The "One Less God" Argument for Atheism

So you and I don’t believe in 99.99% of the gods and creation myths ever produced by mankind.

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Kinda depends on what you mean by “believe”. I certainly think that some of those myths may have derived from the same stories that are recorded in the Bible so I think some may have come from true history. But yes, I suppose you could say that we agree on the 99.99%.


Correct. Likewise, you and I don’t “believe in” 99.99% of the explanations for disease which were produced by mankind prior to 1700. So what?

Indeed. So quantifying the percentage to Patrick’s four significant digits is fraught with complications.


My calculations to four significant figures was that in history from cultures all over the world there are the names of over 10,000 gods. I am certain that you, me and Jordan don’t believe in 9,999 of them. So you and Jordan are 99.99% atheists and I have just gone one god further. :sunglasses:

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In the county where I grew up there were more than 10,000 men who were not my father. So I guess I was 99.99% fatherless.

Hint: Being an atheist is a binary condition. Ya is or ya ain’t. No percentages involved.

(If one were to rank the very worst, most illogical arguments of atheism advocates on the Internet, the “you are 99.99% atheist” argument would rank at or near the very top. It has always been one of my personal favorites.)


It is a New Testament “trope” that Jews and Christians were accused of
Atheism … not because they didn’t believe in any god at all, but because
they didn’t believe in the State-Endorsed gods.

In a related idea, since we can see for ourselves that the Old Testament has discontinuities between polytheism and monotheism, the Ten Commandments
would appear to have been written at a time when it was possible to acknowledge
other Gods without angering Yahweh, and some later time when you were expected
to risk your life before you acknowledged any deity other than Yahweh (see

Exo 20:2
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
( Exo 20:3
“You shall have no other gods before me."

This is usually described as “Monolatry”: “Monolatry (Greek: μόνος ( monos ) = single, and λατρεία ( latreia ) = worship) is belief in the existence of many gods but with the consistent worship of only one deity.[1] The term “monolatry” was perhaps first used by Julius Wellhausen.”

Then there are noticeably less tolerant texts where God is quite vehement about destroying the evidence of rival Gods:

Lev 17:7 They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.’

Lev 19:4 “‘Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the LORD your God."

Deu 12:3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.

The following verse sounds monotheistic, but it implicitly suggests that other Gods are easy to recognize… simply by making an idol.
1Ki 14:9
You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me.

It takes a little work to identify the specific verses where God teaches that there are no beings behind the idols of other Gods:

1Sa 12:21
Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.

Psa 31:6
I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD.

Isa 2:8
Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.

Isa 41:22
“Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome…"

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Yeah, I was hoping you weren’t going there. Like @AllenWitmerMiller, I just don’t get the appeal of that argument. Has it ever worked?

Four quick points:

  1. If I wrote out numbers 1 to 10,000 and then asked, which one is the answer to 2 + 2 = ? , if you say 3 and I say it’s none of them, are we both 99.99% correct? Did I do better because I rejected one more answer than you?
  2. If we’re just using random probabilities, then theism gets 10,000 out of 10,001 possible options and atheism only gets 1 out of 10,001. I ain’t lookin’ too good for atheism …
  3. I think the Christian view is not that there are 10,000 gods and we’re trying to pick a winner (like Survivor or American Idol) to all believe in, but rather that there is one god who all religions, to varying extents, are trying to figure out. We don’t see Thor as a competing god, but as a corruption or masking or glimpse of God. The real question for the Christian, is how much do those 9,999 other gods reflect the nature and being of the one God.
  4. I generally care very little about defending theism, so the probability argument doesn’t make much sense. This is part of why I don’t find ID very interesting. In my view agnosticism or atheism is preferable to some generic theism. I don’t start with a belief in God and then move on to a belief in Christianity, but the other way around. I believe in God because of Jesus Christ – his life, death, and resurrection.

You guys are too smart for this one. But it seems to work at the bar when someone challenges me for not believing in God?

Guy at the bar: Hey, you don’t believe in God?
me: Which one?

Gets them every time.


Note to self: Debating gets easier when one’s opponent is inebriated.

Another common rejoinder to the “We are both 99.99% atheists and I have just gone one god further.” is this one:

A bachelor says to a happily married monogamist, “You and I are both bachelors. I’ve simply chosen not to be married to one more woman than you!”

I don’t think anybody believes that a man who has just one wife is a 99.9999999% bachelor in regard to all of the other women in the world.


The first time I heard “rising star atheist” Richard Dawkins use this lame argument, I was confident that he was well on his way to becoming the Ken Ham of atheism.

After I read The God Delusion, I was sure of it. (William Lane Craig was quite correct to observe that Dawkins hadn’t done even the tiniest bit of research on arguments for and against theism, or else his book wouldn’t have been so oblivious to the fact that his favorite anti-theism arguments were dismissed by philosophers [including atheist philosophers] more than a century ago.)

As to:

The First “Textual” Humans

… I prefer something like “Genesis humans” or “Adamic humans” (or “HAADAM-ic humans”?) There’s something about “textual” in this context which appears likely to lead to confusion.


Adamic leads to far more confusion with the association with polygenesis. “Textual” is important because I’m basing this on a very solid and openended reading of the text, worth a great deal of neutrality to theology. I’m also the first person to use this term. So it’s confusing mainly because it’s new, but not for much longer.


I know, that why I am the one buying the drinks while drinking ice water.


I like that - amusing, but in certain ways, very accurate!