The Argument from Locality
A new anti-theistic contention

"You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." --The Bible, Amos 3:2 (KJV)

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" --The Bible, Romans 10:14 (KJV)

I have formalized an argument that I have seen presented on other occasions in support of the conclusion that no version of theism is true. While other atheist writers have used aspects of it, it has not, as far as I know, been given a concise name. If I may remedy this, I would like to propose that this argument, which I present below, be henceforth referred to as the Argument from Locality.

The Argument from Locality runs as follows. Every religion currently being practiced on this planet, as well as every past religion which no longer has followers, has a definite, discernible origin in time and space. Even if the exact beginnings of a religion are murky, that religion still originated in a definite area and in a definite time period.

However, I argue that any god or gods which existed and which desired to reveal themselves to humanity would not do this - they would not provide a revelation to only one culture, at one time, in one place. There are several good reasons to believe this, and if it holds, then any religion which did have only a single point of origin cannot possibly be true. In short: The fact that all religions originated in one specific culture, at one specific time and place, points strongly to their being the product of that culture, time and place - and not the product of divine revelation.

For the Argument from Locality to hold, its key proposition - that no rational deity would create a religion with a single point of origin - must be defended. I believe it can be defended, for the following reasons:

In closing, consider what would refute the Argument from Locality. We could have found ourselves living in a world with only one religion, spread throughout the globe, with prophets from among every people. We could have found that, when we first contacted isolated native tribes, their religion was identical to one that already existed rather than being entirely their own. We could have found religions that bore no resemblance to the culture of their time and place of origin, in possession of advanced scientific knowledge or advanced ethical principles totally unlike what was commonly believed at the time. These are reasonable things to expect if there really was a god genuinely interested in revealing itself to humanity and being worshipped.

But in reality, we find none of these things. What we find are numerous contradictory and conflicting religions, some with specific "chosen" races or ethnicities, and the further separated they are in time and space, the more their beliefs clash. When we encounter previously isolated tribes, their religions are always new and unique. When we examine the ethical codes and scientific knowledge of religions, they always bear strong resemblances to the times and places where those religions originated. Under the assumption of atheism, this is precisely what we should expect.

One could, of course, argue that this does not prove anything, that God deliberately intended things to be this way. Maybe he has reasons of his own, unknowable to us, for sending his messengers to only one people. Maybe he decided not to disclose advanced knowledge to primitive people. Maybe he allows evil spirits to delude people into creating false religions. Maybe, maybe, maybe - but that is precisely the point. When one believes in supernatural beings that can violate the laws of nature at will and that have motivations inscrutable to humans, all grounds for believing one proposition over another vanish, all knowledge disappears. There is no longer any reason to expect any state of affairs rather than any other. Such a doctrine is impossible to falsify and leads to nothing but epistemic chaos. In explaining anything, theism turns out to explain nothing.

But atheism does not have the luxury of infinitely imaginative explanations unconstrained by fact. Given a few first principles - physical laws and observations whose existence no one disputes - atheism requires that the world can only be one way, and that is the way we in fact find it to be. Believers may argue why God set up the world in just the one way we would expect it to be if he did not exist, but for a freethinker, the conclusion is obvious.

Subsidiary Articles
The Unchosen People: After reading this article's statement that "it can hardly be a coincidence that every religion which claims God has a chosen people was founded by those who claimed they were the chosen people", contributor Ian Gallimore offered this amusing short piece on what the likely results would be if God revealed his will in these matters to people other than his chosen.

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