The “One Step Further” Argument

by J.W. Wartick

The “one step further” argument/phrase is one that is frequently used by atheists. I hesitate to say it is an “argument” as it would be hard to determine exactly what the argument is asserting. Normally, the phrase/argument is put forth in one of the following ways:

1) We’re all atheists to other religions, we (that is, avowed atheists) just take it “one step further”

2) We’re all atheists

Sometimes it is actually put forth as an argument, following a form something like this:

1. An atheist doesn’t believe in [any] God.

2. Christians don’t believe in Allah, Vishnu, Odin, etc.

3. Therefore, the Christian is an atheist to every other religion.

Or, put more simply. “To other religions, the Christian is an atheist, we just take it one step further.”

The problem with such argumentation is that it is utterly false on a number of levels. The argument form itself has conflation of terms, taking [any] God to be equivalent to all but one God, but that is beside the point. The core problem is calling Christians (and others) atheists! For, necessarily, for any human b, b is either theist (T) or ~T. But Christians are T, therefore they are necessarily ~~T. In English, it is true that any human being is either an atheist or a theist. Christians are theists, therefore, they are necessarily not atheists.

But what of the argument that Christians are atheists to other religions? This is obviously false as well. I am not an atheist to the Muslim, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, etc. Rather, I am a theist to them. I believe in a theistic God which is not the same as their theistic/deistic/pantheistic deity. It would be absurd for a Christian to see a Muslim and say “Oh, they’re an atheist!” For the Muslim is clearly not an atheist, rather, he/she is a theist!

But that’s not really addressing the heart of the issue. The real problem here is that the atheist is trying to say that the Christian has used his or her reasoning to come to the conclusion that all other Gods are false. In other words, “You Christians believe in just your God, but you’ve rejected all others. We just take it one step further and reject yours too…

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