“Atheists go one God further”?

I posted a while ago announcing the meme “We are all atheists with respect to Thor and Zeus… atheists just go one God further” is a bad argument. I still believe that. However, a discussion has started over on Prayson Daniel’s post and I wish to weigh in to reiterate my position. However, this time I’ll do it in reverse.

As far as I can tell, the main reason a Muslim is not a Christian is because they are already a Muslim. A Muslim accepts the claim “there is one True God and Mohammed is His messenger” and so the Muslim permits himself to lend the same scepticism and scrutiny to incompatible claims (like “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour”) as any atheist would. However, believing in one religion is epistemically the same as believing any religion. Nearly all apologetics for one religion can be used to defend any other religion.

Because being religious is the very method religious people use to reject other superstitions, I think it is much different to have no religion at all. Therefore the “… atheists just go one God further” argument is a bad one. Being a believer is one category, and which god people in that category believe in is decided by luck, culture and whim. However, the god they believe in is the method by which they reject other God (and I’d argue that makes most religions incredible similar, epistemically). Atheism is another category. Because atheists do not have a god by which to reject other gods, I’d argue that atheism is epistemically incredibly different from religion.

Going ‘one God further’ is not the significant step. If one views religion as I do, a near-identical yet incompatible set of claims of which one must be believed by loud assertion and other rejected for the same reason, then believers never have a religious reason to reject that one last god. But they do have religious reasons to reject other gods.

The only power this meme has is getting a religious person into a secular conversation and asking them to explain why they find the claims of other religions unconvincing. Assuming the religious person does not make the claim that all religions are paths to the same truth (because religions are incompatible with each other) you then want them to apply the same method to their religion. But the excuses they will use to reject other religions are not the real reasons they reject them. If Christians agreed with atheists on why to reject Allah (and vice versa) then there would be no Christians. “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours”

38 thoughts on ““Atheists go one God further”?”

  1. Well argued. I admire you standing out different from Makagutu, Ark, John Zande and Tildeb. I agree that it is good as a provocative way to start a person thinking and I would say, used as ridicule is even powerful. But thinking that it is a good argument is simply horrible.

    Thank you for standing tall Allallt. I hope Makagutu, Ark, John and Tildeb will listen to you. For some reason, I do not think they listen a fool theist like me.

      1. I can see the point; once you have developed a method of dismissing the Gods of other religions, it is rarely consistent to then accept your own.
        However, I still feel it is
        (1) those who believe in God (with caveats that define their religion), and
        (2) those who do not.

        I think that best explains the broad power of apologetics to defend most religions equally.

    1. I do not think they listen a fool theist like me.

      Not true, Prayson. Do not mistake disagreement with intolerance… and it certainly isn’t a personal rejection. You are not a fool any more than I am… but both of us hold foolish beliefs. The difference seems to be that I try to correct mine whereas you seem dedicated to maintaining a particular kind.

      I disagree with your epistemology that you use to inform the religious beliefs you present because I think it’s a guaranteed way for people to fool themselves into lending confidence to unjustified beliefs, and I find demonstrable evidence in your writings time and again with conclusions that depend on premises unsupported by compelling and independent evidence from the reality we share. This approach is doomed to produce and support not just ignorance about reality but beliefs contrary to it.

      If these faith-based beliefs were simply personal opinions (subject to change like any other) then I wouldn’t take the time and make the effort I do to criticize them publicly. But because these beliefs become entrenched and immune from meaningful change as well as used by many as a justification to then act, I think it’s very important to first hear and then understand what justifications are used to promote these faith-based beliefs before revealing why they lead so many away from good reasoning and away from respecting what reality has to say in the matter. And we find reality (and how we can come to know anything about it) stands in conflict with and often contrary to these justifications time and again. More people – not fewer – need to be made aware of this fundamental problem not in a specific conclusion necessarily but in how that conclusion is reached.

      Reality – not those who respect its arbitration of your claims – is your nemesis, Prayson. It is not shaped by your faith-based beliefs about it; you are. And the product multiplied by every believer who utilizes faith this way I think is a kind of delusional thinking that ends up in actions that causes real harm to real people in real life (and not just the religious who as a group champion faith to be a virtue but everyone who utilizes the method to come to unjustified conclusions about reality) . That – and not you – is what I am trying to criticize by revealing the problems inherent from the epistemological method used to empower faith-based beliefs.

    2. Prayson,
      I still disagree with you. You don’t believe in a generic god. You believe in a specific god and not all the others and your dismissal of other gods unfortunately is not based on any rational reason.
      The meme is not to be, in my opinion, construed as an argument against the existence of god but as a tidbit displaying the irrationality in claiming a belief in one specific god while ignoring the others.

      1. Makagutu I totally agree with you. I believe specify at Christian conception of God. I dismiss all other conceptions. Yes. But I agree with monotheist concept of God with Moselm, Jewish, Platonist &C., hold.

      2. What reasons have you for rejecting the gods of the Greek mythos?
        And if you agree with the Muslim conception of his god, can I also rightly call you a Muslim or what is the extent of your agreement?

      3. Here is where I believe you failed to understand. There is a difference between conception of God and concept of God.

        I stated that I agree with most, if not all, monotheists(Moslem, Deists, Platonism &c.,) concept of God. I disagree with them on conception of God.

        Concept of God is about ontology, the being of God. What is God.

        Conceptions of God is about epistemology, the particular deity, e.g, Yahweh, or Allah or Thor’, & c., Who is God.

        I agree with most, if not all monotheists on What is God. I disagree with other on Who is God.

        I am not a Moslem not because I disagree on What is God, but on Who is God. We, Moslem and I agree on What is God, but on Who is God, she will say Allah, I will say Yahweh.

        Thus I do not dismiss monotheists concept of God(What is God) I dismiss others conceptions of God (Who is God). Thus the meme is nonsense because what make theist a theist is not the conception of God(Who is God) but concept of God( What is God)

        A deist for example dismiss all revetional conceptions of God, they in meme words goes one god further just like an atheist, but it is foolishness to say a deist is an atheist. This is so because deist dismiss only the conceptions of God, not the concept of God.

        Alltallt could explain it better in a language better than mine.

      4. Prayson, you continue to suggest that epistemology is answering the ‘who’ question and ontology the ‘what’ question. This isn’t accurate.

        Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. It’s the study of knowledge (meaning justified belief). In the vernacular, epistemology answers the questions, “How do you know what you assert you know? How do you arrive at that claim?” Epistemology is about methodology and not the conclusion reached (that belongs in ontology). You are trying to argue that epistemology is about a conclusion, that there is a concept of god first before a specific god is named. And you keep going back to the deist to try to demonstrate this point… as if atheists using the meme believe that a deistic unnamed god belongs in the non believer’s camp.

        Not true.

        This claim you make about a concept versus conceptions as if it provided a boundary between epistemology and ontology is false. These belief claims aren’t about epistemology, aren’t about how you arrive at the conclusion that there is a primal, a qua, concept of god that is the same for all god-believers. Any concept of any kind of nebulous-to-specific gods is a conclusion and not a method. It is therefore allotted a place in ontology, which describes some nature of being. You are describing the concept of god as well as the conceptualizations of god which are both descriptions of about the existence of divine being . Both clearly belong in ontology. And the clue is the foundational word you use: ‘concept’ central to both of your examples. That one being is more nebulous than the other does not mean it belongs in a different category. The deist has assumed the ontological conclusion that there is a god – a being – of some kind, of some nature, ill-defined and nebulous it may be, but it is the same as the various conceptualizations that are granted proper nouns. The deist belongs in the believer’s camp and atheists do not believe in any of them – nebulous or not. So the meme still holds and makes reasonable sense: atheists really do go one god further.

      5. Actually you a closer to truth and do agree with much you said. Epistemologically we deal with how we know what we know. Ontologically we deal with the nature or being of what is supposedly known.

        Thus all theists(Moslem, Christian, Deists etc) agree on the being of God. They disagree on how we know that being of God. Moslem turn to Koran, saying Allah, Christian turn to Scripture and Person of Jesus, etc.

        Thus theists dismiss each other’s how we know what we know, but do not, in monotheism, dismiss the being of God.

        The meme is useless because it think that a theist is a theist because of how they know what they know(epistemology) and not the being of God.

        Well, you believe what you choose to believe. Sometimes when atheist, Alltallt, and theist, me, agree, you ought ponder harder, that you are not cultically holding to a meme simply because you dearly and blindly find it desirable. But well, if you think it is good reason, so be it.

        After all, Alltallt and I simply try to persuade others, not all, that it is rationally poor nonsensical utterance. Those with ears will hear, and those with eyes will see.

        You are so welcome to disagree and find it persuasive. I do not think I can add more than what Alltallt have already said. Cheers friend.

      6. Allalt’s position is that the theist rejects other gods because of the accepted god. This presumes an established belief rather than common reasoning is the basis for the rejection. I don’t think this is true in principle although it may very well be a common excuse in daily practice.

        My point is that all of us reject all kinds of belief claims because we have no compelling reasons to justify them. None of us reject Nessie because we first accept pixies. We reject both for exactly the same reasons and not because of conflicting beliefs. But believers in a god make an exception for it – including deists – and call it ‘faith’. When you understand why both of us reject unicorns, you will understand why atheists reject your concept of god AND all the conceptions of god.

        Remember, the meme states that atheists go one god further; in other words, they do not make a special exemption in this reasoning we share to reject all kinds of claims that you do for this particular one you – and all believers in gods or a god – wish to privilege. It is the identical exception whether you are speaking of a concept of god or conceptions of god, and it is rejecting the exception in reasoning that atheists carry one god further.

      7. Maybe I could use another route. A Dialogue form

        Do you believe God exists?
        Christian: Yes
        Moslem: Yes
        Platonism: Yes
        Deist: Yes

        Atheist: No

        Do you believe that that God is Yahweh?
        Christian: Yes
        Moslem: No
        Deist: No

        Atheist: No

        Do you believe that that God is Allah?
        Christian: No
        Moslem : yes
        Deist: No

        Atheist: No

        Now the second and third question is not what make a theist a theist. They only make a theist of particular conception.

        The first question is what make a theist a theist.

        Now the meme confuses the first question with two last. Rejecting that that God is X, is no equal to reject God is(exists)

        So stating that an atheists is like monotheists but going one God further is silly nonsense because all monotheist(Moslem, deists, Platonism, Christians) agree there is one God. They disagree on 2 and 3 questions not on first question.

        Now, it is lame to dismiss X because there is no good reason for X. If there is no good reason for X, then one is to be agnostic. For one to rationally dismiss X one must have reasons against X.

        Now, I hear another nonsensical utterance of teapot, unicorns, and Gig-gag-Doha, on air. Well, we reject these because we have good reason to reject them. If you wish to know the reasons I reject all nonsensical made-up beings, I will be glade to explain.

        As I said, you are welcome to believe what you desire to believe. Alltallt and I have judged from different yet similar grounds that it is nonsensical utterance not to be found on a rational critical thinker. You are welcome to disagree 😉

      8. And I do disagree because you alter your reasoning to make an exception – not for the object of belief as you continue to suggest is a critical difference (and the same one put forth by Allalt) – is unjustified, and you do so with a failed methodology by which you assume the belief to be worthy of the exception. Because the methodology you use is broken (you have no means to justify belief in a qua god beyond the willingness to empower that belief), so too is the justification for your exception. Because non believers do not make this exception, their reasoning remains consistent and so end up going one god further than any believer in gods or a god.

      9. I agree you disagree 🙂 The point on the table is that a person can go one conception of god further, rejecting Christian conceptions of God, Moslem conception of God, Xn conceptions of gods, without being an atheist. E.g. A deist reject Yahweh, Allah, Thor and any other conceptions of god JUST LIKE the meme’s atheist.

        What I argued is that, it is nonsensical meme because under its formulation, that deist is an atheist because she went say one conception of God further.

        The meme confuses concept of God with conceptions of God(s). Theists dismiss each other’s conception of God(Allah, Yahweh, Thor, X) not concept of God(there be a being that is God). It confuses a title/office with a person in that office/title.

        All theists agree on the office/title(a being that is God) they disagree who occupy that office/title( Yahweh, Allah, X)

        So you can go one person further as persons occupying the one office/title called a being that is God, but you cannot theists do not go one title/office further because there is only one office.

        Making it more easy. Think of USA. State X say Obama is president, State Y say Cane is president, State Z say Bruce is president. State D say Unknown is president and State A say there is no president.

        Say X is Moslem, Y is Christian, Y is Platonist, Z is Nordic, D is deist and A is atheist. What unite X, Y, Z and D is there claim that there is a president. X dismisses Bruce as president, Cane as president, et cetera but it does not mean that X is going a president further by dismissing other persons said to occupy the president office. Saying that A is going one president further is nonsensical because there was only one office, what was dismissed was a person claimed to be in that office. Theists are dismissing the person(conceptions) not the office(concept). Theists and atheists are divided by affirming or denying the office, not who is in that office. Deist says its unknown and dismiss all other persons claimed to be in office, yet deist still remain theist.

        Now I do not know how to explain more than this.

      10. Prayson, I understand your argument. You are making a false boundary between concepts of god and the concept of god. I understand how you try to define these differently and I understand why use the deist as an example. My argument is that this boundary is false. Yes, theists can disbelieve in all proper noun gods and keep belief in a nebulous one… a qua god…. and still not be an atheist even though they seem to go one god further than all the proper noun gods. I agree. And there’s no end to going this one god further when held solely to proper noun gods. But they are not going god further when they make the same exception to allow belief in this qua god no matter how many proper noun gods they dismiss. They are always keeping one god fewer than the atheist.

        This sense of all gods without exception is what powers the meme. You seem unable to grasp this point so let’s look at where it resides in Roberts’ quote:

        “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” Note the word ‘all’ and ‘possible’. This includes the exception you are insisting is the qua god concept.

        Let’s look at Dawkins’ quote:

        “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in.” This means we share non belief. The reason why we share non belief is because we don’t hold an exception for any of these. But to be a believer in god requires such an exception, and this the exception atheists do not make. You are trying to insert an artificial boundary here to divide proper noun gods (that people do not believe in) from the qua god (that concept of a god that people allow). It is this boundary you must have in place to deem the meme nonsensical; I’m arguing the proper boundary is about the exception in reasoning that separates the believer from the non believer. That exception is named ‘One God Further’.

      11. There is a step forward and a step backward in your comment above. I am glad you understand my case, that is all I am after. It is secondary for me if one agree or not in my case.

        It appears that you misunderstood an important detail: your claim “You are making a false boundary between concepts of god and the concept of god” showed that. I am not making a boundary between concepts and concept but conception and concept.

        Concept: a general notion/the idea of a being that is God.

        Conception: the way in which that general notion/idea is perceived.

        Concept of God refers to objective idea/notion of a being that is God, while conceptions of God(s) refer to a particular groups’ subjective way in which that general notion is regarded.

        Using my USA president example. The concept is the idea that there is an office of presidency. States X, Y, Z, and D agree on this. State A disagree.

        The conception is about who is regarded to hold that office. X regard Obama, and dismiss Cane, Unknown et cetera. X is dismissing the person regarded to be in the office but not the office. There is only one office in first place. By dismiss other persons in the office, she is not dismissing the office itself.

        The meme confuses this issue and think that by dismissing other person regarded in the office, a monotheist is dismissing other office, which is nonsensical because there is only one office of presidency. What is debated is who is in office.

        State A is not going a person regarded in the office further, A is rejected the whole concept of the office to which the other states hold.

        The difference is between the person regarded to be in the office and the idea that there is such office. The meme mix this two and thus a critical thinker would notice that it is nonsensical utterance that cannot stand up careful examination. It does not matter whether you are a theist or an atheist, what matters is does it hold water? I think it does not. You think it does. Well, what is important is not agreeing or disagreeing but understanding 😉 cheers and thank you for our discourse.

      12. (Wading in quickly, sorry if I ruin the flow of your discussion): I think tildeb’s point is that any interpretation of God, deistic or theistic is necessarily a case of special pleading.
        There is no way of making the Christian God truth without also permiting the Muslim God and equally, it is pretty difficult to dismiss one without dismissing the other.
        The same is true of a generic deity.
        (Feel free to correct me)

      13. I do not agree that making Christian conceptions of God true will permit making Muslim conceptions of God also true. Example if Jesus did exists, and died of the Roman Cross and the claim he made were true e.g. He is the Lord of Sabbath, then Muslim conceptions of God is false because it disagree on that conceptions. If Muslim conceptions of God is true, then Christians is necessary false.

        But say we grant that it is true, that will still be compatible with the case I made because it will be on epistemology level (conceptions of God) not on ontological level.

      14. I have had the same boundary discussion with many philosophers who think the concept of platonic forms is a valid way to describe how the world is populated by nouns (a person, place, or thing), making the same mistake theists make all the time: presuming that the form itself is (and must be) a real thing… without any evidence to support this supposed nebulous existence of this form-thing that isn’t a real-thing but a concept-thing. The difference between these earnest philosophers and me is that I insist that any platonic form has no existence independent of people who use the construct of forms, that any concept of forms is created by humans who assign various properties to the specific form it that really do exist and then use the identification of these properties in real things to call on the noun for it. A chair, for example, becomes a chair if a thing possesses all the properties we assign to the noun. The form of a chair – a qua chair – does not exist even as a concept without the properties we assign to it (to aid us in communication with another). The boundary between the qua chair and any conceptualizations of it is entirely fictitious. And this is exactly what you are trying to do with god and gods. It’s a broken methodology that is built on an assumption that isn’t true: concepts are mental constructs and not independent things that exist.

  2. the god they believe in is the method by which they reject (an)other God.

    Well, the method for empowering faith-based belief is imposing a belief on reality and granting it confidence regardless of reality’s arbitration of it. In this sense one can use the faith-based belief to then dismiss any and all other belief claims. The object of the belief claim simply doesn’t matter. We could say that because one believes in chiropracty and interior vital forces, one therefore rejects homeopathy and water memory. But is this really describing the non belief people have in either claim?

    I think you are falling into the same trap here that Prayson thinks harms the one-god-further meme, supporting a false dichotomy of defining non belief as a rejection of a specific claim rather than understand non belief to be a default position all of us share. The meme is intended to remind people that we do share non belief in all kinds of claims about reality and across the topic board (and not only about competing gods). The believer is the one making an exception, intentionally altering the approach we share in how we grant confidence to claims about reality to one that pays no attention to it but grants this confidence by other measures (for example, people who claim they were raised to ‘believe’ in god, meaning they were raised to believe only in this particular god…. the assumption for such gods assumed rather than adduced). People don’t believe in all kinds of gods not because they believe in this one or that but because they have no reasons to. And this is demonstrable with John Zande’s recent list: most of us have never even heard of most of these gods so we don’t reject them on the basis of some other belief but because we have no cause to lend confidence to their existence. Believers in particular gods don’t want to admit as much so they try to shape their belief as the flip side of non belief… in their specific exception.

    1. I don’t doubt the quote/meme has power, just not the power people tend to assume. What I am rejecting is the idea that it is a simple case of dismissing one extra god.
      People dismiss one religion because they are a part of another. They think they have an answer to a question they assume is valid. Atheism is dismissing the question, not some of the answers… that is a significant difference.

      1. While true one dismisses another religion primarily because they already belong to one fails, in my humble opinion, to acknowledge that the individual (who doesn’t live in a vacuum) must structure a reason to dismiss these other gods as well. They will encounter other belief systems, learn of different gods so its impossible to say they don’t internalise some argument… which is what the meme alludes to.

  3. Since atheism is a 100% faith-based belief that cannot be proven, it is exactly like any other religion that is “faith only.”

    It’s amazing how atheism is actually the flip side of the Protestant coin.

      1. John,

        Catholicism is based on faith and reason.

        I highly recommend John Paul II’s tour de force, “Fides et Ration.” (Faith and Reason)

        You can get it free online.

      2. Thanks for the invitation, but i won’t bother reading it. That said, I saw JP II in Turkey… Not from a crowd, either. He arrived at Ankara Airport when i was there quite by accident, and he passed not ten meters away.

  4. It was impressive, you have a good logical sense (for a person that understand Islam for few month), I can see you have started to understand (even not all). As you touch about Islam and Muslim, I believe I have a right to make few clarification.

    1) It not “there is one True God and Mohammed is His messenger”. I suppose it translated as:
    There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

    Where are you wrong: This is not a “method” to reject other gods. It more on a testimony of ourselves.
    A testimony are suppose come after the method. It not the testimony as a method.

    In science language : The result are suppose to come after the test. Not result are use to clarify a test.
    Unless you doing some reverse engineering, then it make sense… I guess…

    2) You said: Assuming the religious person does not make the claim that all religions are paths to the same truth (because religions are incompatible with each other) you then want them to apply the same method to their religion.

    I though this is old idea, it exist before I was born. I heard it a lot from my Buddhist’s friend.
    Islam sound a little bit different, but the essence are similar. We will discuss when the time come.

    3) a religious person into a secular conversation and asking them to explain why they find the claims of other religions unconvincing.
    That’s great… I kinda boring to debate in atheist enquiry, every one use logic but everyon have lack knowledge in the principle of logic. Muslim use logic based on Ashariyah’s school of thought. Some people claim it as a school that abolish Atheist’s origin “Muslim” in the past (by the way, through debate and knowledge). That why, I always advise learn history, at least not you not going to making same mistake all over again. Sigh…

    Secularism.. Hemp. Can you wait me for 3 months, I need to find a book of “Averroes” and read it. As he being claim as “founding father of secular thought in Western Europe”. I believe his works is important to reject “false secularism”. My secular people in my country are no match already, they have already lack of knowledge…

    4) “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours”.
    I can understand your logic.It not a problem, this is a beginner question to a person who learn Tauhid. It more on emotional clarification, rather than knowledge clarification. As long it was emotional, it can be handle well enough.

    As my studies about Atheist going to end by this year. Actually, I found one interesting non-mature conclusion. All atheist that I meet can not be called as Pure Atheist. They can just be called as Agnostic.

    1. Can you try a little challenge for me: explain why you are a Muslim and not a Christian, Jew or Jain.
      What type of Muslim are you, and why not another?

      1. Why I Muslim?
        A long story and a lot of reason.

        Why not Christian, Jew or Jain.
        A long stories too. I believe main reason – too many contradiction and unsettle fundamental argument.

        Type of Muslim?

        Why not the other?
        The fundamental/ basic different.

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