Dissecting the ‘One God Less’ Meme

By Prayson Daniel

“I contend we are both atheists,” signed Stephen F. Roberts, “I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” Roberts is believed1 to the person who crystallized and popularized this increasing reechoed sound bite when he began signing his online post with it in 1995.

Richard Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain reechoed this sound bite. Dawkins contended that:

[M]odern theists might acknowledge that, when it comes to Baal and the Golden Calf, Thor and Wotan, Poseidon and Apollo, Mithras and Ammon Ra, they are actually atheists. We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. (Dawkins 2004, 150)

Paraphrasing Socrates, let us examine this sound bite together, and see whether it is a real sound advice or a mere wind-egg. (Plat. Theaet. 151e). Contrary to Daniel C. Dennett (2006, 210), this is not “some sound advice”  offered by Dawkins but a mere wind-egg because it confuses the conceptions of God with the concept of God.

This sound bite confuses the second ordered questions with first ordered question. The first ordered question deals with the concept of God by inquiring ontological question of ‘what is God’, while second ordered questions deal with the conceptions of God by inquiring epistemological questions of ‘who is God’.


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First ordered Question: Concept of God

The concept of God explores the nature of a being that God. What is God? What are the natures a being that is God must essentially possess? Alvin Plantinga representatively captured the concept of God as a being “having an unsurpassable degree of greatness—that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more.” (Plantinga 2002: 102 emp. removed)

The Mount Olympus gods and goddesses of Homer where, thus, rejected by the Xenophanes (DK2 21 B24-25 cf. DK24 B23), first known philosopher of religion, and Plato (Plat. Rep 377e-381d cf. Tim 28c-92c) on the account that there can be only one being that is God. There is no possible world with two or more beings that possesses unsurpassable degree of greatness. The possibility of conflict between two or more omnipotent beings, for example, provides an illustration of a metaphysical impossibility of there being a possible world with two or more omnipotent beings…

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