While watching a public debate between some theists and atheists, one of the atheists turned to the crowd and said, “Raise your hand if you’re an atheist.” After some hands went up he responded with, “Well, all your hands should be up because we’re all atheists. We don’t believe in any of the Greek mythology gods and demigods right? So we’re all atheists.” Wow, this whole time I was an atheist and I didn’t even know it!
Well, not exactly. The argument he makes is hardly airtight, considering it is guilty of two logical fallacies. The first fallacy is that of equivocation. The fallacy of equivocation is when the arguer uses a term in two or more different senses, which logically must be the same every time for an argument to work. The word in question is atheist. Atheism is defined as a rejection, denial or disbelief in deities, that there are no supreme beings. When the atheist first asks the crowd to raise their hands if they’re an atheist, the crowd responds based off the true definition of atheism. We have to assume this is expected by the atheist to prove his point. He then redefines atheism to mean rejection of any deities. Changing the definition from an absolute rejection of all, to a partial rejection of any, to prove we’re all atheists. His argument uses atheism in two different senses, hence the fallacy of equivocation. Ultimately, his later definition of atheism is incorrect. As said before, atheism is a denial of all supernatural beings. You can’t believe in one god, rejecting any other gods, and be considered an atheist. To believe in one deity at all renders you a deist, or non-atheist. The argument the atheist is making is really one between polytheism and monotheism, not deism and atheism.
The second fallacy raised here is one that always follows atheist’s attempts to compare Greek mythology to Christianity. That fallacy is weak analogy or false analogy; comparing two things that are not comparable. A typical argument made is that the Greek gods are obviously myth, so why do we believe in Christianity? How is Christianity any different? The fallacy is that the only thing Christianity and Greek mythology have in common is the supernatural, whereas every other detail is completely different. In other words, one cannot compare a polytheistic religion in which events and characters can’t be confirmed as historical that no longer has a following, to a monotheistic religion in which events and characters can be historically confirmed and has the largest following in the world. And that of course is a very broad description of both. The more one goes into detail regarding the two religions the more separate they become. At the end of the day, it is perfectly rational to analyze the two and determine that one is rational and the other not, and therefore, believe in one and not the other. Such, does not make one an atheist.