Saturday, September 18, 2010

Viewer Mail: Are There Other Gods?

I'm not posting the writer's full letter because he is an atheist who wrote to ask how we might reply to a theist he encountered. I provide sufficient input to give you an idea of the claims he said were put forward:

>...[to an atheist] there are no concepts of evil and suffering.

Well, that's just stupid. Evil may be self-defined, but that is what a "concept" is--an idea you hold. An atheist may say "I don't use the term evil because it's too ambiguous," but he could hold "X" as a criteria of evil and accept X is evil. Meanwhile "suffering" is less ambiguous. While we can talk about what constitutes suffering, anyone who has ever broken a bone or burned themselves or lost a loved one understands suffering--both physical and emotional. Even animals understand suffering--we know, because when they're given choices to avoid it--they take those non-suffering options. If a dog can understand it, why not an atheist?

>To an atheist, there is no difference between a tree falling over and crushing a bees nest and an earthquake causing a building to collapse and kill a group of human beings.

In-group bias exists in all social species. Wolves, for example, hunt prey--but how often do you see them hunting wolves? This person is trying to give god credit for biologically derived realities. Bees are not people. And we are biologically geared to care about other humans, because we are human social animals. This is why you don't see cultures that routinely raise other humans for food--anywhere on the planet. All people, all wolves, all chimpanzees, see a difference between members of their own species and animals that are not members of their own species. Again, a wolf can get it, but a human can't--without god?

>Seeing as all living things are just random matter, what's the difference to an atheist?

Seeing as all people are depraved and deserve death and hell, why does a Christian care if a building falls on other people? Didn't they deserve it?

>He claims that only biblical faith offers objective standards of good and evil

Actually, it doesn't. Euthyphro shredded this years, and years, and years, ago. You can either personally understand why X is wrong, in which case you are using your own moral judgment, or you can't understand why it's wrong, and you're nothing but a trained monkey who does X because he's been taught to, with no employment of moral judgment. Following orders is not a morality and requires that I exercise no understanding whatsoever of moral thinking or behavior. Beyond that "Thou shalt not kill" was followed by god ordering the killing of people all over the place. How is that objective? Is killing wrong? Is slaughtering your neighbor, his wife, and his toddler sons--but keeping his (most likely underage) daughter as a "wife" (i.e., sex slave)--the sort of objective morality he means?

>Atheists have no reason to feel pity for anyone or anything.

So, rats empathize, but not people. What a sick view of humanity--we don't even have the natural emotional range of a rat?

>he said there that there have never been any other gods.

What about the Ugarit god "El" that the Hebrews borrowed to create the god he worships today? Pantheons have been demonstrated in Egypt, Greece, Rome...the idea there are no other gods is so demonstrably false (if we mean gods people believed in and worshiped) as to make his claim ridiculous. Even Ba'al and Ashterah and Sophia are mentioned in his own Old Testament. Sophia (the goddess "Wisdom") even gets a speaking part in the Book of Solomon:

Ashterah was the wife of El (another name for Yahweh), and was worshiped by the Hebrews alongside Yahweh (because both El and Ashterah were borrowed from the Ugarit pantheon). King Hezekiah abolished the worship of the wife of El, according to the Old Testament:

Ba'al is mentioned all through the Old Testament: (see the box on the right for more Ugarit gods)

>and are not really gods because they exist within the Universe, not outside it.

He doesn't get to define what people call gods. If there are so many gods that don't fit his personal definition, he can't argue they're wrong, only that he doesn't personally consider these as gods. But he can't say nobody else did or does. They are gods. They are worshiped. They do exist as legitimate concepts of gods that stand in glaring and direct opposition to his claim.

>Only Christianity has ever had the idea of an eternal, infinite creator God.

Let's say that's true. So what? What if I found only Egypt ever had the concept of a god with a hawk what?

>Any religions younger than Christianity have copied it...

Wow, how can he claim to know what every religion after Christianity has taught? That's a bold claim, and one I doubt he's informed enough to make. But funny he worships a god borrowed from Ugarit by the Hebrews, while he claims other religions don't fly if they borrow from his?

>But I just wondered what your guys thoughts were?

I think he's ignorant about animal psychology and the roots of his own religion and instead of informing himself, he stays ignorant so that he can use his ignorance as a springboard to claim support for his beliefs--which shrivel and die in the light of actual information.



  1. Many theists depend on others to tell them what to think. This week's Papal visit certainly gives a clear view of how Catholics get their warped view of atheists. It is sickening to see this clown in a funny hat, whose last job involved shielding pedophiles, claim any moral authority.

  2. Regarding the complete lack of common sense on display here; what would a person who REALLY had no concept of suffering, morals, right & wrong look and act like? And how many have you actually seen? Keep in mind that there are enough atheists in the world that such individuals would make themselves shockingly apparent!

    I suppose a lifetime of second-guessing the motives of an imaginary superbeing might get you out of the habit of actually seeing what's going on around you, or asking what real people actually think. Instead we have these fucktards walking around talking shit about us like they really know anything.


  3. Ugh, reading all of those arguments was painful. How ignorant and blind do you have to be to make such absurd and flawed claims?

  4. "To an atheist, there is no difference between a tree falling over and crushing a bees nest and an earthquake causing a building to collapse and kill a group of human beings."

    What a bad example! First of all, the bees would survive such an event and simply buzz off to start on a new home. The insects have several millions of years of evolution over our species that makes them a great deal more difficult to kill, clearly they are superior creatures. The real tragedy here is the poor tree.

    It could even be argued that the killer earthquake serves as a necessary population control for an invasive species with few natural predators. Isn't it the theist side that claims that natural events equate to divine judgment - wouldn't Pat Robertson say that feminism or gay marriage or some other imagined sinful behavior is ultimately responsible for those deaths?

    Whoops, is my misanthropy showing? I'll cop to it, but argue that misanthropy is not attached to my atheism but a conclusion I reached independently. I find it equally misanthropic to argue that human life has no value absent the supernatural.

  5. While this is not about multiple sky fairies. the repeated claims that god is necessary for morality makes it hard to pass up this quote from the Guardian:

    Here's more from child abuse survivor Sue Cox.

    "How dare he [the pope] suggest that secularism does not accept or tolerate traditional values?

    "If his traditional values include enabling child abuse and lying about it, homophobia and calling gay and lesbian people inclined to moral evil, charging a fee for his performance to an entire country despite a large percentage of his following scavenging for scraps on rubbish tips, ruling with fear of hell and ex-communication, showing more intolerance than any other religion I have ever experienced, showing hate, disdain, and the purest forms of narcissism - then I am proud to stand up and say that I do not accept his traditional values."

  6. "Only Christianity has ever had the idea of an eternal, infinite creator God. Any religions younger than Christianity have copied it..."

    Eternal AND infinite! Wow! I'd also say he's fictional AND imaginary as well. Also, when did ripping off the Old Testament from the Jews become considered being original?

    I suppose this individual never heard of the creator god of Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda, either.

  7. "...he said there that there have never been any other gods."

    Obviously the questioner doesn't read his Bible very closely: the very first commandment states "no other gods before me." Such a command wouldn't be necessary unless there were other gods around! They must also have been very competitive!

  8. I'm by no means an expert in these matters, but "Ashterah" sticks out to me. Is it possible that you have thrown the two goddesses Astarte (Ashtoret) and Asherah in the pantheistic mixer?

  9. You are one patient person, Tracie.

  10. If there a forum connected with the Atheist Experience or Atheist Community of Austin? I can devout some time to explain scientific questions in simple manners to users who need it. I find it quite annoying that people call to the show with scientific inaccuracies and bullocks claims, that even the simplest Google search or Wiki page would explain. I'm a huge fan though, I just miss a bit more science.

  11. I don't understand why the learning of history doesn't help to put a doubt on religion, is the history education really that bad in USA? When you learn about cultures, civilizations and empires from 8,000 years ago to the present, you will find a countless number of religions. From China to Mesopotamia, to Rome and Greence, Native Americans, Eskimoes, Inkas, Aztecs, Egypt, Norse culture, African tribes.. It's so clear that religion is man-made and shaped by the culture where it arose. Christianity, Islam and Hinduism just happens to be the one that survived. Try to read Ahmad ibn Fadlan meeting with the Volga Vikings, interesting meeting between different cultures and how the religion in both have shaped their views and vice versa. Do you learn this at school?

  12. I understand that you guys get questions like this and it is depressing. Can't the atheist emailer just sit down and think for themselves for five minutes or do a quick internet search if their mental faculties aren't up to the job? These are simple fucking questions.

  13. Ouch! That's gonna leave a bruise.

  14. [CRICKETS]

    Is it just me or is it less fun discussing this stuff when it's hearsay instead of first hand? Or maybe people besides me have more fun things to do than counter apologetics on a Saturday?

  15. "But funny he worships a god borrowed from Ugarit by the Hebrews, while he claims other religions don't fly if they borrow from his?"

    I would add to this that the Abrahamic God is one of many variations of tg=he Ouranian God we saw in many cultures in history. The creator and sovereign god is not even an Hebrew's original idea: Bel Marduk is the first god who was both creator and ruler, if I am not mistaken.

    The Christian view of God is often inconsistent and there is no consensus on it. According to Thomas d'Aquin, God is simple. How many Christians would agree with this nowadays?

  16. Worthwhile pointing out to the questioner that if they are not a Roman Catholic (or better yet, a Jew), they have no business in saying all religions after Christianity borrow from it, since his own denomination would also fall into that category.

    Still, even so, I fail to see where Scientology draws from Christianity.

  17. Tracie, I am sure you know that it appears even El and YHWH were separate deities at one point, but later merged into one.

  18. Guillaume said...

    According to Thomas d'Aquin, God is simple. How many Christians would agree with this nowadays?

    They say he is simple and complex, it is a fun way to mess with their cognitive dissonance.

  19. I always wonder about these people who claim "without God, there is no reason to <<insert universal human trait here>>".

    If these same people believe that every other non-Abrahamic religion on earth is made up, then how do they explain the foreign cultures that have existed for thousands of years, with no knowledge of the only thing that keeps us from becoming anarchy-worshiping murder-rapists?

  20. "Seeing as all people are depraved and deserve death and hell, why does a Christian care if a building falls on other people? Didn't they deserve it?"

    I'm responding to Tracie's response instead of the original text. This is not a typo :P

    My two cents: Back when I was a believer, I was raised very much in a hellfire-and-damnation.I was taught (and discovered independently by reading of the Bible, although that was quite obviously coloured by my upbringing) that Hell was a very real place, and that it was a hell of a lot easier (pun intended) to go to than Heaven. Two particular events really jump out at me.

    One: Once, I was in some stupid argument with my parents. I can't've been more than 12 years old at the time. And basically, I was being insolent, so in return my parents strongly suggested (without ever coming right out and saying it) that if I didn't apologize (and mean it), then I would go to hell (because of the respect your parents commandment). You're telling a 12 year old kid, who sincerely believes that he is right, that if he doesn't sincerely change his mind, he'll be punished for eternity? I'd argue with Dawkins that that's bordering on abuse.

    Second, I recall that there were many times between around age 12 (when I started being serious about my religion) and 17 (when I lost my religion) where I was seriously bothered by the One Unforgivable Sin (Apostasy, or blaspheming the Holy Spirit, depending on translation). Here I am, 14 years old, crying myself to sleep because of the fear that once, when upset, I would've accidentally told god to gtfo (made sense in my 14-year-old mind) and be condemned to hell forever, even if it was just an accident.

    The Christians often say that "what's the purpose of the world if there's no God?". Well, in my experience, the dawning realization that there was no god dropped my estimated chances of going to hell from >90% to 0%. It just boggles my mind

  21. You know what this site and others like it are?

    In every atheist there is a doubt. This doubt is so scary in your minds that you need to constantly squash that doubt. The fear is that you will be judged by God. The fear that you may be wrong.

    So what do you do --so you can go on with your life free of fear? You constantly search for re-enforcement that your belief is correct. After all, if its not correct, its not like just missing the ice cream truck. This would be the biggest mistake a person could possibly make.

    So scour the earth with your biased eyes. Make a pile so high that no one could ever tip it over. Build a mountain of counterpoints to alleviate your fear. You cant deny thats what you do. Why else would someone devote so much time to something they have no belief in? Thats pathological. But with each news story about a Christian who cheated on his wife or someone going feel better. Its medicine to you.

    If you didnt feel threatened deep inside you would never speak a word about it. A God wouldnt allow suffering..a God would do this..a God wouldnt do that. Funny, it never occurred to you that this is the best of all possible worlds in which Humans have freewill and come to God, humble, as children. But .. even as it are still as arrogant as ever. So arrogant, lil ole you, decide what a perfect God would do.

  22. Part 2
    You latch on to your little set of counterpoints--yet overlook the simple Math of the situation--that their are less atoms in the universe than chances that this is all random. You'll honor a complete idiot like Hawkings who claims something can come out of nothing--when there IS nothing. Its just so beyond ludicrous that you literally must go insane to deny a creator.
    Its so sad because He is as close as a prayer tonight for the truth. The world is set up so you would do that( if you are for God) --and plainly exposes those who are not. God is not on CNN so you will reach out for him a like a child in faith but you have already decided YOU are your own god. The throne is sit there instead. There is proof..but it only comes After you give yourself to God. What? Are you afraid? How could someone be afraid to live with Almighty God forever.

    Im sorry, so very sorry. You see Christians come to places like this to help you because in the end your mountain of biased proof only counts in your mind. Your worst fear is true and is not alleviated by this exercise in futility...its alleviated freely by Christ.

    All Im saying is ask God tonight for the truth..if you do this as a child he will put it in your mind as a fact.

  23. Shorter John Burger: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!

  24. He's making the same fundamental error all of the apologists seem to make:


    You can make qualitative statements about the supposed impoverished life of an atheist all you want, but you still haven't taken a single step towards providing some evidence of the veracity of the claims made by your religion.

    I've dealt with this same exact sort of thing myself quite recently.

  25. God is short. God is fair. God is real to those who hear. Voices may chime. Essence may rise. Children of plight hold fast to the wrong. How do you question subjective reality, a factor dependent on internal truths and orders surmised through feeling and knowing? How do you answer a faceless voice or even make notice of it? Whether or not there is proof of God or even none, the essence of what he is, is order, basic human order. It wouldn't be right to place order on humans, a falsifiable wrong of existence. So, like all cultures of religion, they place order upon gods whom are supreme and by doing so legitimizing their right, example,and presence in the world by the accepting and proclamation of that god. Period. You can't prove god and you can't dismiss god. God is a deep-portion of human consciousness of the disconnect to order and the external acceptance of a mailable social world.
    Quit whining about finding proof and making points.. Live to live. Let people be. Both of yahs.


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