How to Spot a Where’s Waldo Atheist

We’ve just seen that the way atheists commonly approach the existence of God is fundamentally flawed. For the atheist, determining whether God exists is just like playing a game of Where’s Waldo.  They demand evidence of Waldo!  Show me Waldo!  The atheist can only conceptualize God as “one more thing” in our empirical reality and thus determining whether God exists is simply a matter of using “science and evidence” to find this “one more thing.”  Yet if God does indeed exist, He would not amount to just one more thing in our reality.  He would be the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists.  He would be the reason everything exists, not one more thing that exists.  As such, the atheist’s “Where’s Waldo” approach is inherently misguided and cannot generate any meaningful conclusion.

And there is evidence that indicates most atheists do indeed employ this “Where’s Waldo” approach to the question of God’s existence.  How would you spot them?

Have you ever noticed how so many atheists refer to God as god.  The big G is intentionally changed to a little g.  Why?  Because in doing so, god becomes more like a unicorn or fairy.  There is nothing remarkable about a god.  A god is just one more thing in our reality.  A curious thing, yes, but just another thing.  In fact, many atheists go even further and speaks of “the gods” instead of God.  A group of gods becomes even more unremarkable.   By turning God into “god” and then “the gods,” the atheist is trying to turn God into Waldo for purposes of their game.

Look, for many years I have noticed that atheists prefer to refer to God as “god” or “the gods.”  It makes me no difference, so I have never said anything about it nor have I ever complained.  But now it has occurred to me how this is symptomatic of the Where’s Waldo approach.  It’s evidence that I am right about the common atheist approach.  And that is precisely why I draw attention to it now.

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27 Responses to How to Spot a Where’s Waldo Atheist

  1. Ilíon says:

    Good point. At the same time, I think some of them change ‘God’ to ‘god’ for the same reason that some of them use ‘she’ instead if ‘he’ to refer to “god”: they do it hoping to annoy Christians.

  2. Neil Rickert says:

    Have you ever noticed how so many atheists refer to God as god. The big G is intentionally changed to a little g. Why?

    You may be misunderstanding that.

    As far as I know, the convention is to use “G” for the god that you accept or honor, and to use “g” for other claimed gods that you do not accept. Many Christians seem to follow the same convention.

  3. TFBW says:

    That’s not how I understand it, Neil. A lower-case “god” is just a category term, like “dog”. Zeus is a god; so is Thor. Fido is a dog; so is Scraps. The upper-case God is not just a god, but a unique being without peer. It makes no sense to refer to God with an indefinite article, any more than it makes sense to refer to the number two with an indefinite article. Various monotheists might disagree on the characteristics of God, but they are at least discussing the same concept. In the same way, mathematicians of yore may have argued over whether pi or the square root of two can be exactly expressed as ratios. They can’t, as it happens, but the argument was a meaningful one, and the numbers being discussed were comprehensible despite the unknowns.

    If you think of it merely as an honorific, then you are missing the point by so much that it must be said you do not understand the position you are rejecting. “God” and “god” are extremely different concepts. Michael seems to have hit a good point. I’ve always perceived that the lower-casing used by atheists was meant to be an exhibition of disrespect—a kind of pettiness I shrug off in order to focus on actual arguments—but it hadn’t occurred to me that it was also indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding of the underlying concepts.

  4. Neil says:

    Maybe it’s like when Christians put speech marks around ‘marriage’ when they’re referring to same sex marriage.

    Or maybe it’s to draw attention to the fact that YHWH is one of many gods. There’s no evidence he’s any more real than, say, Allah or one of his contemporaries like Baal. You’d think if he was ‘the Creator and Sustainer’ of all things that he’d be… well, just little more apparent, don’t you think? He wouldn’t need weak and fallible humans to argue his case for him, would he. He’d have a real presence that would be distinct and independent from human imagination. As it is, he hasn’t.

    Just saying.

  5. TFBW says:

    Well, I’m not seeing anything in that comment which weakens Michael’s case. Or mine.

  6. Michael says:

    You may be misunderstanding that.

    As far as I know, the convention is to use “G” for the god that you accept or honor, and to use “g” for other claimed gods that you do not accept. Many Christians seem to follow the same convention.

    It wouldn’t really matter. The topic of this thread is how to spot a Where’s Waldo atheist, not the original intent behind the little “g”. It’s become clear to me that the little “g” is symptomatic of the Where’s Waldo approach. When one’s mind thinks of God as “a god,” one is poised to embrace the Where’s Waldo approach as if it can determine truth. And, of course, to make matters worse, atheists think the way to spot Waldo is to find a Gap. 😉

  7. Ilíon says:

    TFBW:I’ve always perceived that the lower-casing used by atheists was meant to be an exhibition of disrespect—a kind of pettiness I shrug off in order to focus on actual arguments—but it hadn’t occurred to me that it was also indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding of the underlying concepts.

    Even when they use the term ‘God’, rather than ‘god’, evangelical atheists persist in viewing God as just another god — they argue (when they bother to argue) against Zeus, who is an effect of “the universe”, and pretend they have refuted God, who is the cause of “the universe”.

  8. Ilíon says:

    Well, I’m not seeing anything in that comment which weakens Michael’s case. Or mine.

    And you never will, for *all* God-deniers are fools, they are all intellectually dishonest with respect to God.

  9. Stardusty Psyche says:

    “And there is evidence that indicates most atheists do indeed employ this “Where’s Waldo” approach to the question of God’s existence. How would you spot them?”
    Yes, where is Waldo? If you look carefully enough you can find him in the picture. Yet god insists on hiding such that even under the closest examination he remains hidden, just like something that isn’t really there.

    “Because in doing so, god becomes more like a unicorn or fairy.”
    Yes, god is much like a unicorn or a fairy, just a fantasy that is never found in real life. What’s your point?

    ” But now it has occurred to me how this is symptomatic of the Where’s Waldo approach.”
    It’s the theist who keeps playing where’s Waldo every time he tries to present an argument for the existence of god and evidence for intelligent design.

    The theist is continually pointing at some argument or some feature of biology and then declaring “There’s Waldo!!!” Invariably, when we look where the theist is pointing there is no Waldo there, just some half baked nonsense that could only be evidence for Waldo to those who are already under the delusion that unicorns and fairies are real.

  10. pennywit says:

    Have you ever noticed how so many atheists refer to God as god. The big G is intentionally changed to a little g. Why? Because in doing so, god becomes more like a unicorn or fairy. There is nothing remarkable about a god. A god is just one more thing in our reality. A curious thing, yes, but just another thing. In fact, many atheists go even further and speaks of “the gods” instead of God. A group of gods becomes even more unremarkable. By turning God into “god” and then “the gods,” the atheist is trying to turn God into Waldo for purposes of their game.

    Multiple motives. Sometimes disrespect. Sometimes it’s to emphasize that an atheist rejects not just the monotheistic concept of a singular God, but the polytheistic concept of multiple gods.

  11. Featherfoot says:

    It’s not central to this discussion, but for the minority interested in the proper, grammatical reasons whether one should capitalize words like “god” or “bible”, I recommend this article by a former Christian and former English teacher. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rivers/2016/08/yes-you-should-capitalize-bible-and-god-sometimes/ The short answer is that it depends on what someone is really referring to. Of course, as Pennywit mentions, that’s assuming one wants to follow proper grammar rather than make some other point.

  12. John Branyan says:

    “Or maybe it’s to draw attention to the fact that YHWH is one of many gods…You’d think if he was ‘the Creator and Sustainer’ of all things that he’d be… well, just little more apparent, don’t you think?”

    Yes! You should be able to see God busily sustaining everything. You ought to catch a glimpse of God pulling levers and turning dials to keep all the laws of nature functioning. If God was real, you could see him with your infallible eyes and comprehend Him with your infallible mind. Is that what you’re saying?

  13. pennywit says:

    The short answer is that it depends on what someone is really referring to. Of course, as Pennywit mentions, that’s assuming one wants to follow proper grammar rather than make some other point

    I generally try to follow the rule for proper names. God, capitalized, is the name of the deity Christians and Jews worship. Allah is the proper name used by Muslims for the same deity. A god (lowercase) is an deity that people of a faith worship. “Zeus, the god of lightning.” Or “the monotheistic god.”

  14. Michael says:

    pennywit: Multiple motives. Sometimes disrespect. Sometimes it’s to emphasize that an atheist rejects not just the monotheistic concept of a singular God, but the polytheistic concept of multiple gods.

    My reply would the same one I made to Neil:

    “It wouldn’t really matter. The topic of this thread is how to spot a Where’s Waldo atheist, not the original intent behind the little “g”. It’s become clear to me that the little “g” is symptomatic of the Where’s Waldo approach. When one’s mind thinks of God as “a god,” one is poised to embrace the Where’s Waldo approach as if it can determine truth.”

    And along comes Stardusty to illustrate my point: “Yes, god is much like a unicorn or a fairy”

  15. FZM says:

    I generally try to follow the rule for proper names. God, capitalized, is the name of the deity Christians and Jews worship. Allah is the proper name used by Muslims for the same deity. A god (lowercase) is an deity that people of a faith worship. “Zeus, the god of lightning.” Or “the monotheistic god.”

    As far as I know Yahweh is the personal name of the deity Christians and Jews worship. ‘God’ names a nature, usually it refers to something possessing all of the omni-attributes and being metaphysically ultimate. You see the term being used by Hindus as well as Christians and Jews when they are talking about theistic elements in Hinduism and referring to this kind of being. Allah is the Arabic word for the Theistic God, so Christians who have Arabic as their language call the Holy Trinity Allah.

    ‘god’ refers to beings which don’t have the omni-attributes and whose existence is contingent, not necessary.

    I think as familiarity with religious beliefs and philosophy of religion (this seems to extend to philosophy in general in Anglo countries) has declined and debates have become fragmented a lot more confusion has arisen around the terminology. In some ways this can be seen to favour atheism, because ‘God’ as I defined above is a more abstract, complex concept than ‘a god’.

  16. Neil says:

    Of course I’m not saying we should be able to see god/God pulling levers and twiddling dials. I’m saying there should be some external, independent evidence of this incredible being. As it is he has to be argued for. The very fact you have to do this militates against his actual existence.

    You make this case yourself in using Waldo as your analogy (it’s significant you choose a fictional character to argue for the existence of another); there is no need to argue for the (fictional) existence of Waldo because he can be seen, if you try hard enough, in the pages of his books. Similarly, there’s no reason to argue for the existence of Trump; there is plenty of evidence that he’s real (unfortunately). But God – he has to be argued for. This, I suggest, is one reason why atheists sometimes use a small ‘g’. Your god/God is one of many and the evidence for his existence is about as good as the evidence for all the others, i.e. minimal.

    Dismiss what I say if you like. You are intent on believing your caricature of an atheist regardless of what any actual atheist says. You need your strawman, after all. And you’ll continue to believe in your god regardless of the absence of evidence. ‘Ah but, we don’t need evidence,’ you cry. ‘Our god is transcendent, invisible, ineffable; he can’t be seen or measured in any way. Yet we know him, we see his agency in the world (what’s that if not a measurable behaviour?) and we feel his presence in our heads.’ That’s fine; but don’t whinge about others who don’t share these ill-defined beliefs in a god that has to be argued for, and who reflect their disbelief by giving ‘him’ a small ‘g’.

  17. Michael says:

    Neil: Of course I’m not saying we should be able to see god/God pulling levers and twiddling dials. I’m saying there should be some external, independent evidence of this incredible being.

    Then what would count as this external, independent evidence of God?

    As it is he has to be argued for. The very fact you have to do this militates against his actual existence.

    Says you. I don’t see it that way. That “he has to be argued for” merely means the mind sees.

    You make this case yourself in using Waldo as your analogy (it’s significant you choose a fictional character to argue for the existence of another); there is no need to argue for the (fictional) existence of Waldo because he can be seen, if you try hard enough, in the pages of his books. Similarly, there’s no reason to argue for the existence of Trump; there is plenty of evidence that he’s real (unfortunately). But God – he has to be argued for. This, I suggest, is one reason why atheists sometimes use a small ‘g’. Your god/God is one of many and the evidence for his existence is about as good as the evidence for all the others, i.e. minimal.

    Since you’re looking for little g god, you need the photoreceptors in your retina to be stimulated (both Waldo and Trump satisfied this criterion). But are you sure that anything that is real will stimulate your retinas? And notice that in your demand, detecting god is like detecting a drawing on a page. You passively sit back, survey, and……..judge. Surely, this must be the way to see God.

    Dismiss what I say if you like. You are intent on believing your caricature of an atheist regardless of what any actual atheist says. You need your strawman, after all.

    What you are saying supports my point. You come across as a Where’s Waldo atheist.

    And you’ll continue to believe in your god regardless of the absence of evidence. ‘Ah but, we don’t need evidence,’ you cry. ‘

    Er, no. I see plenty of evidence. I just don’t have the slightest clue as to what you would count as evidence for God’s existence. How can you be so sure there is an “absence of evidence?” Because YOU don’t see it?

    That’s fine; but don’t whinge about others who don’t share these ill-defined beliefs in a god that has to be argued for, and who reflect their disbelief by giving ‘him’ a small ‘g’.

    Huh? I don’t care if you believe in God or god or gods or not. I react to being labeled delusional and/or stupid for seeing God. I react to being told that we need to adopt a Where’s Waldo approach, or the god of the gaps approach, to see God.

  18. Mel Wild says:

    I love how atheists come on your blog and prove your point! If we did find Waldo, he certainly wouldn’t be what Christians call God. He would be a created being being held together like everyone else in the natural world.

    As far as empirical evidence, we exist. What is holding us together right now that does not need to be held together itself? And why do we exist in the first place? It’s not where’s Waldo; it’s why Waldo?

  19. Ilíon says:

    Of course I’m not saying we should be able to see god/God pulling levers and twiddling dials. I’m saying there should be some external, independent evidence of this incredible being. As it is he has to be argued for. The very fact you have to do this militates against his actual existence.

    Gentle Reader may recall that I habitually point out that God-deniers will *always* retreat into anti-reason so as to protect their God-denial from critical evaluation (to say nothing of the self-contradiction expressed in just these few sentences).

  20. Isaac says:

    The atheist position in this analogy would be, “We do not find any artists in the picture; therefore this picture was drawn by no one.”

  21. Ilíon says:

    Isaac,
    Or better yet: “We cannot find an evidence of a ‘Singer’ in this song. Therefore, there is no ‘Singer’

    This point of my analogy being that —
    1) The Singer is ontologically prior to the Song;
    2) The Singer and the Song are distinct;
    3) The Song is inseparable from the Singer:
    3a) The Song does not/cannot exist separably from existence of the Singer;
    3b) The Song does not/cannot exist separably from the Singer singing it;

  22. John Branyan says:

    “I’m saying there should be some external, independent evidence of this incredible being.”

    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you can’t/won’t elucidate what you mean by ‘some external, independent evidence’. You are intent on believing your caricature of theism regardless of what any actual theist says.

  23. pennywit says:

    I think things break down around the issue of different Waldos. In a “Where’s Waldo” picture, I can eventually find Waldo because he’s standing right there in his trademark shirt and glasses. That’s direct evidence.

    I think that for a nontheist, the standard “there’s God” argument breaks down because the evidence of God is indirect — the theist might point to the warm sun, the beautiful sky, the balmy temperature and say “There’s God.” But it’s indirect evidence, not direct — there’s no God popping up in a striped shirt to say “Here I am!!”

    I think the “There’s God!” argument also relies on the presupposition that God exists and therefore must have created all this stuff. Of course, the “Nuh-uh, there’s no God here!” argument also relies on the presupposition that there is no deity.

    Which is all very circular and frustrating. It gets us back to fitting arguments to our particular postulates.

  24. Kevin says:

    It helps when the type of evidence you will accept isn’t designed to exclude God from consideration.

  25. Neil says:

    As Michael admits, there is no independent evidence for God. Instead, he ‘sees him in his mind’. How is this any different from the Muslim who ‘sees’ Allah or the Hindu who ‘sees’ Vishna. It isn’t. All this seeing in the mind is another way of saying you imagine him. Despite all the pseudo-intellectual apologetics here, imagining something in your head is noir evidence the imagined thing exists.

    So what sort of evidence would convince an atheist like me your God is real? Maybe if any of Jesus’ many predictions and promises had come to pass when he said they would. Maybe if God removed Coronavirus from the Earth as many of your number are praying for and then communicated directly with us, as supposedly he once used to do, and said, ‘it was me.’
    Your God doesn’t work this way? Too right he doesn’t. He’s no more effective than Superman and every bit as fictitious.

  26. RobertM says:

    “ Your God doesn’t work this way? Too right he doesn’t. He’s no more effective than Superman and every bit as fictitious.”

    No, we don’t think God works like a genie granting wishes. Meanwhile hospitals, which have their roots in religious institutions, and in the West, specifically Christian traditions of caring for the sick and poor, are going to have their hands full caring for everyone. Once again looking for cheap magic tricks as evidence of God, when the evidence is all around you should you choose to see.

  27. Kevin says:

    As Michael admits, there is no independent evidence for God.

    That would be a lie.

    God. Instead, he ‘sees him in his mind’

    In addition to lying, you are also guilty of using the most uncharitable representations of his point, which is merely that there is no such thing as truly independent evidence. All must be interpreted.

    And then you use a strawman to claim he is simply imagining God. So lying, uncharitable representations, and strawmen. The power of the reasonable atheist.

    Maybe if any of Jesus’ many predictions and promises had come to pass when he said they would.

    He predicted he would be betrayed. He was. He predicted he would be crucified. He was. He said he would come back. He did.

    But let me guess. You didn’t actually mean what you said, did you?

    Lying, misrepresentation, strawmen, and moving goalposts. Wish I was an atheist so I could be that rational.

    Maybe if God removed Coronavirus from the Earth as many of your number are praying for

    God isn’t a genie. Another strawman.

    and then communicated directly with us, as supposedly he once used to do, and said, ‘it was me.’

    Those pesky aliens posing as God.

    He’s no more effective than Superman and every bit as fictitious.

    Sounds like your powers of reasoning, based on your last post. Perhaps you should try harder.

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