Wednesday, February 6, 2008

500 Dead Gods

If you believe, there should be this nagging doubt in your head. In the course of human history, there have been countless other believers in gods different from and mutually exclusive to your god. They all were sure that their god was the only or best game in town. They felt the same conviction you do. They thought their religion had the privileged place in history just like you do. They didn’t take any of the other gods that other people believe or believed in seriously—those seemed like alien and distant possibilities, just like you feel about their gods. They failed to reflect on the historical, social, and cultural role that their god played in their culture that made it so analogous to all of the other gods and other cultures. They figured that the religious worldview that they happened to be born into also just happened to be the one and only one correct one in the entire history of the human race.

So a reasonable person would have to ask herself: if my god and his relationship to me in history looks just like their god and his relationship to them, and if their god isn’t real, what exactly makes mine different? Is it reasonable to think that mine is different and that it’s only me and the tiny group of people who happen to believe just like I do that got it right?

J.L. Schellenberg, in “Pluralism and Probability,” Religious Studies, 33, 143-159. 1997, argues that the odds are always going to favor the conclusion that your view is wrong in this situation. There are just too many other gods out there that undermine the probability that you’ve got the right one.

H.L. Mencken has a great essay here about the long list of dead gods: Memorial Service

Here's a list of 500 dead gods to get us started:

Aa, Aah, Abil Addu, Addu, Adeona, Adjassou-Linguetor, Adjinakou, Adya Houn'tò, Agassou, Agé, Agwé, Ahijah, Ahti, Aizen Myō-ō, Ajisukitakahikone, Ak Ana, Aken , Aker , Äkräs, Aku, Allatu, Altjira, Amano-Iwato, Ame-no-Koyane, Am-heh, Amihan, Amon-Re, Amun, Amurru, Anapel, Anath, Andjety, Anhur, Anit, Anu, Anubis, Apsu, Arianrod, Ash , Ashtoreth, Assur, Astarte, Aten, Atum, Ayida-Weddo, Ayizan, Azaka Medeh, Azaka-Tonnerre, Azumi-no-isora, Baal, Bacalou, Badessy, Bagadjimbiri, Bahloo, Baiame, Bakunawa, Bamapana, Banaitja, Ba-Pef, Baron Cimetière, Baron La Croix, Baron Samedi, Barraiya, Bata , Bathala, Bau, Beltis, Beltu, Belus, Bernardo Carpio, Bes, Biamie, Bilé, Binbeal, Boli Shah, Bossou Ashadeh, Budai, Budai, Bugady Musun, Bugid Y Aiba, Bunjil, Cai Shen, Ceros, Chenti-cheti, Chi You, Chimata-No-Kami, Chun Kwan, Cihang Zhenren, City god, Clermeil, Congo (loa), Consus, Cronos, Cunina, Dagan, Dagda, Dagon, Daikokuten, Damballa, Dan Petro, Dan Wédo, Dauke, Dea Dia, Dhakhan, Diable Tonnere, Diana of Ephesus, Diejuste, Dimmer, Dinclinsin, Dragon King, Dragon King of the East Sea, Duamutef, Dumu-zi-abzu, Ea, Ebisu, Edulia, El, Elali, Elder Zhang Guo, Elum, Engurra, Enki, Enma, En-Mersi, Enurestu, Erlang Shen, Erzulie, Ezili Dantor, Fan Kuai, Fei Lian, Feng Bo, Four sons of Horus, Fu Lu Shou, Fu Xi, Fūjin, Fukurokuju, Furrina, Futsunushi, Gasan lil, Gasan-abzu, Goibniu, Gong Gong, Govannon, Gran Maître, Grand Bois, Guan Yu, Guangchengzi, Gunfled, Gwydion, Hachiman, Hadad, Hakudo Maru, Han Xiang, Hapi, Hapy, Heka , Hemen, Hermanubis, Hermes , Heryshaf, Hoderi, Hongjun Laozu, Hoori, Horus, Houyi, Huang Feihu, Hung Shing, Iah, Ibong Adarna, Iku-Turso, Ilmatar, Ilmatar, Imhotep, Imset, Iron-Crutch Li, Isis, Istar, Isum, Iuno Lucina, Izanagi, Jade Emperor, Jar'Edo Wens, Ji Gong, Julana, Jumala, Jupiter, Juroujin, Kaawan, Kagu-tsuchi, Kalfu, Kalma, Kara Khan, Karora, Kerridwen, Khaltesh-Anki, Khepri, Khnum, Khonsu, Kidili, Kini'je, Kitchen God, Kneph, Kōjin, Ksitigarbha, Kui Xing, Kuk, Kumakatok, Kuski-banda, Kuu, Ku'urkil, Lagas, Lan Caihe, Lei Gong, Leizhenzi, Lempo, Ler, Li Jing , L'inglesou, Llaw Gyffes, Lleu, Loco (loa), Lü Dongbin, Lugal-Amarada, Maahes, Ma-banba-anna, Mademoiselle Charlotte, Maîtresse Délai, Maîtresse Hounon'gon, Maman Brigitte, Mamaragan, Mami, Mamlambo, Manawyddan, Mandulis, Mangar-kunjer-kunja, Marassa Jumeaux, Marduk, Maria Cacao, Maria Makiling, Maria Sinukuan, Marinette, Mars, Marzin, Matet boat, Mayari, Mbaba Mwana Waresa, Meditrina, Mehen, Melek, Memetona, Menthu, Merodach, Mider, Mielikki, Min , Molech, Mombu, Morrigu, Mounanchou, Mulu-hursang, Mu-ul-lil, Muzha , Na Tuk Kong, Nana Buluku, Naunet, Nebo, Nehebkau, Nergal, Nezha , Nga, Nin, Ninib, Ninigi-no-Mikoto, Nin-lil-la, Nin-man, Nio, Nirig, Ni-zu, Njirana, Nogomain, Nuada Argetlam, Numakulla, Num-Torum, Nusku, Nu'tenut, Nyyrikki, Odin, Ogma, Ogoun, Ogoun, Ogyrvan, Ohoyamatsumi, Ōkuninushi, Omoikane (Shinto), Ops, Osiris, Pa-cha, Pangu, Papa Legba, Peko, Perkele, Persephone, Petbe, Pie (loa), Pluto, Potina, Ptah, Pugu, Pundjel, Pwyll, Qarradu, Qebehsenuef, Qin Shubao, Qingxu Daode Zhenjun, Ra, Raijin, Randeng Daoren, Rauni , Resheph, Rigantona, Robigus, Royal Uncle Cao, Ryūjin, Saa, Sahi, Samas, Sarutahiko, Saturn, Sebek, Seker, Serapis, Sesmu, Shakpana, Shalem, Shangdi, Shango, Sharrab, Shen , Shennong, Shezmu, Shina-Tsu-Hiko, Simbi, Sin, Sirtumu, Sobek, Sobkou, Sōjōbō, Sokk-mimi, Sopdu, Sousson-Pannan, Statilinus, Suijin, Suiren, Suqamunu, Susanoo, Tagd, Taiyi Zhenren, Tala, Tam Kung, Tammuz, Tapio, Tenenet, Tengu, Tenjin, Theban Triad, Thoth, Ti Jean Quinto, Ti Malice, Tian, Ti-Jean Petro, Tilmun, Todote, Toko'yoto, Tomam, Tu Di Gong, Tu Er Shen, Tuonetar, Tuoni, Ubargisi, Ubilulu, U-dimmer-an-kia, Ueras, Ugayafukiaezu, U-ki, Ukko, UKqili, Umai, U-Mersi, Umvelinqangi, Ungud, Unkulunkulu, Ura-gala, U-sab-sib, Usiququmadevu, U-Tin-dir-ki, U-urugal, Vaisravana, Vaticanus, Vediovis, Vellamo, Venus, Vesta, Wadj-wer, Wen Zhong , Weneg, Wenshu Guangfa Tianzun, Wepwawet, Werethekau, Wollunqua, Wong Tai Sin, Wuluwaid, Xargi, Xaya Iccita, Xevioso, Xuan Wu , Yama, Yau, Yemaja, Youchao, Yuanshi Tianzun, Yuchi Jingde, Yunzhongzi, Zagaga, Zaraqu, Zer-panitu, Zhang Guifang, Zheng Lun, Zhongli Quan, Zhu Rong , Zonget.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

You may want to know more about the God of the death actually, the god of the death is Time. Time is the God of Creation as well as destruction.

Alexander Geiger said...

The plethora of gods does speak to a diminished probability that any particular faith has a, as Descartes would say, Clear and Distinct perception of God. However, could it not also be that all of these particular faiths were merely manifestations of the same God? Each particular pantheon seems to correspond to the environment the worshiping tribe lived in. The most important gods almost always reflect the most predominant features of the tribe's environment. Were God to make one strict and universal faith, it seems it would only serve to confuse and complicate the lives of the worshipers. After all, what need has a Bedouin Warrior of Ma-tsu, the Chinese Goddess of the Sea, or Ullr, the Norse God of Snow? Since these individual faiths often serve to better the lives of their worshippers, such as providing cohesion amongst disparate tribes or providing a basis for law and order, it stands to reason that a a being with the properties of God ought be able to figure out that a manifestation tailored to a specific tribe's needs would be better than a monolithic God that stood for everything and fell beyond the scope of their understanding.

Just a Thought

paulv said...

if you ask 500 people to ask what is inside a sealed room, and get 500 answers. We may agree that my answer is not likely to be correct, but its chances are not really affected by its degree of similarity to other guesses, or the total number of other guesses.

Because most theories of gravity have turned out to be wrong (incomplete?), it does not follow that these theories are not useful, or that no theory will ever be right.

Explicit Atheist said...

Gravity is measureable, it is a product of the curvature of space-time by mass, it is represented in in the framework of quantum field theory by a massless elementary particle with spin of 2 called the Graviton. Comparing our incomplete knowledge of gravity, which is a symptom of our not having a "theory of everything", with the complete lack of evidence or justification for gods, makes for a rather poor analogy.

Matt McCormick said...

Thanks all for the comments. PaulV, you make a good point, but it's not relevant to my argument. If you're playing a lottery and you've isolated your thinking so much that you think there's only one possible outcome, then you'll expect (unreasonably) to win. But if you take the broader view and realize that there are 500, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of possible outcomes for the lottery, then you'll reassess the likelihood that you're going to win to get it more in line with reality.

MM

s d owen said...

Matt, don't you know that eventually one of these religions is going to get it right?

Sheesh, why so skeptical? Look at how useful all these dead gods have been at getting people to eat one another, rape, and murder.

Paul V has it exactly right.

paulv said...

Perhaps gravity was a poor choice, but if you replace God with worldview in the post, you get essentially the same argument. There have been countless societies with countless worldviews, each able to smugly point to other societies with clearly faulty world views. Yet each of these worldviews has faded, and so presumably will our modern ones. The argument should create a reticence to smugly judge other worldviews. Does it mean that having a worldview is wrong?
I don't think so. Is the fact that there have been many wrong theistic and atheistic worldviews a reason to reject either atheistic or theistic worldviews in general? I don't think so either. While the odds of a particular worldview being completely correct are astronomically small, some worldviews are still far better than others (this is not a judgment of them, but an estimate of the probability that they are all of equal value). The usefulness and degree of correctness is not likely to depend on the sheer number of worldviews that have existed already.

Re rape, killing etc caused by religion. Since the five year war in Gombe, shows clearly that war, violence, and gratuitous cruelty are not caused solely by theistic religions, the premise that all theistic worldviews are by nature more prone to cruelty say, than any atheistic worldview does not seem very sound.
Men are on average stronger than women, and fireman need strength. Excluding women as fireman does not guarantee a better force, because some women are stronger than some men.
The fact that the last 500 women were weaker than you is not a sound argument to conclude that the next woman will be.
Even if we agree that atheistic worldviews are on average better in some ways than theistic worldviews, it does not follow that a given atheistic worldview is better than a given theistic worldview. Each has to be judged on its own merits. The presence or absence of an Omni-being in a worldview is an un-testable part of the worldview, and as such isn't in itself that relevant in critiquing it.

Anonymous said...

To, Explicit Atheist, the Graviton is only hypothetical. The general relativity picture is the conclusion at the moment with the best information we have. We suspect there should be a quantum particle that represents gravity just as there are for the other forces, as told by the Standard Model, but that doesn't mean there actually is. Gravity can be something wholly different. Take, for instance, the fact nothing can go faster than the speed of light, all the forces cannot handle the effects of a singularity, and yet gravity still operates in regard to a black hole. It may have a different nature altogether from the other forces.

MKS said...

Corrections from Finland:

Ilmarinen, Lemminkäinen and Väinämöinen are finnish mythical figures from the epic poem Kalevala. They are clearly human heroic figures and were never considered gods, nor worshipped. Also Jumala simply means God.

I presume the list might contain other inaccuracies from other countries and cultures as well.

Anonymous said...

First of all I must say I'm deeply atheist, but this argument I think is extremely weak. You just mention different God names, but we know nothing about their differences. Of course many cultures have different languages, but that doesn't mean the words don't mean simmilar things. Ala (islam) is extremely simmilar to Hashem (jewish). Who says that the 500, or maybe 10.000 God names that have existed can't be divided in few groups?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what is meant by "dead gods" - some of the gods on the list, such as the various Voodoo loas (Papa Legba, Ti Jean Quinto, etc.) are actively worshiped today.

If by "dead" you meant deities previously worshiped that are no longer worshiped, kind of like a dead language is no longer spoken, then the list is inaccurate. If you meant dead in some other fashion, then nevermind.

Anonymous said...

Ya just like when silly atheist philosophers are dead we no longer have to believe their BS...

terrible argument from a person with a lot of education

EricTetz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EricTetz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EricTetz said...

"However, could it not also be that all of these particular faiths were merely manifestations of the same God?"

Absolutely. That God is Man. The only thing the thousands of gods man has invented have in common is that they are anthropomorphic. Man looks at nature and sees himself. It's a sort of misappropriation of empathy, our ability to project our model of mind onto another of our species in order to predict their actions. This is obviously a very important survival adaption, but we often project inappropriately and seeing sentience where none exists.

This has led us, historically, to see virtually all natural phenomenon (thunder, lightning, flood, famine, disease, volcanoes, earthquakes, the Sun, the Moon, etc.) as the manifestation of invisible Man-like spirits. We still anthropomorphize cars, boats, machines ("Why won't you print, you piece of shit?!"), etc. God is simply our anthropomorphication of the Universe itself. Man created God in his image.

DDog said...

I second the 7/12/08 Anynomous poster.

The "dead gods" argument needs work because plenty of the gods listed are still worshipped today and have an active relationship with their followers. There are a lot I don't recognize, but I see Norse, Egyptian, Greek, and Celtic gods, as well as Shinto kami, Voodoo loa, and Yoruban Orishas. Norse, Egyptian, and Greek religions may not have continued uninterrupted since their zeniths, but Shinto, Voodoo, and Yoruban religion are continuous and can't be disqualified on that caveat.

This might be an effective argument against a Christian who categorically denies that these other gods exist, and I'm assuming this is the target of your post, but it doesn't work for people who not only worship any particular set of these gods but also acknowledge the existence of the others.

Loa aren't really gods anyway, more like really big spirits.

rmtemple said...

All of your arguments are moot. The proper argument should be for the greater good. If you convince the entire world(or even a majority) that there is no god, what would become of our moral structure? Many people do not 'sin' for fear of punishment by a greater being. If the greater being is removed, then so is the fear. Rape, murder , theft, and a plethora of other 'sins' will be unleashed. Before you add that human laws still stand, I shall laugh. Without the greater being authorizing the punishment of 'sinners', punishment will cease to exist(add him to your list). All human are capable of unspeakable depravity and cruelty, before you 'kill' my God, do you really want to unleash that which he keeps bound?

Brent said...

Ah, so short-sighted a thought. Look around: despite current widespread belief in supernatural entities, there remains considerable depravity, including among those who subscribe to those various entities. Nothing is being bound.

Jeremy Magee said...

Kitchen God? That sounds like my fiance. Mmmmm. She cooks well.

New Grace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
New Grace said...

Wow. So sad. Thankfully, you guys have a special holiday coming up in about 7 days. Psalm 14:1