Atheist Memes: ‘Everyone’s an Atheist About Thousands of Gods. We Just Take Atheism One God Further’
If you know how to answer, it’s nothing but a gnat. Trivial. Annoying, and that’s about it. But that’s only if you know how to answer, and too often our kids don’t. We might not even know ourselves.
I’m talking about the mocking, scornful anti-Christian memes that show up all over social media. I’ll be looking at a few of these over the next few weeks, starting with the “one god further” charge you see in the Richard Dawkins meme here.
This one gets points for cuteness, I’ll grant it that. Some people must even think it’s got some rational merit to it. Richard Dawkins was once Oxford University’s “Professor for the Public Understanding of Science.” He was also once known as the leader of the world atheist movement, and the headline attraction for the 2012 “Reason Rally.” With credentials like that, you’d think he’d make sense.
Alas, no. His entire God Delusion book, though a best seller, was riddled with errors as simple as this one. And yet there must be some attraction to the meme. A Google search for “one god further” returns almost 250 million results.
Not that they’re all very original. Memes are like that: They get passed around willy-nilly by people who think they understand what they’re talking about. Click through the Google result pages and you’ll find that the vast majority of those 250 million references are “very similar” to just the first 200 or so.
Of course the point of this meme is that everyone disbelieves in gods — lots of gods, in fact nearly all of them. Why make an exception for the one God we do believe in? How big of a deal could it be to disbelieve in just one God more?
What’s Wrong With the Meme
The meme fails on several levels, though.
First, it’s no small step to go “one god further.” The meme supposes it’s just arithmetic. Start at ten gods, say, and take them away one at a time, and you’ll find that a world with nine gods isn’t that much different than one with ten. Same when you dial down from nine to eight: no real change. If it doesn’t matter to knock off belief in the ninth god, why should it matter if just kept going, and quit believing in that last one?
But this is wrong-headed. A universe with no God or gods is one in which nothing exists but matter and energy doing what natural law tells it to do (or describes it doing, for those who want to quibble about it). This universe has no purpose, no mind, no morality, no reason for being, anywhere in its core reality.
Humans may claim we’ve got minds and purposes and moral significance — as of course we do — but where that came from in such a mindless world, no one can say. We really don’t fit into that kind of world at all. Some atheist thinkers have even concluded that if the universe isn’t moral and mindful, then all our impressions of morality, consciousness and rationality are illusions.
And all it takes to change that around completely is just one God — the God of the Bible. God is eternal, perfect mind. He’s holy, good and loving. He’s a relational God, and a creative one. All of reality is built on that — so our humanness fits. It’s no illusion; we are the rational, morally significant creatures we’ve always known we are.
Where It Gets Comical — Or Not
In another version of this meme, atheists love to tell Christians we’re just about as atheistic as they are. We’re atheistic about millions of gods; they’re atheistic about all those millions plus one more. That makes us very, very nearly atheistic ourselves — within a millionth of a percent or so!
But that logic goes in a very crazy direction: It makes God the best atheist in the universe! Here’s why. God must of course disbelieve in all gods but Himself, so by this logic, He’s “atheistic” toward millions of them, more than any human ever knew about. He only believes in one out of all those millions, which is a very, very tiny percentage of belief in gods, right? Therefore God, if He exists, is very nearly (within mere millionths of a percent or less!) as atheistic as atheists are.
If that doesn’t make sense to you, breathe a sigh of relief. It’s not supposed to make sense; I’d be a lot more worried if it did. But that’s where this reasoning goes, if you take it seriously. So the lesson to learn from that is, don’t take this meme seriously! That is, you can take it seriously enough to think it through; then you can see it’s really quite comical.
It’s comical, that is, except it fools too many people who are taken in by nonsense like this. At least now you don’t have to be. Neither do your kids, if you pass this along to them. They can be ready for it when it comes their way — if it hasn’t already.
First in a series on atheist memes.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream and the author of Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens (Kregel Publications, 2016). Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.