The “one step further” argument/phrase is one that is frequently used by atheists. I hesitate to say it is an “argument” as it would be hard to determine exactly what the argument is asserting. Normally, the phrase/argument is put forth in one of the following ways:
1) We’re all atheists to other religions, we (that is, avowed atheists) just take it “one step further”
2) We’re all atheists
Sometimes it is actually put forth as an argument, following a form something like this:
1. An atheist doesn’t believe in [any] God.
2. Christians don’t believe in Allah, Vishnu, Odin, etc.
3. Therefore, the Christian is an atheist to every other religion.
Or, put more simply. “To other religions, the Christian is an atheist, we just take it one step further.”
The problem with such argumentation is that it is utterly false on a number of levels. The argument form itself has conflation of terms, taking [any] God to be equivalent to all but one God, but that is beside the point. The core problem is calling Christians (and others) atheists! For, necessarily, for any human b, b is either theist (T) or ~T. But Christians are T, therefore they are necessarily ~~T. In English, it is true that any human being is either an atheist or a theist. Christians are theists, therefore, they are necessarily not atheists.
But what of the argument that Christians are atheists to other religions? This is obviously false as well. I am not an atheist to the Muslim, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, etc. Rather, I am a theist to them. I believe in a theistic God which is not the same as their theistic/deistic/pantheistic deity. It would be absurd for a Christian to see a Muslim and say “Oh, they’re an atheist!” For the Muslim is clearly not an atheist, rather, he/she is a theist!
But that’s not really addressing the heart of the issue. The real problem here is that the atheist is trying to say that the Christian has used his or her reasoning to come to the conclusion that all other Gods are false. In other words, “You Christians believe in just your God, but you’ve rejected all others. We just take it one step further and reject yours too.”
It seems rather logical at first, but it holds to a few basic assumptions. The first is the assumption that the epistemology of the atheist and Christian are the same. That is, that they are approaching the problem from the same point. This will become more clear when we inspect the second assumption, which is that the supposed reason the Christian has rejected all other faiths is because of lack of empirical evidence. This is the real heart of the matter. The atheist has unfairly assumed that the Christian is approaching things from the same empirical view that he is. He believes the Christian has examined the evidence for other gods and found none, so the Christian rejected them. The atheist then believes that if the Christian would “just look at the evidence” for or against his or her own God, the Christian would reject Christ… or at least the Christian should.
There are a few responses to this. The first is that it simply is not necessarily true. The Christian may have rejected other gods because he or she has personal revelation. He or she may have the self-verification of the Holy Spirit within, and this automatically leads to the rejection of all other faiths (cf. Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief). He or she may have an entirely different reason to reject other gods–perhaps he/she doesn’t like something trivial about other religions, and rejects them for this reason (which may not be epistemically justified, but it would be if his/her Christian belief has warrant and therefore serves as a defeater for other faiths). The second point is once again that the definitions are bastardized in order to try to play a semantics game with the Christian. By definition, the Christian is not an atheist, so when an atheist claims that the Christian is an atheist, this can be rejected immediately.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.