For people who pride themselves on their reason and rationality, it’s rather amusing to see this atheist meme which is full of logical errors. I can’t say I’m surprised though. Atheists and evolutionists alike often appeal to logical fallacies in their futile attempts to bolster their false claims.
This atheist meme is attributed to Richard Dawkins from his book, The God Delusion. It goes like this:
“We are all atheists about most of the gods humanity has believed in.
Some of us just go one god further.“
This is supposed to be cute and clever, and I’m sure some think it is. Some think its true. What most don’t realize is it’s just another logically fallacious and philosophically flawed statement. Here’s 4 logical reasons why, with a biblical reason thrown in as a bonus.
Logical Problem 1: Equivocation
This statement is making a number of extraordinary (but incorrect) claims. The most obvious incorrect claim is that we are all atheists because of what we don’t believe. In so doing, it equivocates on the word “atheism”. Atheism is not disbelief in some pagan gods. Atheism is disbelief in all Gods. We all know that. Claiming “we are all atheists” about some gods (while allowing that some believe in a god or the true God) is changing the meaning of the word and thus committing the fallacy. Furthermore, atheism defines a worldview that is quite different from a theistic worldview. So the belief in just the one God that atheists refuse to believe in has a profound effect in how you how you think and view life. To claim a theist is in anyway an atheist is to claim there is no essential difference between the two. If there is no essential difference between the two, why does atheist cheerleader Richard Dawkins write books and support campaigns that try to convince everyone to be an atheist? Clearly the difference of belief in the one God makes all the difference in the world.
Logical Problem 2: Faulty Comparison and Selective Evidence
Similarly, this meme pretends that all types of non-belief are the same. They are not. Just as atheism and theism are not the same, all types of non-belief are not the same.
For example, I don’t believe that either Richard Dawkins or the late Stephen Hawking knows what they’re talking about when they claim there’s no God. I could support that non-belief philosophically – because philosophically, you can’t know something to be true that is false. Thus if God exists, you can’t know he doesn’t exist. I could also support that non-belief Biblically. The Bible simply declares that God exists. (Gen 1.1). This is one type of non-belief – based on philosophical or biblical grounds
On the other hand I could have a disbelief based on logical, mathematical or evidential grounds. I suspect many would consider that a stronger position. For example I disbelieve that 2 + 2 = 6. And I have much evidence (some would call it proof) to support that non-belief. Thus my non-belief that Dawkins and Hawking know what they’re talking about when it comes to God is qualitatively different from my non-belief that 2 + 2 = 6. Based on this meme, atheists want you to believe that all non-belief is the same, though clearly they are not. They want you to believe that non-belief in the flying spaghetti monster (a fictional deity made up to make a point) is the same as non-belief in Jesus – for whom we have much evidence for. They simply are not the same types of non-belief.
In the same manner, not believing in false gods is not the same as not believing in the true God for whom there is much evidence. Logically, the meme makes a faulty comparison. And the mistake is compounded with the error of selective evidence because there is enough evidence to tell them that the God of the Bible is not like the pagan gods they disbelieve in. But they are selective in the evidence they will accept, and thus refuse to consider the evidence that makes clear the distinction.
Logical Problem 3: Circular Reasoning
This meme is also a circular argument. The mark of a circular argument is:
“…when the reasoner begins with what he or she is trying to end up with.”
That this is a circular argument is easily demonstrable if you put the claims in the form of a logical argument called a syllogism. The meme could be stated this way: Atheists believe:
The gods of humanity have never existed in reality
Your deity is a god of humanity
Therefore your deity has never existed in reality
This has the format of a logically valid syllogism. But it fails as a syllogism because it incorporates the above defined logical fallacy. The problem is the premise states what the atheist is trying to prove. That makes it a classic circular argument. Way to go atheists. You’ve just proved what we already know: you presume without proof God does not exist, and you’re very poor at arguing logically.
Logical Problem 4: Appeal to Ignorance
This meme is either ignorant of, is intentionally lying, or is deceived about a fundamental characteristic of God: Existence. Existence is an integral, unremovable part of who God is. It is so fundamental that he reveals himself as “I Am” (Ex 3.14-15). “I am” of course means “I exist” as Neil Diamond so passionately sings.
Thus it’s appropriate to look at a proof of the existence of God based on this attribute of God. That proof is called the ontological argument. The ontological argument originated with St. Anselm in the 11th century. It was further honed by modern scholars like Alvin Plantiga and involves the concept of a being who is maximally great. Being maximally great means being perfect in all attributes including existence, which such a being would possess as a necessary attribute. Thus when properly understood, as eminent philosopher Alvin Plantiga puts it:
“If it’s possible there’s a being like that, it follows from a certain theory from modal logic, it follows that there actually is such a being.
In other words, if you merely agree that such is being is possible, it follows logically that such a being must exist. Here is a simplified presentation of the Ontological Argument:
- It is possible for there to be a maximally great being
- A maximally great being has all perfections including necessarily existing
- That real existence necessarily extends to all possible worlds.
- This is a possible world,
- Thus the maximally great being (called “God”) exists in this world.
The only way to avoid the conclusion from this proof is to prove that a maximally great being is an incoherent, irrational idea like a square circle. The problem for atheists is that the concept of a maximally great being is a completely coherent idea. It cannot shown to be incoherent. Thus the proof withstands any attempt to disprove it. So their only recourse is to invoke the logical fallacy known as an appeal to ignorance. As explained in the IEP:
“The Fallacy of Appeal to Ignorance comes in two forms: (1) Not knowing that a certain statement is true is taken to be a proof that it is false. (2) Not knowing that a statement is false is taken to be a proof that it is true.”
In this case it’s the first type: they do not know the existence of God is true, so they assume that it’s false. In so doing they commit the fallacy of appealing to their ignorance. You might recognize this as the typical argument from atheists and agnostics: “I don’t know for a fact that God exists, so I believe he doesn’t exist.” That is the essence of the argument from ignorance. Thus, the success of this meme is based not on a simple addition of another deity to a list of false gods; no the success of this meme is based on the hope that you don’t recognize that the atheist is using a logical fallacy to pull a quick one over on you. But once you recognize that the atheist is arguing from ignorance, and foolishly assuming that the God of the Bible is like the many false gods the atheist also doesn’t believe in, then you realize what a foolish argument this is.
Some would say one could use the ontological argument for any of the pagan gods like the Greek, Roman or Norse gods or the flying spaghetti monster for that matter. The problem with that is that none of those gods meet the definition of a maximally great being, which includes moral perfection. The pagan gods exhibit many sins and moral imperfections – as does the flying spaghetti monster. For example in a supposed story about the fsm, the fsm gets drunk and forgets things he’s done. Hardly an example of the moral perfection required of a maximally great being.
For those who like sharing memes, I’ve created this meme that deals with the meme’s failure to deal with God’s existence.
Biblical Problem – The statement is one of Idolatry
We think we’re so sophisticated in this modern age that we’re above idolatry, but this statement from Dawkins proves that idolatry is alive and well. Because this statement is nothing but ancient idolatry dressed up in modern language.
Judaism is of course the roots of Christianity (John 4.22), and a strong prohibition against idolatry runs through both. The central creed of Judaism – the Shema – is affirmed by Jesus as the context for the greatest commandment in Mark 12.28-29. The Shema introduces the greatest commandment by forbidding idolatry. Jews (Messianic or not), and Christians can both affirm the Shema:
“Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD אחד (echad)”
What does “echad” mean? The word means “one.” So literally the phrase is “the LORD [is (implied)] one.” Is one what? The verse is variously translated “the LORD is one”(NIV) or “the LORD is one LORD“(KJV), which both approach the key idea: The LORD is the one and only God. Thus the simplest translation of the phrase consistent with the context is “the LORD alone” – which by the way, is the way it’s translated and chanted in at least some Messianic Synagogues, and is the meaning affirmed by Christian commentators. Thus in context the verse is saying not only is The LORD Israel’s God, but the LORD alone is that one and only God.
God himself affirms this through the prophet Isaiah:
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
Thus scripture affirms the LORD alone is God. He is unique. So grouping the true God in with the false pagan gods because you think they’re all the same, or makes a cute saying is to remove the true God from his rightful place as unique creator and ruler of heaven and earth; and relegates him in with a pantheon of false gods. And anytime you seek to remove God from his rightful place – you’ve created an idol to put in his place. Even if that idol is nothing but your vain, silly and insulting meme.
A Word to the Wise
Just as those who call themselves believers in the flying spaghetti monster are no more than mockers who deny what they can plainly see – that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19.1), in a similar manner atheists who use this meme are no more than mockers of the true God who is enthroned in majesty. (Rev 4.2-3) By comparing him to pagan gods and a fictitious god used to make a point (fsm) they are mocking by treating him with contempt in their attempt to dissuade others from believing. Jesus makes clear that’s a very bad thing to do. (Matt 18.6) Here’s a word to the wise:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
(Gal 6:7 )
Those treating God with contempt with this insulting, idolatrous meme might want to reconsider post haste. (While you still can. 2 Cor 6.2)
Duane Caldwell | January 14, 2019 | Printer friendly version
1. Atheist definition: a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any god: one who subscribes to or advocates atheism.
Merriam Webster (Online), accessed 1/13/2019, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atheist
2. In his final book, Stephen Hawking states there is “there is no possibility of a creator” because a creator would have to exist before time, which he thought was impossible. Clearly he is ignoring and denying that that very thing is one of the attributes of the God of the Bible – God is eternal – existing outside of time.
For Hawking’s statement, see:
Brandon Specktor, “Stephen Hawking’s final book says there’s ‘no possibility’ of God in our universe”, LiveScience, Oct 17, 2018, https://www.livescience.com/63854-stephen-hawking-says-no-god.html
3. This is why they claim disbelief in God rather than knowledge that God doesn’t exist, because you cannot know something that is false. And further, they can’t prove God doesn’t exist either. Practically speaking though, their discourse demonstrates that for all practical purposes they behave as if they know there is no God.
4. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), “Fallacies”, accessed 1/9/2019, https://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#CircularReasoning
5. Alvin Plantiga, ref from YouTube Video “Ontological Argument” published by semperadlucem Jun/28/2009, https://youtu.be/iCXvVcWFrGQ, time mark: 4.25
6. To see why the Ontology Argument withstands any attempts to disprove it, see:
“The Ontological Argument” (The Introduction), YouTube Video published by InspiringPhilosophy Jan 7, 2012, https://youtu.be/RQPRqHZRP68
7. The IEP, “Fallacies”, https://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#AppealtoIgnorance
8. Messianic Jews believe Jesus (whom they call Yeshua) is the Jewish the messiah, and thus the messiah of the entire world.
9. In the Bible when you see LORD written in Upper case letters – with the “ord” portion made smaller to fit the size of lower case letters, that means God’s actual name, his covenant name יהוה transliterated YHVH or YHWH (the sequence is known as the tetragrammaton) and is used in the actual Hebrew text. Out of respect for the third commandment not to misuse God’s name (Ex 20.7), Jews made it a practice not to say the name and instead said “Adonai” which translates to Lord – which is what we have in our Bibles.
10. For example, in the prayer book of one Messianic Synagogue the Shema reads:
“Hear, O Israel: The L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd alone.” (emphasis mine)
[Lord and God are not written out so as to be careful not to misuse the words per the third commandment (Ex 20.7)]
from Congregation B’nai Maccabim, Siddur (Prayer book), page 4.
11. For example, one Christian commenter on the verse (Deut 6.4):
“There is only one Lord, and he alone is God.”
Earl S. Kalland, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 3, “Deuteronomy”; Grand Rapids, MI:1992, p.64
All images used by permission
Atheist Meme Mistake – One God Further by Duane Caldwell © 2019
Olympian gods and heroes © Masterlevsha | fotolia by Adobe – used by permission
Columns of the gate © Aleksandr Kuzmin | Dreamstime.com – used by permission
Brilliant summary , well thought out also good recourse
I confess I have sat and stared at certain pages of Plantinga’s book “God, Freedom, and Evil” for long periods of time. I finally came to the conclusion that he, being a molinist, has smuggled in some elements of a non-molinist ontology. Case in point, the ontological argument, as you present it in a recent post: “P1: it is possible for there to be a maximally great being.” I would concentrate, before leaving the first premise, on what is the meaning of the word “possible?” Only a truly sovereign (and non-molinist) God is in charge of all possibilities in His… Read more »
Hi Floyd, thanks for the comment. There are two key elements to the first premise, 1. The possibility of a “maximally great being”, and what “maximally great” consists of. Your concern is that Plantinga has illicitly included some concepts. I disagree. His point is on the existence of a maximally great being – and that being is able to simultaneously grant humans free will and still have total control over his creation. Plantiga doesn’t define how this being achieves that outcome. Molinism is one way we limited humans understand God could do that, but that’s not actually what Plantinga is… Read more »