awareness is the contingency for belief, but not for lack of belief. In cases 2 & 3 [the case of Emerson and Pope Paul VI] the people were aware of these gods and therefore it is more than possible that they ‘could’ have believed in their existence. Claiming that some gods share attributes or are based off one another doesn’t mean they are aware of the millions of other gods from dead religions. Claiming similarities doesn’t equal claiming sameness, nor does claiming certain monotheisms are all encompassing of the attributes of many or all gods (I’m not saying that you are) still isn’t the equivalent of believing in those god’s existence simply by associations as they do not encompass all of their attributes. Still there are unknown gods people are unaware and atheistic towards. I’m still waiting to see how this is logically flawed.
There are more than a few landmines we can step on here!
Claiming that some gods share attributes or are based off one another doesn’t mean they are aware of the millions of other gods from dead religions.
In other words, as one might expect, if one goes to an atheist and claims that god A is just another name for god B, the atheist reserves the right to deny the claim. If Bertrand Russell were the atheist in question, he might bring the analytic-synthetic distinction into it, and say that it’s not meaningful to claim that it’s not even meaningful to talk about god A or god B, or at best it’s like talking about “round-square A.”
It’s not easy to write an academic philosophy paper about the analytic-synthetic distinction, and it’s even harder to explain it to other people in a practical debate:
I think a lot of modern theists would agree with Lazarinth on this part:
Claiming similarities doesn’t equal claiming sameness, nor does claiming certain monotheisms are all encompassing of the attributes of many or all gods (I’m not saying that you are) still isn’t the equivalent of believing in those god’s existence[s]
In fact a lot of modern theists reserve the right to say that other forms of modern theism are just perverse, self-destructive, spiritually harmful cults. “We here in Church X are the best church. The people in Church Y are on the right track, but they are damaging their spiritual health by dissenting from some important doctrines. And the people in Church Z are all going to a bad place when they die, because they deny very important doctrines. We’re all theists, but theism alone isn’t enough to save you from sin!”
In this context I asked Lazarinth:
Assume you meet a very uneducated modern New Age mystic who claims that he acknowledges the true insights of various religions – Christianity, Judaism, Daoism, Voodoo – but does not attend any church or undertake any regular religious practice. He believes in God, and he believes the God of Judaism is one and the same with the God of Christianity, just with different names.
Further, because he’s ignorant, he’s never heard of Islam.
Is this fellow an atheist with respect to Allah?
And a lot of arguments will depend on how he answers. We have to see how he will refine the statement:
claiming certain monotheisms are all encompassing of the attributes of many or all gods … isn’t the equivalent of believing in those god’s existence simply by associations as they do not encompass all of their attributes.
I think Lazarinth is going to end up saying that you can’t believe in a god unless you have an intellectual statement about that god that fits into some body of intellectual discourse. I think he’s going to say that Plato can believe in Zeus, and Charles Darwin can disbelieve in Zeus, but an indigene of pre-contact Papua New Guinea can’t even think about Zeus until someone comes along with a book about Zeus.
If he does agree to that, we can make that into a logical argument, but it’s going to be based on assumptions that don’t fit how most people talk about religion. Most people talk about religious awareness as something that comes even without missionaries, churches, or intellectual articulation.
I don’t doubt that we can always make any theory, however bizarre, into a logically consistent form. It might require a lot of non-standard definitions and additional assumptions, but it can always be done.