“I contend we are both atheists,” signed Stephen F. Roberts, “I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” Roberts is believed1 to be the person who crystallized and popularized this increasing reechoed sound bite when he began signing his online post with it in 1995.
Richard Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain reechoed this sound bite. Dawkins contended that:
[M]odern theists might acknowledge that, when it comes to Baal and the Golden Calf, Thor and Wotan, Poseidon and Apollo, Mithras and Ammon Ra, they are actually atheists. We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. (Dawkins 2004, 150)
Paraphrasing Socrates, let us examine this sound bite together, and see whether it is a real sound advice or a mere wind-egg. (Plat. Theaet. 151e). Contrary to Daniel C. Dennett (2006, 210), this is not “some sound advice” offered by Dawkins but a mere wind-egg because it confuses the conceptions of God with the concept of God.
This sound bite confuses the second ordered questions with first ordered question. The first ordered question deals with the concept of God by inquiring ontological question of ‘what is God’, while second ordered questions deal with the conceptions of God by inquiring epistemological questions of ‘who is God’.
First ordered Question: Concept of God
The concept of God explores the nature of a being that is God. What is a being that is God? What are the natures a being that is God must essentially possess? These questions examine a general notion/idea of a being that is God. Alvin Plantinga representatively captured the concept of God as a being “having an unsurpassable degree of greatness—that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more.” (Plantinga 2002: 102 emp. removed)
Mount Olympus gods and goddesses of Homer where, thus, rejected by the Xenophanes (DK2 21 B24-25 cf. DK24 B23), one of first known philosopher of religion, and Plato (Plat. Rep 377e-381d cf. Tim 28c-92c) on the account that there can be only one being that is God. There is no, and cannot be, a possible world with two or more beings that possesses unsurpassable degree of greatness. The possibility of conflict between two or more omnipotent beings, for example, provides an illustration of a metaphysical impossibility of there being a world with two or more omnipotent beings (Baillie & Hagen 2007).
Necessary for any x: x is a being that is God iff x possesses maximal excellence with respect to power (omnipotence), knowledge (omniscience), presence (omnipresence), and x is morally perfect.
Second ordered Questions: Conceptions of God
The conception of God explores how a person/particular group know that general notion/idea. This is an epistemological inquiry that examine how that concept of God is perceived or regarded by particular groups. “Who is that being that is God” is, for example, an epistemological second ordered question that explores the conceptions of the being that is God. Christians and Jews, for example, hold that Yahweh is a being that is God. They dismiss Allah, Moslem’s conception of God, Thor, Loki &c., Nordic conceptions of God(s) and so on. Monotheists do dismiss all other conceptions of God(s) but there own. They do not however dismiss the concept of God.
A theist, as a matter of fact, can dismiss all conceptions of God without being an atheist. If believing in one fewer god is meant to be taken as a second ordered question, then a theist can believe in one fewer god just like an atheist, without being an atheist. This is the case because what makes a person a theist is not her conceptions of God per se but the concept of God. Dismissal of the conceptions of God(s) is not necessarily a dismissal of the concept of God.
What divides a theist and an atheist is not the conceptions of God, the epistemological question of ‘who is a being that is God’, but the concept of God, an ontological question of ‘what is a being that is God’. In first ordered questions there is no “one fewer god” because there can be only one being that is God.
Under this examination of the differences between the concept of God, a general notion/idea of a being that is God, with conceptions of God, the way in which that general notion/idea is perceived or regarded, I deemed ‘One God Less’ sound bite a mere egg-wind of nonsensical utterance that ought not be found on the lips of any careful and critical thinker.
 See Dale McGowan’s Atheism For Dummies
 Xenophanes (1951) Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, H. Diels and W. Kranz (eds.), 6th edn., 3 vols. Berlin: Wiedmann.
Baillie, James & Hagen Jason (2008) ‘There Cannot Be Two Omnipotent Beings,’ International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Vol. 64, No. 1:21-33
Dennett, Daniel C. (2006) Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. New York: Penguin Books.
Dawkins, Richard (2004) A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love. A Mariner Books. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Plantinga, Alvin (2002) God, Freedom & Evil. First published by Harper and Row., 1974. Reprinted 2002.
Cover Poster: Australian University Atheists 2010 ‘s Posters