One god less
April 30, 2013 7 Comments
Have you encountered the “one god less” rhetorical appeal before? It goes something like this: “You don’t realize it, but you are an atheist too. You already reject thousands of other gods. I just believe in one god less than you do.”
Never mind that the correct grammatical form is “fewer,” not less. The slogan is clever but a poor truth claim. It treats the existence of deity as a quantitative rather than a qualitative issue. The appropriate question is not whether any number of deities exist, but is deity a quality of any part of reality?
In his debate with Alex Rosenberg last February, William Lane Craig laid bare the absurdity of metaphysical naturalism, which I identify here with materialism. On such a view, science cannot find God. But neither can it find persons! Craig highlighted eight problematic implications of materialism. Among them: first-person perspectives are illusory, individuals don’t persist through two moments of time, and no one actually thinks. This last one follows from the premise that material cannot exhibit intentionality; it can’t inherently be “about” or “of” anything. The conclusion contradicts our everyday experience; we think about things all the time. The reality of mind is at odds with materialism.
Rosenberg deflected Craig’s metaphysical critique during the debate. However, being more candid in the post-debate exchange, he did address a relevant chapter of his popular book, The Atheist’s guide to reality. The chapter is titled “The Brain Does Everything Without Thinking About Anything at All.” It recalls a book by Floyd Ferris, a fictional government scientist in Atlas Shrugged. That work is amusingly titled, Why Do You Think You Think?
When it comes to building a worldview, the materialist is confined to a set of insufficient explanatory options. I’ve recently found that Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga, each coming from very different places, seem to be saying as much in their own respective works (Mind and Cosmos and Where the Conflict Really Lies).
Indulging the mystique of exotic sciences like quantum mechanics and brane cosmology, lay materialists illicitly attribute intelligence, awareness, and causal potency–hallmarks of personality–to their favorite model of reality. No amount of quantitative work can make up for a lack of qualitative analysis.
Back to “one god less.” Why should it not follow that belief in a negative number of gods is more true belief in zero gods? If the materialist seriously entertains this question on a qualitative basis, she runs the danger of believing the existence of one God more.