Friday, 18 April 2008

One god less does work

wedding couple
"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." Of all atheistic statements, this is one of my favourites. It has been widely quoted, in many versions from many authors, Dawkins included (his version can be found here). Stephen F. Roberts claims to be the original author, back in 1995. He brings some of my own thoughts to the point, and I have posted my own version of the theme in How to talk with theists.

Some recent theist reviews of my blogging have led me to visit their sites and those sending me traffic, and in one of them I have come across an alleged "refutation" of the "one god less" statement, using the analogy of marriage. Vigilante, over at TheologyWeb Campus, quotes a woman from a radio show, saying that "a Christian being an atheist to other gods is like saying a husband is a bachelor to other women".

Lack of humor is the problem here

Theists are sooo serious, especially when it comes to their religion. They cling to words and their earnest usage and seem to have no sense of witty wordplay. It certainly is not usual to say "I am married and a bachelor to all other women", but all the same, this statement remains true. Not all unusual statements are necessarily false. The statement "you as a Christian are atheist to all other gods" is of the same kind, unusual but undeniably true. Humor, intended to be an eye-opener, obviously does not work with many theists.

History of Christian atheism

In the early days of Christianity, Christians have been accused of atheism by the state authorities of the Roman Empire. Justin, one of the accused and later executed, has tried to plead not guilty, addressing the Emperor himself, stating: "Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God."

Thus, the "one god less" argument, also known as the plurality criticism, is not an invention of modern atheists but has its origin in the inner circle of early Christianity.

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