Two of the most common errors modern web atheists commit are the CATEGORY ERROR and the ERROR of EQUIVOCATION.
CATEGORY ERROR an error in logic in which one category of a thing is presented as belonging to another category.
Ex - Comparing rocks to snails, animate with inanimate, skyscrapers to trucks, God to fairies, unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters, orbiting teapots, ...
ERROR of EQUIVOCATION a logical error wherein a word is used with different definitions in the same context while the different definition has not been signaled.
Ex - The sugar industry once advertised with the claim that 'Sugar is an essential component of the body...a key material in all sorts of metabolic processes,' neglecting to mention that they're using 2 very different definitions of "sugar" - glucose vs sucrose. Equivocation is a common trick in advertising.
Whenever anyone says something like, "Thor is a claim, Zeus is a claim, your god is a claim. These claims are equal." This is glaring error of both category and equivocation, failing to grasp the difference between basic categories and concepts.
Many atheists have used the infamous "invisible pink unicorns", others the "invisible purple dragon in their basement", still others use "magical fairy pixies" or the most overused example of all, the Flying Spaghetti Monster!
ALL such instances - essentially comparing a material, temporal, time-space-limited, impotent imaginary creature or object with the immaterial, eternal, self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient entity called "God" are nothing but category and equivocation errors - visible to any half decent logician on sight.
Philosopher David Bentley Hart wrote:
"At a trivial level, one sees the confusion in some of the more shopworn witticisms of popular atheism: “I believe neither in God nor in the fairies at the bottom of my garden,” for instance, or “All people are atheists in regard to Zeus, Wotan, and most other gods; I simply disbelieve in one god more.” Once, in an age long since vanished in the mists of legend, those might even have been amusing remarks, eliciting sincere rather than merely liturgical laughter; but, even so, all they have ever demonstrated is a deplorable ignorance of elementary conceptual categories." (Hart, The Experience of God, p. 33)
Philosopher Dr. John Piippo wrote on this issue here:
"... The Internet-atheist cliche... "We atheists just believe in one fewer "god" than you do."
"That's cute. But not really. The person who quotes this thinking they are making some profound point is commits the fallacy of equivocation.
I don't believe in "Zeus." Here are some things about "Zeus":
- Zeus is not omniscient - he got tricked by Prometheus, e.g..
- Zeus is a pervert - he changed his shape into a swan, e.g.., when he impregnated Leda. When he abducted Ganymede he changed his shape into an eagle. And so on..., kind of like the atheist Bertrand Russell would disguise himself so as not to be recognized when he engaged in adulterous behavior in seducing women. ...Anyway, Zeus is far from all-loving, and Zeus has a physical body.
- Zeus has a beard and long hair.
- Zeus lives on Mount Olympus.
- Zeus is married.
- Zeus fathered many children.
You could add that Zeus was born, not self-existent and he is not omnipotent nor omnipresent and he sits around on a cloud throwing lighting bolts while the other "gods" fight and squabble and betray each other...
In the philosophy of religion no scholar is interested in "Zeus." The real question that is found in every academic philosophy of religion book that exists is: does a being with the following attributes exist
- personal-causal agent
- atemporal (therefore changeless)
- immaterial (therefore nonspatial)
- omniscient (knows everything that can be known)
- omnipotent (is able to do everything that can be done)
- omnibenevolent (in morally perfect)
- necessarily existent (never began to exist and never will cease existing; therefore uncaused)
- cause (creator) of all that exists.
Philosophers (atheists and theists), when they argue for or against the existence of "God," refer to this kind of being. The philosophical question is: Does this kind of being exist? Theists say yes, atheists say no. But note they are both referring to the same kind of being, and not to "Zeus" and his many anthropomorphic kin
So, to call "Zeus" and the theistic God examples of "gods" in the cliche-quote is to equivocate on the meaning of "god." Because the attributes of "Zeus" and other anthropomorphic gods are not the declared attributes of the God of classical theism. Thus, they are two different kinds of beings. That's irrational. Illogical.
Of course, his logic is spot on. And virtually every atheist philosopher would agree and that's possibly the most serious evidence of how ignorant the average web atheist really is. They do not even know their own position or what their own camps' leading thinkers state!
Will web atheists ever learn? They would not know what to say to theists without these and other fallacies!
Adapted from a post by Gary Hitch
Related - CRITICAL THINKING - Fallacies: Equivocation (YouTube)