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What do Ricky Gervais and the Assyrian King Sennacherib Have in Common?

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They make the same category error.

In 701 BC the Assyrian King Sennacherib invaded the Kingdom of Judah.  The Assyrian army besieged Jerusalem and employed what today we would call psychological warfare tactics to undermine the defense of the city.  II Chronicles 32:16-19 records their tactic:

His servants spoke further against the Lord God and against His servant Hezekiah.  He also wrote letters to insult the Lord God of Israel, and to speak against Him, saying, ‘As the gods of the nations of the lands have not delivered their people from my hand, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver His people from my hand.’  They called this out with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, so that they might take the city.  They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth, the work of men’s hands.

Consider the last sentence.  “They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth, the work of men’s hands.”

Sennacherib made the same mistake modern atheists make 2,700 years later with their “I am just atheistic about one more god than you are” argument.

Ricky Gervais makes the argument this way:

So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra? . . .” If they say “Just God.  I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me.  I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.

As I explained in a prior post, the argument has a kind of first blush plausibility until, upon reflection, one realizes Gervais has made a colossal category error.  David Bentley Hart describes the God of the monotheistic faiths  in The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss as follows:

God is the unconditioned cause of reality – of absolutely everything that is – from the beginning to the end of time. Understood in this way, one can’t even say that God “exists” in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist. God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.

Properly understood, the God of the monotheistic faiths is not in the same category as the gods in the Canaanite, Greek, Norse or Indian pantheons – contingent creatures all.  He is pure being that is the source of all being.  He is the necessary being that grounds all being, and by definition there can be only one necessary being that grounds all being.  Therefore, it is a category error to compare this necessary being to contingent beings.  To lump the God of the monotheistic faiths in with Ba’al demonstrates that you understand neither God nor Ba’al.

Think of it this way.  Gervais says in essence: “There are a bunch of oranges, and I disbelieve in all of the oranges without exception.  You are little different from me because you admit that you also disbelieve in all of the oranges, except for that last little orange you irrationally insist on clinging to.”  No, Ricky, just like you I disbelieve in all of the oranges without exception.  But I do believe in an apple.  Why should I stop believing in an apple just because I don’t believe in oranges?

Back to the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem.  The Chronicler understood that Sennacherib had made the same category error Gervais would make millennia later.  The gods of the other peoples defeated by the Assyrians were contingent beings – “the work of men’s hands.”  As such they were nothing like the God of Israel, who, according to the Jewish scriptures, was pure spirit and the ground of all being.  The people of Jerusalem did not lose heart and the Assyrian siege failed.

 

27 Replies to “What do Ricky Gervais and the Assyrian King Sennacherib Have in Common?

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    Haha. I see an image of Ricky standing next to an orange tree claiming he merely disbelieves in one more orange than the rest of us.

    Orange tree? What orange tree. There can’t be any orange trees.

  2. 2
    Macauley86 says:

    Does the “one god further” one-liner even have first-blush plausibility?

    https://www.quora.com/Why-is-it-not-so-obvious-to-atheist-scientists-that-the-universe-could-not-have-created-itself/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

    Believing that the Ferrari GG50 was designed by one less industrial designer than Giugiaro does not make one bright; it makes one insane. Breed insanity with hubris and you get the New Atheism.

    https://www.wired.com/2002/12/holytech/

  3. 3
    JDH says:

    The belief in Atheism has so many self-contradictions that it is truly an idea only a fool could believe. For example, all Atheists I have met have told me that they have purposely chosen to be an Atheist, however, if Atheism ( and its necessary corollary materialism ) is true – then it can only be an accident of evolution that they believe in Atheism. “I have purposely chosen to be an Atheist” belongs to that special case of statements that can only be true if they are false. Foolish.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: There is a category confusion between small-g gods and the world-root being, the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being who grounds our existence as responsible, rationally free morally governed creatures. One can only properly add and subtract apples and apples, or guavas and guavas. To say one disbelieves in a panoply of supernatural small g gods like Apollo, Osiris, Baal, Astarte or the like and then imagine that it is the same sort of thing to scratch off the Creator-God, is a step of utter carelessness in thought and argument. KF

  5. 5
    Origenes says:

    Ricky Gervais: So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra? . . .”

    The name is not particularly relevant, Ricky. I believe that this universe and life is intelligently designed and that “God” is the most likely candidate. You, on the other hand, seem to think all things come about due to blind luck. You see, Ricky, some ppl, and I am one of them, do not consider that to be a satisfactory explanation.

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    KF @4:

    Good point. Thanks.

    Were God like the atheists describe Him, I would be an atheist too.

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra? . . .” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.

    As I explained in a prior post, the argument has a kind of first blush plausibility until, upon reflection, one realizes Gervais has made a colossal category error. … Properly understood, the God of the monotheistic faiths is not in the same category as the gods in the Canaanite, Greek, Norse or Indian pantheons – contingent creatures all. He is pure being that is the source of all being. He is the necessary being that grounds all being, and by definition there can be only one necessary being that grounds all being. Therefore, it is a category error to compare this necessary being to contingent beings. To lump the God of the monotheistic faiths in with Ba’al demonstrates that you understand neither God nor Ba’al.

    We all agree that we are technically atheist about all the other gods listed because we see no good reason for believing in them. Gervais and other atheists like myself hold that there are no good reasons for believing in the Christian god either. Pointing out that Christians claim that their god is the all-powerful creator of everything rather than a more limited entity such as Zeus does not of itself allow you to escape the accusation of special pleading.

    As for David Bentley Hart’s concept of God, it may satisfy the sophisticated theologians who recognize the problems with more simplistic notions of such a being but to me it is almost post-modern in the obscurity of the abstractions into which it retreats. When I was a Christian I can assure you I did not go to church to worship “what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality” and I did not pray to ” the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.” What I was envisaging may not quite have been an old man with a white beard living in the clouds but it was not far off, it was an intelligent, conscious individual and I suspect that was true of most others at my church and probably the majority of other Christians as well. In that sense, the Christian God differs only from Zeus or Mars in what Christianity claims is the scope of His powers. That is not good reason to believe the claim over that of other alleged deities

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    Thank G-d that Seversky doesn’t hold that there are no good reasons for believing in the Jewish god!

    Why are atheists so averse to declaring their anti-semitism?

  9. 9
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sev

    Pointing out that Christians claim that their god is the all-powerful creator of everything rather than a more limited entity such as Zeus does not of itself allow you to escape the accusation of special pleading.

    Pointing out that the necessary God who is the ground of all being is in an ontologically different category from these contingent gods is “special pleading”? You don’t know what that that phrase means, and you have just displayed your ignorance in a public forum.

    Let me help you out with that. Wikipedia has a definition of “special pleading” that is as good as any. The term refers to a form of fallacious argument that involves an attempt to cite something as an exception to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exception.

    Now, let’s look at my argument. The generally accepted rule is disbelief in “gods” such as Zeus, Thor, etc. I argued that the God who is the necessary being who grounds all being is in a different ontological category from these contingent gods, and therefore the general rule of disbelief in contingent gods does not apply to him. See what I did there? I gave a sound reason to justify the exception. In other words, I did exactly the opposite of “special pleading.”

    Here’s a hint: Before you dismiss someone’s argument with a snear like “special pleading,” you should actually know what that term means.

    [A description of God as necessary being] is almost post-modern in the obscurity of the abstractions into which it retreats

    God help us. Sev is arguing that a conception of God that goes back at least to Plato (2,400 years ago) if not further, is “post-modern.” Makes me think you don’t know what that phrase means either.

    What I was envisaging may not quite have been an old man with a white beard living in the clouds but it was not far off,

    How utterly sad. You were taught an impoverished conception of God and became an atheist when, inevitably, you were disappointed by a god that existed nowhere but in your own stunted imagination.

    In that sense, the Christian God differs only from Zeus or Mars in what Christianity claims is the scope of His powers.

    No, Sev, your impoverished conception of the Christian God is not much different from Zeus and Mars. There is no reason for the rest of us to adopt your theologically dubious imaginings when we contemplate the real God who necessarily exists. How sad that after all these years you still tilt at a windmill that exists only in your imagination.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    BA (attn Sev):

    In addition, it seems there is an unfortunate lack of understanding of the general logic of being — that is, ontology — and why there are distinctions between non-being [a true nothing] and being, possible and impossible candidate beings, then contingent and necessary beings.

    Non-being has no causal power so, were there ever a true nothing, such would forever obtain. Consequently if a world is [generally conceded], something always was, strange though that seems.

    Further to this, as we are contingent, responsibly and rationally significantly free creatures, adequate causal explanation is needed to bridge the IS-OUGHT gap.

    CB’s could or do exist in some possible worlds but not all, NB’s exist in all. This is because NB’s are framework to the existence of a world; try to imagine a world where distinct identity does not exist, or ceases to exist — impossible. NB’s therefore can be seen to have an eternal character and are un-caused. For instance, distinct identity entails A vs ~A thus two-ness and with it the endlessness of natural numbers. With that too, we necessarily have LOI, LNC and LEM in any possible world. Thence, the general applicability of the logic of structure and quantity, Mathematics.

    In particular, there is no on/off — contingent! — enabling causal condition [technically, a necessary as opposed to sufficient causal factor] that is such that in some world they would not be. Contrast say how a fire depends on heat, fuel, oxidiser and viable combustion chain reaction [cf how Halon extinguishers work].

    Infinite regress of suggested successive causes has insuperable challenges to traverse endlessness etc, so we see finitely remote world-root.

    Causal circularity of origin of contingent beings is not viable as non-being has no causal capacity.

    So, we face a genuine first cause of the world that is of necessary being character.

    The issue is, its nature.

    And, given that our world has in it morally governed, responsible and rational significantly free creatures — necessary for a reasoned discussion to take place, for example — the NB at world-root must be adequate to account for this. That is, post Hume’s guillotine, the IS-OUGHT gap can only be bridged at world-root.

    Cutting the long story short, this forces comparative difficulties analysis. After centuries of debate . . . yes, back to Plato and beyond (see The Laws, Bk X as has so often been clipped at UD) . . . the only serious candidate is the inherently good and wise creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and of the responsible, reasonable service of doing the good that accords with our evident nature.

    (If you doubt this w/view level grand inference to best explanation simply put forth a viable alternative: ______ . And yes, this is NOT a theistic deductive proof offer, it is a case of warrant by support, i.e. fundamentally inductive.)

    The small-g gods are contingent and fail to be adequate, for instance. Likewise as Plato pointed out in his discussion in The Laws, they fail the moral adequacy test, quite spectacularly.

    They are simply not in the relevant class of being.

    The Internet atheist rhetorical gambit fails, and reveals key gaps in understanding.

    KF

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: pardon an excerpt from Plato in The Laws, Bk X:

    Athenian Stranger: . . . They [the skeptical objectors] will make some irreverent speech of this sort:-“O inhabitants of Athens, and Sparta, and Cnosus,” they will reply, “in that you speak truly; for some of us deny the very existence of the Gods, while others, as you say, are of opinion that they do not care about us; and others that they are turned from their course by gifts. Now we have a right to claim, as you yourself allowed, in the matter of laws, that before you are hard upon us and threaten us, you should argue with us and convince us-you should first attempt to teach and persuade us that there are Gods by reasonable evidences, and also that they are too good to be unrighteous, or to be propitiated, or turned from their course by gifts. For when we hear such things said of them by those who are esteemed to be the best of poets, and orators, and prophets, and priests, and by innumerable others, the thoughts of most of us are not set upon abstaining from unrighteous acts, but upon doing them and atoning for them. When lawgivers profess that they are gentle and not stern, we think that they should first of all use persuasion to us, and show us the existence of Gods, if not in a better manner than other men, at any rate in a truer; and who knows but that we shall hearken to you? If then our request is a fair one, please to accept our challenge.” . . . .

    At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe . . . .

    [[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . .

    [[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.– [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke’s views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic “every man does what is right in his own eyes” chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . . . [[I]f impious discourses were not scattered, as I may say, throughout the world, there would have been no need for any vindication of the existence of the Gods-but seeing that they are spread far and wide, such arguments are needed; and who should come to the rescue of the greatest laws, when they are being undermined by bad men, but the legislator himself? . . . .

    Ath. Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you examine their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a very serious matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of argument, but they lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion of them.

    Cle. You are right; but I should like to know how this happens.

    Ath. I fear that the argument may seem singular.

    Cle. Do not hesitate, Stranger; I see that you are afraid of such a discussion carrying you beyond the limits of legislation. But if there be no other way of showing our agreement in the belief that there are Gods, of whom the law is said now to approve, let us take this way, my good sir.

    Ath. Then I suppose that I must repeat the singular argument of those who manufacture the soul according to their own impious notions; they affirm that which is the first cause of the generation and destruction of all things, to be not first, but last, and that which is last to be first, and hence they have fallen into error about the true nature of the Gods.

    Cle. Still I do not understand you.

    Ath. Nearly all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the nature and power of the soul [[ = psuche], especially in what relates to her origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the things which are of the soul’s kindred be of necessity prior to those which appertain to the body?

    Cle. Certainly.

    Ath. Then thought and attention and mind and art and law will be prior to that which is hard and soft and heavy and light; and the great and primitive works and actions will be works of art; they will be the first, and after them will come nature and works of nature, which however is a wrong term for men to apply to them; these will follow, and will be under the government of art and mind.

    Cle. But why is the word “nature” wrong?

    Ath. Because those who use the term mean to say that nature is the first creative power; but if the soul turn out to be the primeval element, and not fire or air, then in the truest sense and beyond other things the soul may be said to exist by nature; and this would be true if you proved that the soul is older than the body, but not otherwise.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

    Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

    Ath. I do.

    Cle. Certainly we should.

    Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

    Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?

    Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

    Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

    Cle. Exactly.

    Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]

  12. 12
    jstanley01 says:

    I thinks it’s a pretty good zinger, actually. Worthy of a guffaw and a “touche.” You know, “Score one for the nerd in the funny looking socks.” But the thing about the atheist thumb-suckers, to them it’s not just a zinger. They actually think that they have formulated a profound philosophical observation. Hillarious.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    JS01, unfortunately, this is a case of triumphalistically putting ignorance on public display. Pooling ignorance publicly while imagining one is winning on an issue does not convert ignorance into sound insight. KF

  14. 14
    JVL says:

    What about the Zoroastrian god? From Wikipedia:

    Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal, transcendent, supreme god, Ahura Mazda, or the “Wise Lord”. (Ahura means “Being” and Mazda means “Mind” in Avestan language).[24] Zoroaster keeps the two attributes separate as two different concepts in most of the Gathas and also consciously uses a masculine word for one concept and a feminine for the other, as if to distract from an anthropomorphism of his divinity. Zoroaster claimed that Ahura Mazda is almighty, though not omnipotent.

    And . . .

    In Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda is the beginning and the end, the creator of everything that can and cannot be seen, the Eternal, the Pure and the only Truth. In the Gathas, the most sacred texts of Zoroastrianism thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself, the prophet acknowledged devotion to no other divinity besides Ahura Mazda.

    Daena (din in modern Persian) is the eternal Law, whose order was revealed to humanity through the Mathra-Spenta (“Holy Words”). Daena has been used to mean religion, faith, law, and even as a translation for the Hindu and Buddhist term Dharma. The latter is often interpreted as “duty” but can also mean social order, right conduct, or virtue. The metaphor of the “path” of Daena is represented in Zoroastrianism by the muslin undershirt Sudra, the “Good/Holy Path”, and the 72-thread Kushti girdle, the “Pathfinder”.

    Daena should not be confused with the fundamental principle asha (Vedic rta), the equitable law of the universe, which governed the life of the ancient Indo-Iranians. For these, asha was the course of everything observable—the motion of the planets and astral bodies; the progression of the seasons; and the pattern of daily nomadic herdsman life, governed by regular metronomic events such as sunrise and sunset.

    All physical creation (geti) was thus determined to run according to a master plan—inherent to Ahura Mazda—and violations of the order (druj) were violations against creation, and thus violations against Ahura Mazda. This concept of asha versus the druj should not be confused with the good-versus-evil battle evident in western religions, for although both forms of opposition express moral conflict, the asha versus druj concept is more systemic and less personal, representing, for instance, chaos (that opposes order); or “uncreation”, evident as natural decay (that opposes creation); or more simply “the lie” (that opposes truth and righteousness). Moreover, in his role as the one uncreated creator of all, Ahura Mazda is not the creator of druj, which is “nothing”, anti-creation, and thus (likewise) uncreated. Thus, in Zoroaster’s revelation, Ahura Mazda was perceived to be the creator of only the good (Yasna 31.4), the “supreme benevolent providence” (Yasna 43.11), that will ultimately triumph (Yasna 48.1).

    That’s much closer to your Christian concept of a supreme being.

  15. 15
    StephenB says:

    Ricky

    I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe,” comes across as both patronizing and impolite.

    Why did you throw the word “scientific” in there? Were you afraid that their might be other arguments that do not necessary go by that name, like, say, big bang, therefore exnihilo creation, — or — fine tuning therefore, fine-tuner; — or finite being, therefore infinite cause – or contingent being, therefore necessary being –or moving matter, therefore, first mover, or 25 other formulations? Which one of the first five did they tell you was logically impossible? Do you believe everything you are told, or do you ever think things through for yourself? Inasmuch as the answer to that question is obviously no, did you know that some people believe that the first two arguments are scientific in nature?

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    JVL, name, per se is not the issue; the key question is, what do ethical theists mean when they speak of God. The answer is — in generic terms — the world-root, the necessary and maximally great being. Any particular tradition/ school of thought/ individuals may see some things clearly or not so clearly, may err in some claims they make and concepts they have, may overlook some issues but at core the question is, the Supreme Being and ontological root of reality. The summary of Zoroastrianism as given does see some key facets of God as Supreme Being. Indeed there are similar things from all over the world as may be seen in say Don Richardson’s Eternity in their Hearts. There is a reason why in Ac 17, Paul could appeal to ideas present even among the confused idolatry and too often somewhat cynical skepticism of Greek culture. Indeed, in another [–> this very] thread this morning, I cited Plato in The Laws Bk X, where amidst the paganism he reaches out towards some understanding of God as Supreme Being. KF

  17. 17
  18. 18
    JVL says:

    KF

    So, do you think Zoroastrians and Christians worship the same God?

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    JVL, the issue is not worship but reconciliation based on repentant trust and willingness to amend life, manifested in living towards truth and right. Rituals by the impenitent are pointless. What I spoke to above is the generic question of what theism is and why the one less god game fails. KF

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Perhaps I need to highlight that this is not original to me but is found in foundational Christian teachings:

    Jn 3: 19 This is the judgment [that is, the cause for indictment, the test by which people are judged, the basis for the sentence]: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the [c]darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For every wrongdoer hates the Light, and does not come to the Light [but shrinks from it] for fear that his [sinful, worthless] activities will be exposed and condemned. 21 But whoever practices truth [and does what is right—morally, ethically, spiritually] comes to the Light, so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are—accomplished in God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence on Him].”

    Rom 2: 4 Or do you have no regard for the wealth of His kindness and tolerance and patience [in withholding His wrath]? Are you [actually] unaware or ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance [that is, to change your inner self, your old way of thinking—seek His purpose for your life]? 5 But because of your callous stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are [deliberately] storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

    6 He will pay back to each person according to his deeds [justly, as his deeds deserve]: 7 to those who by persistence in doing good seek [unseen but certain heavenly] glory, honor, and immortality, [He will give the gift of] eternal life. [–> esp by contrast w v 8 this clearly implies penitent stumbling towards the light and persistence in that path] 8 But for those who are selfishly ambitious and self-seeking and disobedient to the truth but responsive to wickedness [ –> notice the contrast, esp. disobedience to truth joined to clinging to evil . . . telling in our cesspit civilisation today ] , [there will be] wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and anguish [torturing confinement] for every human soul who does [or permits] evil, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and inner peace [will be given] to everyone who habitually does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

    11 For God shows no partiality [no arbitrary favoritism; with Him one person is not more important than another] . . . .

    14 When Gentiles, who do not have the Law [since it was given only to Jews], do [c]instinctively the things the Law requires [guided only by their conscience], they are a law to themselves, though they do not have the Law. 15 They show that the [d]essential requirements of the Law are written in their hearts; and their conscience [their sense of right and wrong, their moral choices] bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or perhaps defending them 16 on that day when, [e]as my gospel proclaims, God will judge the secrets [all the hidden thoughts and concealed sins] of men through Christ Jesus. [AMP]

    In short, what light do you have, what truth do you know or should you acknowledge and live by?

    If you respond to light by fleeing towards darkness, you indict yourself.

    So, the issue WE face is not the one of how God will respond to those who have only generic knowledge, often with much admixture of error. God is merciful and just. Our relevant issue is, what is the light we do have or should acknowledge, and how are we responding. Us, here in a civilisation with 2,000 years worth of exposure to the gospel of the risen Lord and Saviour, the Judge of all, a gospel backed by 500 eyewitnesses and recorded in solemn witness well within the lifetime of those witnesses and sealed with martyred blood shed by those apostles and martyrs who stood peacefully for the truth even at the cost of their lives.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: I just remembered to add:

    James 2: 19 You believe that [g]God is one; you do well [to believe that]. The demons also believe [that], and shudder and bristle [in awe-filled terror—they have seen His wrath]! 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish [spiritually shallow] person, that faith without [good] works is useless? [AMP]

    In short the issue is not mere belief or ritual but penitence that turns to and walks in the light. We cannot manipulate or bribe or distract God (as Plato recognised in The Laws Bk X, cf. 11 above). The devils can and do believe there is but one God — and shudder.

  22. 22
    ET says:

    I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me.

    That doesn’t even make any sense. It is a digital signal and not an analog signal. It is a 1 or a 0.

    Unfortunately for Gervais there isn’t any science that supports the claims of atheism…

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: This from Enc Brit online, will help us see how relevant the above is in addressing Zoroastrianism:

    Though Zoroastrianism was never, even in the thinking of its founder, as insistently monotheistic as, for instance, Judaism or Islam, it does represent an original attempt at unifying under the worship of one supreme god a polytheistic religion comparable to those of the ancient Greeks, Latins, Indians, and other early peoples. Its other salient feature, namely dualism, was never understood in an absolute, rigorous fashion. Good and evil fight an unequal battle in which the former is assured of triumph. God’s omnipotence is thus only temporarily limited. In this struggle all human beings must enlist because of their capacity for free choice. They do so with soul and body, not against the body, for the opposition between good and evil is not the same as the one between spirit and matter. Contrary to the Christian or Manichaean (from Manichaeism—a Hellenistic, dualistic religion founded by the Iranian prophet Mani) attitude, fasting and celibacy are proscribed except as part of the purificatory ritual. The human struggle has a negative aspect, nonetheless, in that it must strive for purity and avoid defilement by the forces of death, contact with dead matter, etc. Thus, Zoroastrian ethics, though in itself lofty and rational, has a ritual aspect that is all-pervading. On the whole, Zoroastrianism is optimistic and has remained so even through the hardship and oppression of its believers.

    Its founding era is said to be pre C6 BC, putting it at the time of the Babylonian exile. It is almost amusing to see how there is discussion of how it may have influenced Judaism etc, but a strange silence on how the influence could have gone the other way. Where, let us remember, Solomon was widely known for his wisdom and he and later Israelite kings ruled up to the line of the Euphrates, though not on a prolonged basis. And of course the Magi who came to see the King of the Jews points to generations deep respect and resulting homage paid to the long-expected Jewish Messiah.

    That would point to the long shadow of Daniel and other eminent Hebrews in exile. (BTW, I gather Esther’s Tomb is respected to this day by Iranians.)

    KF

  24. 24
    Macauley86 says:

    In his book, The Moral Landscape, author and neuroscientist Sam Harris also argues against free will. He offers one thought experiment where a mad scientist represents determinism. In Harris’ example, the mad scientist uses a machine to control all the desires, and thus all the behavior, of a particular human. Harris believes that it is no longer as tempting, in this case, to say the victim has “free will”. Harris says nothing changes if the machine controls desires at random – the victim still seems to lack free will. Harris then argues that we are also the victims of such unpredictable desires (but due to the unconscious machinations of our brain, rather than those of a mad scientist). Based on this introspection, he writes “This discloses the real mystery of free will: if our experience is compatible with its utter absence, how can we say that we see any evidence for it in the first place?”[30] adding that “Whether they are predictable or not, we do not cause our causes.”[31] That is, he believes there is compelling evidence of absence of free will.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism#With_free_will

    I wonder whether atheists even have the free will to be atheists.

  25. 25
    mike1962 says:

    Atheists have tried to pull that zinger on me. My retort:

    1+1=?

    There are an infinite number of wrong answers.

    Only one right answer.

    The infinite number of wrong answers does not invalidate the right answer.

  26. 26
    bb says:

    God pointed out the difference long ago. Isaiah 44 makes the point beautifully and indicates why it was Christianity, not Naturalism, that did away with the other gods:

    [There Is No Other God]

    6 “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
    And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
    ‘I am the First and I am the Last;
    Besides Me there is no God.
    7 And who can proclaim as I do?
    Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me,
    Since I appointed the ancient people.
    And the things that are coming and shall come,
    Let them show these to them.
    8 Do not fear, nor be afraid;
    Have I not told you from that time, and declared it?
    You are My witnesses.
    Is there a God besides Me?
    Indeed there is no other Rock;
    I know not one.’”

    [Idolatry Is Foolishness]

    9 Those who make an image, all of them are useless,
    And their precious things shall not profit;
    They are their own witnesses;
    They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed.
    10 Who would form a god or mold an image
    That profits him nothing?
    11 Surely all his companions would be ashamed;
    And the workmen, they are mere men.
    Let them all be gathered together,
    Let them stand up;
    Yet they shall fear,
    They shall be ashamed together.
    12 The blacksmith with the tongs works one in the coals,
    Fashions it with hammers,
    And works it with the strength of his arms.
    Even so, he is hungry, and his strength fails;
    He drinks no water and is faint.
    13 The craftsman stretches out his rule,
    He marks one out with chalk;
    He fashions it with a plane,
    He marks it out with the compass,
    And makes it like the figure of a man,
    According to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house.
    14 He cuts down cedars for himself,
    And takes the cypress and the oak;
    He secures it for himself among the trees of the forest.
    He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it.
    15 Then it shall be for a man to burn,
    For he will take some of it and warm himself;
    Yes, he kindles it and bakes bread;
    Indeed he makes a god and worships it;
    He makes it a carved image, and falls down to it.
    16 He burns half of it in the fire;
    With this half he eats meat;
    He roasts a roast, and is satisfied.
    He even warms himself and says,
    “Ah! I am warm,
    I have seen the fire.”
    17 And the rest of it he makes into a god,
    His carved image.
    He falls down before it and worships it,
    Prays to it and says,
    “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
    18 They do not know nor understand;
    For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see,
    And their hearts, so that they cannot understand.
    19 And no one considers in his heart,
    Nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say,
    “I have burned half of it in the fire,
    Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals;
    I have roasted meat and eaten it;
    And shall I make the rest of it an abomination?
    Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”
    20 He feeds on ashes;
    A deceived heart has turned him aside;
    And he cannot deliver his soul,
    Nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

  27. 27
    Mung says:

    We all agree that we are technically atheist about all the other gods listed because we see no good reason for believing in them.

    I don’t agree.

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