My Christmas Day blogpost prompted a civilised and interesting discussion about the nature of atheism.
Particularly interesting contributions came from Woolly Minded Liberal and these provoked me into the following thoughts.
Atheism does not so much mean disbelief in any particular god but disbelief in gods generally.
Here I note my copy of Encyclopedia of Gods states that it lists over 2,500 deities.
These include, almost at random, Lupurcus the Roman god of wolves, Gobineau the Irish beer god, and Kades, a Canaanite fertility goddess depicted as naked carrying a snake and usually standing on a lion.
It is with some reluctance that I do not believe in such fine-sounding deities.
But, as an atheist, I disbelieve in these gods and all the other ones listed in my book. And so, with only one exception, will a Christian.
Moreover, a Christian will disbelieve in all these gods even though there can be arguments and evidences from design or from revelation which are remarkably similar to the ones which the Christians readily deploy for their own god.
In terms of sheer quantity of disbelieved-in gods, there is no significant difference between a Christian and an atheist. In terms of quality, the atheist is at least consistent in not accepting arguments and evidences for just one god which he or she dismisses in hundreds or thousands of others.
In fact, Christianity is a fairly recent religion in the context of human history, a mere two thousand years against a far longer period of (arguably) discernible evidence of human beliefs in afterlife and beliefs in distinctive deities. It is also a very local religion, limited in human terms to the Mediterranean basin and Europe for most of its brief history, even though humans had already spread to every continent (except Antarctica) before it was even developed.
There is no good reason why Christianity should be accorded some inherent priority over any other religion in debates about the merits of atheism; atheism is simply not about denying the Christian god directly.
However, a Christian dismisses (invariably without any inspection or reflection) thousands of other gods but often seems aghast and defensive when a full atheist goes that one slight step further and dismisses their god too. But the Christian position is not logically defensible.
Atheists should ask of Christians why they accept such a mild - and imperfect - form of atheism.
And when doing so, Christians should then be invited to take that one final step and become complete and satisfied atheists.
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