Since A. C. Grayling has surfaced in the ComBox here, it it will be useful for people to see just what sort of fellow he is. So over the next few days I will reproduce three or four of my Grayling posts from the old site.
Religious belief of all kinds shares the same intellectual respectability, evidential base, and rationality as belief in the existence of fairies.
This remark outrages the sensibilities of those who have deep religious convictions and attachments, and they regard it as insulting. But the truth is that everyone takes this attitude about all but one (or a very few) of the gods that have ever been claimed to exist.
No reasonably orthodox Christian believes in Aphrodite or the rest of the Olympian deities, or in Ganesh the Elephant God or the rest of the Hindu pantheon, or in the Japanese emperor, and so endlessly on - and officially (as a matter of Christian orthodoxy) he or she must say that anyone who sincerely believes in such deities is deluded and blasphemously in pursuit of "false gods".
The atheist adds just one more deity to the list of those not believed in; namely, the one remaining on the Christian's or Jew's or Muslim's list.
1. Every believer in a given religion regards the gods of other religions as either nonexistent, or rationally insupportable, or not intellectually respectable, or 'false gods,' and so on.
2. The atheist adds just one more item to the list of deities denied by the believers in a given religion, for example, the deity of Judaism, or that of Christianity, or that of Islam.
3. Religious belief of every sort is irrational, etc.
That's the argument, muchachos! It is so bad it takes the breath away. The obvious problem with it is that it is invalid: (3) does not follow from (1) and (2). Indeed, it is difficult to see how (3) is so much as relevant to (1) and (2). Even if the premises are both true, it is easy to see how the conclusion could be false. Suppose there is a religion whose conception of God is rationally supportable. This supposition is consistent with the fact, if it is a fact, that every believer regards the other guy's god as rationally insupportable or nonexistent, and the fact that atheists deny all gods.
To have a valid argument, Grayling needs to argue along these lines:
1*. Every believer in a given religion RIGHTLY regards the gods of other religions as rationally insupportable, etc.
2*. The atheist takes it a step further and RIGHTLY regards all gods as rationally insupportable, etc.
3*. Religious belief of every sort is rationally insupportable, etc.
This is a valid argument, but it is obviously a petitio principii: one would have to know that the conclusion is true to know that the second premise is true. Further, the first premise by itself suffices to establish the conclusion, but again it is a petitio principii.
The upshot of this exercise in analysis is that Professor Grayling has given us no decent argument at all. He has merely underscored his conviction that all religion is buncombe. The verbiage I quoted above is just his pounding of his fist on the lectern. But we already knew that atheists think religion a load of rubbish.
Either Grayling is just venting or he is arguing. If he is venting, we show him the door. If arguing, then we point out that the argument suggested by the passage quoted is worthless. But perhaps he can do better.
Finally, note the assumption that Grayling and Co. make: they assume that every object of religious belief is on a par. It is all the same whether you believe in a flying spaghetti monster, an angry lunar unicorn, Russell's celestial teapot, or the God of Thomas Aquinas. Well, that is just not the case as I have already argued.