Eller pronounces: “But supposing [Jesus] did [exist], the fact that he is allegedly a man-god means a lot to Christians but little to Muslims…” (97) Well, yes, but I fail to see how from the fact that Christians and Muslims disagree about Jesus it follows that they are both wrong, as opposed to one right and the other wrong.
This, however, is Eller’s main shtick throughout the book, the alleged argument from “religious diversity” (ARD). Eller thinks that the fact of the plurality of religions is proof positive that no religion is true, or even that no positive proposition about God is true.
Thus, Eller notices the “extreme diversity of religious phenomena.” (125) He does not explain to us on what grounds he concludes from this that all the religious phenomena are delusions. It seems that the exact opposite is suggested: there is “something beyond.”
The question then is, what is beyond? There is no universal agreement. But which reasonably sophisticated branch of human knowledge enjoys universal agreement? That economists disagree with each other does not mean there is no truth of the matter, nor that there is not a basic core doctrine that enjoys the support of all economists. Same with religions: all religious truths awaken us to a higher humanity and even deiformity.
Further, theist philosophers do not put forward random ideas of God; they seek to uncover God’s attributes rationally.
For example, it is an important question whether the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as described in the Old Testament is the same as the God of the philosophers. I think it is, which is partly why I am a Christian and not merely more generic theist.
Again, some philosophers believe that God is eternal; others think He is in time or at most everlasting. Both adduce arguments to bolster their conclusions. Must we take the fact of disagreement to indicate that both sides are wrong?
Eller is a dilettante in theology; he can’t distinguish plausible concepts of God from implausible ones, or cogent proofs from mythological fantasies. To him, all ideas of God are the same. But why accept such a prejudicial and either naive or uncharitable position?
Our author writes: “I, for instance, acknowledge the possibility that Christianity is correct. … As I argue in chapter 1, if there are 100 religions in the world, with equal chances of being right (and from here, we cannot tell the difference), then each has only a 1% chance of being right. That’s nothing to get too excited about.” No, they don’t all have equal chances to be right. Yes, you can tell the difference, unless you are from the very beginning prejudiced against all religions. One would think that a trained anthropologist would at least be capable of assigning rough probabilities to the religions he studies. But Eller doesn’t bother to evaluate each religion individually. He dismisses them all and precisely because of their very variety. I find it hard to believe that with so many traditions and practices to choose from, Eller has found nothing to his liking. Could it be that he is so cold as ice and so scientifically detached in his anthropological research that he has subconsciously developed contempt for the objects of his studies? “Why am I bothering with these pathetic humans and their miserable religions?” Eller thinks. “Wretches,” he goes on. “They are deep inside a box, and they do not even realize that they are in a box… or that a box exists. They live their lives enslaved to illusions, like the prisoners in the Plato’s cave. Filth. I am ashamed to be one of them.”
Again, Eller’s idea is that meeting the Other, “those who differ yet still deserve their humanity,” (128) will lead you to a more objective view of various cultures. That’s all to the good. But I do not see why encountering other religions must convince you of the falsity of your own, and if it does so convince you, why it is contrary to reason to choose for yourself the best religion from among those you have studied rather than atheism. Just as Eller is unmoved in his beliefs by the existence of theistic cultures, neither need a Christian or a believer of any other faith be moved by the existence of Eller’s own atheistic culture.
In other words, Eller gives no evidence for his corollary (and absurd) claim that all religions are created equal and equally badly.
There is another problem here. Either ARD is sufficient by itself to prove atheism, or not. If it is sufficient, then no other arguments are required. Why then does Eller dedicate a short and incompetent chapter to the cosmological, etc. arguments for God’s existence? If it is not sufficient proof, then every concept of God and every attempted proof of God’s existence in every religion ought to be tested and judged by Eller on its own merits.
Nothing like this is attempted in this book. Eller merely casts a pox on all the religious houses, which is, needless to say, unhelpful.