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apologetics, atheism, philosophy

On the statement that “we are all atheists”

“We are all atheists to other religions, we [atheists] just take it one step further.”

The phrase initially has some kind of shock value, and then it gets you thinking. As a Christian, it may have you thinking, “Wow, I never thought of it that way… maybe there is something to this ‘atheism’ thing.” As an atheist, it may have you saying “Yeah, you Christians are just as rational/skeptical as we atheists about other religions, why not just apply that same logic to your own?”

I’ve addressed this statement/argument/quip/whathaveyou before: here. Yet I keep seeing it pop up in everyday conversation and even from people like Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss in his debate with William Lane Craig.

There’s a problem though, in fact, there’s more than one problem:

1) The statement is false

2) The statement is irrational

3) The statement–as with many false or irrational statements–proves too much (or too little).

Let’s examine to each of these in turn.

The Statement is False

The idea that Christians are atheists to all other religions is simply false. As I’ve explained elsewhere, to other religions, I am not an atheist, I am a rival theist–an adherent of another religion. I’m not an atheist to a Hindu, I am a theist of a different tradition. To the Muslim, I’m not an atheist–I’m a rival theistic believer. So, simply put, the statement is false.

Atheism, by definition, is the belief that there is no God. Therefore, because I believe in a God, I am not an atheist, by definition. William Lane Craig addresses this statement here. The person who brought up the question curiously counters Craig by saying “That’s semantics.” Funny, considering that’s what the atheists are doing: making up semantic word games. Redefine terms to win a debate: atheism at any cost.

The Statement Is Irrational

As I’ve argued elsewhere, the statement is simply irrational. The atheist is literally saying that the theist is an atheist:

necessarily, for any human bb 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. (here)

But then what the atheist is saying is that the b who is T = ~T in regards to T`, T“, etc. This is simply false, however, because the b who is T is necessarily ~~T. So the atheist is claiming that a contradiction is true.

The Statement Proves Too Much

Consider the following statement:

there are a theoretically infinite number of possible answers to the equation “Two plus two,” but only one actually true answer. To say that “Two plus two equals four” is to automatically make me an unbeliever in all the other possible answers. It’s not rational, however, for the atheist to say, “Well I just go one step further and choose to disbelieve that four is the answer either.” (Dean Todd)

The same type of argument could be made for any true statement. Therefore, the type of reasoning employed in the “we’re all atheists” statement would undermine all true belief.

But it’s just a quip

In regards to my previous post on this statement, several respondents said variations of “You’re taking it too seriously, it’s just a phrase meant to inspire discussion” or “It’s just a quip”. As one respondent put it:

The original formulation didn’t use the word “atheist.” It simply said, “You disbelieve in all the gods of all the religions other than your own. Well, we godless folks only disbelieve in one more than you do. We disbelieve in them all.” Stated this way, your hair splitting over the poetic use of “atheist” becomes irrelevant and the central point stands

But it can be seen that this falls victim to the same difficulties already pointed out above. For it could be said that “You disbelieve in all the possible answers to the statement 2+2=? except one [4], I just disbelieve in them all.” It’s simply positively irrational to even use it as a talking point. That, or it’s trivially true and therefore pointless.

Finally, consider the reasoning behind the statement that “it’s just a quip.” Does using a phrase as a mere expression excuse it from being contradictory or false? Suppose I were to go around saying “atheists are theists too, they just don’t know it!” After all, in the Bible it says God’s existence is plain and can be easily discerned (Romans 1:18-20). So it follows that atheists are theists! Obviously, if I were to use this as a “quip” or “expression” it would be seen as an insult or a jab. Not only that, but it would be seen as obviously false “I’m not a theist,” the atheist would respond. “But it’s just a quip!” I could reply. That doesn’t excuse it from being utterly false. Or again, many Hindus claim that all people are really Hindus, they just don’t know it. After all, Brahma is all, so anyone is really Brahma and part of Hinduism, whether they know it or not. But this is clearly false. I am not a Hindu. I think the concept of Brahman is self-referentially incoherent. To assign a label to me that is false is not to make a quip, but an insult; to assign a label that is incoherent is irrational.

A Dilemma

I present a dilemma:

Those who assert the “We are all atheists” phrase are either:

1) Making an argument for atheism from the phrase, which is irrational and contradictory

or

2) Being disingenuous and actively making ad hominem jabs at theists (and therefore being irrational)

To maintain the use of this phrase is to live in a world of either irrationality or insult: either way, it is to disrespect ourselves and our fellows.

The Underlying Reasons For Making the Statement

In discussing this statement with atheists, I’ve found that often it is seen as a simple attempt to try to point out to Christians their “inconsistency.” The reasoning is that Christians use their cognitive abilities when rejecting other faiths, but they apparently don’t in regards to their own. Following from this, it is argued that if Christians were to just be as skeptical about their own faith as they were about others’, they’d be atheists too (or at least understand atheism).

There are problems with this reasoning. The first is that it begs the question against Christianity by assuming that there are no good reasons to be a theist (i.e. if you examined Christianity, you’d reject it too). There have been many who have examined Christianity and found it to be epistemologically robust; so the reasoning of the atheist is question begging. But it also assumes that atheism is a kind of epistemic neutral ground (something I examined here): if one is an atheist, he/she can examine all worldviews without bias. Again, the problem is that this is false. Atheism is grounded upon the idea that “there is no God.” As such, that doesn’t make in unbiased–rather, it makes it biased against the existence of a God(s). So to assume that atheism is an unbiased viewpoint through which all religions should be viewed is to once more beg the question.

Therefore, it appears as though we are once more left wanting any good reason to use the phrase. The statement that “we are all atheists” is false, irrational, insulting, and epistemically question begging.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Edward Feser has a phenomenal discussion of this same topic in his post: “The ‘one god further’ objection”

Dissecting the ‘One Less God’ Meme– Prayson Daniel takes on a meme based on this argument which has been recently circling the web.

William Lane Craig discusses the definition of atheism in writing. Interestingly, Anthony Flew, the renowned atheistic philosopher (who turned deist late in life) admits that atheists have twisted the meaning of atheism so as to weaken it and allow for agnostics to enter the fold of atheism (and therefore they don’t have to argue for the position that “there is no God”). Craig quotes him herein.

Craig also discusses it in another video here.

Another interesting post on this topic.

SDG.

The featured picture is a poster featuring Soviet Anti-Religion Propaganda.

——

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. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

96 thoughts on “On the statement that “we are all atheists”

  1. Thanks for proving that you will always twist logic to your own opinions. You are indeed an atheist to other religions than your own. Stop abusing logic for your own agenda.

    Posted by An atheist | April 4, 2011, 2:13 PM
    • I’d like to see some kind of argument to establish how it is that I, a theist, an am atheist. You seem to think making a statement makes it a fact. I would like you to use logic in order to support your argument. Also, please feel free to show me how my symbolic proof of the irrationality of this statement is in err.

      If you cannot do either, then I suggest you drop the statement. As I demonstrated, it is irrational, insulting, and epistemically false.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 5, 2011, 2:50 PM
      • Wow… You’ve obsessed over a clever retort and broken it down to the literal translation of the words and found an error in what is essentially a pun. The point son is that while you (a christian) reject the existence of all other gods based on the absurdity of their claims. You know there are no alien lords and magic soul volcanoes as from Scientology. You know there are no Olympians tossing lightening from their perch in the clouds and yet you’re finely honed skills of deduction skim right over the talking animals biological, astronomical, and historical errors of the bible. You were indoctrinated in your youth and or assimilated by a Christian society. 2 2 equals four every time. What you are proposing is 2 2 equals whatever god says it equals. I’m sorry but you’re “logic” is all based on the incorrect assumption that there is a god. God is merely the name for unanswered questions.

        Posted by Frenetic skeptic | July 28, 2011, 5:09 PM
      • I actually don’t say that “2 2 equals whatever god says it equals” because I am familiar with theism, which you apparently are not, although you are clearly comfortable offering critiques of a position you do not understand. Classical theism denies that 2 + 2 equals whatever God says it equals. Classical theism holds that God’s omnipotence is the power to do anything logically possible. But then I wouldnt expect someone whose user name is dogmatically defined as “skeptic” to be open to understanding other views.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 28, 2011, 11:21 PM
      • Very good argument, Wartick. I like this site. Greetings from Brazil.

        Posted by Emerson de Oliveira (@emeoliv) | October 24, 2011, 12:23 PM
      • Thanks, Emerson!

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 24, 2011, 12:36 PM
      • for starters, get the definition of atheism right. atheism is not a belief, is the lack of one. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

        Posted by chago | April 4, 2012, 6:55 PM
      • If that’s the definition, then rocks are atheists.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 5, 2012, 12:06 AM
      • The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.

        Posted by Apistevist | April 10, 2015, 5:11 PM
      • Because you do not believe in other gods of other religions. Do you believe in Thor? Zeus?? You are atheist to those gods. You lack believe in them. Atheist! Basically what he’s saying is that you don’t use the same logic for other gods as you do your own God. Also remember, atheism is NOT by definition the belief that there is NO God. It’s the lack of belief that the claims of a god existing are necessarily true.. Until there’s evidence, they don’t believe the positive claim. It has nothin to do with believing there is NO God..its not a belief at all. That’s like you trying to call OFF a tv channel or BALD a hair color.

        Posted by Ben | June 13, 2016, 1:09 AM
      • I am a theist, I therefore, by definition, cannot be an atheist. Your own definition is that atheism is the lack of belief that there is a “a god.” I do not lack that belief, therefore by the definition you use, I am not an atheist. Then, you turn around and say I am an atheist. This disproves your own definition of atheism. Moreover, as I’ve shown time and again, Christians are not atheists to rival religions, they are rival theists.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 14, 2016, 10:56 AM
  2. This is fast becoming one of my favorite sites, thanks.
    I am always flabbergasted by the contortions atheists have to perform in order to keep their arguments (proving, btw, that reason and rationality is far from what they’ve based their stance on).
    Once I pointed out to someone arguing with me about atheism that in just about every other sphere of life, he struck me as a person who wouldn’t shy away from positively stating and protecting his stance. Except in atheism when suddenly, it’s all about a lack of belief, as if he were a Judge-Emperor sitting on his throne as his minions proffer various morsels of evidence for God’s existence while he berates them, “not good enough, next!” Such nonsense.
    Great job!

    Posted by Fred Woodbridge | April 4, 2011, 3:15 PM
    • Thanks for your kind words Fred.

      I have also been struck by the lengths to which atheists will reach in order to maintain their position. It’s something I’ve been contemplating for some time: how is it that someone can reject consciousness, freedom of the will, meaning, value, moral values, logic [see Krauss’ debate] etc. and argue their position is reasonable?

      I particularly like your imagery of the “Judge-Emperor”. It reminds me of Bertrand Russell: If I meet God in some afterlife, I’ll ask Him why He didn’t give me enough evidence. …Really?

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 4, 2011, 11:34 PM
      • It logically followed from Krauss’ logical arguments against logic that logic is useless. 🙂

        Posted by Evan | April 6, 2011, 3:30 PM
  3. Great post! Very insightful! I have personally never seen this argument being used, but now I will know what to say in response!

    Posted by Austin Gravley | April 4, 2011, 4:11 PM
    • Thanks for your comment! You’d be surprised by how often it comes up. As Craig says in one of the videos I linked, it is a kind of typical internet strategy for quote unqoute debate. It’s really, I’ve found, an attempt to catch the opponent off guard. Interestingly, I was discussing this statement with someone I know who is agnostic and they immediately recognized the flaw in the reasoning. They said: “But you’re not an atheist, you’re a Christian.” It was a kind of “duh” moment, one that some atheists apparently need to experience.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 4, 2011, 11:36 PM
  4. Or you can just say, “You’re actually a theist since I believe in just one more God than you do”. Whatever they say back a response can be, “Since that ‘reasoning’ goes both ways, it really doesn’t leave us anywhere productive.. so can we move on?”.

    Funny thing is that I’ve thought of this statement from atheists for awhile and it wasn’t until I read your post that the above response came to me. Thanks for the post, it really does lay out the fallacy of the whole comment.

    Posted by Rick B | April 4, 2011, 4:27 PM
    • Indeed this is true. I mean if we’re allowed to call other people whatever we desire regardless of the logical or epistemological nature of the terminology, we may as well use the reasoning in all sorts of strange ways.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 4, 2011, 11:37 PM
  5. One point. When non-believers use the “we’re all atheists” quote, the word ‘atheist’ is used slightly differently, or in a different sense. However, it still means “disbelief in the existence of a god or supernatural creator”. When we say you are atheistic to other religions, we do mean that you don’t believe in the gods of other religions. Unless, somehow, you believe your god is just one of many, and you choose to believe in yours over Odin, Ra, Baal, Vishnu, etc. (but you still believe those others exist).

    I suppose that would be a more honest and logical position for you to have, as a believer: that all gods exist and you have simply chosen your favorite. I don’t think that’s how most believers feel, though, and that is why we suggest you are atheistic in terms of other religions. In other words, if you were faced with a universe where Odin was the generally accepted chief god, you’d be an atheist.

    Taking the argument out of its context is simply an argument by misdirection, and is fallacious. Any intelligent believer knows what is meant by the “we’re all atheists” quote, some just choose to react as if it means something that is not meant.

    Posted by A. Jolly Nerd | April 5, 2011, 7:14 AM
    • You wrote, ” the word ‘atheist’ is used slightly differently, or in a different sense. ” That’s exactly it, the atheist is equivocating terminology-he or she is saying that atheism means disbelief in a specific god/gods as opposed to the actual philosophical meaning of atheism: the position that “there is no god.”

      Clearly, if the atheist is allowed to redefine terms however he wishes, he could make whatever claims he desires, but that’s not rational. Stipulating a definition to allow usage how one wants to use it does not win an argument, it begs the question.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 5, 2011, 2:54 PM
      • In order for the atheist to equivocate terminology, the atheist must first have used the terminology differently in the same argument. However the word atheist is used consistently throughout the quote as ‘lack of belief in a god’. So, no equivocation here. Just anchoring on your part on an incorrect definition of atheism.

        Posted by Alexandros Marinos | April 6, 2011, 7:00 AM
      • In that case, I can argue it is mere stipulation. The atheist stipulates a definition of atheism that will allow them to make whatever claims they desire. Again, this is disingenuous and irrational.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 6, 2011, 9:29 AM
  6. ‘Atheism, by definition, is the belief that there is no God’, you claim arbitrarily. But where is the support for your claim? Nothing cited.

    Looking at wikipedia’s article, here is the opening sentences:

    “Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[2] Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[3] ”

    Try google (http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=define%3A+atheism) and you’ll see the same results from a variety of sources. Try your favourite dictionary. More likely than not you’ll see both definitions.

    If you want to take it to the Greek, a-theos originally meant (and still does to native speakers of modern Greek) ‘without god’. With this definition, the quote makes perfect sense. Let me translate:

    “We are all without god to other religions, we [the ones called Atheists] just take it one step further.”

    This makes sense just fine.

    The true issue is that there are two types of atheist: strong and weak. Strong atheism is the belief that there is no god. Weak atheism is the lack of belief in a god. At least this is the consensus around these terms. The New Atheists and their followers are mostly Weak Atheists. You can see this clearly in almost every debate or speech of theirs, as the issue comes up constantly.

    Also, modern linguistics rejects the notion that words have meanings set in stone anyway. (look up prescriptivism vs. descriptivism). The meaning of a word is the meaning intended by the speaker. So how do Dawkins and Krauss define the word? They define it as ‘Lack of belief in a god’. So by substituting a different definition, of course you can extract fallacies. But the first fallacy is the original arbitrary substitution, and the others stem from it.

    But not all is lost: If there is an equivocation, it may be in the use of the article ‘a’ as a universal quantifier as well as an existential quantifier. In the first case ‘a’ could be replaced by ‘any’, while in the second case it could be replaced by ‘one particular’. The usual definition of atheism that modern atheists ascribe to uses ‘a’ as a universal quantifier, whereas the quote uses it as an existential first, (We are all atheists) and a universal second (We [atheists] just take it a step further).

    This is a much stronger attack, but is it a lethal blow? I argue that it is not. The quote clearly differentiates between the two types of atheism. Otherwise it would be an outright contradiction. Let’s call the first instance lowercase-atheists, and the second Uppercase-Atheists. The quote now reads:

    “We are all lowercase-atheists to other religions, we [Uppercase-Atheists] just take it one step further.”

    If however we use the same definition for both instances, the quote becomes meaningless:

    “We are all lowercase-atheists to other religions, we [lowercase-atheists] just take it one step further.”

    I think it is clear that the quote uses two slightly different definitions of Weak Atheism (difference being the interpretation of ‘a’ in the definition), and that the quote is clear that they are slight variations of each other. At least it is if you recognise the speaker can speak English competently.

    Notice that none of the definitions are the one you used ‘by definition’ .

    This refutes your claims of ‘Falsity, Irrationality, and Proving too Much’. Simply use the right definition (the one intended by the speaker) and see your arguments evaporate.

    Posted by Alexandros Marinos | April 6, 2011, 7:15 AM
    • To quote atheistic philosopher (at the time) Anthony Flew, “the word ‘atheist’ has in the present context to be construed in an unusual way. Nowadays it is normally taken to mean someone who explicitly denies the existence . . . of God . . . But here it has to be understood not positively but negatively, with the originally Greek prefix ‘a-’ being read in this same way in ‘atheist’ as it customarily is in . . . words as ‘amoral’ . . . . In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist.” (A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip Quinn and Charles Taliaferro [Oxford: Blackwell, 1997], s.v. “The Presumption of Atheism,” by Antony Flew).

      So as Craig points out in the article I linked, this kind of redefinition trivializes atheism and means it is no longer a view, for it is the same as agnosticism. Furthermore, it could just be seen as a psychological state: a cat doesn’t believe in God, does that mean they are an atheist? Well, on this redefinition of terms (stipulation), it does mean the cat is an atheist, which is absurd.

      To quote The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, “atheism: the view that there are no gods. A widely used sense denotes merely not believing in God and is consistent with agnosticism.” So here again we see that atheism is presented first as a view, “there are no gods” and secondly as a stipulated expression of lack of belief, which is consistent (and equivalent to) agnosticism, but it goes “one step further” because it allows atheists to claim that cats, dogs, trees, rocks, etc. are atheists. It makes atheism into a kind of paganism which includes all things within its fold.

      So I didn’t really feel the need to argue for the definition of atheism as I wrote it because 1) it’s defined that way in more than once source; 2) your definition includes the stars, planets, rocks, and grass as atheists.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 6, 2011, 9:37 AM
      • Again, look at your wikipedia (and apparently preferred, definitive) definition: “Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.”

        Indeed, this is “most inclusive”, for the cd drive of my computer has an absence of belief that any deities exist. The book I’m reading is absent the belief in God. My camera is absent beliefs in God. Again, on this definition of atheism, atheism turns into a kind of pantheistic paganism wherein all things are atheists.

        …except theists. The definition “Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.” does not mean the Christian is an atheist to other religions. Please point out how this definition saves you from my post. It actually demonstrates the opposite: it says “that any deities exist” so on this definition, my cat is an atheist, but I am not. I do not have absence of belief that any deities exist, I believe in a deity.

        So despite your bluster, you’ve failed to get around the argument in the post. You’ve picked out one sentence and argued fiercely against it, and in order to do so, you’ve allowed anything that is not a theist to be atheists. I suppose I could get angry that my cat is now an atheist, but I think that your position is more absurd and irrational than it is true.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 6, 2011, 9:43 AM
      • Yes, atheism is not a view. It is the lack of a view. Your cat is indeed atheist, as are all children before they are taught religion. That’s why atheists say they ‘deconverted’ from religion. Because they removed the belief in a deity.

        Should this lack of a view have a word for it? Perhaps not. The reason it is necessary is that until the beginning of the 20th century, the overwhelming majority of humans (say 99.8%) had a belief in a deity so there was a need for a word to describe the other .2%.

        You say that this makes atheism equal to agnosticism. Again, the definition of agnosticism is not clear cut. The definition of Strong Agnosticism is that the fact of a deity’s existence is unknowable in principle. Weak agnosticism says that that the fact of a deity’s existence is unknowable for now.

        So for example, you can have people be Agnostic Atheists (Don’t have belief in a god and don’t believe the question is even answerable, (currently or ever)). Then you could have Agnostic Thesits, Gnostic Theists and of course Gnostic Atheists (those who believe no god exists, aka, stong atheists). My position is closer to Ignosticism. I need to know what the person I’m speaking with means by god to express whether I believe this thing to be non-existent or non-proven. For certain definitions of god I may even concede that this thing exists (e.g. for those that claim that god is the laws of nature).

        So, no, not having a belief in a god does not make one an agnostic, at least not by my definition.

        Posted by Alexandros Marinos | April 6, 2011, 12:31 PM
      • “Your cat is indeed atheist”

        I think I can rest my case.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 6, 2011, 1:07 PM
      • That’s coming next. There will be a sub class of atheist that hold birds and rocks are atheists!! Lol!

        Posted by Tnmusicman | January 29, 2013, 11:32 AM
  7. Coming to your second post, here is a version of the quote that I believe is well-phrased, and possibly the source of the other instances:

    “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

    The meaning in this context is clear. Atheism -here- is meant as lack of belief in a possible god, with [full] atheism the lack of belief in any god.

    Whether you agree with the definition or not does-not-matter. A word that someone uses is used to convey a meaning that the speaker intends to convey. It is therefore dishonest to redefine the words from under them.

    The quote by the way is not meant as an argument. It is meant to get the listener to realize that they already do not believe in most gods for good reason, and from there understand why atheists don’t believe in THEIR particular god. It is a way to convey to people who believe that atheists are demon-posessed lunatics that ‘lack of belief in a certain god’ is quite common, just that atheists apply the same principle consistently accross all gods.

    In other words, it tries to explain to the listener the speaker’s position, not argue for it. Now, a definition can be refuted, if it is shown to be illogical. But you cannot do that by refusing to understand the actual definition that is implied by the phrase you try to refute.

    Posted by Alexandros Marinos | April 6, 2011, 12:42 PM
    • “Your cat is an atheist”

      You left out that on your view, apparently, rocks are also atheists. And trees. And rain drops, cars, computers, televisions, potato chips, etc. Your atheism is paganism. An interesting phenomenon, to say the least.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 6, 2011, 1:11 PM
    • @Alexandros, “Your cat is an atheist”

      Really? Come now! (after a brief chuckle)… I can’t believe I’m trying to make a rational objection to such a statement, but oh well… To establish that the cat is an atheist, one must first establish the cat to have free volition and be operating on the basis of reason in order to reject God. If this is not the case then the cat has made an irrational choice to NOT believe in God. If the cat does not have free will and reason then it cannot choose the more reasonable option in lieu of the less reasonable one. As such, the cat would be locked into its reality and cannot in any way, shape or form, provide us humans with a rational model to emulate.

      To extend this a bit further, if free will and logic do not have a place in the cat’s decision then the cat has been coerced by his biochemistry and cannot choose to believe or disbelieve in a God, and if biochemistry is indeed the only driving force behind every living thing then we too are locked into our biochemistry and freedom of the will is an illusion. If this is true then the concept of a God should never have even been invented through a biochemistry that has a predetermined evolutionary pathway.

      Posted by Arthur | April 6, 2011, 1:46 PM
      • And don’t forget that on the definition Alexandros is using, a rock is also an atheist, simply because it is impossible for a rock to have beliefs.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 6, 2011, 1:47 PM
  8. “Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.” – from Wikipedia

    Once cannot prove God does not exist any more than one can not prove God does exist. Therefore, everyone believes in something! However, to phrase the definition in this manner, “absence of belief” is to try to evade the fact that atheism is also a belief system with its own faith claims. In essence, “absence of belief” is nonsensical. There is no such thing. Everyone presupposes some sort of reality, its causes and its implications.

    Posted by Arthur | April 6, 2011, 2:12 PM
    • You are making the burden of proof fallacy here. Remember, what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. The author of this blog knows that there’s no evidence for God, so he knows he’s always on the erroneous side of logic.

      Posted by An atheist | April 6, 2011, 2:29 PM
      • The problem with this statement is that there is evidence for the existence of God, one could look at, for example, the top of my page and click the “God Exists” page and look through it. I suspect that in your case “evidence” is to be equated with scientism, so you’ve presuppositionally cut theism out of the equation.

        In the future I think you should refrain from saying what I know or don’t know. Also, please have some patience. Your comment was one of several dozen I’ve had to read through and respond to in the past few days. I don’t like to put up comments until I have time to respond. I’ll get to your comments, just wait a bit.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 7, 2011, 11:10 AM
      • There is no evidence for God. The “evidence” you provided is not empirical, and thus can be dismissed. You have nothing. And you just admitted it.

        Posted by An Atheist | April 7, 2011, 12:32 PM
      • As I suspected, you simply assume empiricism without argument. What empirical evidence do I have that empirical evidence is the only possible evidence?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 7, 2011, 12:40 PM
      • Also, to clarify, I never said there was no empirical evidence, I merely referenced the evidence I’ve talked about here.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 7, 2011, 12:43 PM
      • Ugh, I initially approved your comment and then realized that it falls under the category of “insulting”, it doesn’t add to the discussion (your primary thesis was “if you were logical, you would agree with me”) and just plain irrelevant. I will refer you to the comment policy and ask that if you seek to get comment privileges on here again you actually construct arguments that are not composed of mere ad hominems or saying “I’m right, therefore you are wrong.” Consider your privileges suspended until the next time I see anything rational come from your comments.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 7, 2011, 3:23 PM
    • You are correct!! This whole lack of belief concept is just silly. I catch atheists all the time saying both “lack belief” and “don’t believe” but it can’t be both if these two phrases have different meanings. Atheism is such a silly little position.

      Posted by Tnmusicman | January 29, 2013, 11:46 AM
  9. Another great post, JW!

    The statement that the theist and atheist are basically the same, the atheist just goes “one God more” is being picked up as a mantra among the atheist circle. And like every other mantra, it has just become a group of words repeated so often that they have become meaningless. Even Lawrence Krauss, I think, said it in his recent debate with WLC.

    I liked what John Lennox said in response to the statement when he was debating Michael Shermer. He said (heavily paraphrased [been months since I heard the debate]), “Saying that there’s just a small difference between atheism and theism is like saying there’s only a small difference between celebacy and marriage. After all, it’s just one relationship less.” (If anyone knows the exact quote, please correct this one.)

    Posted by "No Apologies Allowed" Weekly Apologetics Cartoons | April 7, 2011, 1:56 AM
    • Thanks for the link and the discussion! I agree that it has become a mantra in some ways–but really only for the internet-trained atheistic apologists. I’ve yet to see it in any philosophy of religion work I’ve read from an atheist, so I think give kudos where they are due, the atheistic professional philosophers recognize a bad argument and don’t even think it worth discussing. And when you do see it come up in debates or through outspoken atheists, it is people like Dawkins, Krauss, and Shermer, as opposed to Ruse, Flew, etc.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | April 7, 2011, 11:05 AM
    • “…it has just become a group of words repeated so often that they have become meaningless…”

      Hmm…

      “Our Father in heaven,
      hallowed be your name.
      Your kingdom come,
      your will be done…”

      That seems ironic.

      Posted by Eric | December 27, 2011, 5:49 PM
  10. I’ve been quoted in an actual blog! Man, I’ve hit the big time!

    Posted by Dean | April 7, 2011, 7:05 AM
  11. Dean and J.W.,

    About that math analogy…. I was initially quite impressed by it and thought it would be a nice short and sweet comeback to the “one-less-God” zinger being offered by atheists. But as I reflected on it a bit more, I’ve come to think that its not truly analogous, and should not be offered as a response. Here’s my reasoning:

    The mathematical scenario asks “What is the answer to 2+2=4?” The answer could be one of an infinite number of numbers. By rejecting all numbers, the mathematical skeptic is claiming there is no answer to the equation. It is either meaningless or unanswerable.

    The atheist, however, is not claiming there is no answer to the God question, or that it is meaningless. Quite the opposite. He believes there is an answer to the question “How many gods exist?”, and the answer is not 1 million, 10, or even 1, but zero. He is not denying that there is an answer, but rather than the answer involves a positive integer.

    To couch his zinger in mathematical terms, he’s saying, “We both agree that all non-zero answers to the God question other than ‘1’ are false. When you understand why you reject all non-zero answers other than ‘1,’ then you will understand why I reject all non-zero answers including ‘1.’ There are zero gods.”

    Would you agree with this assessment?

    Posted by jasondulle | April 22, 2011, 4:04 PM
  12. Dean and J.W., just following up. I am hoping for a response. Thanks!

    Posted by Jason Dulle | May 17, 2011, 12:49 PM
    • Sorry! I think I lost your comment in the shuffle. I think you’re right to an extent because the mathematical truth is necessarily true. But we could use it for truths which are contingent.

      But to look specifically at what you said:
      “To couch his zinger in mathematical terms, he’s saying, ‘We both agree that all non-zero answers to the God question other than ‘1’ are false. When you understand why you reject all non-zero answers other than ‘1,’ then you will understand why I reject all non-zero answers including ‘1.’ There are zero gods.'”

      If this is how the statement is to be taken, then I think it still has the difficulty that they beg the question against Christian theism by assuming there is no evidence for the position. I reject all other gods because I find the evidence inadequate, but I believe in the Christian God because the evidence is overwhelming.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | May 19, 2011, 4:14 PM
  13. I think you’re just (LABORIOUSLY!!) ducking the truth. A much simpler (and more honest?) way of looking at this would be to word the statement less controversially:
    Eg: – You probably disbelieve in all the gods of all the religions other than your own (over 2800 of them!). Well, some people only disbelieve in one more than you do. For essentially the same reasons that you disbelieve in many of them, we disbelieve in them all.

    Posted by bewilderbeast | May 23, 2011, 8:49 AM
    • That takes all the sting out of the remark, and I sincerely doubt the intention of the remark in the contexts in which I’ve seen it used is to make it into a discussion of methodology. Though I admit that, as you said, your way of wording it is more honest. That’s exactly why I have this “laborious” post: because of the dishonest way many have utilized the statement.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | May 23, 2011, 10:57 AM
      • And, to be fair, I think the assumption that we don’t believe in other gods for the same reasons is probably false too. For example, I obviously find theism to be correct. Then why do I reject Judaism and Islam, which are rival, monotheistic religions? Well I already admit theism, which is at the core of these other religions–so my rejection of them will not be based on the same reasoning as you. For example, I reject Islam (in part) because of what it claims about Jesus. I find the evidence for Jesus crucifixion much more plausible than a simple dismissal of the evidence such as we find in the Koran. Similarly, I reject Judaism because I find the evidence for the Resurrection so compelling.

        So to claim we’re rejecting other gods on the same basic premises isn’t really that honest either.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | May 23, 2011, 11:11 AM
  14. your analogy using mathematics does not apply to the question of theism or atheism, since mathematics are governed by a ruleset, and there is no ruleset governing proof of religion. i also do not feel your view of hinduism or other religions being “rival” is the correct approach. christianity is not a competition about who is winning the favor of god, so there is no “rival”.

    certainly you may think that you will go go to heaven and all the hindu’s won’t, but i am of the opinion that you religion will not decide your blessings in the afterlife.

    dawkins quote reminds you of your preferential treatment of one religion, instead of preferring two or three religions, or maybe none at all. You claim your preferential treatment is justified, but from the atheists point of view it is like racism, for a lack of a better term. you are biased towards one religion when you could be unbiased towards all religions.

    Posted by bob | July 7, 2011, 11:52 PM
    • I find it interesting that you accuse me of “racism” and ‘bias,” yet you yourself tell me what I believe. For example you write, “. i also do not feel your view of hinduism or other religions being ‘rival’ is the correct approach.”

      Really? Why not? Christianity claims to be true, and it claims that other religions are false. Yet you come in and tell me that that is wrong without providing any reason to do so.

      You wrote, ” i am of the opinion that you religion will not decide your blessings in the afterlife.”

      Yet you say that I am the one who is biased? What allows you to determine the truth claims of Christianity? You may think that Christianity is false, but that does not allow you to change its claims.

      You wrote, “you are biased towards one religion when you could be unbiased towards all religions.”

      Are you claiming that atheism is a neutral worldview? I’ve written against that before, but to sum up: atheism is not a neutral worldview, because it claims that all other worldviews are false. You do not believe in any God, which means that you believe anyone who does believe in a God is wrong. Yet you attempt to come off as being unbiased towards these questions.

      The reality is that we’re both biased. I just happen to admit it.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 8, 2011, 8:47 AM
  15. i don’t rule out the concept of god. god to me most directly correlates with questions about fate, and maybe also related to questions about the meaning of life. sometimes, miracles, in the sense of some bizarre, explainable event do occur and I may feel god’s hand was a factor, but the other 99% of the time, there simply is no reason for god to have a hand in such unfair tragedies.

    However, I do believe atheism is the most neutral a person can be when approaching religion. Its like asking someone, what race are you? and answering, I’m just human. Why does my race matter?

    I dont know for sure that christian claims are false, but odds are they are false, and more importantly, the claims actually don’t matter, because my belief in them will not make me any better or worse. bible stories are useful for understanding humans and how they should treat each other, but stories about topics like whether jesus rose from the dead are completely irrelevant.

    If religion is about how to live your life and how to treat others, then I will make the claim that religion is completely unnecessary.. I can live a moral code exactly equal to a christian, without having to profess that I am a christian. I can read the bible and learn from it, without ever going to church.

    You claim that I am biased, but there are no missionaries for the irreligious, we aren’t the initiator, rather, it is you.

    Posted by bob | July 9, 2011, 10:45 PM
    • Bias is not derived from attempts to spread one’s belief.

      You say “atheism is the most neutral a person can be when approaching religion.”

      What argument can you provide to support that conclusion?

      I ‘ve provided arguments elsewhere to the contrary. See here.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 10, 2011, 12:17 AM
  16. why should the need to spread your religious belief to others be necessary?

    since i am not religious, i will never think that it is wrong for my friend not to be christian or any other religion,

    i treat all theories about the origin of the universe and about the afterlife with equal judgement, which is simply an unknown.

    when i think about a debatable moral question, I will always make a decision after giving the question thorough thought, weighing the costs and gains, and taking into account as much of the relevant variables as i can.

    Issues like gay marriage and abortion are not an automatic answer for me.

    Posted by bob | July 10, 2011, 1:44 AM
  17. Just to let you know, the word atheist was originally used FOR Christians by theists in Rome who believed in the Olympian gods. They used it for them because they believed in a different god, so it obviously couldn’t be the right one, and to them it wasn’t real. When someone says you’re an atheist to another religion all it means is that you don’t believe in the god or gods from that religion. So yes, it makes sense to say, and yes you are twisting logic.

    Posted by He | July 19, 2011, 1:59 PM
  18. I believe the statement in question is false given the definitions you used (there are others but Alexandros pointed that out), but the point is accurate and you ignored it in the initial post and every subsequent comment.

    It is not simply a question of god versus no god. If the Christian proposal of god is true, then the Islamic proposal cannot be true. Said differently, both Muhammad and Jesus cannot both be what is claimed. If there is one god, there cannot be many. If there are many gods, there cannot be one.

    You believe that 99.99% of all religions and gods that have ever ‘existed’ are false. Their prophets were not prophets. Their deities were not deities. Their worldview and belief system were, at best, untrue. (Correct me if I am wrong, e.g. if you think the nature of the universe was correctly explained by the Egyptians and Christ)

    Now, you make up the .01% – meaning that 99.99% of the world (not just the living, but everyone ever) believes that your religion is similarly false. (forgive the numerical simplification, use 99% if you like)

    No matter what your beliefs are, nearly everyone that has ever existed (who by the way believe in their religion as whole heartedly as you believe in yours, and feel the evidence is on their side as opposed to yours) believes your religion is simply wrong – and wrong in this sense means your god, as you believe in him, does not exist.

    They do not believe in your god and you do not believe in theirs, no matter because everyone is always in the minority. You believe in .1% of proposed gods, atheists believe in .1% less, or 0. From the atheist point of view, all religions and gods have about the same amount of evidence, all of which is hearsay.

    So again – it is not those who believe in god versus those who do not. It is people who believe in your particular god versus everyone else – whether they are part of another religion or reject the notion all together.

    I respect (but disagree with) your point and hope my comments were not taken as insulting. Looking forward to a reply.

    Posted by Charlie | December 15, 2011, 5:07 PM
    • You wrote, “It is not simply a question of god versus no god.”

      Yes, it is. Atheists believe in no gods. I believe in a God.

      You wrote, “No matter what your beliefs are, nearly everyone that has ever existed (who by the way believe in their religion as whole heartedly as you believe in yours, and feel the evidence is on their side as opposed to yours) believes your religion is simply wrong – and wrong in this sense means your god, as you believe in him, does not exist.”

      I don’t grant this. I in fact assert that most other religions have at least elements of truth in them, and that in many of them, the ‘gods’ they worsip[ed] do exist in the form of spiritual powers or demons.

      You wrote, “They do not believe in your god and you do not believe in theirs, no matter because everyone is always in the minority. You believe in .1% of proposed gods, atheists believe in .1% less, or 0. From the atheist point of view, all religions and gods have about the same amount of evidence, all of which is hearsay.”

      The problem is that from this, it does not follow that I am an atheist. All that follows is that I am a rival theist, which is exactly what I pointed out in the post. It’s not merely a matter of not believing in their god[s] (which I may–see above–I just disagree about them being God[s]), rather it is a matter of me being a rival theist. I do not merely disbelieve. Rather I believe in a rival tradition.

      By simple definition I am not an atheist, in any sense of the term. To the Muslim, I am a Christian, to the Jew, I am a Christian, the Hindu believes I’m a Christian, etc, etc. Across the board, I’m a theist, not an atheist. Atheists conflate terms when they make this argument. You’ve yet to offer any evidence of me being an atheist. Really, your only points are “you don’t believe in other religions.” Fair enough, I don’t. But I do believe Christianity is true, and that therefore means that to other religions I am a theist. This is an extremely poor argument, and I hesitate to call it that.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | December 15, 2011, 7:21 PM
  19. “This is an extremely poor argument, and I hesitate to call it that.” – Really? Now who is being insulting? You ignored the fact that I conceded the semantic argument initially – you cannot be at once a theist and an atheist, we agree on that.

    I was saying you are missing the point. You can choose to simply repeat yourself, I guess that is one option.

    My point was this, which I will use your own line to articulate:

    Your wrote “To the Muslim, I am a Christian, to the Jew, I am a Christian, the Hindu believes I’m a Christian, etc, etc. Across the board, I’m a theist, not an atheist.”

    You can substitute “Christian” with “Wrong” and the statement is equally valid. “To the Muslim, I am [wrong], to the Jew, I am [wrong] the Hindu believes I’m [wrong], etc, etc.”

    Unfortunately, theism puts the stakes of this wager in the realm of eternity and no religions are reconcilable in terms of dogma – so again – 99.99% of all people who have ever lived, think you are wrong i.e. your god is not god.

    You wrote: “I in fact assert that most other religions have at least elements of truth in them, and that in many of them, the ‘gods’ they worsip[ed] do exist in the form of spiritual powers or demons”

    What? Was this serious? Are you saying that other religions had it part right?

    I would say *again* that I am not trying to be insulting (which you requested in T&Cs), but obviously you do not pay the same respects those who visit and wish to participate.

    Posted by Charlie | December 15, 2011, 7:54 PM
    • You wrote,
      “Unfortunately, theism puts the stakes of this wager in the realm of eternity and no religions are reconcilable in terms of dogma – so again – 99.99% of all people who have ever lived, think you are wrong i.e. your god is not god.”

      You also wrote:
      “What? Was this serious? Are you saying that other religions had it part right?”

      Exactly. Other religions have truths in them. We can start with basic truths. Those religions which acknowledge a deity are at least correct in asserting that there is a god. Now the statement you quoted me to respond with the latter comment above I said that I agree that they are not worshiping nothing. They are mistaken about the identity of that which they worship however.

      The first statement you made is of course effective were I a hyper-exclusivist, which I am not. Nor am I an inclusivist. I do think, however, that God has worked through history towards all peoples. There is evidence of this in the Bible in the Jonah narrative, as well as God’s assertions that he loves the Egyptians and all people groups, along with the fact that God worked through His Son, Jesus, to open the gates of salvation to all peoples.

      People are judged not by what they don’t know but by what they know.

      I am not saying all are saved, but I am saying that God works with people at whatever level of knowledge they have attained.

      But let’s not get too far afield here. I’m not sure if you are still trying to assert that I’m an atheist to other religions, but I clearly am not. I may be “wrong,” as you say, but that doesn’t mean I am an atheist. You say I need not repeat myself, but if you continue to make this argument, it seems clear I must repeat myself: To other religions, I am not an atheist but a rival theist. The object of my belief may not really be “god” on their view, but I am not an atheist in that I do not reject the belief in “god.” No matter how hard one tries, semantics games will not convert me to atheism. To any faith tradition, I am a theist, not an atheist.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | December 22, 2011, 12:48 PM
  20. On your third point
    “3) The statement–as with many false or irrational statements–proves too much (or too little).”

    Your argument is that to disbelieve all the infinite false means of creating a sum of 4 does not disprove the existence of a sum of four. Namely 2+2 =4 becomes no less true. So basically you are saying that those who believe that 2+2 = 4 have got it right. Nice thing about math is that statement is verifiable. You could even use science and test that again and again and see if you have two things and another two things will you come up with four. You could call it the Theory of Fourness, or some such nonsense. I am with you on this argument. Disbelieving infinite ways that have it wrong doesn’t disprove you are right.

    What I wonder is, how do you know that your branch Christianity is the “2+2=4” of creation and morality?

    I also wonder, then, do you consider Islam the “3+1=4” of creation and morality? Is Judaism the “4+0=4” of creation and morality? Is Buddhism the “3.5 + 0.5=4” of creation and morality?

    Are you also saying it is possible that you all could have it right?

    What about you branch of Christianity 200 years ago. Is it pretty much the same as what your are practicing now? Has it evolved? Did you have it right back then, or right now? Or will your branch of Christianity have it right in 200 years from now?

    Finally, I think you are arguing semantics rather than the idea behind the statement…

    The statement is saying why are you so vain to believe that your little sect of Christianity has the cornerstone on “the truth” of creation and morality. Furthermore why do all those other religions have it wrong? Furthermore at what point did your incarnation of Christianity get it right? I guarantee that there are many differences in the many variants of Christianity and what the followers of Christ use to practice and believe.

    This is a funny little cartoon illustrating that:

    Posted by Eric | December 27, 2011, 5:02 PM
    • You wrote, “What about you branch of Christianity 200 years ago. Is it pretty much the same as what your are practicing now? Has it evolved? Did you have it right back then, or right now? Or will your branch of Christianity have it right in 200 years from now?”

      There are only certain core beliefs which must be believed to be saved. There is much debate over what these beliefs encompass, and I deign to not enter that debate now, because it is fairly irrelevant to the question of whether or not I am an atheist (which, by the way, I am not).

      You wrote, “Finally, I think you are arguing semantics rather than the idea behind the statement…”

      Really? Then why call me an atheist?

      You wrote, “The statement is saying why are you so vain to believe that your little sect of Christianity has the cornerstone on “the truth” of creation and morality. Furthermore why do all those other religions have it wrong? Furthermore at what point did your incarnation of Christianity get it right? ”

      I do not say they have it all right, but I do believe other religions have truths in them. Furthermore, saying that other religions are “wrong” does not make me an atheist to them. It is my own beliefs which define my worldview. That’s what is at issue here. Calling me an atheist is the actual semantics game, and I’m not sure why atheists continue to try to support the statement. It’s clearly false, so why continue to utter the words “you’re an atheist to other religions”? I am not. I am a theist. I have yet to see anyone actually argue the point, so I see absolutely no reason to think the statement is worth debating.

      Again, let’s say I grant what you and others have said here and tried to paint me as someone who thinks all other religions are totally “wrong” (whatever that is supposed to mean). Does that fact make me an atheist? How do I know that someone is an atheist?

      I know they are an atheist because they don’t believe in any God. I, however, believe in a God.

      Suppose I went around saying “we’re all theists, I just take it one God further than you!”

      I am fairly sure atheists would be confounded by this. But then suppose I said “Ah, but you think that everyone who believes differently than you are wrong! So do I! We’re both theists! HA!”

      That’s exactly the kind of reasoning being used on theists when atheists call them atheists. It is absurd.

      Finally, you wrote “I guarantee that there are many differences in the many variants of Christianity and what the followers of Christ use to practice and believe.”

      Interesting. I see that you must have much better access to past events than I do. Forgive me for being skeptical, but I sincerely doubt you can support this statement with anything but hyper-skepticism like that of Ehrman or Borg.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | December 28, 2011, 10:49 AM
  21. “Suppose I were to go around saying “atheists are theists too, they just don’t know it!”

    But, this is what many theists say and even worse, that atheist believe in God, just denying it, because they want to sin.

    So theists can quip, jab at atheists and call atheists fools because the Bible says ‘a fool says there is no God…’
    but atheist cannot return the favour?

    Go and have a look Eph. 2:12 and see what Paul meant by atheist (atheoi).
    For those who do not want to look it up: Paul tells believers that they where atheist before they became Christians. Did he meant that they did not believe in any god? I hardly think so. More likely, they were atheist because they did not believe in the God Paul believed. In this case, we can say that Christians atheists regarding other gods.

    Other thing. Nobody CHOOSE to believe or disbelieve in any god. As Jesus said: you did not choose me, I have chosen you. As Paul said: not who want it, but whom God elects.
    According to this (the Bible) God/Jesus did not choose the atheist and He is blaming the atheists, in fact sending them to hell, who do not believe. Elsewhere Paul said: the potter (God) makes some pots for glory and some distraction. He raised Pharaoh for distraction, so God could demonstrate His power. Elsewhere, again: God made EVERYTHING sin so the salvation come through Jesus. Where is the choice here? Where is the freewill???

    Posted by Hairy H. | January 5, 2012, 12:25 AM
    • Hairy,

      I appreciate your comments but your main line of argument so far has been the “tu quoque” fallacy. But, I’ll still respond.

      You wrote, “But, this is what many theists say and even worse, that atheist believe in God, just denying it, because they want to sin”

      I don’t say this.

      You wrote, “More likely, they were atheist because they did not believe in the God Paul believed. In this case, we can say that Christians atheists regarding other gods.”

      Really? So you know this? What evidence can you show to suggest this is what Paul meant?

      You wrote, “Go and have a look Eph. 2:12 and see what Paul meant by atheist (atheoi).”

      Agreed, that’s quite simple because I don’t just look at 2:12 but the entire contest. Atheoi, of course, in Greek doesn’t mean the same as atheist now. One need only look at a Biblical Greek Lexicon to discern this as opposed to just assuming the english and Greek meanings are exact equivalents. I’ll do the grunt work for you. According to the BDAG Greek Lexicon (one of the more renowned Biblical Greek Lexicons), atheos means: “being without a relationship to God”; or “one who disdains or denies God or the gods and their laws.” (See p.24 of the revised BDAG, university of chicago press, 2000). Clearly, the former meaning does not suggest that even if one holds Paul was referring to these unbelievers (who believed in other gods) as “atheos” he did not mean they didn’t believe in any God. Rather, the contemporary meaning of the word also included the definition: “without a relationship to God.” This more restricted sense makes more sense of the passage anyway.

      But then again, looking into that passage would take a bit of research. That’s exactly what many atheists do not do, because it is much easier to just google a random Greek word and then assume it has the same meaning in English as in ancient Biblical Greek. It’s a bit lamentable, really.

      I’ll not even comment on the poor exegesis of the last paragraph. I think I’ve demonstrated easily enough the fallacious reasoning going on here. A simple fact check would help answer the questions raised in the last paragraph just as easily as pulling a reference book of the shelf can answer the questions about Ephesians 2:12.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 5, 2012, 1:55 AM
  22. Robert’s point is why Jahweh and not Allah or Ormazd as they differ in details,yet all theists find them God.
    John Loftus’ outsider’s test comes to mind.
    Alexandros,yes.

    Posted by Skeptic Griggsy | October 19, 2012, 7:14 AM
  23. Some good points that I hadn’t thought about before but with regards to Atheists being biased with the belief that there is no God, I believe this to be a false statement because nearly every Atheist will tell you that they would change their viewpoint if sufficient evidence came to light. That’s the biggest difference I see, in my experience and opinion. Atheists tend to be more open minded and willing change their beliefs when presented with proven, scientific evidence, theists will fight for their belief, right or wrong, to the end. Not always the case but definitely more often than not.

    Posted by Richard | March 9, 2015, 4:11 AM
  24. I came to this page after searching google for the phrase in question. When I heard it yet again in a debate (Lawrence Krauss & Michael Shermer- the one who said it- v. Dinesh D’Souza & Ian Hutchinson, “Does Science Refute God?”), I thought to myself that this was a fatal blow to all theism. So, after browsing a few posts of yours, I just want to communicate my appreciation of the apparent intellectual honesty, civility and respect with which you write. I value these qualities very highly. I am not a theist (nor decidedly pro-life), but I think that at least in my personal life, I value mutual respect and “civil” discourse at least as much as I value concurrence on religion, faith, or even such a deeply divisive political issue. 🙂

    Posted by Dan Whitehead | May 13, 2015, 1:54 AM
  25. I’ve noticed this very thing before. Seeing as I’m a lazy clod, I’ll just repost something I responded to before which addresses this topic. I was on Youtube one day surfing videos and came across a comment that simply put said something to the effect of, “…if they aren’t atheists in the colloquial sense of the term… they are atheists period.” After which followed with the famous quote from Stephen Roberts, “I contend that 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.” All of this was in response to someone who said they think most holy men are atheists who use religion to manipulate people.

    Verbatim, I replied with, “I’ve seen that quote by Stephen Roberts and you appear to be using it literally to indicate that even if someone’s behavior and actions only seemingly makes them look like an “atheist” (or rather a person who doesn’t truly hold that belief) they are still an atheist. Either Roberts was being stupid in his contention, or it was meant to be a teaching tool (aimed mostly at a(ny) monotheist) so that his opposition understands that their core reason and rationality is that of an atheist and is not meant to mean both persons are literally atheists. Personally I suspect it’s the latter and present this premise.

    Mostly this comes down to simple definition. The fact that a theist may reject other gods based on similar grounds, be it intrinsic or extrinsic, does not make them an actual atheist. Theism doesn’t dictate a person must accept all gods and a subsequent rejection of any god nulls all their beliefs.

    Were it accepted that all theists are atheists on grounds that they rejected any god and therefore it is deemed they rejected all gods based on similar core reason and rational rejection of any god, then the terms atheist and theist are no longer relevant. The words become obfuscated and useless, which is the entire point they exist in the first place, to wit; position and ideas. Were this the case, other descriptors, such as specific religions would become irrelevant in the same way, e.g. a Christian would only be called an atheist who apparently has a mono god belief based on the grounds they rejected other gods because of their core reason and rationality.

    This in turn completely changes the very definition of atheist. Now an atheist can believe in a god and is defined by someone’s cognitive state of reasoning and not by their beliefs or disbelief. This also then begs that new words be created to describe someone who’s cognitive state of reasoning doesn’t work this way.

    All of this is to say nothing of the existence of people who believe in all gods or a universal god, which kind of throws a huge monkey wrench into telling someone, “I content that we are both atheists. I just believe in one less god than you do. …” In conclusion, a theist is a theist and it is factually incorrect to say they are “atheist period”. You decide, but the literal use of the quote seems poorly thought.”

    ———————————————————————–

    As far as I’m concerned there is much reason to use the words correctly and in doing so, saying theists are atheists in any real way ends up making no sense. Yet here I see atheists drumming on about theists being in this quasi state of both theist and atheist. Atheism isn’t defined by the current cognitive state of reasoning, nor is defined by the rejection of a god while still possessing some/one.

    Trying to make atheism into this word used to describe anyone who rejects any god opens up a huge can of worms. The silly thing is, it doesn’t solve anything and it doesn’t even help. At best, it’s like a philosophical idea that’s trying to pass as an immutable fact. At worst, it’s the poor argument of a person trying to force their opposition into becoming what they want them to be or to appease a feeling, yet at the end of the day, even if one skews the definition and it becomes something else, the person still believes what they believe. It’s only just a definition, it has no intrinsic meaning. Ergo, there’s no point in changing it without good reason.

    But why do this? It neither proves a god, nor disproves a god. It says nothing on the validity of claims or rejection of claims. As an atheist I cannot grasp why another atheist would be so adamant about something so small and inconsequential, pushing something without pertinence and failing to see the ultimate futility and irony that would result. As a human I guess I can see the reasons behind it, as very few of us seem to possess sensibility and self-awareness in such a way as to see outside ourselves in the reflection of our behaviors and actions.

    Posted by Rickardo | August 3, 2015, 8:03 PM
  26. Just proves Christians don’t know what atheism means. Atheism By definition is NOT the belief that there is no God. It is simply the lack of belief in the positive claim that there IS a god. It doesn’t mean they are saying “there is no God” Theres a huge difference. they simply just don’t believe the claim to be true until there is some evidence. Christians always get this wrong and that’s where they mess up. Christians do not believe there is a god named Zeus or Thor.. They are atheist to all other gods but their own. This is a true statement

    Posted by Ben | June 13, 2016, 1:04 AM
    • Your definition of atheist means that rocks, carpets, trees, etc. are all atheists because they also “lack… belief in the positive claim that there is a god.”

      Moreover, Christians are not atheists to other religions, as I have repeatedly demonstrated. Christians are rival theists to other religions. I have shown this time and again.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 14, 2016, 10:55 AM
      • [*A*]
        WARTICK:
        …rocks, carpets trees don’t have the ability to believe… Belief applies to humans, or cognitive beings, with at least 100’s of billions of neurons, thusly possessing the ability to believe.

        [*B*]
        The opposite of BELIEF in X, is NOT ‘RIVAL X’.
        The opposite of BELIEF in X, is DISBELIEF in X.

        So, In fact, You DISBELIEVE in the existence of the Hindu Gods.
        Ergo, you are UNAVOIDABLY atheistic to the Hindu Gods. (Atheism: LACK of belief in the existence of God or gods)

        [*C*]
        If you don’t disbelieve in the Hindu Gods, you then believe in the Hindu Gods. This is brain dead simple.

        Posted by allknowingprogrammer | November 17, 2016, 12:17 AM
      • “Brain dead simple” isn’t the best way to dialogue and I won’t be approving any mor comments with it.

        “rocks, carpets trees don’t have the ability to believe…”

        Agreed, but you defined atheism as lacking belief. Ergo, having the ability to believe is not necessary. Rocks are atheists.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 18, 2016, 8:06 AM
  27. _ __ ___ _ __ ___ ___ _ __ ___ ___
    | ‘_ \ / _ \| ‘_ \/ __|/ _ \ ‘_ \/ __|/ _ \
    | | | | (_) | | | \__ \ __/ | | \__ \ __/
    |_| |_|\___/|_| |_|___/\___|_| |_|___/\___|

    What nonsense!

    [*A*]

    ATHEISM DEFINITION: Lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

    SIMPLY, if you LACK belief in the Hindu God, you are ATHEISTIC to the Hindu God.

    [*B*]

    One can believe in Yaweh, (theistic to yaweh)
    Said same one may LACK belief in ALLAH. (atheistic to allah)

    So, all theists are atheists, to all but their Gods.

    Posted by allknowingprogrammer | November 17, 2016, 12:10 AM
    • “ATHEISM DEFINITION: Lack of belief in the existence of God or gods”

      My ceiling fan is an atheist.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 18, 2016, 8:05 AM
      • [*A*]
        Indeed, your ceiling fan is atheistic, by definition.

        Albeit, this changes NOT, the fact that all theists, are atheists.

        [*B*]
        The point is, if you don’t have belief in X, you have belief in X.

        So, you are atheistic to all other Gods, but the God found in your religion, for you lack belief in their Gods.

        In addition, you are theistic only to your God.

        [*C*]
        There are no rules to prevent one from both:
        1) being theistic to a God
        2) being atheistic to other Gods.

        Posted by ProgrammingGodJordan | November 18, 2016, 11:25 PM
      • I’m just going to play the his back for you: “The point is, if you don’t have belief in X, you have belief in X.”

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 19, 2016, 8:36 AM
  28. By extension, God is an atheist, for the Christian God lacks any need for belief, (the christian God is omniscient)

    Posted by ProgrammingGodJordan | November 18, 2016, 12:49 AM
    • I’m curious about your definition of belief because it seems to be a different one than a standard philosophical one. I find this particular statement nonsensical.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 18, 2016, 8:25 AM
      • GOOGLE DEFINITIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

        [*A*]
        BELIEF DEFINITION:

        1. an acceptance that something exists or is true, ESPECIALLY one without proof.
        “his belief in extraterrestrial life”

        2.trust, FAITH, or confidence in (someone or something).

        So, there is the probability that what one believes in is FALSE.

        [*B*]

        God, the omniscient, cannot BELIEVE, as there is NO probability of FALSE KNOWLEDGE in OMNISCIENCE.
        So, in fact, the Christian God is atheistic, lacking belief, just as fans, rocks, trees, and insects lack belief.

        [*C*]
        There is NO rule that prevents rocks from being atheistic.

        The definition does NOT exclude rocks, and so, this is legitimate.

        Posted by ProgrammingGodJordan | November 18, 2016, 11:31 PM
      • Google definitions are not how I would engage in seeing how philosophers use the concepts. As a baseline? Sure. As the final word to make your point? No.

        On your view rocks are atheists. As is my ceiling fan. Reductio ad absurdum complete.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | November 19, 2016, 8:38 AM

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