How’s this argument grab you? There are many competing theories of (quantum) gravity. They cannot all be correct. Therefore, they must all be wrong and thus there is no such thing as (quantum) gravity. Here’s another. There have been many theories about the model of an atom. These are often contradictory. Therefore, they must all be wrong and there are no such things as atoms. Another. Many historians disagree about the birthplace of Homer. These historians cannot all be correct. Therefore, they must all be wrong and Homer was born no place or Homer never existed. (Substitute Shakespeare or any of hundreds of other figures.)
Contrast those (and the myriad you can easily think up) with this one. There have been many gods worshiped in many places. These gods and their cults or religions are often contradictory. They cannot all be the true God or the true gods. Therefore, none of these gods exist and none are the true God or the true gods.
Atheists (no, not all) are fond of the last argument and think themselves clever for using it. In September of 2013, the University of North Georgia Skeptics Society set up a miniature “Graveyard of the Gods”, which included tombstones for Osiris, Zeus, Krishna, and a few others. Inspired, the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics group at the University of Wisconsin, Madison created their own with 200 faux stones. A sign at the entrance to the prank read, “God Graveyard. Here lie the graves of thousands of dead gods. Once worshipped by entire civilizations, now only myths. How much longer will the gods of today last?” They stuck mostly to Western contributions to the pantheon. Good thing that didn’t go after Hinduism, which has 330 million deities.
Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins in his The God Delusion said, “I have found an amusing strategy when asked whether I am an atheist to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon-Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.”
Michael Shermer, chief Skeptic, echoed Dawkins in his book The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths said, “What is the probability that Yahweh is the one true god, and Amon Ra, Aphrodite, Apollo, Baal, Brahma, Ganesha, Isis, Mithra, Osiris, Shiva, Thor, Vishnu, Wotan, Zeus, and the other 986 gods are false gods? As skeptics like to say, everyone is an atheist about these gods; some of us just go one god further.”
(Shermer also said in that book “Once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation.” Somehow he has been able to escape the confines of his brain.)
Instances of the Gravity-Doesn’t-Exist Fallacy litter the web. It’s rarely blatantly stated, but it is surely implied (it is in Dawkins and Shermer). Notice the Christian bias of these authors, which is natural enough. The GDE is a double-fallacy if it’s also used to imply a proof has been given for the non-existence of Zeus, Apollo, Baal and the other gods. Of course, no such proof is found here. And if such proofs do exist (and are accepted as background premises), these proofs can actually support knowledge of the Christian God.
We can weaken the GDE so that it’s not a fallacy. Many mean the GDE in this way: “Look, men have made many mistakes about gods. Therefore, they probably always do or will.” This is not a fallacy. But then this changed argument is useless to the atheist! If Zeus, Apollo and the rest are shown to be false, we could then say, “Since Zeus, Baal and a host of other gods have been shown not to exist, it’s more likely the Christian God does.” This is not a fallacy either. After all, some rivals to the God have been removed from consideration!
No, the GDE is a cutesy argument for the lazy. Those who use it imply they have proof Zeus et alia don’t exist therefore God doesn’t, either, plus, belief if God is just as silly as belief in Zeus seems to them. But this, as we have seen, is no argument at all. It is a mere statement of prejudice. And most likely uninformed prejudice.
The examples given at the beginning have the notion of increasing knowledge through time. We have abandoned various models of the atom since Democritus’s time and say we have a better one now. Perhaps the standard model is not the best or final model, but it is certainly better than one entertained, say, two centuries ago. There are two points here. The existence of other gods, or rather the existence of claims of other gods. While these claims don’t and can’t disprove the existence of the one true God, they can be said to show a humanity groping towards knowledge of this Deity. Incomplete and flawed efforts, perhaps. But we don’t chuck out all Science because false threads are often followed.
The second is that knowledge at least of the Christian God has changed through time. His existence hasn’t of course, but our understanding of Him has progressed. Followers of the series on Summa Contra Gentiles will know of this.