In two separate posts I have addressed a common piece of atheist rhetoric that I like to call the “one less God zinger.” It goes roughly as follows: “We’re all atheists. Christians are atheists with respect to all gods but their own, while I am an atheist with respect to all gods, including your own. When you understand why you reject all other gods, you’ll understand why I reject all gods.”
While this is rhetorically effective, it does not stand up to scrutiny. While much could be said of this zinger, I only want to focus on the first two sentences. Is it true that we are all atheists? Can Christians be properly described as atheists because we deny the existence of all gods other than YHWH? Not at all.
This is a clear abuse of language. Greg Koukl once observed that this statement makes as much sense as a bachelor saying to a married man, “I contend that we are both bachelors. I am just married to one less woman than you.” If the word “bachelor” means anything at all, then there is a world of difference between a man who is married to one woman and a man who is married to none; between not being married to everyone and not being married at all. Being married to only one woman – and not three and a half billion women – does not make one a bachelor or even almost a bachelor. A man who is married to one woman is fully married, and in a very different state than his bachelor friend.
Likewise, there is a world of difference between a Christian theist and an atheist. An atheist is not someone who does not believe in the existence of a specific deity or deities, but one who does not believe in the existence of any deity. Someone who believes in the existence of an infinite, monotheistic God can hardly be called an atheist. That ridiculous talking point needs to be hung out to dry.