A challenge from Atheists…to me

As a Christian defender of the faith I often hear — and I do mean often — ‘well, you don’t believe in all these other gods x y z, well, you can’t prove they don’t exist so don’t as us Atheists to prove your God doesn’t exist’.  OK, fine.  I’d like some of my skeptic followers and commenters to to make a few suggestions for gods for me to construct arguments against their existence.

I’ll choose one, or two, or a few and I’ll gather up what I can find by way of historical documentation and attempt to do what Atheists refuse to: argue against the existence of those gods, not just lazily point to some apologist’s inability to compel them from their atheism.

 

Comments

  1. paynehollow says:

    Just a small question: If there is no hard evidence for a Notion, why does one need to make a case against it? Isn’t the ball in the court of the one making the positive claim, “I have a God, and his name is THOR…” or Jesus, or the FSM… to make the case FOR what they believe, rather than on those who see no evidence to find evidence to prove this Notion does not exist?

    I don’t believe in the FSM or Thor or Odin or Ra, don’t think there is any serious evidence for their existence and that, in fact, the evidence would suggest that these are all myths or human constructs. Why would I want to make the case against what I don’t believe exists/don’t believe there is any evidence for?

    On the other hand, I do believe in God as evidenced by/revealed in Jesus and his teachings, so I do make my case for that God, based on the evidence at hand. I just don’t think anyone takes it seriously to make a case against something they don’t believe in. Why would they?

    ~Dan

    • Dan, I do agree. But a good many atheists believe, when arguing with Christians, that they can dismiss evidence and give no reasons for objecting. One semi regular commenter here has said he thinks he can just declare BS to any argument I present and never say why its BS.

      Many atheists also charge that they dont believe in the God I do for the same reason I dont believe in mythical gods. They often claim that you cant prove they dont exist. Im Going to take them up on that and expose their laziness.

  2. You want us to just list gods for you to disprove? Okay.

    Zeus is the god of sky and thunder. He was born to Gaia, who hid the infant Zeus from his father Cronus so that Cronus could not eat him. When he reached manhood, Zeus killed Cronus, releasing many other gods from Cronus’ stomach. He then released Cronus’ brothers from their prison, who in gratitude gave him the power of thunder. Zeus proceeded to defeat the Titans in battle, and the titan Atlas was sentenced to hold up the sky forever. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades drew lots to see who would get control over which part of the earth: Zeus got the sky, Poseidon got the sea, and Hades got the underworld. From then on, Zeus ruled the world with his jealous wife Hera by his side.

    Prove that no part of this story happened.

  3. I want you to prove that no character described in that story exists and that no event described in the story happened. That would include proving that Zeus does not exist, but also, for example, proving that there was never a god named Cronus and that there is no Titan named Atlas holding up the sky.

    • Atalas will certainly be easy. But I can work on Zues and some of the others. Im not offering to take up everyone offered, this is an exercise in showing that It’s not impossible to do, and therefore atheists who claim it is are just being lazy.

  4. I don’t see why Atlas would be easy. We can’t detect anyone holding up the sky, of course, but maybe Titans are invisible to mortal eyes or something. The point is that once you take on the burden of proof to disprove an arbitrary supernatural claim, you are lost. But I will stay tuned to see how you do on this project.

  5. If you want to disprove the claim that there is a physical being holding up the sky, then that is certainly doable, but then you are not engaging with a supernatural claim. You have defined your own naturalistic hypothesis which you can refute by reference to the established laws of physics.

  6. I should add that a being that you could disprove like that would not be Atlas, either. Atlas is defined as a supernatural being who is holding up the sky. If Atlas is supernatural, then he might have supernaturally become invisible at any point – and, remember, you are accepting the burden of proof to disprove the existence of such a being. You have to prove that Atlas is not invisible, even if the story does not say that he is invisible.

    • William. You could add all kinds of ‘mights’ but all that needs to be addressed is the content from the earliest accounts of the gods, not the maybes and mights that one might think of.

  7. I’d like to see how this goes as well…

  8. No, you have to address the maybes and mights if you are dealing with a supernatural claim. If you don’t have the laws of nature to depend on, then Atlas could very well have become invisible. Disproving Atlas means disproving all possible versions of Atlas.

    And what happens when we apply your standard to the Christian God? The “earliest accounts” of the Christian God in Genesis do seem to describe a physical being with limited knowledge and power. For example: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8) God walks in the garden and people can hear him approaching, clearly implying that he is physical, and people can hide from him.

    If you can change your account of the Christian God to make him immaterial and invisible, I can change my account of Atlas to make him immaterial and invisible.

    • Now youre playing fast and loose with language. Especially since it doesnt say that God was physically present. And even more so since it says elsewhere, probably in the same book, that God is immaterial.

      No, I only have to consider what the literature says. If theres language that might suggest Atlas is immaterial that it will have to be addressed. However I dont have to refute nonexistent speculations.

    • This is more especially true because in Greek mythology the gods were physical beings.

  9. How do you hear someone who is not physically present? How can someone be “in the garden” without being physically present? How can you hide from someone who is not physically present and does not have limited knowledge? When I say “Bob was in the room with me and I heard him approaching” do I have to add “and Bob was physically present” for a reasonable person to infer that Bob was physically present in the room with me?

    Also, where in Genesis does it say that God is immaterial? There are multiple passages that imply that God is physical, like the passage I quoted and the Tower of Babel story, where God’s physical location in the heavens is threatened by the tower that people are building. God has to scatter the people building the tower before they reach his location in heaven.

    Why, exactly, do you not have to address the possibility that a supernatural being has become invisible if you are accepting the burden of proof to disprove a supernatural being. Maybe Zeus made him invisible so that people would not see him and knock him down, thereby making the heavens collapse. How do you know?

    And why does the claim that Atlas is invisible have to be part of the original story? One arbitrary supernatural claim is as good as another. If I make up a new story that is exactly the same and says “…but today Atlas is invisible,” why is that less worthy of being disproven than if an ancient Greek says that same thing?

    • Your experience is only with physical beings. I dont have a problem with God making his non physical presence being known and felt, and being able to be heard audibly.

      It sounds to me lime youre gojng to want to adjust the parameters until the exercise fails. Thats fine. But you adding to the story serves as evidence of non existence. Youre telling me youre making it up. If its made up, its not real. See how that works.

      Ill address the clakms made by the stories themselves. Just like I dont expect atheists to have to argue against nonbiblical ideas. I cant just add maybes and mights until they cant think of anything else, thats not playing fair. And neither is what youre doing.

  10. The ancient Greeks did not have our concept of matter and atomism was extremely controversial in their day. Any being who can do what the Greek gods did, like fly across the sky or throw lightning bolts at will, is not physical in the commonly accepted modern sense.

  11. Whether or not you “have a problem” with God being immaterial is irrelevant to my point, which is that the text makes it sound like God is material. A being that has a physical location like being in a garden, and can be heard, and can be hidden from, sounds like a physical being with limited knowledge. You have even essentially admitted this by saying that Genesis has to clarify elsewhere that God is immaterial, although you have yet to specify exactly where Genesis clarifies this.

    I am not maliciously “adjusting the parameters until the exercise fails.” You said that you wanted to disprove the existence of a supernatural being, so you signed up for this. To disprove the existence of a supernatural being, you have to disprove every version of that being without relying on propositions that only apply to physical, natural beings. As you are finding out, that’s impossible.

    • You are adjusting the parameters. You…YOU are inventing what-ifs. I offered to argue against the existence of other gods. You…YOU chose the greek gods whom the ancient greeks claim are physical or have physical natures. I will argue against the actual gods as they are presented by the sources, not every new attribute you can imagine. The very fact that you would add to the gods’ attributes is evidence that they are invented and fiction.

  12. John, don’t you just love it how, before you’ve even had a chance to address any of them, your detractors are already adding on so many qualifications, wordplay games, goalpost changes and strings, it’s already obvious nothing you say will be acceptable to them?

    • Kunoichi

      I think theres a concern that Ill be successful and they wont have that complaint anymore, the intellectually honest ones anyway.

      Im convinced that the majority of atheists are convinced that the evidence in favor of any god is just as plentiful and of the same quality as the evidence for the Christian God and its just not true, which is what this will show.

  13. You have the right to do anything you want on your blog, of course, and by the way I appreciate it that you allow atheists to comment here. However, I think my concerns arise naturally out of any attempt to disprove the existence of a supernatural being. At the very least, you should say something about the kinds of arguments I’ve been making when you finally make a post about this, because I’m sure other atheists will have similar concerns.

    • But youre not voicing concerns. Youre asserting that you have some standing that allows you to change the gods’ attributes. You seem to think that you can just keep adding to them until I dont have an answer. In fact, I only need to address the original/earliest sources of information about them.

      So is Atlas and Zeus your suggestions?

      • I don’t know what you think I’m doing if not voicing concerns. I’m just trying to help you anticipate objections that other atheists will probably make in response to your post attempting to disprove the Greek gods. It’s up to you whether or not you take my advice.

        My suggested target is Zeus, because Zeus is more closely analogous to the Christian God. Please prove that Zeus did not do the things I described above. Thank you.

  14. John, when you engage these “atheists” it makes me wonder who they are, what they do and how literate they are.

    Might I also suggest the 400 years of writing done by non-theists since the Enlightenment. This might save you a lot of time if you were to consider the wealth of writing on this exact subject.

  15. William,

    You’re making “Atlas” a completely undefinable god with these imaginary attributes that simply do not exist in the original stories. You’re doing this so as to prevent John from doing what you can’t do to Christianity: disprove it.

    I wouldn’t even bother, John. This is a fruitless endeavor. Atheists like William are going to keep moving the goalposts.

  16. Note this asininity:

    If Atlas is supernatural, then he might have supernaturally become invisible at any point – and, remember, you are accepting the burden of proof to disprove the existence of such a being. You have to prove that Atlas is not invisible, even if the story does not say that he is invisible.

    And maybe Atlas eats invisible Big Macs the size of Russia! He might also stack these Big Macs up for additional support, and surf the Internet with his invisible pe…

    Anyway. By accepting the burden of proof, John need only provide sufficient evidence to justify his belief that Atlas does not exist, and since the existence of Atlas is only assumed by Greek Mythology, John is not obligated to refute anything not included in that mythology, just like critics of the Bible aren’t obligated to refute things which simply aren’t present in the Bible.

    William needs to take a debate class, me thinks.

  17. Hi, TerranceH.

    I agree that I’m modifying the original Atlas of Greek mythology, but surely if there is any myth, no matter how bizarre, that John Barron cannot disprove, then that myth shows that the burden of proof must be on the claimant. Otherwise, we have this bizarre myth that we have to admit is reasonable.

    Do you really not see my concern here?

    • William

      Youre missing the fact that because youre adding so many what ifs to Atlas that has never been ascribed to him, you make him a totally new entity, one that exists only in your imagination because youve invented him.

      Youre turing Atlas into someone completely different from the Greek Titan

  18. …but surely if there is any myth, no matter how bizarre, that John Barron cannot disprove, then that myth shows that the burden of proof must be on the claimant.

    Since there is a large number of negative instances, John can argue that it’s highly improbable that Atlas is anything but a figment of your imagination.

    It would be an inductive argument, yes, but so what? Are you saying inductive reasoning is somehow invalid? If so, why? We use inductive reasoning every single day without a second thought. We all believe the sun is going to rise tomorrow, though we can’t prove it beyond all shadow of a doubt. We all believe our houses won’t magically float away, though we can’t prove that gravity won’t magically reverse. We all believe our driveways won’t be magically repaved by morning, though we can’t prove that tiny asphalt midgets won’t arrive in the middle of the night and leave a hefty bill at our doorstep.

    So, inductive reasoning is very valid and atheists only reject it because of their inability to present an inductive argument against the Christian God. You guys will muddy the waters with pathetic displays to make-up for this. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing here.

  19. John,

    He’s doing it to show that you can’t disprove Atlas’ existence beyond ALL SHADOW OF A DOUBT – which everyone with at least a modicum of common sense already knows. You can never absolutely disprove the existence of a thing, but that’s a distinction made only by logicians.

  20. @Terrance
    But that’s the point. John is stating that he can absolutely disprove the existence of a thing.

  21. I think I was one of the ones that suggested Poseidon, but Zeus works just as well. “Unless there is something in the origin story that Atlas is invisible, then his physical absence is the evidence.” Well, there is – in some cases, these gods were clearly visible, in others they worked indirectly, in other stories, they inhabited other people and thus worked through them. So, not being able to see them directly can’t be used (in your case) as evidence against them, because the same evidence can be used against the Christian God. The point being made here is that any reason you come up with against, say, Zeus can just as easily be used against the Christian god.

  22. …and further, because there is *always* the out that the particular God chooses to show himself to some and not others, it becomes unfalsifiable – you can’t *disprove* the existence of said god unless you can find a *logical* contradiction, which typically you don’t have.

  23. …finally, this is why we ask for demonstration of the positive evidence for the existence of a claimed thing or phenomenon before we take it seriously. There are an infinite number of things one can claim that are not *logically* contradictory, but nevertheless are not reasonable to take seriously.

  24. None specific – whether it’s Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Aztec, Japanese, Norse…
    I’m more interested in your methodology.

  25. I’m okay with Zeus if that will move you along.

  26. zqtx,

    I’m aware of John’s argument. But you don’t realize that the distinction being made here is one made only by logicians. For all intents and purposes, inductive reasoning disproves the existence of Atlas and Zeus at least as much as we can prove or disprove most other things.

    Of course, atheists know this. They know inductive reasoning is perfectly valid and is capable of proving/disproving things (for all intents and purposes), but they’re upset with themselves for not being able to produce an inductive argument refuting the Christian God.

  27. The point being made here is that any reason you come up with against, say, Zeus can just as easily be used against the Christian god.

    Not really, no.

  28. @Terrance

    I’m sorry – I must have missed the part where you used inductive reasoning to disprove Zeus and the part where you explained how this was different to using the same reasoning to disprove the Christian God.

    Can you go over that again?

  29. zqtx,

    You apparently don’t read well. I didn’t say I used inductive reasoning; I said John’s argument will be inductive and it’s perfectly valid.

    Let’s start with Atlas. According to myth, Atlas is beneath the Earth holding it up. Okay. View This.

    There. A negative instance that generates a high improbability of Atlas’ existence. Inductive reasoning.

  30. I’m sorry – I’m still missing the part about Zeus… from both of you.
    This challenge hasn’t gotten us anywhere.

  31. zqtx,

    Easy. There is absolutely no evidence that Zeus ever existed or that any of the stories in which he plays a role ever took place. These negative instances cannot disprove Zeus’ existence beyond all shadow of a doubt, but this inductive reasoning renders his existence extremely improbable.

    Also, contrary to popular belief, many Ancient Greeks didn’t believe in Zeus either. Now, obviously not incredible in the modern world, but back then? Odd, indeed. Perhaps that’s because people began noticing the changing stories as they were told from person to person. Again, yet more evidence AGAINST Zeus’ existence.

    Now, do you have any inductive argument refuting the existence of Christ? Any evidence refuting Christ’s own words?

  32. Well, I guess that settles that – except it doesn’t.

    Unfortunately, just saying that there’s no evidence that Zeus existed doesn’t really prove anything, yet your conclusion is based on it. Additionally, even if it mattered, how could you possibly know that many ancient Greeks didn’t believe it back then? Couldn’t that same argument be used to dispute the existence of your deity among men back then too?

    Apparently, Zeus is even referred to by name in the bible, so if we are to accept the alleged inerrancy of your holy book it has to be true that he existed. (Acts 14:12)

    Challenge failed so far.

    • Z

      I have made any arguments yet. It will be in a future post so notging has failed.

      I must say I am suprised you say “just saying that theres no evidence that Zeus really existed doesnt really prove anything”. This is exactly what you offer here. You just assert the Christian God has no evidence that he exists and you do offer it as though it proves something AND justifies your not believing in him. Talk about hoisted by your own petard!

  33. My, John, what big words you use there.

    I’m going to assume you meant to say you HAVEN’T made your argument yet, John. I was merely addressing Terrance’s somewhat flippant attitude towards your challenge. I figured your attempt was still to come.

    This is exactly what you offer here.

    Offer where? I’ve never claimed to be able to prove the non-existence of your deity. I’ve simply stated that there is insufficient evidence to support the claim your deity exists. There is a difference. You’re the one who is stating unequivocally that you can prove the non-existence of a thing (Zeus in this case).

    I look forward to seeing your argument.

    • What I said what youre criticizing Terrance by saying just saying theres not enough evidence doesnt prove anything. Yet you regularly say theres not enough evidence for Christianity as though that alone does prove something.

      Who knows, maybe I’ll fail miserably. Maybe I’ll succeed. I havent looked at the origin stories of other gods in a really long time. Im just surprised more atheists havent jumped at the chance to rattle off a list of proposed gods.

  34. zqtx,

    Unfortunately, just saying that there’s no evidence that Zeus existed doesn’t really prove anything…

    It shows an improbability. And that’s the whole point of an inductive argument, in case you missed it. You simply cannot disprove Zeus’ existence beyond all shadow of a doubt, but what you can do is make a good argument showing a high improbability.

    Additionally, even if it mattered, how could you possibly know that many ancient Greeks didn’t believe it back then?

    I read books. Perhaps you should, too.

    Apparently, Zeus is even referred to by name in the bible, so if we are to accept the alleged inerrancy of your holy book it has to be true that he existed. (Acts 14:12)

    No. Barnabas is referred to as Zeus and Paul is referred to as Hermes by the people living in Lystra. They were names given to Paul and Barnabas out of respect, for the people believed they were gods. It merely reflects that which we already know: some people believed in Greek Mythology.

    Challenge failed so far.

    You’ve not disputed my argument that these negative instances generate a high improbability.

  35. Your snarky remarks aside – based on your reasoning, the same inductive argument can be made against the virgin birth or the resurrection. You simply cannot disprove those events beyond all shadow of a doubt, but what you can do is make a good argument showing a high improbability.

    Good, I’m glad we got that settled.

  36. zqtx,

    Seriously, why would you ask such a ridiculous question? How do we know anything about the Ancient World, z? Experts investigate, uncover things, formulate opinions based on the evidence, and write it down in books for all to read.

    the same inductive argument can be made against the virgin birth or the resurrection.

    Not really, no. There exists more than a single source for these events, including those with no affiliation to the Christian religion, like Josephus.

  37. All man-made religions and their gods (from A(Allah) to Z(Zeus)) speak the same language and use the same currency, namely, fear and control (two sides of the same coin).

    The relationship between the faithful and the object of their faith can be characterized as a sadistic (gods)-masochistic(creatures) relationship. One necessitates the other.

    The game of religion has only been played by so-called civilized humans (so- called “top of the food chain”, and what a game that is!

    For most civilized humans (with their big brain), somehow being on top means also to be submissive to their imaginary gods/idols – so much for freedom!

    Fear of gods (A to Z) is the first rule of this game

    All participants in this game are winners. The sadistic gods got their enjoyment of seeing the masochistic creatures suffer and vice versa.

    So, the question is not about whether god or gods exist. They all exist, but only in a human’s functional mind.

    The more important question is about the choosing of these gods by a functional mind.

    Since my mind is functional, I choose to take a god that speaks a totally different language (one without fear and control) and who plays no game because there is no need for such.

    Namaste,
    Theo

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