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”