Tuesday, December 2, 2008

500 Dead Gods Plus 1.

What sort of argument could be made for wide, positive atheism, or the view that no gods or divine beings exist?

Here’s one. Here’s my list of 500 dead gods from a wide range of cultures and periods, revisited:

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, Anzambe, 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, Biame, Biamie, Bilé, Bimbeal, Binbeal, Boli Shah, Bossou Ashadeh, Budai, Budai, Bugady Musun, Bugid Y Aiba, Bunjil, 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, Daramulum, Dauke, Dea Dia, Dhakhan, Diable Tonnere, Diana of Ephesus, Diejuste, Dimmer, Dinclinsin, Dragon King, Dragon King of the East Sea, Duamutef, Dumu-zi-abzu, Dzingbe, Ea, Ebisu, Edulia, Efile Mokulu, 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, Gargomitch, 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, Iho, Iku-Turso, Ilat, 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, Karakarook, Karei, Kari, Karora, Kerridwen, Khaltesh-Anki, Khepri, Khnum, Khonsu, Kidili, Kini'je, Kitchen God, Kmvum, Kneph, Kōjin, Ksitigarbha, Kui Xing, Kuk, Kumakatok, Kuski-banda, Kuu, Ku'urkil, Lagas, Lan Caihe, Lei Gong, Leizhenzi, Lempo, Ler, Leza, 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, Mawu, 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, Naam, Nana Buluku, Naunet, Ndyambi, Nebo, Nehebkau, Nergal, Nezha , Nga, Ngai, Nin, Ninib, Ninigi-no-Mikoto, Nin-lil-la, Nin-man, Nio, Nirig, Ni-zu, Njirana, Nogomain, Nuada Argetlam, Numakulla, Num-Torum, Nusku, Nu'tenut, Nyan Kupon, Nyyrikki, Nzambi, Nzame, Odin, Ogma, Ogoun, Ogoun, Ogyrvan, Ohoyamatsumi, Ōkuninushi, Olorun, Omoikane (Shinto), Ops, Osiris, Pa-cha, Pangu, Papa Legba, Peko, Perkele, Persephone, Petbe, Pie (loa), Ple, Pluto, Potina, Ptah, Pugu, Puluga, Pundjel, Pwyll, Qarradu, Qebehsenuef, Qin Shubao, Qingxu Daode Zhenjun, Ra, Raijin, Randeng Daoren, Rauni , Resheph, Rigantona, Robigus, Royal Uncle Cao, Ruwa, 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, Ta Pedn, Tagd, Taiyi Zhenren, Tala, Tam Kung, Tammuz, Tapio, Temaukel, Tenenet, Tengu, Tenjin, Theban Triad, Thoth, Ti Jean Quinto, Ti Malice, Tian, Ti-Jean Petro, Tilmun, Tirawa Atius, Todote, Toko'yoto, Tomam, Tororut, 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.

What sort of view should we have about the existence of these beings?

I haven’t carefully considered all of these gods, nor do I intend to. I’ve only thought about a handful of them, and I’ve only investigated a few of them. In those cases, it became clear that the being in question might have made perfect sense to someone living in a remote village in the jungles of Borneo a thousand years ago, but that god wouldn’t make any sense as an explanation of the world now to me or to you. Gods don’t control the weather. Shooting stars aren’t religious events. The sun and the moon are just physical bodies, nothing more. The world didn’t come from an egg hatched by a cosmic turtle. Given what we have learned now about the natural world, it looks like none of these gods is a reasonable thing to believe in any more. So I have concluded, while being prepared to change my mind in case some striking new evidence in favor of Sobek’s existence comes to light or that the moon is the sun’s brother, that none of these gods are real.

Here are some details about one of them: Puluga, the Sky God of the people of the Andaman Islands

“Puluga is the Supreme Being; he is thought of very anthropomorphically, but he dwells in the sky and his voice is the thunder,the wind his breath; hurricanes are the sign of his anger, for he sends thunderbolts to punish all those who infringe his commandments. Puluga knows everything, but only knows men’s thoughts during the day. . . He created himself a wife and they have children. He lives in the sky near the sun (feminine) and the moon (masculine), with their children the stars. When Puluga sleeps there is a drought. When it is raining the god has come down to earth and is looking for food. Puluga created the world, and the first man, Tomo. Mankind multiplied and had to disperse, and after the death of Tomo grew ever more forgetful of its creator. One day Puluga got angry and a flood covered the whole earth and destroyed mankind: only four people escaped. Puluga had mercy on them, but men still remained recalcitrant. . . “

Eliade, Mircea. Patterns in Comparative Religion.

Is Puluga real? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. As a hypothesis about the world he’s utterly implausible. If he was real, too many other things just wouldn’t make sense. Puluga was a catchall theory to explain a lot of phenomena that people didn’t have a better way to describe. The stars aren’t divine offspring. The moon isn’t masculine. There was no first human Tomo. Droughts are caused by weather patterns not sleeping gods. Rain is caused by the saturation of the atmosphere with water vapor not a god searching for food, and so on. Puluga is a magical being. There’s no magic.

What others things don’t exist that might help inform wide, positive atheism? Consider some other exotic beings that have been alleged to be real at one time or another. It’s reasonable to believe that:

There are no witches. No ghosts. There are no elves, no pixies, no trolls, no unicorns, no goblins, no fairies, no malevolent spirits, no gnomes, no succubi, no incubi, and no leprechans. There is no Bigfoot. No Loch Ness Monster. No Chupacabras. No Yeti. The Mystery Spot isn’t a Mystery. No houses are haunted. There are no werewolves, or vampires. There are no demons, and no demon possessions. It is not possible to cast a hex on someone and make something bad happen to them. If you step on a crack, you won’t break your mother’s back. Breaking a mirror does nothing negative to your future. Black cats crossing your path do not bring you bad luck. If you wear your lucky Raiders jersey while you watch the football game on television it will have no affect whatsoever on the outcome of the game. The human mind has no magical powers to act a distance. Your astrology forecast doesn’t describe your day any more accurately than it does people who have the other 11 signs of the zodiac. Tarot cards don’t work. There are no psychic powers. Dreams don’t foretell the future. You are not a Sagittarius. It is not possible to read minds. There are no animate spirits that inhabit the moon, the stars, or any natural objects. Weather patterns are not caused by the moods of supernatural or divine entities. Predictions about future catastrophes on the basis of ancient mystical texts have not come true. Bad things don’t happen on Friday the 13th. It is not possible to say some magical words and invoke supernatural forces in the world.

I take it that all of these claims are obviously true, but I’m not going to offer any justification for that here. If your wearing a Raiders jersey while watching tv in Natomas brought about their winning the game in Pittsburg, too many other things just wouldn’t make sense.

There may be some who wish to quibble with my sweeping and hasty dismissals of all things supernatural, magical, and spiritual perhaps because there was this one time when you read your horoscope and what it said was, like, soooo true, and then your cousin said that it happened to her too. And there was this other time when you were camping in the woods with your friends and you heard something strange, and you got really freaked out. I doubt that any such experiences really were of anything supernatural, but in order to make the point I wish to make, I don’t need to defend all of the claims on the list.

You’ll most likely agree that at least a large majority of these claims are true. From that, I think we can draw some general implications. It would appear that in the overwhelming majority of cases, when people have subscribed to some sort of magical, supernatural, spiritual, paranormal, or god account of what is real, we have found another better natural explanation; one that wasn’t anthropomorphic, and that doesn’t invoke mysterious magical forces or gods.
Sometimes there just isn’t any phenomena to describe at all, or in other cases we realized that there were only natural forces and entities at work and the supernatural account just didn’t fit. The supernatural account didn’t address all of the relevant information, or it didn’t address it as well, it didn’t make successful predictions, it required accepting too many other weird metaphysical claims that don’t fit, or it didn’t withstand critical analysis. Furthermore, people make mistakes, they get confused, they are hopeful, they distort, they misrepresent, they see what they want to see, and so on.

Notice that I am not arguing necessarily that people in ancient, less technologically advanced cultures than us were not justified in their beliefs. Depending upon their background beliefs, their education, and the common sense views of their culture, their belief in their god may well have made perfect sense. There’s no way, afterall, that someone living in a tiny village in rural India centuries ago who couldn’t read and who had little formal education, for example, could know what we all know now. So we can’t fault them epistemically for believing as they did. But we can reasonably conclude that their account of the world is lacking. Medieval doctors thought that all disease was the result of an imbalance in the four basic humours—black bile, green bile, blood, and phlegm. Leeches were the cure for an excess of blood in your system. That was great for them, but that’s why I don’t go find a Medieval doctor when my green bile levels are out of whack.

On the basis of what you and I know, I think it is reasonable to conclude that spooky, magical, or supernatural explanations aren’t the best account of what’s true in the world. A good part of our reasons for thinking so are all of the cases where they have failed. The past has shown us that supernatural and spiritual explanations of reality are just barking up the wrong tree. They just don’t pan out.

So where does that leave us? There is a huge burden of proof to be met by anyone claiming that some supernatural or spiritual entity is real in the light of all of these similar claims that have turned out to be mistaken. And all of these cases make it reasonable to conclude that no such beings, forces, or phenomena are real. Think of it this way: once you open that door to let one of these claims in, you’ve got an enormous amount of explaining to do about why we should expect this one to pan out. The followers of Paluga thought that, as did the Sobek-ites, and countless others.

The implication of the argument here is probably pretty clear. If all of those supernatural entities and forces aren’t real, then wouldn’t it be reasonable to apply the same reasoning to the gods that are familiar, like the God of Christianity? If there are enough similarities between the Christian God and the 500 gods, and between the role that the 500 gods played for their believers and the role that the Christian God played for its believers, then the same grounds for rejection should apply.

Of course, there are details that differ, but it sure looks like there’s a problem here. In thousands, or even millions of instances, when people have believed that some supernatural entity was real, it turned out that it wasn’t. The 500 gods on the list aren’t real. And ghosts, magic spells, and leprechans are not real. So how is this one particular supernatural claim, maybe the one that you grew up believing, different, especially when it seems to be analogous in so many ways? All of those other bogus supernatural entities should teach us something. They should leave us with a great deal of skepticism about the likelihood that any other supernatural claim will turn out to be true. It’s possible, of course. It’s also possible that magic is real, or that there are goblins. But we should demand some pretty impressive evidence to budge us off of that skepticism, however. The mere possibility isn’t enough to make them reasonable.

So the lesson we should learn from the countless specific gods, and cases of spooky, paranormal stuff that are not real is that magical, supernatural, spiritual stuff in general isn’t real. Therefore, the Christian God isn’t real, because no gods are real.

38 comments:

Eric Sotnak said...

Suppose a theist makes the following argument:
"The pervasiveness of belief in gods supports theism. Here is why. Belief in gods is so prevalent in human cultures and history that it is nearly universal. What is lacking in most cases are details. This is why special revelation has been necessary. Special revelation and natural theology have drawn humans closer to knowledge of God."

The stronger one's universalist tendencies, the stronger this line of argument is likely to seem.

SaintStockton said...

The mechanisms which lead to belief in God within a religion seem rather similar to those which lead my personnel beliefs about the universe. Mysticism aside, the general gist of religion is past down from authority figures, the same appears to be true about science and most general knowledge.

I personally have never seen the fossil record, or seen any other first hand evidence for evolution, but i believe in it. The same is true for my belief in galaxies, atoms, and Nepal. I appeal to what I have been told to confirm most of my beliefs, this doesn't seem any different than religion.

The claimed differences from my side of the divide are that religion doesn't rely on peer review, it doesn't have consistent (or any) predictive power, etc. These requirements objectively seem no different than faith or personnel experience of god. Presuppositions about what counts as evidence seems to play a bigger role in determining belief than the evidence. If that is the case then how can then how can we trust our beliefs to accurately represent the world?

Reginald Selkirk said...

Here's an interesting opinion piece:
How to make me an atheist
by Nick Elledge

He does argue that pervasiveness of belief, even beliefs incompatible with his own, is evidence of the existence of the supernatural. He also says:

"For me to intellectually embrace atheism two things would have to occur: first, a denial of Christianity and second, a conviction that atheism is preferable to agnosticism, universal Unitarianism or a non-theistic religious system like Zen Buddhism."

I.e. atheism is the choice of last resort, and every other viewpoint would be preferable. He is attempting to invert the burden of proof.

Matt McCormick said...

All interesting comments. Thanks. On Eric's: the disposition to commit the Gambler's fallacy is nearly universal too, as is the mistake of underestimating one's own bias while faulting others for it. See my earlier posts about psych studies on bad reasoning. Universality doesn't imply much. You're right--many special revelation folks will make this move. Once they do, there's not much one can do to reason with them--they've left the context of any real discussion of reasons or evidence for the sake of the voice in their heads. Two thoughts: they certainly can't argue that atheism is unreasonable on these grounds or that the general argument I am making for skepticism about god stories is faulty. My point is that supernatural stories haven't worked out in countless cases--they're response: "Oh my special supernatural story about an invisible being who reads minds and grants wishes is different because I have a special feeling in my mind." Frankly, I'm surprised that any grown ups can defend a view like this with a straight face. But you're right, they do.

I also think that in order to zoom out to a sufficient level of generality to find anything common in all of these god stories you end up with a notion of God that is utterly vacuous. You can't even say that all of these traditions think that God is love, or God is reality, because they don't. More later.

MM

Bror Erickson said...

Matt,
you write: "Therefore, the Christian God isn’t real, because no gods are real."
Do they really let you teach philosophy after making statements like this? Seems rather circular.
I could come up with the names of 500 fictional people that have never existed. Would that mean the person on the other end reading this did not exist?
Quite frankly the Christian would tell you that those five hundred deities you mentioned did not exist. Our religion is fairly adamant about the monotheism thing, that there is only one true God. So naming 500 false gods people used to believe in is not a very convincing argument to the Christian. Some of us might even come up with the names of five hundred different gods people still believe in, but in which we don't. We tend to believe in God on the testimony of people who saw a man rise from the grave, a man who claimed to be God. Prove they were wrong, prove the Bible is fiction, and we might be going somewhere towards proving your negative. But making statements that are tantamount to saying: "I don't believe in gods, therefore God doesn't exist," really challenges your credibility as a teacher of Philosophy. I would have failed every course in Philosophy I ever took should I have made statements that silly.

Reginald Selkirk said...

Bror Erickson: you are correct in your immediate interpretation of McCormick's statement, considered in isolation: the nonexistence of 500 gods does not prove the nonexistence of god 501.

Now let's move on to the next step: make a convincing case for why I should believe in god 501, when even Christians do not believe in 1 - 500. Show me that the evidence for the Christian God is more reliable than that presented for the other gods.

You say you believe a written account of a resurrection from the dead? Why then do you not believe other accounts of similar things, presented by believers in other religions? Quite frankly, the evidence presented by the Christian is of the same nature (scripture and revelation) and quality as that presented by believers in the other gods.

Bror Erickson said...

Reginald,
You write:"You say you believe a written account of a resurrection from the dead? Why then do you not believe other accounts of similar things, presented by believers in other religions? Quite frankly, the evidence presented by the Christian is of the same nature (scripture and revelation) and quality as that presented by believers in the other gods."
In actual fact, most other religions do not recount anyone claiming to be God who dies and comes back from the dead, showing himself to over 500 hundred people in the spatio temporal world we inhabit. That is why I don't believe them. Most of the other religions out there don't even concern themselves with events that have happened in this world. Some of those that do give considerably less evidence for those things as actually having occurred.
And then there is the fact that the one guy who did come back from the dead after claiming to be God, said He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the father except through Him. So my believing Him tells me not to believe the others. Christianity is exclusive like that. But really the others do very little to convince me of there validity.

Reginald Selkirk said...

And then there is the fact that the one guy who did come back from the dead after claiming to be God, said He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the father except through Him.

Yes, but he also said, "I'm going out for a quart of milk, I'll be back in five minutes." (Matt 23:36, Matt 24:34and several other places in the gospels) and was never heard from again. So I'm not sure that I should trust him.

There are certainly other religions claiming to have exclusive knowledge. It appears to me that you are inconsistent in applying different criteria to Christianity than you do to other religions.

Matt,
you write: "Therefore, the Christian God isn’t real, because no gods are real."
Do they really let you teach philosophy after making statements like this? Seems rather circular.
I could come up with the names of 500 fictional people that have never existed. Would that mean the person on the other end reading this did not exist?


Upon further reflection, what Matt wrote, considered in isolation from all other arguments, still seems incorrect, but your objection to it doesn't stand up either. So you could name 500 fictional people. I could name any number of non-fictional people. So we would both presumably agree that people can exist, and we are merely bargaining over the existence of one particular putative person.

It is not so with gods. I could name 500 or more gods that we both agree are fictional. But you cannot name a single god that we would both agree is not fictional. The only god you claim is not fictional is the one under dispute, so it is not clear at all that any god could exist.

Bror Erickson said...

Reginald,
you write: "Yes, but he also said, "I'm going out for a quart of milk, I'll be back in five minutes." (Matt 23:36, Matt 24:34and several other places in the gospels) and was never heard from again. So I'm not sure that I should trust him."
To trust him you would first have to hear him. It is easy for me to see how all those things were fulfilled in that generation.
Then you write:
"It is not so with gods. I could name 500 or more gods that we both agree are fictional. But you cannot name a single god that we would both agree is not fictional. The only god you claim is not fictional is the one under dispute, so it is not clear at all that any god could exist."
Wait, I thought we were only debating whether we should trust Him or not.
But seriously you make precisely the point I wanted to make. We are debating over the existence of one God. Naming 500 or a million that don't exist has not bearing on whether this one exists.
Essentially the real question that an atheist finally has to argue with is "Is Jesus who he said he was." Prove he didn't come back after checking out for three days and you have made your case.

SaintStockton said...

To Bror Erickson:

Naming 500 or a million that don't exist has not bearing on whether this one exists.

I agree but i do not believe that was Matt's point. What the naming of 500 other gods does is shift the burden of proof to the theist. The question becomes: what is different about your claimed god that makes him any more believable than these other 500. If the common state of a claimed god is non-existence the theist is then forced to argue from there.

Essentially the real question that an atheist finally has to argue with is "Is Jesus who he said he was." Prove he didn't come back after checking out for three days and you have made your case.

I will argue that point in the same way Matt argued against the existence of god (this is completely plagiarized from the movie zeitgeist):

Horus-Egypt-3000 BC
-Born Dec 25th
-Born of a virgin
-His birth was heralded by a star in the east
-At his birth he was adorned by three kings
-He was a prodigal teacher at age 12
-He was baptized at the age of 30 and began his ministry
-He had 12 disciples with whom he traveled performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water
-He was known as: the truth, the light, and the lamb of god
- After being betrayed he was crucified
- He was dead for 3 days, then resurrected

Attis-Greece-1200 BC
-Born Dec 25th
-Born of a virgin
- Crucified
- Dead for 3 days
- Then resurrected
-He was known as: the truth, the light, etc
-Sacred day of worship was sunday

Mithra-Persia-1200 BC
-Born Dec 25th
-Born of a virgin
-He had 12 disciples with whom he traveled performing miracles
- Dead for 3 days
- Then resurrected

Dionysus-Greece-500 BC
-Born Dec 25th
-Born of a virgin
-Traveling teacher who preformed miracles such as turning water into wine
- Referred to as: king of kings, and the alpha and omega
- Upon death he was resurrected

I think you get the idea, if you want to do some more research on your own here is a list of other mythological figures who predated Jesus and share the same story:

Chrishna of Hindostan; Budha Sakia, and Krishna of India; Salivahana of Bermuda; Zulis, Osiris and Orus of Egypt; Odin of Scandinavia; Crite of Chaldea; Zoroaster of Persia; Baal and taut of Phenecia; Indra of Tibet; Bali of Afghanistan; Jao of Nepal; Wittoba of Bilingonese; Thammuz of Syria; Atys of Phrygia; Xamolxis of Thrace; Zoar of the Bonzes; Adad of Assyria; Deva Tat and Sammonocadam of siam; Alsides of Thebes; Mikado of the Sintoos; Beddru of Japan; Hesus and Bremrillah of the Druids; Thor of the gauls; Cadmus and adonisof Greece; Hil and Feta of the mandaites; Gentaut and quexalcote of mexico; Universal monarch of the sibyls; Ischy of Formosa; The divine teacher of Plato; The holy one of Xaca; Fohi and tien of china; Ixion and Quirinus of rome; Prometheus of Caucasus

That shifts the burden of proof to you.

Bror Erickson said...

SaitnStockton:
Really? I though Atheists prided themselves on being rational and intelligent. You expect me to stop believing because of a conspiracy theory movie, the producer doesn't even want us to believe is true:http://www.boingboing.net/2007/08/06/jay-kinney-reviews-z.html
based on what it says about mythological characters? A cursury glance at Wikipedia (I know it itself is not the most reliable source of information, but could be a good place to start) will tell you that information is wrong. You have never actually studied those myths have you? Never picked up a book of Greek Myths have you? I read them in the third and fourth grade. My memory is a bit rusty with some of that, but I'll tell you your source is way off.
But Christianity doesn't purport to be myth it is backed with historical documentation of actual happenings.

Jesse said...

Let me add a voice of agreement to person who expressed puzzlement at your characterization of these gods as "dead." The list of 500 includes quite a few Chinese deities whose worship is still very much alive today, and indeed has been _increasing_ recently with the Chinese government's relaxation of restrictions on religious practice. Your "500 Dead Gods" argument must be either reduced to "400 Dead Gods" or else converted to an argument from the plurality, rather than transience, of deities.
Besides, worship of the deities in the Chinese pantheon is generally considered non-exclusive: the gods' spheres of influence are seen as limited geographically (e.g., the City Gods) or by the personality of the worshiper (some deities have particular affinity for farmers, or businessman [Guan Yu], or heavy drinkers [Lu Dongbin]). Thus, from the point of view of someone who venerates one (or as is usually the case, several) of them, the existence of 500 other gods is no reason to abandon the veneration of any one.
Empirical observations against their role in the causation of observed events still hold, of course.

Matt McCormick said...

By "dead", of course, I don't mean "no one worships any more." My neighbor has a little plastic statue of the virgin Mary that she clutches and rubs and mutters to when she plays the slot machines in Reno. There are people all over the place worshipped all sorts of non-existent things. If someone's of the view that if there are people out there worshipping X, then we have to be agnostic about X's existence, then I don't know what to say. I take it as obvious, as do lots of Christians and other believers, that those beings do not exist. My argument is directed at the next question:

Given that there are all of these false gods, why should I think the Christian God is any different?

I'll post more on the answers I'm getting to that question shortly.

MM

Reginald Selkirk said...

In actual fact, most other religions do not recount anyone claiming to be God who dies and comes back from the dead, showing himself to over 500 hundred people in the spatio temporal world we inhabit. That is why I don't believe them.
...
You expect me to stop believing because of a conspiracy theory movie, the producer doesn't even want us to believe is true:(link)
based on what it says about mythological characters? A cursury glance at Wikipedia (I know it itself is not the most reliable source of information, but could be a good place to start) will tell you that information is wrong.


Please do. The Wikipedia entry for Osiris gives a clear account of his resurrection. And to repeat myself, you do not have 500 independent accounts of witnesses to the resurrected Christ, you have one or a few accounts. If I write a book claiming that billions of people witnessed something, that is not the same as having billions of eyewitness accounts.


Never picked up a book of Greek Myths have you? ...
But Christianity doesn't purport to be myth it is backed with historical documentation of actual happenings.


Greek myths purported to be historical happenings as well. Unbelief in the gods of the city was a crime in classical Athens.

And Christianity is rather lacking in historical documentation. How is it that none of the historians working in and around the Eastern edge of the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus' purported death took note of the earthquakes and resurrected prophets walking the streets which are reported in the Gospels? (Matt 27:51-54) Your reasoning and your standards of evidence are ad hoc.

Prove he didn't come back after checking out for three days and you have made your case.

You have a bizarre notion of who bears the burden of proof.

Bror Erickson said...

Reginald,
You write:"And Christianity is rather lacking in historical documentation. How is it that none of the historians working in and around the Eastern edge of the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus' purported death took note of the earthquakes and resurrected prophets walking the streets which are reported in the Gospels? (Matt 27:51-54) Your reasoning and your standards of evidence are ad hoc. "
Funny you just quoted an historian who did.

paulv said...

I can think of several dead scientific theories about the nature of matter. Are you argueing that our current theories should not be believed? 500 dead theories plus 1.

I think that you miss the point because you focus too much on what beliefs are, rather than what the beliefs do for societies that hold them.

Consider the evolution of the eye, a series of errors. An error (mutation) produced tissue that was sensitive to light, etc. And this error would have died a quiet death had it not proved beneficial. All these gods would have also died a quiet death if their associated value structure had not provided some advantage. If a new god incorporates the same advantages plus a few more, then will likely supercede the older one. Science will eventually show why many of these value choices increase evolutionary fitness, but until then "keeping the faith" is the only way of preserving the values that have proven beneficial in the past.

Will we ever be able to prove the universe is meaningful or meaningless? Is there really a different burden of proof on either side of that question? You can say that you won't believe the existance of the universe has any meaning unless it is proven to you, with the certitude that it never will be. But then you shouldn't be troubled by other people believing in gods, or all-star wrestling (as its all meaningless). If on the other hand you choose to believe (without proof) that there may be some meaning to the existance of the universe, its hard to fault theists for choosing to believe (without proof) whatever crap they choose to believe.

SaintStockton said...

I have a research paper due that i can use this as a topic for. When i finish it i will post it on my blog here and mention it in this comments section.

Bror, look up Justin Martyr, he was a theologian during the second century who was famous for attributing all the parallels to Satan. Essentially he admitted that was the only course of action. I believe he did it in 'the Discourse to the Greeks' though i may be mistaken.

Yeah, the christian section of Zietgiest is set up as satire of Christianity. That was the point. That is why the creator said not to believe it, it is supposed to serve as a catalyst for further research. I referenced him because i was only conveying what he began, he deserved credit not me. It purposely used some of the same fallacies used in christian thought. Notice how all sources aren't always referenced, though bible sources are always referenced inscrutably, etc. Watch it yourself, if you haven't, it can be found on Google video. Then argue against the points, rather than committing ad Hominem.

SaintStockton said...

I just occurred to me that we can all personally test the astrological claims in a couple of weeks. See if the sun really does what it is purported to do.

SaintStockton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reginald Selkirk said...

(Matt 27:51-54)...
Funny you just quoted an historian who did.


"Matthew" has no standing outside of the Gospel bearing his pseudonym. To say that you consider his work to be reliable because he wrote it is an exercise in question-begging.

Reginald Selkirk said...

...And this error would have died a quiet death had it not proved beneficial. All these gods would have also died a quiet death if their associated value structure had not provided some advantage. If a new god incorporates the same advantages plus a few more, then will likely supercede the older one. Science will eventually show why many of these value choices increase evolutionary fitness, but until then "keeping the faith" is the only way of preserving the values that have proven beneficial in the past.

Your understanding of evolution could use more sophistication. Traits which are not beneficial can most certainly become fixed in a population. For an introductory treatment of evolution, I would recommend Evolution, the Triumph of an idea by Carl Zimmer (Harper, 2006, ISBN-13 978-0061138409). For a more sophisticated treatment, you could try What Evolution is by Ernst Mayr (Basic Books 2002, ISBN-13 978-0465044269).

Reginald Selkirk said...

Consider the evolution of the eye, a series of errors.... Science will eventually show why many of these value choices increase evolutionary fitness, but until then "keeping the faith" is the only way of preserving the values that have proven beneficial in the past.

Another objection to this approach: Most of those who consider the evolutionary aspects of religion do not consider the specific beliefs themselves as an evolutionary trait. Instead they consider religiosity, i.e. a tendency to accept religion, as an evolutionary trait.

SaintStockton said...

So, the claim that Christianity is a plagiary of Egyptian myths related to astrology was first put forth my Gerald Massey in his book Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World which is availible on google books for free here:
http://books.google.com/books?printsec=frontcover&dq=Gerald+massey&id=3k4XAAAAYAAJ&output=text#PPA3,M1

His book is the result of his personal translations of texts stored in the British museum, he published his book at age 97 claiming that it was a labor that made his life worth living.
He sites common themes, stories, and, in some instances, near verbatim plagiarized dialogue.

His wiki page carries a provocative ad hominem claiming that he was part of a druidic order, implying he was just arguing for sun worship. A response is made there aswell, that is here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Massey

Bror Erickson said...

"Matthew" has no standing outside of the Gospel bearing his pseudonym. To say that you consider his work to be reliable because he wrote it is an exercise in question-begging."

you might read Eusebius.

Bror Erickson said...

Saintstockton,
"Bror, look up Justin Martyr, he was a theologian during the second century who was famous for attributing all the parallels to Satan. Essentially he admitted that was the only course of action. I believe he did it in 'the Discourse to the Greeks' though i may be mistaken."
You crack me up. I don't have to look him up. I am very well aware of who he is.
I am not denying that there are some parallels here and there in Greek, Egyptian, Persian and so forth to the Christian history. However, they are never as exact as you tried to make them out.
However with the Christian history you not only have a man claiming to be God, dying, and coming back to life. You are also dealing with 4,000 years worth of prophecies being fulfilled in that one man. So test out the astrological signs if you want. But there are ways of checking into the Christian history also.

SaintStockton said...

There are many examples of the myths of chrisitanity being plagerazations of egyptian astro-mythology for example:

Horus, was betrayed by sut is bound, torutured, prierced and left to die, upon which he said "my god! why have you forsaken me"

Of the two names given to god by moses--ihuh an iah--the first name has no jewish root. It is egyptian.

The story of Job is a plagiary of the torment of Osiris by sut, even the symbology used.

In my reading of ancient egypt: the light of the east massey has already identified 37 psalms that are near verbatim plagiaries of Egyptian texts.

The ten commandments are plagiarized from the book of the dead: Upon judgment by Osiris one has to say a list of things:
I have not killed = thou shalt not kill, etc.

The parallels and plageries go on and on. the reason that the prophecies existed were because they where based on the story of horus which has existed for *gasp* 5000 years. Their fulfillment was scribes re-writing the horus story, plain and simple.

SaintStockton said...

ANCIENT EGYPT THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

BOOK 12

THE JESUS-LEGEND TRACED IN EGYPT FOR TEN THOUSAND YEARS

Gerald Massey:
http://www.masseiana.org/aebk12.htm#738

Reginald Selkirk said...

you might read Eusebius.

You might acknowledge that your standards are arbitrary and ad hoc, and that you are making it up as you go along, and save us all some effort.

You might acknowledge that wise men from the East, following a star which they see in the East, would not travel West. (Matt 2:1-2).

You might acknowledge that the alleged killing of infants at teh order of Herod never happened (Matt 2:16)

You might acknowledge that all of the alleged Old Testament prophesies cited in the New Testament were investigated over two centuries ago and found to be lacking. Most are non-prophetic quotes pulled out of context. A few are simply fabricated. Since the Gospel writers, especially Matthew say "Jesus did X in order to fulfil the prophecy" (e.g. Matt 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, etc) that the simplest explanation is that the writers fabricated the stories to fit the perceived prophecies. (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason)

You might acknowledge that the alleged tax scheme by Caesar Augustus requiring all Israelites to return the the home town of their distant ancestors is extremely unlikely. (Luke 2:1-5)

And so on.

Bror Erickson said...

Reginald Selkirk,
Actually no I might nor acknowledge all that. Seeing as much more recent scholarship has found those who supposedly investigated 200 years ago were very mistaken and used circular logic. Seeing as the you obviously can't read, or don't want to read. (I don't know much about astrology, or how one interprets stars. But just because they saw the star in the east does not mean it didn't tell them to travel west. The wise men seemed to know what they were doing, they at least found who they were looking for.) And it wasn't so unlikely that Ceaser Augustus would have a census taken that did precisely what Luke says it did. In fact recent archeology has shown that it is very likely that he did. If he hadn't Luke's Gospel would have been thrown out with the Gnostic Gospels some 2000 years ago. But I am supposed to believe you know more about the Ancient Roman World what was possible and not possible, what happened and didn't happen then the first people to read Luke's Gospel in the first century?
No I have seen those arguments before and they are lacking. So I won't acknowledge them.

Reginald Selkirk said...

... And it wasn't so unlikely that Ceaser Augustus would have a census taken that did precisely what Luke says it did. In fact recent archeology has shown that it is very likely that he did...

I am consistently impressed with how little regard many Christians have for the ninth commandment.

Bror Erickson said...

Reginald you write:
"I am consistently impressed with how little regard many Christians have for the ninth commandment."

Thou shalt nor covet thy neighbors house? not sure what that has to do with the price of tea in china, but please do enlighten me.

Bror Erickson said...

By the way Reginald,
That is one that consistently sends me to confession. I often find myself a little jealous of what my neighbor has. But I am still kind of curious what that has to do with the topic at hand.

SaintStockton said...

It has to do with the current topic because that commandment is dirived from the 16th of the 42 declarations of innocence from the book of the dead:

Hail, Unem-Besek, who comest forth from Mabit, I have not stolen cultivated land.

If you look at them here:
http://www.planetsinternet.com/DECLARATIONS%20OF%20INNOCENCE.htm

Ten should look familiar

SaintStockton said...

I have an amendment to that, nine should look familiar. Thou shalt keep the sabbath holy is derived from the seventh day of the Egyptian lunar month, it was a day of feasting in honor of the sun hence= sunday.

Bror Erickson said...

Saint Stockton,
You write:
"I have an amendment to that, nine should look familiar. Thou shalt keep the sabbath holy is derived from the seventh day of the Egyptian lunar month, it was a day of feasting in honor of the sun hence= sunday."
Listen, I don't think that that was what Reginald was getting at at all. Second, you show such extreme ignorance it is bordering on the point of embarrassing. Everyone knows that the Sabbath of the Old Testament is Saturday and not Sunday. Christians worship on Sunday because that is the day Christ rose from the dead.
Third if you want a complete list of the ten commandments as found in pagan sources go read C.S. Lewis "Mere Christianity." It is not so hard to believe that the basic morality given in the Ten Commandments is shared to one extent or another almost universally. Christians actually believe that God wrote his law on the hearts of all men. So it isn't so surprising to me to find others who think adultery is wrong though they aren't Christian. That is one reason Christianity isn't about the law, the law we basically share with all people and religions. I even find atheists to be generally moral people. It is the gospel, the forgiveness of sins on account of Christ's death and resurrection that marks as as different.

John W. Loftus said...

I haven't read any of the comments but I want to comment.

I think the genius of Anselm's Ontological Argument, even if conceptions of the greatest conceivable being will have inconsistencies and perhaps contradictions, is that such a God is much more worthy to be a Supreme Being than most of the ones mentioned in this post of yours. So I don't think it's 500 dead Gods Plus 1. I think we need to talk in terms of worldviews. There is polytheism, pantheism, Deism, Theism, and Atheism, for instance.

Polytheism is compatible with tribal gods dying with the death of the tribe, I think.

John W. Loftus said...

I think Phillip Jenkins has made a good case that even Christian gods died out when the people who espoused them didn't win in the early stages of the church.

paulv said...

To accept the argument that 500 dead gods makes no god more likely, is to argue that an analysis of guesses about what is inside a sealed container, can tell us the likelihood that the container is empty.

No number of abandoned guesses, can ever influence the actual container.

Or, after how many different atheistic world views have been abandoned, can we say with confidence that god exists.