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Why the “I Just Believe in One Less God than You” Argument Does not Work

Considering all of the conversations with atheists I have had recently, I thought I would bring back to light the fallacy of this common argument.

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” —Stephen F Roberts

This is a quote that is found often on the lips of atheists these days. It can be summed up this way: “I don’t have to take the time to reject Christ any more than you have to take the time to reject all the millions of gods that are out there. It just happens by default. The justification for my atheism is the same as yours with respect to your rejection of all the other possible gods.”

While I understand the spirit of this quote, I think it fails to understand some of the very basic beliefs that Christians are claiming about their God as opposed to “the other possible gods.”

I have heard my favorite atheist, Christopher Hitchens, compare belief in Jesus to belief in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Clause. This is really saying the same thing using different illustrations. But he also likes the “I don’t believe in other gods thing too.” As he once said, “No, I don’t believe in Yahweh. I don’t believe in Hercules either.”

As effective as these types of implicit appeals of association might be emotionally, they miss the mark completely. All assume a parallel that is simply not present when the claims are understood and the evidence is considered.

Take the “I don’t believe in Hercules” argument for example. This assumes a parallel between belief in Christ and a belief in any one of the millions of gods that have ever existed, especially those who belonged to a system of religion which espoused many gods (polytheism). These type of systems are represented by ancient Egyptian, Canaanite, Assyrian, Greek, and Roman cultures (as well as others today). There is really not too much difference between the basic philosophical structure of each.

There are two primary reasons why I believe drawing parallels between belief in these gods (or Tooth Fairies) are misleading:

1. The type of belief

Whether we are speaking of this from a political or rural position, the commitment to religious pantheonism (note: not “pantheism”), especially of the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman world, don’t have as committed adherents as we often think. The religious culture that Christianity demands needs to be distinguished here. People did not really believe in Shu, Nut, Hercules, Baal, Wearisomu, Enki, Utu, Diana, and the like in the same way that people believe in Yahweh. Their belief was more of a social convention which included all the pressures that such a system demanded. Their gods were more “faddish” than anything else. Their existence was rather fluid, changing and even morphing into other gods and sometimes moralistic ideals such as “justice” and “reason.” This is why the Caesers could so easily deify themselves and expect people to jump on the bandwagon. Did these people really suddenly believe Caeser was a god? If so, what does this say about the type of belief they had? Both in the philosophical world of the day and among the laity, “belief” as we think of it, was not present.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that we have “faddish” Christianity today where people follow the tide of the culture in believing in Christ the same way that people believed in these ancient gods. In this social folk religion, there is a parallel. But the basis for belief in these other gods was founded on social convention, not philosophical, rational, and historic necessity as is the case with Christianity. Christianity exists not because of rural pragmatism, but because of historic events.

2. The type of god

More importantly, 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. In this system, human beings and these gods shared the same type of life, having similar problems and frustrations. The deistic philosophy of the people did not center around a “universe” in which one god was controlling and holding all things together, but a “multiverse” where each god was responsible for his or her respective career. Therefore, these gods would have much more in common with the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause than they would with the God that the Bible describes.

While most systems had a “top dog,” if you will (Zeus, Re, Enlil, Marduk, etc), these were not thought of as the ultimate creators of all things who, out of necessity, transcend space and time. They were simply really, really powerful beings that happened to be caught up in the same world we are. More powerful than us mortals? Yes. But none qualify for the title “God.”

Christianity believes in only one God (monotheism). We believe this not simply because we want to have the most powerful being out of the millions, but out of theological and philosophical necessity. We believe that God created all things out of nothing. We believe that existence necessitates a “first cause” or an “unmoved mover.” This first cause is by definition God. Simply put, whoever started it all (the time, space, matter creation) is the only true God. There cannot be multiple first causers. 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. We are simply talking about two different species here. One that is transcendently holy, both ontologically (who he is in essence) and morally (what he does) and the other which is but a hair’s breath from us.

In the end, the theistic type of God espoused by Christianity cannot be compared to the pantheon of gods of polytheistic religions. It is comparing apples to oranges.

Let’s look at this statement again:

“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.” —Stephen F Roberts

I understand perfectly why Stephen F Roberts and Christopher Hitchens 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.

My time is up, but I understand the much needed sequel. While there is a philosophical barrier that does not allow us to equate belief in the Christian God to belief in the myriad of gods in polytheistic systems, this does not mean that the Christian God cannot be compared to the god of Islam. However, if Stephen F Roberts would have said, “When you understand why you dismiss Allah, you will understand why I dismiss Yahweh,” then it would be philosophically correct. The comparison would be in tact and the conversation would not be manipulated into this accept-all-or-nothing resolve. However, it still would not make sense. I do reject Allah and my reasons are very specific. But they are not the same reasons why he rejects Christ.

271 Responses to “Why the “I Just Believe in One Less God than You” Argument Does not Work”

  1. “Christianity exists not because of rural pragmatism, but because of historic events.”

    Outside the Bible, which can only confirm itself, and Josephus, who mentions Jesus only briefly in relation to his (at the time according to Josephus) more significant brother, what historic evidence have you to verify that Jesus existed or was crucified, rose from the dead, etc? Even the multiple versions of Mary Magdalene’s story in Mathew, Mark, Luke and John contradict each other, so even the bible can’t confirm itself.

    The Shroud of Turin was faked. The fabled Holy Grail was presumably lost. The alleged city Nazareth is a tourist trap. There’s no evidence outside the bible that babies were slaughtered in a search for the baby Jesus, or that Pontius Pilate allowed Barabus to go free and had Jesus put to death.

    Atheists compare Jesus to Santa and the Tooth Fairy because there is no historical validity. It is fiction. ALL religions are scams. Wake up.

  2. I agree that a different argument is needed against polytheism than against monotheism, but I think we should look to the evidence when presented something like this. Why believe in God? The beginning of the Universe, fine tuning, beginning of life… Why Christianity? Well documented, accurate texts, fulfilled prophecy, falsifiable claims that show themselves true. Why not Judaism or Islam? Because if you follow the texts & prophecies to their logical conclusions you can show the problems with these faiths. Using things like these I think we can explain why accepting Christianity is not the same as accepting other beliefs.

  3. “People did not really believe in Shu, Nut, Hercules, Baal, Wearisomu, Enki, Utu, Diana, and the like in the same way that people believe in Yahweh. Their belief was more of a social convention which included all the pressures that such a system demanded.”

    Bald assertion that cannot be backed up with a knowledge of history, or even an examination of the Bible for that fact.

  4. As Scott has pointed out, the assertion that adherents of polytheism did not believe in their gods in the same way that Yahwists believed in their God is largely unfounded. Polytheism was indeed fluid, but then again, so was Yahwism. The fact is that many polytheists were willing to sacrifice their children to placate their gods. If that’s not robust belief, I don’t know what is.

    As for your main point, I think you’re right to say that the statement you are examining would be better applied to other monotheistic religions in order to be sure that you are comparing like with like. However, I think what muddies the water in this regard is that while Christianity conflates the God of philosophical monotheism with YHWH of the Old Testament, YHWH as he appears in the Bible does in fact bear comparison to other deities. In fact, he encourages it, insisting that he consistently beats them at their own game. This is why many atheists find the comparison appropriate.

  5. C Michael Patton said:

    “1. The type of belief

    Whether we are speaking of this from a political or rural position, the commitment to religious pantheonism (note: not “pantheism”), especially of the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman world, don’t have as committed adherents as we often think. The religious culture that Christianity demands needs to be distinguished here.”

    Paraphrase: christianity has adherents that are more committed, compared to followers of other gods.

    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/redherrf.html

  6. This analogy is imperfect but it should help to show what is wrong with this atheist assertion.

    One person may prefer red for stop signs. Another green. Still others think that any colour can be used and no standardisation is necessary, and others promote the use of all colours on every sign.

    The atheist response is like saying you can’t agree on what colour to use because there are in fact no colours. Colours do not exist.

    Dropping from one god to no gods isn’t a continuation of the number of God’s argument, it is a completely different argument.

  7. I usually just respond to the “tooth fairy” crack by pointing out that the tooth fairy didn’t inspire the Sistine Chapel, Paradise Lost, Les Miserables, Handel’s Messiah, and so forth.

  8. This issue stems from atheists being unwilling to recognize the difference between “god A” and “god B”. They find a couple similarities (including the term), then assert that they are identical; thus if “god A” can be shown to not exist, then it follows that “god B” does not exist either.

    The problem is that we don’t determine identical identity by the presence of similarities, but by the presence of differences. If there are differences, then it is not logically valid to equate “god A” to “god B”. Hercules is not identical to YHWH in virtue of their differences; therefore the ontological status of Hercules does not imply the ontological status of YHWH.

    What needs to be demonstrated is that an attribute of the god is impossible. If two gods share an attribute that is impossible, then they both can be stated to not exist. But the impossibility is not derived based on the gods being the same god.

    This is a common logical mistake that atheists make frequently.

  9. ZachsMind,

    The response to your question is too log to fir in a reply here. I suggest you borrow a copy of “The Resurrection of the Son of God” by N.T. Wright. He has done significant historical legwork.

  10. Michael,
    It seems to me that Roberts et al. get it wrong in one of two possible ways, depending on how one construes polytheism. His objection fails to account for the yawning metaphysical chasm between naturalism and non-naturalism (of whatever type).

    1: If polytheism implies non-naturalism (and for this argument it really doesn’t matter what form of non-naturalism you’re talking about – any form will do), then the first philosophical cleavage will be between naturalism (which the truth of atheism would seemingly imply) and non-naturalism (which the truth of either Christianity or polytheism would imply). Given this argument, the question of one God vs. multiple gods is really an intramural question between non-naturalists.

    2: If polytheism’s gods are non-transcendent, is the physical universe the ultimate thing? If so, polytheism seems to reduce to just a stranger form of naturalism. In this case, the question again is naturalism (polytheistic) vs non-naturalism…

  11. I do not equate all gods/Gods or religions. I know that every single one is unique and every single one can distinguish itself from every other religions. I just don’t think that this justifies faith in any specific one when they all suffer from the same shortcoming, i.e., lack of evidence.

  12. Vinnie is right, and I’ll add that neither the fervency of believers nor the specific qualities of the deity in question qualifies as “evidence” for said deity.

    Even if it was true that christians have a quantitative difference in the manner of their beliefs vs believers of other gods, that is completely disconnected to proof of their position.

    Likewise the specific characteristics of YHWH are in no way proof of his (its) existance.

    I’ve heard apologists say one proof of christianity is that no other religion claims that its god dies for the sins of people. But that doesn’t constitute logical proof of the claim. It is evidence that in antiquity there was a cult that developed beliefs as a result of events. Its leader was crucified and his followers had to develop some rationale.

  13. “Outside the Bible, which can only confirm itself, and Josephus, who mentions Jesus only briefly in relation to his (at the time according to Josephus) more significant brother, what historic evidence have you to verify that Jesus existed or was crucified, rose from the dead, etc?”

    There is one glaring problem with this statement. For the vast majority of events in antiquity we are lucky if we have one contemporaneous source written within the first century after the event in question. Yet historians seems to accept that these events did in fact occur, and that the sources are reliable. One ultimately has to argue special pleading in the case of the Bible for it to not be accepted as historically reliable.

  14. Yet historians seems to accept that these events did in fact occur, and that the sources are reliable.

    Which events and which sources are you talking about? Based upon my reading, historians subject every source to the utmost scrutiny and carefully qualify all their conclusions. They never take ancient accounts at face value.

    For example I cannot imagine any credible historian thinking that the words attributed to Caesar are actually verbatim transcripts of his speeches rather than the ancient historian’s interpretation of the kind of things he might have said. When historians read the Socratic dialogues, they recognize that Plato may have put his own words in Socrates mouth for his own purposes. Christians, on the other hand, insist upon treating the words in the Gospel of John as exact quotes from Jesus rather than the author’s theological interpretation.

  15. “Outside the Bible, which can only confirm itself…”

    That is a very misleading and assumptive statement which borders on question begging.

    1. Why is it that sources outside the bible are more credible?
    2. “the bible” is not one source. The BT alone should only be thought of as 27 ancient documents, each standing on their own. There is no reason in this context to group the documents.

  16. 1. Why is it that sources outside the bible are more credible?

    Imagine relying only on the writings of Joseph Smith and his most devoted followers to write the history of the Mormon church from the time Smith first claimed to have seen the Angel Moroni to the time Brigham Young led the Latter Day Saints to Utah. If you did not view your sources with an extremely skeptical eye, you would end up believing a lot of nonsense. You would believe that the Angel Moroni appeared to several people besides Smith and that several people saw the Golden Plates. You might even believe that Smith was the faithful husband of a single wife as Smith’s polygamy was hidden from most members of the church. It is only because we have sources that give us the perspective of outsiders that a credible history of the Mormons can be written.

  17. Vinny, I’m not going to be drawn out into a discussion of Mormonism. But your thesis that only non-Mormon sources make a credible picture of Mormon history possible is absolute rubbish.

    Just about every credible work of Mormon history in the past few years has been written by faithful Mormons.

    For instance, Todd Compton’s book “In Sacred Lonliness” detailing the experiences of the wives of Joseph Smith. Or Richard Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling” which is the new definitive biography of Joseph Smith.

    In fact, the Mormon scholarship on Mormonism tends to be – as a whole – far superior to the non-Mormon scholarship – since most of the latter comes from brain dead, two-bit operations like Ed Decker out on the fringe of the Evangelical counter-cult movement.

    That’s all I plan to say about Mormonism – but the best stuff on it is coming from the FAITHFUL. Not outsiders.

    Outsiders generally don’t care about the subject. Certainly not enough to write credibly about it.

  18. Seth,

    I couldn’t care less whether the authors are Mormons or not. If they are credible histories, then I am sure that they made extensive use of primary sources that included the perspectives of non-Mormons and ex-Mormons on the events in Palmyra, Jackson County, and Navoo. If they simply relied on the official church accounts of those events, then I would suspect that they are not worth the paper they are written on.

  19. As a former born-again evangelical who has become an atheist, I agree that the “one less god” argument is fallacious. The question is: gods or no gods? If you answer “gods, but only one true God” that is really no different from answering “gods, but only the Hindu pantheon.”

    Theists believe in invisible supernatural entities. Atheists don’t. While it is true that the reason I don’t believe in God is the same as the reason you don’t believe in Zeus, that doesn’t make you an atheist. It merely makes you illogical and inconsistent.

  20. Like primitive Christianity – there are no “official church accounts” from the formative years of the LDS Church.

    Everything had a kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feel. You have published revelations, but they came from all over the place.

    But I digress…

  21. Seth,

    I realize that the Gospels and Acts were not viewed as the official church accounts at the time they were written, but they did eventually come to be accepted as the authoritative version of events as well as the authoritative sources. Unlike with the Mormon church, we have no way to know whether non-Christians or ex-Christians of the 1st century might have told the story differently, but we cannot think critically about our sources without allowing for the possibility.

  22. When teaching Western Civ, I describe polytheistic pantheons as analogous to a consulting firm; people appeal to various gods as needed for specific benefit. As your needs change, the god you sacrifice to changes. Monotheism and polytheism are different qualitatively, not just in the quantity of gods.

  23. The point of this post was not to prove Christianity, but to demonstrate the illegitimacy of a particular argument. Michael does this well.

    Faith in Christ is qualitatively different than the belief of polytheists; the Incarnation leads to a unique understanding of divine-human relations including the imitation of our God as the basis of a moral/religious framework.

    Zeus also became flesh. He was a terrible father and an unfaithful husband. I’m sure there were adherents of Zeus who did likewise, but they did not base it seriously off of divine precedent.

    As far as the validity of the 27 different first-century texts relating to Christianity that we now call the New Testament: it’s striking to find 27 such sources. A historian wouldn’t take them at face value, but wouldn’t discard them out of hand, either. There’s not such a plethora of sources that historians can afford to dismiss some of them out of hand altogether just because they’re insider sources. That’s sloppy.

  24. Gary,

    I would not suggest dismissing anything out of hand. I am simply suggesting that they be subjected to the same kind of critical thinking that any other ancient document would be. For example, I am not aware of any Graeco-Roman historian who believes that the sea really receded in deference to Alexander the Great in order that his army could pass even though the event was reported during Alexander’s lifetime by his official biographer.

  25. The point of this post was not to prove Christianity, but to demonstrate the illegitimacy of a particular argument.

    This seems to be splitting hairs. Michael attempts to demonstrate that the particular argument is illegitimate by virtue of the God and beliefs of Christianity being unique among all religions. That would seem to necessitate proof of Christianity’s claims.

  26. Suppose that you had collected by shovel a ton or so of pebbles from the bottom of a river and I demurred when you asked me to sort through them to find a good sized diamond. I might say that the difference between you and I is that I believe there is one less good size diamond in that pile than you do. Clearly, the statement is irrelevant to whether there is a diamond (or more than one) in the pile or not. While what I believe rules my decision making, it is otherwise trivial to the fact, whatever it is. I may despise manual labor or theology, but that is not pertinent. Things that are are not subject to slogans and defending slogans is not relevant to the existence or non-existence of persons. Your view as to whether this submission is made by a person or by some technical wonder in no way effects my existence (or non-existence).

  27. Forget the polytheists and let’s look at the argument in the context of Islam.

    You don’t wake up each morning fretting over the fact that Muslims believe Christ was not divine and that Mohammed’s opinions on the subject are infallible. Neither do Muslims worry about not believing that Christ was divine. And yet they have the same (arguably greater) belief and commitment to their religion, with as much history to gird them, as does the Christian.

    Christians are atheist with respect to Islam just as Muslims are atheist with respect to Christianity. And Atheists are atheist with respect to both.

  28. ZachsMind – We know its you Richard !!

  29. Vinny,

    1. “Which events and which sources are you talking about? Based upon my reading, historians subject every source to the utmost scrutiny and carefully qualify all their conclusions.”

    Pretty much EVERY ancient event is what I’m talking about. The Battle of Thermopylae, Hannibal crossing the Alps, the lives of Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle, the exploits of Alexander the Great. All have exceedingly thin contemporary evidence (and what little contemporary evidence there is often comes from sources who were in the employ of the government) and any complete history was in most cases written centuries later. Yet the fact that these events occurred, and many of the details of these events, are not in dispute.

  30. 2. “Why is it that sources outside the bible are more credible?

    Imagine relying only on the writings of Joseph Smith and his most devoted followers to write the history of the Mormon church from the time Smith first claimed to have seen the Angel Moroni to the time Brigham Young led the Latter Day Saints to Utah”

    Who else are you going to rely on?? I mean what do you expect? Someone who doesn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead to state that “Jesus rose from the dead?” Of course not! Those who saw him rise from the dead are going to believe he rose from the dead and are going to be the ones who attest to that fact. The fact that they believe what the saw does not make what they state false. The fact that I believe I saw Car A rear end Car B and then tell the police doesn’t make my statement false – it makes me a witness. If you think I am lying about what I claim to have seen you should at least posit a motive for why I would lie.

  31. 3. Long story short. When an ancient document purports to record history, has all the marks of a historical document, and reads like ancient history there is a general assumption made among ancient historians that the document is history unless there is good reason to believe otherwise. In the case of the New Testament the best reason historians have for rejecting it as history is that it contains supernatural events which is perhaps the most blatant case of question begging in history.

  32. The contentions that christians are “atheist” with respect to the Muslim god seems illogical for several reasons.

    First, “atheism” means having no belief in any god, not just not believing in a particular god. Using “atheism” to mean the latter makes the word “atheist” equivocal and contradictory, which is why this argument seems to have merit, but doesn’t.

    Second, are Christians atheist about the Muslim God? Insofar as the Muslim God is Creator, one, eternal, sustains existence, is existence, etc., how are Christians atheist about that God? They may think that Muslims misunderstand some important truths about God, i.e, his triune nature, etc., but they don’t disbelieve in that God. In fact, the God of the Muslims is the God of the Christians because there is only one transcendental and imminent God, but Christians would say that Muslims have some important details wrong.

    Disagreement over details does not mean denial.

    Atheists need to explain what they are…

  33. “You don’t wake up each morning fretting over the fact that Muslims believe Christ was not divine and that Mohammed’s opinions on the subject are infallible. Neither do Muslims worry about not believing that Christ was divine.”

    I actually disagree with this to some extent. If one accepts Orthodox Christianity, but rejects Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, or some other monotheistic religion they should have a reason for doing so. Now you are probably correct that most people sitting in a pew, or kneeling in a mosque haven’t given this issue a second thought. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t, or that the more scholarly among them haven’t dealt with the issue.

  34. Right – volumes of material has been written on why certain Calvinist notions of deity are superior to Mormon notions of the same, and vis versa.

    No Calvinist would say that if you’ve rejected the Mormon notion of deity, you’ve automatically got grounds for rejecting the Calvinist notion of the same. And no Mormon would claim that just because the Calvinist image of God has been rejected, the Mormon notion should be automatically rejected too.

    The whole notion is nonsensical.

  35. “I actually disagree with this to some extent. If one accepts Orthodox Christianity, but rejects Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, or some other monotheistic religion they should have a reason for doing so.”

    They have very good reasons for doing so. The Koran says that Christ is not the son of God, but rather merely a prophet. Indeed, Islam condemns you to Hell for believing Christ to be divine.

    That’s kind of a deal breaker.

  36. Which passage in the Koran says that Nick?

  37. Especially considering that the Koran gives Jews and Christians special status as “people of the book” and considers their belief in the same God (Allah) to be praiseworthy – even if they get some details badly wrong in the Muslim view.

  38. “Which passage in the Koran says that Nick?”

    5:71-75
    19:30-40

  39. Nick,

    We might be talking past each other here. I’m not saying that Orthodox Christians don’t have good reasons for rejecting Islam – we (I am one) in fact do. That being said the simple fact that something condemns me to hell for what I believe does not make it wrong or provide me with warrant for rejecting it out of hand. In other words I would not consider that a good reason.

  40. “…the simple fact that something condemns me to hell for what I believe does not make it wrong or provide me with warrant for rejecting it out of hand. In other words I would not consider that a good reason.”

    Are you saying that all our religions are the same?

  41. Sean Osborne (post #19)

    It puzzles me when former born again Christians come to be atheists. I am much the opposite, having been a skeptic for most of my life and then became a Christian in my middle age.

    What clinches it for me is the indwelling of the spirit. Nothing explains that except the Bible. The life changing power that we see in Peter before and after Pentecost – I have seen that in other Christians and in myself. It scares and saddens me that someone could have that life changing event and then still fade away to deny God. I pray that God will once again open the eyes of your heart.

  42. I did not have to go far in the post to find faulty reasoning.

    You say:” All assume a parallel that is simply not present when the claims are understood and the evidence is considered.”

    No matter how many times you make claims for evidence–there is no evidence. This is why Christians have faith. Faith is belief WITHOUT evidence.

    And yes, Vishnu, Zeus, et al, are just as valid as your god is, so the little aphorism of “believing in one less god than you do”…..makes perfect sense.

  43. “What clinches it for me is the indwelling of the spirit.”

    Antioch,
    If you reflect honestly on your subjective experience (“indwelling of the spirit”) there are a number of things that could account for it. Many people experience similar feelings of “oneness” or “rapture” or bliss-cum-serenity. Yet they aren’t compelled to adopt supernatural beliefs or assign the same to them.

    What makes them wrong and you right?

    n

  44. “you saying that all our religions are the same?”

    Where in the world would you get that from anything I said? Certainly Christianity and Islam which make contradictory claims concerning the diety of Christ can’t both be right. However, the fact that Islam condemns all non-believers to hell (just as Christianity arguably does) doesn’t make the Islam wrong anymore then the fact that Universalists believe all go to heaven makes them right. My point ultimately that a religions claims concerning who is going to heaven or hell is a red herring and irrelevent as to whether or not one has warrant for either thinking that the religion is true, or conversely warrant for thinking it is false.

  45. Cathy,

    “Faith is belief WITHOUT evidence.”

    This may be a definition of faith, but it is not the Christian one. Faith is not belief without evidence, but rather belief without evidence that is a 100% conclusive. All human beings, even atheists, exercise a degree of faith in numerous matters. For instance when I sit down in a chair at a restaurant I believe that the chair is going to hold my weight and I am not going to go crashing to the ground. Now I have warrant for believing this, based upon the fact that the chair looks sturdy, others in the restaurant are sitting in similar chairs haven’t fallen to the ground, and similar chairs have held me in the past. Yet I can’t say for certain that in this particular instance, at this particular moment in time, this particular chair will hold my weight without performing some very weird tests in a restaurant setting. It is very likely it will hold but not conclusive, so I exercise a degree of faith that the chair will hold me when I choose to sit down.

  46. Nick,

    Are you asking as a believer or as a non-believer? It’s not clear from your posts.

    If you are a believer then you know and I think are just testing me. Acts 2:38. When I did that, that’s when my life changed. Habits I was not proud of but could not stop are gone from my life. The proof is in the fruit.

    If you are a non-believer, my words can try to explain what happened to me, but that is, as you say, a subjective experience. Although, it is one experienced by millions of Christians throughout history. As I said above, it is explained right in the Bible – a book I did not know well before my conversion but a book that has a whole new deeper meaning afterward because of the work of the spirit.

    You can dismiss the experience as some sort of bliss or manufactured emotion. Unfortunately, I think there is a lot of that in the Christian world. But is there one Christian you know and respect who has shared with you his/her testimony?

  47. “My point ultimately that a religions claims concerning who is going to heaven or hell is a red herring and irrelevent as to whether or not one has warrant for either thinking that the religion is true, or conversely warrant for thinking it is false.”

    Michael T,
    I get that, but it seems orthogonal to the point.

    The original post attempted to refute the notion that the reasons Christians have for not believing in the God of the Koran and Mohammed as God’s most recent prophet are the same ones Muslims have for not believing that Christ is the Son of God. Atheists simply apply that same rationale to both (and other) gods.

  48. “If you are a believer then you know and I think are just testing me. Acts 2:38. When I did that, that’s when my life changed. Habits I was not proud of but could not stop are gone from my life. The proof is in the fruit.”

    So essentially you read a book, reflected on what you read and how it made you feel and opened yourself up to a transcendental experience, after which you felt changed, in a non-trivial way. That experience, in and of itself, does not testify to the truthfulness of the existence of a god. Consider that millions of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews throughout history claim the same experience.

    Consider also that people who have read The Fountainhead, The Autobiography of Ben Franklin or The Hobbit can lay claim to the same transformation.

  49. When did the topic of this thread become – proof positive that God exists?

    Because wasn’t it supposed to be originally about why a common criticism against God is not valid?

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  1. Can Theists believe in one less god? | who is the God of heaven ? the jesus I never knew. - May 5, 2013

    […] general discussion is here.   Posted by Ian Thompson at 10:09 PM Labels: being itself, Edward Feser, god, […]

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