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?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/5373379/Animals-can-tell-right-from-wrong.html

>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:

http://northernway.org/sophia.html

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:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asherah#In_Israel_and_Judah
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asherah

Ba’al is mentioned all through the Old Testament:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugarit
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baal (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 head…so 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.

-th