Last week I reshared this article which had appeared on my old blog. This was prompted by a little debate on Facebook prompted by a quote from Frank Skinner.
The Skinner quote is a little cheeky, isn’t it? It arises out of the classical apologetic arguments namely that we look at the world around us and see design and purpose. However it also draws upoj presuppositional apologetics. Skinner’s point is that we live our lives based on the presupposition that there is design and order. We know that things don’t make themselves. If we really thought that this was how things worked we would live very differently.
One of my friends shared the comment which prompted someone else to respond with this video from another comedian, Ricky Gervaise.
As I explained in my previous article, Gervaise’s point is based on a faulty understanding of what the argument is. We are not being asked to choose to believe in 3000 gods or to choose between them. And just as we live our day to day lives on the presupposition that things don’t make ourselves, so too we live our lives on the basis that we presume Gervaise’s logic to be deeply faulty.
Imagine that you are trying to get your stubborn child to eat their dinner. They refuse.
“I just don’t believe in food daddy.”
“How can you not believe in food son?”
“Well dad, you are a vegetarian. You choose not to believe in all kinds of supposedly tasty and nutritious food groups. I just believe in one less food group than you.”
I know, quite the erudite 4 year old! Imagine 14 years later and you are trying to persuade him not to be apathetic and instead use his vote. Or imagine sitting on a job interview panel and just as you think you’ve chosen the right person from among the 5 candidates, a fellow manager says “No, I think we should reject all of them. I’m just choosing to reject one more than all of you.”
“But dad, I don’t believe in voting. And in the end, that’s not really much different to you. There are at least 6 options on the ballot paper: Labour, Tories, Lib Dems, Greens, far left, far right, joke candidate, local independent …. You have made it clear all my life that you only trust one of them. I happen to believe in one less political party than you. That’s all.”
We know that the “one less” argument is illogical. We don’t use it in our day to day lives. It doesn’t work in atheistic apologetics either.
Now, this is important because, whilst one of the points I made previously was that there aren’t in fact hundreds or thousands of options, we can conceive hypothetically of a situation where there might be. In my article, I pointed out that polytheistic religion doesn’t in fact offer up hundreds of alternatives, gods like Thor, Freja, Mars etc were not considered to be omnipotent, omniscient. Rather they were finite, territorial powers. As I mentioned last time, I have an atheist interlocuter. Surprisingly she was unwilling to concede this basic, well known historical point.** An odd decision, but even if she had been right and we were talking about a choice between thousands of gods claiming to be eternal, all powerful, creator and saviour this would not make the “one less god argument” valid.
As we’ve seen here, the availability of options does not invalidate the possibility that one of those options is right.
* * I go into a bit more detail in How did we get here? p26-37. However, the point is fairly obvious given that these gods were specifically referred to as gods of specific things or areas. Thor was the god of war and you would have gods related to the sea, to weather, to love and sex, to fertility, to the home etc. If anything they are more comparable to Catholic patron saints!