Clarification of an atheist statement: Dr Oakley strikes again

I’ve previously refuted Dr. Oakley’s assertions not once but twice, I thought that it would be a little staid if I was to have another crack at Alpha and Omega ministries. That being said I found this video to offer a good opportunity to clarify the oft-touted “I just believe in one god less than you” atheist statement, in this case said by Dan Barker. Oh and it also might be good to do this by having a little fun at Oakley’s expense. Another reason that unlike other videos made by Oakley, this one has slightly more likes than dislikes, which leads me to believe that there may be a degree of consensus for his assertions. Hopefully this video will clear up the misunderstanding Oakley makes. Subheadings are quotes taken from the video but these have been paraphrased for ease of understanding.

“[Dan Barker] is attempting to lower Yahweh to the level of Zeus or Thor… pagan dietys that came from the creation. They were not transcendent monotheistic deities… … there are fundamental foundational differences.It is a Category error to put the true God in the same category as these beings.”

A comment I think that many religious people would find deeply offensive. Obviously a nod to his predominantly Christian audience, Oakley uses descriptors such as “transcendent”, “self-contained” and “eternal”. This is typical Oakley: unjustifiably putting Christianity on a pedestal compared to other gods. There were/are many people who believe Zeus et al. are transcendent, eternal and self-contained (self-contained? What does that even mean?) and Oakley offers no apologies or rational for his promotion of Yahweh. Interestingly however, this comment does serve to cut away at the actual meaning behind the Dan Barker quote.

“Whether one believes that a person is made of random chance… … simply a briefly appearing life form without any transcendant meaning ever will change the way that affects their lives. This is comparison to someone who believes in transcendent meaning. I put it to you that this makes a fundamental difference in our behavior. The difference is a massive chasm. This is trivialized by Dan Barker by saying “I just believe in one less God than you”.

I don’t think that one’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) must have such a different behaviour to their opposite. Indeed, Richard Dawkins considers himself a “cultural Christian” and I would for the most part personally share that as my own characteristic. Again, I doubt Oakley could grasp the inherent value and spiritual nourishment non-religious stances such as humanism offers, but they do not need repeating here. Indeed, even without the moniker of cultural Christian, some more esoteric spiritualistic secularist ideals behave and talk sufficiently similar to some religions that it makes me a little wary (but not unduly so).

It’s not like “you don’t believe Zeus exists and I don’t believe Zeus exists so we’re all in the same boat”.

The crux of Oakley’s argument (not argumentation- its a different thing). In fact Oakley is absolutely right. If we were to be divided between those who believe in Zeus and those who do not, it would probably not be a brilliant way to divvy up the bill. But that’s not what the “one less god” statement is about. Notice Dan Barker’s extrapolation before he makes this statement. He’s not saying that behavioural or attitudinal differences are minor, he simply points out that there have been lots of failed religions and that any particular one is not special. Some are more successful, some are less so, but all of them have had believers utterly convinced by their teachings and they can’t all be right. He’s elucidating that while he doesn’t believe in a god, people who do believe in a god(s/ess/esses) can understanding the atheist inclination not to follow a religion.


~ by freeze43 on May 22, 2011.

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