The Many Gods Problem

Today I want to issue a challenge: Show me a single valid criticism of Christianity. I plan on dealing with Huemer’s Scary Bible Quotes, but let me know if you are aware of any other criticisms. In anticipation of such things I thought to make a list of some of the worst objections to Christianity of which I have heard. One is the so-called Many Gods Problem which is ineffective in obvious and deep ways, and which is actually a good argument against strong atheism.

The Many Gods Problem is given as a rebuttal to Pascal’s Wager. The argument goes that there could be infinitely many gods and therefore the return for believing in Christianity is infinity divided by infinite which might be positive, negative, or zero. The obvious problem is that there aren’t infinitely many gods to consider. If we consider every god ever defined we would have finitely many gods, and with finitely many gods the argument holds. I further improved Pascal’s Wager here.

An atheist may often respond that there haven’t been infinitely many gods defined, but there could be in the future. One response is: No, at any given time there will have been finitely many gods defined. The atheist may respond that they can outline properties which may be identified and which may take varying quantitative or qualitative values to an infinite precision, and thus infinitely many gods may be defined. For example, the atheist might claim, gods may be different colors and there are infinitely many colors therefore infinitely many gods exist.

The properties-based argument is in fact a good argument against strong atheism. In order to make such an argument the atheist must admit that certain properties define an entity which they consider to be a valid definition of god, and they see some probability of the existence of these entities. Such an atheist is at most an agnostic weak atheist.

Such properties-based arguments are extremely convenient for the Christian, who merely needs to show that the definition is bad by the Christian standard. God’s color, on Christianity, is irrelevant. Among relevant properties, which include benevolence and may be called great-making properties, the Christian God does not fall randomly on a spectrum but at the ultimate point.

The infinitely many gods and the finitely many gods variants both fall victim to the same fallacy, a fallacy of definition. They both fail to realize the uniqueness of the Judeo-Christian God. The finitely many critique engages a fallacy of equivocation under which any definition of god is as good as the Christian one, and the infinitely-many version begins with some unsound properties-based argument.

A sophisticated atheist would at best be able to argue for a small number of Gods by arguing differences between versions within the Judeo-Christian tradition. For example, the Muslim, Mormon, and protestant views on God vary to some degree. Indeed, Christians themselves make this point, and the argument serves only to identify heretical sects rather than to damage orthodox or rightly understood Christianity. John 3:16 does a fine job of minimally defining a Christian, and Lewis has a well-respected lengthier exposition. A summary is available here.

In conclusion, the many gods problem serves to damage atheism more than Christianity. To even make the argument an atheist must grant plausibility to some definition of god. Yet, the Christian merely needs to show that the Christian definition of God leads to the identification of a unique entity, something which has long been done trivially through scripture and apologetics.

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