If you’re a Christian and you’ve invested much time talking to average atheists, you’ve likely encountered this potted rejoinder: “You’re an atheist with respect to every other god. I just go one god further.” The idea, presumably, is that there is something inconsistent and arbitrary about belief in a particular understanding of God. It is more consistent to disbelieve all deities than believe in one.
To state what should be obvious, this “arbitrary objection” ignores the particular conditions and reasons that explain why particular individuals come to believe in one particular understanding of God rather than another.
Sometimes our potted rejoinder is invoked with the somewhat different intent of minimizing the difference between theism and atheism. What’s the difference between a theist and an atheist worldview? Not as much as you might think, so the reasoning goes: you’re an atheist with respect to every other God. I just go one god further.
This “trivial difference” objection is also a non-starter. To see why, let’s shift the context from atheist and theist to bachelor and husband. Our bachelor attempts to close the gap with the husband like this:
“You’re a bachelor with respect to every other woman. I just go one woman further.”
Um, that’s not how it works, bachelor. Once you’re married you’re not a bachelor. And once you believe God (under some description) exists, you’re no longer an atheist, period.