Is It Audacious To Claim There Are No Gods?

Over at Allallt on Religion they have a post discussing the question:

Ryan J McGinnis  wanted to Ask an Atheist whether it is more audacious to claim that there is no God than it is to claim that there is a God.

A very interesting post. I commented there but thought I’d share my thoughts here as well.

I don’t see many folk cover the better questions. Despite one stance or both being audacious both of them skip over the question: can a god exist? Is it possible for a god to exist? What evidence do we have that gods can exist? Not this god or that god, not the Christian god or the Muslim god… but any god. What are gods? Can such beings exist?

In trying to find the answers to these and other questions I find that there is no audacity in the claims of atheism, or rather the question should not be is one more audacious than the other.

As I was losing my faith, I noticed that people were not good people simply because they had faith, that their goodness came from somewhere else and this is so regardless of which faith they hold. Soon I began to notice that the descriptions of god (even of the same god) were different from church to church and sect to sect. Despite any claims, there was little consistency.

So I began to search for what might be common between them, some core set of values and beliefs that perhaps all religions and faiths inherited from god – at the time I still believed that one existed.

The only core principle that I found they have in common is some form of the golden rule or the law of reciprocity. The only core description that I found in common was that god is not human and can do things humans do not do, that all humans are failures and only through practice and worship can a human become worthy. Some religions tout reward and punishments, some external to life on this planet, some not. In almost all cases, humanity is seen as bad and the core values are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The problems are that they all seem to define these three things differently.

When we look at ‘god’ and his attributes, his will, design etc. and try to contrast and compare such for all gods, limiting the list down to what is common and what ‘might’ be possible – we are left with a list that are not attributes of anything worthy of praise never mind worship and hardly worth calling god in the end.

Upon this realization I decided there are no gods and it is not audacious to claim so.

    • J_Agathokles
    • October 28th, 2012

    “What evidence do we have that gods can exist? Not this god or that god, not the Christian god or the Muslim god… but any god. What are gods? Can such beings exist?”

    This off course depends on what exactly a God is, and what the Gods do. And ideas about this vary across religions and even different schools within that religion. And since there are no objective ways to find out, this stuff can’t definitively be determined from an objective, empirical point of view.

    • There are too many descriptions of gods. None of which stands up to critical enquiry on its own. The fuzzy idea of gods is a fall back position for many people when pushed to define god.

      We all have routines that help us get through the day. My habit of double checking that I locked the doors helps me feel that all is well with the world. Other people might feel better if they think there is a god somewhere. These things are not harmful for the most part.

      I only have trouble with people being religious when their beliefs or world view is caustic to society or dangerous. I may be anti-theist but I support anyone’s right to believe as they wish as long as they conform to the law of reciprocity. On this one law all good laws are derived. You might know it as the golden rule and it amazes me that so many believers think that rule does not apply to how they treat other people, but it does apply to how people treat them.

      This one law can be found in the core concepts of all that is seen as moral or good as far as I can tell. It’s there in ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’. It’s there in the golden rule. Its there in the code of Hammurabi. It’s there in the Magna Carta. It is a core principle in many religions. With this I have no issue and it matters not to me, in the end, whether a particular god is true or not as long as the worshippers of that god adhere to this one law. Even Satanism holds to such law.

      So whether the existence of a god is provable or not, I care only that your world view is not caustic to society and adheres to the law of reciprocity and its many forms. This is the reason that I don’t rail about people who believe in fairies or Santa Claus.

      Where your world view fits in that spectrum of my definition, well, you know how I will feel about your world view. To be more specific, besides those who believe in fairies I also find no particular reason to be against those who believe in polytheism, Satanism, Wicca and so on. If they should ever become caustic and operate outside the law of reciprocity I would rail against them too.

        • J_Agathokles
        • October 28th, 2012

        “the law of reciprocity”

        Well, this is a central tenet of Hellenic polytheism. It is the basis of everything, from our relationship with the Gods, to our relationship with our family and friends, from our relationship with strangers, to our relationship with ourselves.

        • I know. The biggest problem in the world is monotheism. It doesn’t much matter what people believe to be true about the unknowable if they don’t act on it in a way that is harmful to others.

          Wicca has a ceremony for Samhain which I find useful. Not because it has spiritual substance or because it has some power, but because I find the aesthetics of it useful to me. I don’t claim to be Wiccan and won’t. I just like that one ceremony. I think that if other wish to find aesthetics in what religion has coopted for itself it need not mean you are religious. Yoga is a great example, and meditation too. For that reason I specifically have no issue with Hellenists and poly theists in general. Besides, the Greeks have great food. 🙂 I can NOT find a good tomato salad here to save my soul … oops, did I say that?

          I guess my religion is the law of reciprocity if people will force me to have one. It suits the libertarian part of me well. Aesop is my favorite fictional teacher story. I find his attributed works more useful than the Jesus story.

          Rest easy J_Agathokles, you are always welcome here and I hope that you continue to keep me honest by catching when I slip up in the heat of a discussion and forget to pay reverence to those ideas that I do not find offensive.

          This does not mean that I believe in gods of any sort, but it does mean that I save my anger for caustic world views. While we cannot be absolutely certain there are no gods, it is not my place to tell you that your world view is wrong if the law of reciprocity remains in effect between us.

          I may not always manage it because I do get angry, but it is only those world views which are caustic which I oppose.

          For non-Hellenists reading this, read it again. While I do qualify as angry atheist I reserve my anger for those world views which are caustic to society. If yours is not, I have no issue with you. We can politely disagree on how best to get through the day our own ways. Monotheists do not seem able to do this so I have become vocal in such ways that I have. Please, do not be offended if I slip up and seem to include you with monotheists.

            • J_Agathokles
            • October 28th, 2012

            My stance is very much the same. Even though I may despise a certain religion (Christianity or Islam) I will not judge people based on whether they believe in that (even if I may dislike that fact), but based on the way they act. If they don’t act like proselytising dicks or violent madmen, or any variation thereof, there’s no problem 🙂

  1. When you take into account the Classical Greek Gods you start to notice that all it takes to be a God is a power that defies known physics. Something like the control of luck, or the manipulation of plumbing from a distance.
    Really trivial circus tricks seem to define the bare minimum of what it takes to be a God. Abrahamic Gods, obviously, go far in excess of this. But the magic defies physics. The core claim of a God is the claim that fundamental laws of the universe can be violated by a certain being’s will.
    However, a spiritualist I spoke to (called Tom Kuoh) claims God to be less than that. He claims God to be the sentimental value or the worth or the fact of causality. As long as what can be called “God” is that flexible, then I don’t agree that we can know one does not exist.
    However, once another person pins down a definition of God we can know that God does not exist.

      • J_Agathokles
      • October 28th, 2012

      “When you take into account the Classical Greek Gods you start to notice that all it takes to be a God is a power that defies known physics.”

      I resent that remark. Within Hellenic polytheism, ancient or modern, the Gods are not toddlers with superpowers. While I concur that in *myths* they may be depicted in such ways, the Gods are not their myths. Myths are made by humans – perhaps with divine inspiration, perhaps just a poet being creative with material already at hand. The myths try to explain certain things about the world, the Gods, humans, and so on, and rarely in a straightforward way.

      It is also not how people experienced and experience the Gods in worship at all, the Gods’ nature is so much beyond our mortal comprehension that we need simplified, dumbed down, ways to try and grasp it, which is part of what myths do.

      And the Gods don’t have “supernatural” powers that defy the laws of physics. Everything is part of nature, even the Gods. They instituted the very framework of the Laws of Nature and Fate, and they operate within it’s bounds – they could act without regard for them, but they don’t because this would be catastrophic for the kosmos. The Gods, in their immanent aspect, *are* their domains. Tykhe *is* fortune, Hestia *is* the hearth, etc., and yet they are also transcendent, not bound bound by the Laws they instituted, but nevertheless obeying and enforcing them.

      As I said, they are not toddlers with superpowers. You have to look beyond myths to try and understand them.

  2. First of my stance is and always will be “There is no god, there are no god’s”.

    Any person who believes that our planet is 6,000 years old and points to a book that was written by men years after the events they are writing about had happened, as proof that god exists is at best on dated and unquantifiable ground.

    The assault on science by religion over the centuries has been incredible (and it still continues) and I for one am dismayed at this fashionable new “respect” society we must show medieval belief systems.

    I respect ideas that have validity but if someone tells you they’ve seen unicorns at the bottom of their garden you would laugh at them, possible arranging for a psychiatrist’s visit, so tell me why is religion given a free pass?

    After all these people no longer believe in Thor, Zeus et al!

  3. Oh my daughter believes in Thor – at least in the form of Chris Hemsworth.
    Sorry. This is a serious discussion and for my two-penny worth i believe you don’t need a god to be good. Just do it.
    Love the statement ‘gods are not toddlers with superpowers’. Just how I always imagined Zeus, Poseidon and co mucking about on Mount Olympus.

    • Thanks for commenting. Gods are made to be like toddlers with superpowers. The thing about Zeus and Thor is that they are not all powerful or all knowing. They explain somethings but not all things as far as what it is that gods can explain. I prefer them to YHWH.

  4. Every time. Although they are pretty self-centered, often acting purely to fulfill their own desires.

      • J_Agathokles
      • May 5th, 2013

      Again, this is what one gets when one reads the myths literalistically, like the Christians and the Muslims are supposed to read their Bible and Qor’ān respectively. Myths are considered allegories containing higher truths, which require interpretation, not literalistic acceptance. There’s a difference between “mythical” truth and “historical” truth, which is very important.

      • I’d love to hear you expound on the difference and why it’s important.

          • J_Agathokles
          • May 5th, 2013

          The Bible and the Qor’ān are considered to be the direct revelations of YHWH and Allāh, and are considered as unadulterated and absolute divine truth which can not be doubted in any way, by anyone who wants to call him/herself devout follower of those religions.

          The Hellenic myths are completely different. They are not seen as absolute divine truth. If they were, there wouldn’t be so many, many, many, MANY, different versions across time and space of the same myths as we have now. People also wouldn’t have used them lightly to poke fun at them – several comedians made comedic versions of them.

          But they weren’t dismissed as “just stories” either, they were also important tales that contained higher truths about the nature of the Gods, the Kosmos, etc., which one needs to interpret. Things aren’t always straightforward.

          I wrote more about it here:

          • I always appreciate your input. Thanks for linking to your post. I hope many here will read it. I’ll repost it so that more do. When people talk about the good parts of religion, I feel that you have a tight grip on that part with a personal dislike of the bad parts. I find that useful and refreshing.

  5. This is an excellent post.

    Even taking a step back from pop culture belief systems, makes it easy to see the ignorance of it all – including the new age belief systems which are just as infantile, like their own ‘doomsday prophecy’ that never came to pass on December 21st last year.

    History is resplendent with religious failures, religious hate, and religious crimes against humanity (now, with the new age variety added to the mix) all in the name of cantankerous, bloody-minded and immature gods.

  6. Maybe the “problem” was in believing that everyone held a legitimate piece of the truth. If the supposed truth is decided by everybody, and most people are wrong, then believing that everyone is right will serve to drown out what’s actually right.

    There are 3 children in line for a rollercoaster. A ticket costs $10. one child has $10, the other two have $5 each. You can’t say that all the children in line can’t ride the ride because they, on average, have $6.67 each. No, the child who can pay gets to ride and the other two have to go look for more money.

    In the same way, just because people, on average, are wrong about religion, doesn’t mean that everyone is wrong.

    I can’t remember if this is even on topic, lol.

    • The topic was about whether it is audacious to say god does not exist. I said it is not the question – rather, can a god exist.

      Your comment on drowning out the correct answers with average ones counts in my favor as well. The average opinion is how likely is it that god exists when he correct question is can a god exist.

      Thanks for commenting

      • No problem.

  7. Reblogged this on Hedonix's Weblog and commented:
    …an unusual, perceptive view expressed with candor and moxy, in my less than humble opinion.

  8. I am “certain, beyond any doubt” that no REVEALED God exists. And when it comes to revealed gods, I’m talking about the (allegedly) monotheistic God of Abraham: the God claimed by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

    The Abrahamic religions are ancient religions that grew out of an era of abject ignorance. The founders of these religions thought the world was flat and that we see by projecting light from our eyes. Judaism and Christianity even retain elements of the primitive blood sacrifice rituals of prior death cults. Islam substitutes blood sacrifice with blood lust (against infidels).

    The God of Abraham is the kind of primitive caricature of a supreme being that only abjectly ignorant people could produce. Their noblest vision of God was as an important ally in war and never gave slavery or the subjugation of women a second thought. It is transparently true that the God of Abraham was made in man’s image.

    The reason we can be “certain, beyond any doubt” that no revealed God exists is because revealed Gods divinely inspired scripture to show us the nature of God and to spell out his moral requirements of us — especially where our sex lives are concerned. Scripture gives us information. And that information precludes the possibility — beyond any doubt — that revealed Gods ever existed.

    The gods of other religions? They’re obviously superstitions: I can’t take them seriously. The only God I can’t absolutely rule out is the cosmic, absentee, impersonal, God of deism and pantheism. My reason for reserving a sliver of possibility for a deistic God is the question of the origin of existence.

    There are three basic explanations for the origin of existence . . .

    The universe has always existed, without beginning.
    The universe spontaneously came into existence, out of nothing.
    The universe was created by God (“God did it”).

    NONE of these are satisfying answers. NONE of them has ever been proven. ALL of them have major logical problems. In the company of the first two, the third one is right at home (Occam’s Razor notwithstanding).

    The current consensus among cosmologists favors the second explanation. They even back it up with some pretty convincing evidence. But it’s not a foregone conclusion just yet. If it ever were proven true, that would be the death knell of the deistic God (of ALL gods, actually, creators or not) — at least, as far as I’m concerned.

    • I find this a most agreeable comment. Thanks for commenting.

  1. May 5th, 2013
    Trackback from : Mythology | myatheistlife

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