Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

The Problem of Alternative Monotheisms: Another Serious Challenge to Theism

Raphael Lataster


Theistic and analytic philosophers of religion typically privilege classical theism by ignoring or underestimating the great threat of alternative monotheisms.[1] In this article we discuss numerous god-models, such as those involving weak, stupid, evil, morally indifferent, and non-revelatory gods. We find that theistic philosophers have not successfully eliminated these and other possibilities, or argued for their relative improbability. In fact, based on current evidence – especially concerning the hiddenness of God and the gratuitous evils in the world – many of these hypotheses appear to be more probable than theism. Also considering the – arguably infinite – number of alternative monotheisms, the inescapable conclusion is that theism is a very improbable god-concept, even when it is assumed that one and only one transcendent god exists.

[1] I take ‘theism’ to mean ‘classical theism’, which is but one of many possible monotheisms. Avoiding much of the discussion around classical theism, I wish to focus on the challenges in arguing for theism over monotheistic alternatives. I consider theism and alternative monotheisms as entailing the notion of divine transcendence.


Theism; deism; quasi-deism; The Evil God Challenge; argument from alternative monotheisms

Full Text:



Bass, Robert. “Inscrutable evils: still numerous, still relevant.” International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 75, no. 4 (2014): 379–384. doi:10.1080/21692327.2015.1008024.

—. “Many Inscrutable Evils.” Ars Disputandi 11, no. 1 (2011): 118–132.

Baxter, Stephen. “The Planetarium Hypothesis: A Resolution of the Fermi Paradox.” Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 54, no. 5/6 (2001): 210–216.

Betts, C. J. Early Deism in France: From the so-called ‘déistes’ of Lyon (1564) to Voltaire’s ‘Lettres philosophiques’ (1734) The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1984.

Byrne, Peter. Natural Religion and the Nature of Religion: The Legacy of Deism New York: Routledge, 1989.

Cottingham, John. Philosophy of Religion: Towards a More Humane Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 3rd ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008.

Cuneo, Terence. “Another look at divine hiddenness.” Religious Studies 49, no. 2 (2013): 151–164. doi:10.1017/S0034412513000048.

Daniels, Charles B. “God, demon, good, evil.” The Journal of Value Inquiry 31, no. 2 (1997): 177–181. doi:10.1023/A:1004275010090.

DeGeneres, Ellen. My Point... and I Do Have One. New York: Bantam, 1995.

Finkelstein, Israel, and Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts. New York: Free Press, 2002.

Fischer, Anne, Victor Wiebe, Svante Pääbo, and Molly Przeworski. “Evidence for a Complex Demographic History of Chimpanzees.” Molecular Biology and Evolution 21, no. 5 (2004): 799–808. doi:10.1093/molbev/msh083.

Gavin, Theresa Porter and Helen. “Infanticide and Neonaticide: A Review of 40 Years of Research Literature on Incidence and Causes.” Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 11, no. 3 (2010): 99–112. doi:10.1177/1524838010371950.

Göhner, Julia, Marie I. Kaiser, and Christian Suhm. “Is Simplicity an Adequate Criterion of Theory Choice?” In Richard Swinburne: Christian Philosophy in a Modern World, edited by Nicola Mößner, Sebastian Schmoranzer and Christian Weidemann. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2008.

Ham, Ken. “’We’ll Find a New Earth within 20 Years’.” Accessed 29/07/2014.

Korbmacher, Johannes, Sebastian Schmoranzer, and Ansgar Seide. “Simply False? Swinburne on Simplicity as Evidence of Truth.” In Richard Swinburne: Christian Philosophy in a Modern World, edited by Nicola Mößner, Sebastian Schmoranzer and Christian Weidemann. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2008.

Kosso, Peter. Reading the Book of Nature: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992.

Lataster, Raphael. “Bayesian Reasoning: Criticising the ‘Criteria of Authenticity’ and Calling for a Review of Biblical Criticism.” Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences 5, no. 2 (2013): 271–293.

—. “A Philosophical and Historical Analysis of William Lane Craig’s Resurrection of Jesus Argument.” Think 14, no. 39 (2015): 59–71. doi:10.1017/S1477175614000219.

Lataster, Raphael, and Herman Philipse. “The Problem of Polytheisms: A Serious Challenge to Theism.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, no. 3: 233–46. (2015). doi: 10.1007/s11153–015–9554-x.

Law, Stephen. “The Evil-God Challenge.” Religious Studies 46, no. 3 (2010): 353–373. doi:10.1017/S0034412509990369.

Moll, Sebastian. The Arch-Heretic Marcion. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010.

Naylor, Grant. Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers. London: Penguin Books, 1989.

Oppy, Graham Robert. Arguing about Gods. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006.

—. “God, God* and God’.” In Faith and Reason: Friends Or Foes in the New Millennium?, edited by Anthony Fisher and Hayden Ramsay, 171–186. Adelaide, Australia: ATF Press, 2004.

Philipse, Herman. God in the Age of Science?: A Critique of Religious Reason. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012.

Pleše, Zlatko. Poetics of the Gnostic Universe: Narrative and Cosmology in the Apocryphon of John. Leiden: Brill, 2006.

Rowe, William. “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism.” American Philosophical Quarterly 16, no. 4 (1979): 335–341.

Saka, Paul. “Pascal’s Wager and the Many Gods Objection.” Religious Studies 37, no. 3 (2001): 321–341. doi:10.1017/S0034412501005686.

Sobel, Jordan Howard. Logic and Theism: Arguments for and against Beliefs in God. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004.

Swinburne, Richard. The Existence of God. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.

—. Is There a God? Revised ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2010.

van Fraassen, Bas C. The Scientific Image. Oxford: Clarendon, 1980.

Ward, Keith. “The Evil God Challenge — A Response.” Think 14, no. 40 (2015): 43–49. doi:10.1017/S1477175615000123.

Watanabe, Teresa. “Doubting the Story of Exodus.” Accessed 06/07/2015.

Weinstein, James. “Exodus and the Archaeological Reality.” In Exodus: The Egyptian Evidence, edited by Ernest S. Frerichs and Leonard H. Lesko. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997.

Wells, H. G. The Time Machine. London: Penguin, 2012.

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


  • There are currently no refbacks.