By Ryan Pauly
You don’t have to spend very much time interacting with atheists on the internet before you hear this objection: “There are almost 5,000 gods being worshiped by humans, but don’t worry… only yours is right.” The picture above was sent to me on Twitter last week in response to my blog about God’s hiddenness. There are other very popular forms of this argument. Richard Dawkins claims that Christians are atheists when it comes to Zeus, Thor, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and many others. Dawkins just goes one god further than the Christian. So the claim is either than I’m an atheist when it comes to 4,999 gods or that I’m dumb for claiming to have truth when I reject so many other options.
The reason this argument is so popular on the internet is that it is easy. It fits into a 140 characters for Twitter and can easily be turned into a meme. Here are examples I found from a very quick search on Twitter.
“There have been nearly 3000 Gods so far but only yours actually exists. The others are silly made up nonsense. But not yours. Yours is real.”
“there are thousands of religions practices. thousands of gods worshiped. but don’t worry. yours is the only right one.”
“30,000 religions and 5000 versions of Christianity and only ‘yours’ is the right one-you are a joke.”
“Roughly 4200 religions in the world; and only yours is the right one? You must be a genius and everyone else is dumb to not pick yours.”
This objection also works well because a good response can’t fit on Twitter or a meme (like most good responses or argument), and so it seems like the Christian is left without an answer. If you try to answer on Twitter, you are most likely going to get another short objection. Instead of giving you a short Twitter response, I will hopefully help you understand this objection. This will help you see that there is a response and that the is just a bad, popular level objection. There’s nothing to worry about for the Christian.
Let’s start by applying the same logic of this objection to other scenarios to see if it even makes sense. The basic idea of this argument is that since different people believe different things, it is unreasonable to think that you are right. If a married couple does their finances and comes to two different conclusions on how much money is in their bank, does that mean they can’t know the truth? No, it means that either both are wrong or one is right and the other is wrong. Disagreement doesn’t lead to the absence of truth. A person can have the truth in a world of contrary beliefs.
The second idea I see with this objection is that Christians are basically atheists because they reject thousands of other gods. Does that follow? Is a married man basically a bachelor because he isn’t married to thousands of other women? To say that I am an atheist when it come to Zeus and Thor is like saying a married man is a bachelor when it comes to women other than his wife. The difference between a bachelor and a married man is the difference between a theist and an atheist. You would never say a married man is a bachelor for every other woman. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to say that a Christian is an atheist to every other God.
Imagine looking at a police lineup and telling the officer that person #4 committed the crime. What would you say if the officer responded by saying, “There are four other possible suspects… but only your guy is the right one-you’re a joke.” I don’t think you would say “Good point officer, I guess we are done here.” If this objection worked, defense attorneys could win every trial by saying “Roughly 7 billion people in the world; and only yours is the right one? You must be a genius and everyone else is dumb to not pick yours.” There’s a reason we don’t see this objection being used with police or in court.
The reason we don’t see these situations in court is that we base the innocence or guilt of a suspect on evidence. We know that not all suspects are the same, and in the same way, not all gods are the same. If there is positive evidence that a certain person committed a crime, then we have good reason to rule out all other possible suspects. We don’t use the possibility of other suspects to say that we can’t know who committed the crime. If that were true, no one would go to jail. If we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one person is guilty, then other possible suspects are innocent. In the same way, I am convinced that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Christian God exists.
The reasonable person makes a conclusion based on the evidence, and this is why it is reasonable to conclude that I do have the truth in a world of different beliefs. There is very good evidence that God exists. I won’t get into that evidence here, but I barely scratched the surface of examining the evidence when I wrote my blog Is Belief in God a Rational Position? These are just three of over a dozen arguments for His existence. A big difference that atheists, who present this objection, fail to recognize is that Thor, Zeus, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are all gods inside the universe. The Christian God exists outside the universe and is the creator of all physical things. We are talking about very different categories.
Visit Ryan’s website at CoffeeHouseQuestions.com
Can one say they know the True God?
There are many gods that people think exist. (True)
Prima Facie, if you believe in 1 of 5000 gods, it is unlikely that yours is the true god (True)
The Divine Hiddenness argument shows that there probably isn’t a perfect god (True)
Everyone is an atheist about most (other) gods. (T)
Prima Facie, if you reject 4999, you should reject the 5000th, your god (True)
One might have good reasons for saying their god is the true god (True)
Twitter is not the best place to argue about god (T)
The basic idea of the meme/argument is that “since different people believe different things, it is unreasonable to think that you are right.” (False)
(Then you change “unreasonable” to “can’t”, when you say “
If a married couple does their finances and comes to two different conclusions on how much money is in their bank, does that mean they can’t know the truth? )
The meme suggest that disagreement leads to the absence of truth (False)
“A person can have the truth in a world of contrary beliefs.” (T)
Christians are atheists (F)
Christians are “atheists” in the sense that they deny all other gods (T)
To say that Christians are atheists to change the usual definition of atheism (T)
If Christians denied one more god, their god, they would be atheists (T)
The lineup analogy is inapt. If the witness has evidence that X committed the crime, then indeed one can believe X did it, and not Y or Z. But in the meme, it is assuming/asserting that you don’t have evidence for that one particular claim, X. Now, if you do, if you have good evidence for your god, then of course you would be right to say that god exist, while denying all competing (incompatible) gods. But do you? Prima Facie you do not.
I am convinced that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Christian God exists. (T)
One can prove that God probably exists (F)
There is very good evidence that God exists. (F)
The Christian God exists outside the universe and is the creator of all physical things. (F)
“But do you? Prima Facie you do not.”
I don’t disagree with you here. The two things the writer is saying in this blog are: 1. Just because other people believe in other Gods doesn’t in itself prove that my God or no God exists. Disagreement doesn’t mean absence of truth. 2. Evidence can be used to show why one God is real and another God is false.
The blog isn’t saying that it has presented that evidence but simply that if that evidence can be presented we can intellectually reason why to believe in one God and reject another.
Yes disagreement doesn’t prove any particular thing. But 5000 people with 5000 different views does mean that, prima facie, if we select 1 at random, that’s the right one. Yes, the individual personal wants to say, but mine is different and true! And it may be so! The meme is saying, prima facie, it is not. The believer needs to show that in fact it is different, and the meme is saying, it doesn’t look any different. The meme can be shown to be wrong by Showing that your view is the one that is actually true. But lacking it, the meme is right, funny, makes sense. So instead of criticizing the point of the meme, one should simply give evidence to show that one has the true god over all the others. Basically, the reply to the meme says, “I can prove god” without doing anything to prove god.
You say, “Evidence can be used to show why one God is real and another God is false.” That is possible, but it doesn’t look like any god has been shown to be real. Again, instead of arguing about what could be done (give evidence for god), everyone would benefit more if one just gave that supposed evidence for god.
Yes, if evidence is presented, it might then prove god. The meme says, they all the look the same, and that prima facie one has a lot of work to do to distinguish oneself from the pack (of 5000). If you have done that work, and have the proof, that should be brought forth. Lacking that, the meme makes a good point, is funny, etc.
I agree that the evidence needs to be looked at. But I disagree that that’s what the meme is saying I have had people whom after I have presented evidence for the Christian God have referenced this sort of thing to say my evidence is false. It’s that sort of argument I am rejecting here. If you want the evidence you’ll have to look at other articles.
Well I guess you have to ask the author what the meme says to them. But I explained what it surely could mean, and what is true and false about many of those possible interpretations, i.e., I showed that prima facie claiming that your 1 of 5000 views is right is not likely to be right. Whether other people have rejected your good evidence is not relevant here, until I too see your good evidence, and have no objections to it. I have looked at some of the articles, and responded on your site, and shown why they (the ones I have looked at) fail to prove that god exists, fail to prove that morality isn’t relative (in the way I stated), and fail to prove that the problem of evil doesn’t show that god probably doesn’t exist.