond the physical on the grounds that it is confusing. I’ve asserted this on the grounds that studying it with science would contradict science.

      But your response to the issue of where the universe came from (which was not my question) is invalid.

      First, you don’t present an answer. I was asking this from a Platonic perspective; arguing against the concept of God would be irrelevant.

      Second, no one has ever claimed that God was created. I specifically defined necessary objects in asking the question. As such, I’ve already answered this.

      Yes, scientists have suggested a multiverse (among other ideas). As none of these suggestions involve necessary objects, this, too, is irrelevant. Thus, we still have a clear reason to believe that there is something other than the physical.

      I am not ashamed to say that there are some things that I don’t know in the universe.
      Indeed, none of us know everything.
      But simply saying that one doesn’t know is not a good reason to dismiss the question.

      Rather, we go forward with the best answers we have. This is what scientists and philosophers have always done.

  • Logan Rees

    This is a stupid argument, and only demonstrates that the arguer doesn’t understand religion, specifically the difference between polytheism and monotheism. The monotheistic god does not share the same characteristics as polytheistic gods, and they represent entirely different ideologies. It’s a nice one-line zinger, but is pretty unsubstantial.

  • Arkenaten

    ”As to the God I’m referencing here, not only have I not seen any good evidence that such a God does not exist, but I have seen evidence that he does.”

    I am seriously impressed. Truly. Especially as you sound incredibly sincere.
    Would you be prepared to divulge what evidence you have?

    • Debilis

      I’ve been putting it on this site.

      So far, we’ve covered the irreducibility of mind to the physical, the first cause (which could be called the irreducibility of the universe to the physical), natural law, moral truth, the contradictions inherent in demanding that science is the only source of knowledge, and the contingency of material objects.

      • Arkenaten

        This is way too much philosophy for a simple feller such as me.
        Just supply a succinct example of the scientific evidence you have that your god exists.
        Nothing fancy or too erudite. Plain and simple. This is all I ask.

    • Debilis

      Again, we need to stop inserting the word “scientific” in there. We aren’t discussing science.

      But, to simplify only part of one item on the list (the Kalam), the fact that the physical universe came into existence at some point is evidence that there is more than the physical universe.

      To explain that fully is going to take more than a sentence or two, but that is a bare-bones start.

      • Arkenaten

        Once more. I direct your attention back to the original statement.
        If you prefer not to use the word scientific then that’s fine. Merely present the tangible evidence you have for your god.

    • Debilis

      Fair enough.

      I’m putting up a short outline of the cosmological arguments this week, actually. So long as one accepts the principle of sufficient reason (which anyone who trusts science should), there is need of explaining the existence of physical reality.

      This would require necessary, rather than contingent, reality. A necessary object that could be a sufficient explanation for physical reality bears many similarities to God, and is, therefore evidence for God.

      It gets much more detailed than that, but this would be the first of several lines of evidence.

      Now, do you consider there to be any reason whatsoever to think that God does not exist, or are you simply uncertain about the issue?

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