16 maj 2008

What one Forgets when Asking Christians for Proof Against all Other Gods

For my fourth posting in English, I'd like to explain to Atheist readers coming here from English speaking blogs, the fact that I think one forgets a detail when asking Christians for proof against the 3000 different gods we DON'T believe in.

A common remark when debating existential views is this one:

You Christians seem to have a lot in common with us.
You are Atheists in many senses, e. g. you don't believe in the god Thur, or Shiva, Ganesha, Afrodite etc.....Just as we don't.

How come you picked your particular God for worship? And how can you be so sure the other ones don't exist?

My answer is that folks through space and time who have believed in other gods than the monothestic, almighty one, never settled for one single deity.

1. Either the religious individual believes in one Almighty benevolent creator, the cause of the universe.

2. ...or a whole bunch/cluster of gods who together maintain and explain life + the universe.


Now, it doesn't seem like people have ever settled for SOLELY Thur or ONLY Afrodite, because these characters are not almighty in themselves. They need the rest of a god-family.


As a Christian, I consider belief in a certain group of gods as a way for people to express our Only God.
Although Polytheists don't have the right notations and concepts around God, as we see it.

Photo by Ian Britton "Picture of Barley" Licence: Freefoto.com CC No-derivative

37 kommentarer:

Zoltan sa...

Proof?

Well, the Christian God did descend and took human form, lived and shared our lives, sufferings and joys, whereafter He was crucified and risen from the dead.

What proofs from 2000 years ago can be expected other than eyewitness: videotapes?

Atheists should define what may constitute an acceptable proof of historical events.

However, God is still manifesting himself today. I guess also this should be videotaped, or whatever may satisfy hardcore sceptics, if anything.

God will not use force to convince anyone, which is almost what sceptics demand...

Antimonite sa...

It’s a very strange view you present on the religions of the past as all being more or less polytheistic. Thats not true at all.

There are several monotheistic religions much older than Christianity. Zoroastrianism you probably know of. But many so called polytheistic religions actually are monotheistic in reality like Hinduism (Hinduism is actually only a collection name for several religions). Some 80% of those we call hindu are Vaishnavas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism) and they in general only believe in and worship Vishnu. They don’t believe in a pantheon of hindu gods. There’s similar monotheistic worship of other hindu gods like Shiva. “Hinduism” is basically a term that one could match with the term “Abrahamitic religions”.
And there’s also the Mithraism religion of Rome, which at some points during the firsts centuries after Christ was one of the largest religions of the Roman empire before the prosecution of them made the religion vanish. And theres also examples in Egypt where the pantheon has been questioned for the worship of ONE god.

And besides all external examples there are of monotheistic religions which you probably are atheistic about, there’s also the your closely related religions like Judaism and Islam. Its not like Christianity is MORE clear on monotheism than those two are.

So I don’t get your monotheistic argument at all.

Z sa...

Zoltan

"God will not use force to convince anyone, which is almost what sceptics demand..."

exactly. Sometimes i wonder which of the two problems is bigger for the atheist:

The non-visible God
"I haven't seen any trace of....etc So why should i believe in...?"
or
The visible God
"Are we puppets/robots hanging on God's threads? Don't we have freedom, then?"

Antimonite
Maybe i wasn't clear on expressing my argument: I'm fully aware of there being monoteism back in history too.

And if a person worships ONLY Shiva, then that same person has an Almighty Creator view of Shiva
(I would call that: basically the same as my God).

But from what i've heard, no one settles with one single biased, non-almighty god.

Antimonite sa...

Z: I still dont get your point then. If you recognize the existance of monoteism in other religions, and you dont believe in their mythology/teachings, you are atheistic about those gods right? Or are you saying that these religions talk about the same god as yours do?


And saying that Vishnu is the same as your God, well, on a strictly historical perspective thats probably true. The similarities are many between "jehova" and Vishnu.

Vishnu is by some 80% of all hindus the only god there is. The all mighty creator of it all (Svayam bhagavan). Krishna, the avatar of Visnhu on earth is actually VERY similar to Jesus (a personified version of the only god among men). And if you then add the fact of the trimurtin basically is very much like the Trinity in some aspects one cant say that the religions where without connection probably.

But when it comes to the teachings, (except the golden rule), there are differences in the fundamentals. Like the view on death and souls and such. Reincarnation and such.

I think you must clarify your view on this. Do you believe in Vishnu? If not, why? If yes, why?

Z sa...

Antimonite:
"Or are you saying that these religions talk about the same god as yours do?"

Yes,their total pantheon of gods represent, in a sense, my God.

"Vishnu is by some 80% of all hindus the only god there is."

Which means that they are monotheists, just like i am.
And this particular group probably has an Almighty Creator view of Vishnu.

"Do you believe in Vishnu? If not, why? If yes, why?"

If the definition of Vishnu is exactly the one of my Christian God (described in the Creed from Nicaea), then i believe i Vishnu.
But this can't exactly be true because, e.g.
my God has a Son who has come to Earth in the town of Betlehem, in that particular place and in that particular time.

It's a tough question whether one monotheistic benevolent God is the same as another.

I would say yes, but the difference between the monotheistic religions lies in the interpretation (theology) of this One God. His acts, and as you wrote: on death and souls,
reincarnation....

(One big difference:
Hindus believe in the reincarnation of the souls,
where
we believe in one single incarnation: that God became human)

Pekka S sa...

I have a couple of questions:

1. Does an almighty creator have to be benevolent?

2. Why is a monotheistic belief superior to polytheism? It seems like this is a kind of critera by which you judge different belief systems?

3. Isn't the following a kind of circular reasoning (or unstated major premise)... "As a Christian, I consider belief in a certain group of gods as a way for people to express our Only God" ...since you presuppose that your perspective is the standard by which the question has to be judged? You could really turn it around to suite the polytheist as well. She/He could say "As a polytheist I consider belief in a singular god as a way for people to express our pantheon of gods."

Charlotte Therese sa...

Z,

To make it even more complicated... ;-)

Our Only God is a Trinity.

Three in one.

(Which we celebrate especially tomorrow.)

Something for polytheists to chew on... As well as for Christians. And perhaps for atheists?

Is it harder to reject several gods than One?

Charlotte

Z sa...

Pekka
Your questions:

1. Maybe, most people seem to think so.

2. I don't KNOW if it is, but i think; since i believe in what i call evidence: 2000 years of apostolic succession (of popes & bishops), the four Gospels, witnesses through history, etc....

3. You wrote:
"You could really turn it around to suite the polytheist as well. She/He could say "As a polytheist I consider belief in a singular god as a way for people to express our pantheon of gods.""

Yes, he or she could say so, of course. Why couldn't he?

But i claim the opposite, because i belive in the traces, scriptures + tradition of my Christian religion.
I believe in the miracles of Christ, much because i find the rest of the Gospel text realistic.

Charlotte :)

Pekka S sa...

Z:
1. Maybe they want to belive that?

2. Ok, but that's not the argument you choose to use in your main post. Rather you seemed to imply that peoples tendency not to settle for only one god was an answer in it self. I find your appeal to evidence as more convincing so perhaps it should have been included from the start?

3. The polytheist could claim, with some merit, that catholicism compared to other forms of monotheism is a kind of polytheism in disguise considering it's significant focus on Mary and all the saints (with different specialties).

But I'm not arguing for polytheism here, as you might understand. I'm on neither of your side ;)

Tuve sa...

Pekka
No offense to your imaginary polytheist, but if he considers the Church's reverence for Mary and the saints as polytheism in disguise, he would have had one or two things wrong about catholicism ;)

Pekka S sa...

Tuve: Doesn't catholics consider Mary as being capable of miracle work? It often seems to me as if catholics give Mary credit for all kind of stuff. Or have I misunderstood something?

l_johan_k sa...

1=3, only in christianity...

Tuve sa...

Pekka
I think you might have.

Mary might work miracles, but only through Gods intervention. She can do nothing of her own, just like we can't.

The miracles worked through the saints (with Mary as front figure) are performed entirely by God, but through the intervention of the saints.

Pekka sa...

Ok, then I stand corrected! But what's with all the "worship" and praying to Mary and the saints?

Tuve sa...

Pekka
It is the eternal question from the protestants too :)

We do not give worship to the saints in the same sense as we worship God.

According to the catechism #971 (about Mary):
"All generations will call me blessed": "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration." The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.

There is probably a lot more to be said, but this is essentially what we catholics believe regarding the devotion to Mary (and the saints) contra the adoration we reserve to God.

The saints are not dead, but alive and kick'in. Their bodies are dead but not their eternal souls. They are alive in heaven with God, and in that position, they are able to petition God on our behalf. That is why we can turn to them and ask for their help and intercession.

Pekka sa...

Tuve: The fact that the devotion to "The Mother of God" differs from the devotion to god (or one of its/his/their three incarnations) isn't in itself a very convincing argument. I bet that prayer and devotion in polytheistic religions differs from one god to the next.

And I do wonder why an all powerful/knowing god needs saints as middle hands?

However I feel that we are drifting a bit from the main question. Allthough the peculiarities of catholicism are very interesting they might not be that relevant?

Z: After considering the answers so far, I somehow don't feel that the original question has been resolved yet. I get the whole point of appealing to the evidence for the christian god, but is this really enough? Does evidence for one god exclude the possibility of others? Members of other religions certainly don't think so. They find their evidence at least as convincing. Maybe all of these gods exist, all competing for our attention?

Z sa...

Pekka:
regarding your question to Tuve:
We ask Virgin Mary to pray for us.
We ask the Lord to DO several things.

"I get the whole point of appealing to the evidence for the christian god, but is this really enough? Does evidence for one god exclude the possibility of others?"

In the evidence that we appeal to, it is stated that there is only one God (by nature) which is shared by three God-persons (Father, Son & Holy Spirit).
These Three always act together, within their shared Nature.

in my post i was stating that people believe either in a certain pantheon of non-almighty gods OR in one single almighty One.

Z sa...

Johan K

1=3 ? well, maybe if you exclude the unit names (Gods Nature and God-Persons) ;)

I could say: 1=100
But not without the units 'dollar' and 'cents' on each side of the equality-sign.
1$ = 100cents is the correct notation

Pekka sa...

Z: "We ask Virgin Mary to pray for us." Why?

"In the evidence that we appeal to, it is stated that there is only one God (by nature) which is shared by three God-persons (Father, Son & Holy Spirit)."

Yes, it might be stated that way, but that doesn't prove anything. This god might just want to be worshipped exlusively while other gods accept the company of others.

"in my post i was stating that people believe either in a certain pantheon of non-almighty gods OR in one single almighty One."

Peoples chosen beliefs and the true nature of things are not necesarely the same. In fact, they seldom are.

Tuve sa...

Pekka
The main point is that we are devoted to the saints, in a similar way as I am devoted to my wife and my children. But we do not adore the saints, just as I do not adore my wife or my children (even though I love them intensely ;) ).

You will help those you love, wouldn't you? Well, the saints love us, and they wish to help us. In a sense, we only act in accordance to our different situations. We who still walks on earth always/sometimes need help, and they are always willing to give help. Why should we not ask them to help us?

The fact that the almighty God can help me when I pray to him does not prohibit me from asking others to pray for me or in my intentions (whether living on earth or in heaven). Those in heaven have the good fortune to be always in adoration and prayer, since they are in no need of sleep and are never distracted, because they are always in Gods presence.

Does it make any more sense? :)

Tuve sa...

Z
Sorry for my drifting off from the main topic of your post. A wink from you and I'll be silent ;)

Z sa...

Tuve, Pekka et. al

No, please go on, my entry was also meant as a conversation starter.

Pekka S sa...

Tuve: "Does it make any more sense? :)"

I hear what you are saying but I really don't see the meaning of it all.

Of course god won't prohibit prayer from the saints, but I find absolutely no need for it. I can see how it could be seen as a token of good will or love, but beyond this there seems to be no functional justification.

So no - it doesn't make sense...

Z sa...

Pekka: One can always pray straight to God, most of our prayers during the Mass are like that: Our Father , Holy, holy, Lamb of God, etc etc.

About interceding:
If you want to go talk to the boss, and you have low self-esteem/are nervous etc;
wouldn't it be great to have someone who knew him/her really well, to meddle for you?

Tuve sa...

Pekka
In a strict sense there is absolutely no "need" for us to ask the saints for help and prayers at all. We could very well turn always and only to God. But I believe God wants us to be compassionate towards each other, regardless of whether we live on earth or in heaven. In that sense I think it is pleasing to God that we make friends among His friends, so to speak...

And since His friends in heaven are always God-centric, our friendship with them can never turn us away from Him, only draw us closer to Him.

Pekka S sa...

Z: People with low self-esteem doesn't seem to have problems "communicating" with god in other religious traditions. And here we are talking about a "boss" who allready knows what you're going to say to the meddler anyway...

I think that I understand your position, but I just find it weird.

Tuve: Ok, I kind of like the god-buddies idea :)

But from my prespective it still seems like a strange idea. When did this doctrine start anyway? I can't recall any passages in the bible mentioning the possibility of praying to gods buddies...

Z sa...

When Jesus is preaching to the disciples, suddenly Moses and Elijah appear by his side, and he talks to these prophets and shows the people that these two are his buddies and that they live in God's kingdom with him.

When Paul dies, people who touch the cloth in which he's buried, seem to recover from diseases.
(maybe Tuve can refer to the correct verses here)

The story of the rich man and Lazaros shows that Abraham is a friend of God.

Pekka S sa...

Interesting! Do catholics ever pray to Moses, Abraham, Elijah or Paul?

Tuve sa...

Pekka
Very short...
I would say it is rather uncommon, but e.g. the carmelites consider Elijah as their spiritual "grandfather" and celebrate him as a saint.

Z sa...

Pekka
I think we should regard the first threee as saints indeed.
And saint Paul is already (officially) one of the first saints of the Church.

Tuve sa...

Pekka
St Paul is one of the great saints from NT, so regarding him, the answer is definitely yes. We celebrate him just as the other apostles and several of the other named disciples (including St Joseph) in NT...

Regarding the doctrine, it is not written with golden letters in the Bible... That's why it is controversial for the evangelicals. But catholics sees the Bible as an important and by God inspired scripture, but not the only source of revelation. We are also open to what the oral tradition has taught. And this doctrine is easily found e.g. among the church fathers.

But none the less, there are several bible passages that favors the catholic position. Z mentioned two of them.

Pekka S sa...

Thanks for clarifying the whole saint business!

I came to think of one thing though - Is it possible to pray to someone else - a non-saint? Or does this buddy-of-god-communication only work with saints?

Tuve sa...

Pekka
Since it takes a miracle, as a response to someones prayers to a would be saint, for the beatification/canonization process to begin, I guess the answer is already answered... We can pary to people we believe are in heaven. Since our prayers to (would be) saints are always indirectly aimed at God, those who are not in heaven can not intercede for us to God (and make Him perform any miracle).

Perhaps we should leave the miracle discussion out this time, or continue that discussion in the former post... ;)

Pekka S sa...

Oh yeah, that's right. People are sometimes accredited miracles due to post mortem prayers. Should have thought that myself.

Charlotte Therese sa...

This might be a bit off-topic - or not - haven't read all the answers here yet after I wrote last time.

Just thought that this might be of interest to you - it's about healing through prayer, which we talked about here recently.

And maybe it can be seen as a kind of "proof" (when seen with the eyes of faith) of the only God we happen to believe in...

http://charlotte-therese.blogspot.com/2008/05/om-helande-ett-bnesvar.html

Welcome to comment it - Rose will answer those who have any questions.

Charlotte

Charlotte Therese sa...

Just read through the latest postings - and discovered that it was pretty on-topic after all - considering the ongoing shift of the topic... :-)

This healing seems to have taken place through prayers directly to God as well as through the saints - and including icons and relics...

The more the merrier... ;-)

Charlotte

Pekka S sa...

Charlotte: Interesting story, but it's hardly proof for anything. I have no problem debating and criticizing anecdotes like this, but I don't want to do it with the actual people involved. Let them have their miracle if it gives them joy and meaning...

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