My 3-year Old Thinks Deeper than Some Atheists
It sounds crazy, but I think my three-year old daughter actually thinks more deeply than the average atheist. She understands a distinction in the divine essence that many atheists fail to see.
I, and other apologists like me, out-of-hand reject statements like, “You’re an atheist to literally thousands of gods. I’m only an atheist to one more god than you!” I’ve discussed some reasons here. One of the most compelling reasons to reject such a statement is the very ontology of the gods under discussion.
Polytheism usually starts with two gods, a male and a female. The male generally represents Heaven or the Sky, while the female represents Earth. Immediately, we see that these beings are tied to a material reality, with what Dungeons & Dragons supplements (such as Deities and Demigods) refer to as a “portfolio.” The portfolio is the area of supreme power for that deity.
Sky and Earth then have children, which become the initial gods of the pantheon. In Greek mythology, these children are Cronus and Rhea. Cronus then usurps Sky’s (Uranus) power and becomes king of the entire universe. This represents another common element of polytheism–the supreme god, always dwelling in or characterized by the Sky, is defeated or rendered impotent.
Cronus and Rhea then gave birth to Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, Hestia, and Hera. None of these gods are the causal agent of the force they control. Zeus controls thunder, and his lightning bolt was fashioned to harness the already extant power. Same with the remaining siblings: Poseidon controls the water, Hades shepherds departed souls, Demeter manages the seasons, Hestia the household, and Hera blesses marriage.
The universe, when discussed, is usually already there. It is never “created” by any god, and the gods master extant powers rather than creating them. Further, the gods are always seen as finite, as having a definite beginning and it always seems possible that they could have an end, in either death or imprisonment.
Contrast that with God, the transcendent creator of the universe. There was nothing before God, and there will be nothing after God. He is eternal, and exists on the pure necessity of his own nature. All that we see, he spoke into being. Light through the darkness, material from immaterial, land out of water, vegetation on the land, fish in the sea, then creatures on the land. He commanded it all into existence; he didn’t harness what already existed.
This concept is weighty, but not so much that Ashleigh couldn’t grasp it, and she’s only three! The atheists I deal with are much older than that, yet seem unable to grasp this concept.
How do I know Ashleigh gets it? Because the other day, I hear her declare to my son, Gabriel, and anyone else in earshot, that she was the “god of weather.” I told her that she shouldn’t claim to be God, as that is very wrong indeed.
She replied, “I’m not God, daddy. I’m only god of weather!”
Indicating she understands the fundamental difference between claiming to be the ultimate creator, and a powerful entity with a limited portfolio (such as “weather”). Maybe I’m reading too much into her comment, but it seems to me that she gets a truth that escapes our atheist friends who make the “I’m an atheist to one more god” claim. Maybe she’ll follow in my footsteps into Christian apologetics.
Posted on June 26, 2011, in Apologetics, God, Humor and tagged Existence of God, ontology, polytheism. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.
“The universe, when discussed, is usually already there.”
Your surprising ignorance of other religions are quite astounding considering you make such big and bold assertions about them, and right now you stand as a prime example of the arrogance the outside world see when we look in on people like you.
If you were serious about this topic (religious of the world), you’d easily find hundreds of creation myths in other religions that either replicate or substantiate your claim for your god (like Brahma, the god of creation, and about 12 different versions of him in the Vedas *alone*, that simply create the universe and things). By picking on polytheism (and by extension, most of the natural belief systems) you think you have some leeway for your own religion in terms of uniqueness, but both the origin of Judeaism and the dual belief in Asherah (look it up; tons of fun) throttles it, not to mention that it simply isn’t so simple as to brush religions you *don’t* specify aside as examples of such (a rather dishonest discourse tactic, I might add).
Btw, your grasp on Greek mythology also is poor. Cronus and Rhea are not sky and earth, that’s Uranus and Gaia, and you neglect to mention that the creation of heaven and earth is by Eros, the god of love, so the example you give doesn’t show what you want it to show. Again, something that starts monotheistic, goes polytheistic with remnants of elemental entity belief (which, I suppose, is your *real* beef with this religion), and then goes wild with pan-godliness and all the fun stories we love.
But let’s make it clear ;
“The universe, when discussed, is usually already there.”
No, it usually never is, and this is where you’re wrong. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find creation myths that are terribly different from your own, that first there was nothing (some times except a shadow, or a invisible bird, or a snake, or a glimmer, or a lightning bolt, or something that triggers the creation of the universe). Even Australian Aboriginal creation myth has a distinction about a universe only after a creation of it, and that’s one of the more nature-orientated and fuzzy religious you’ll find.
But perhaps more important, what is your definition of “the universe”? Given that the universe is not mentioned at all in Genesis, what do you mean? Even stars aren’t mentioned until Gen 1:16, and then almost as an after-thought. Is that the universe being created, on day 4? Or are you just assuming a definition of “the universe” in which you can fit your own comfortable creation myth?
Now if your point is that your god is so different from all other gods (and hence lending him more credibility by being different) by virtue of monotheism (and that he did it all, the whole creation and that everything is hence him or by him) I suggest you brush up on pantheism, monism (of which Hinduism is one, that encompasses polytheism and monotheism at the same time), or perhaps examples of Aten worship in Egypt, or perhaps the Babylonian Marduk, or Zoroastrianism, or the sun god Aten, and you can look up Nasadiya Sukta and Rigveda for Vedic examples. And these are just some of the larger ones, I’m sure hundreds of smaller ones never written down have gone lost to history. Your god is not unique in this.
As to your daughter being able to tell the difference between someone ultimately in charge vs. someone not quite as important, I’m perplexed that you find this significant. I ask my own 3 year old all the time, “who’s the boss?” and he knows without question it is mummy. You’re just re-interpreting something that come natural to us into a religious setting where you want it to mean something more, I fear.
You are totally missing my point, here.
The primary point of this post is, as you state in your final paragraph, that my daughter at 3 has understood the ontological difference between the ultimate Creator God described by Judeo-Christianity, and the finite gods tied to polytheism. I was trying to draw from that sort of mythology, such as Greek and Roman mythology, and not venture into other sorts of religions. I know there are many.
Ad hominem. Unusual from you. Ignored.
Not under discussion. I’m really picking mainly on polytheism.
Modern pagans use the gods of polythiestic systems mainly as personifications of the forces they have in their portfolios. So if they were trying to bless their marriage, they might pray to Hera. Looking for love, they’d invoke Aphrodite or Eros. They don’t actually think that these entities exist, they are using them to name a force that they are after. The god/goddess in question doesn’t create the force, rather they personify it.
This is the modern incarnation of Wicca, which I believe that their adherents claim is actually the oldest religion on earth weighing it at some 25,000 years old. I don’t care to substantiate that, but it’s interesting.
I’m not picking on every religion, just polytheistic ones. You offer counterexamples from other religions that aren’t pagan or nature-worshiping, which would be valid if those were under discussion. Since my daughter’s statement was specific to nature-worshipping flavors of polytheism, I confined much of my criticism to those religions.
That you attack this as not broad enough is a little like saying the theory of gravity is insufficient because it doesn’t cover the past extinction of unicorns. I’m more familiar with Greek mythology, so I confined my criticisms there.
Incidentally, for a post tagged “Humor” this is requiring an awful lot of my time. Humor is generally just that.
Funny statement. I read every Greek mythology book my school’s library had in seventh and eighth grade at least twice. And when I graduated to high school, I quickly ate up the two books in the high school’s library. I also verified what I said below at pantheon.org, just to make sure I got the names right.
Nor did I say that they were, please re-read my post.
Yep, though I didn’t mention Gaia I did mention Uranus specifically. I love when people accuse me of misrepresentation and yet misrepresent what I wrote. It kinda shoots your credibility, and makes you into a total hypocrite.
You could be right, but I’ll address my understanding of things in a minute. Or you could have misread Greek mythology the same way you misread my statements. I’ll try to keep an open mind, though.
Well, argue with the book I read back in the day, because a fully-formed universe was already present in which Zeus was secreted away from Cronus, grew up in seclusion, and later returned to challenge his father. In fact, the stone that Rhea put in Zeus’s place and later was vomited up by Cronus is an actual stone in Greece somewhere. Eros was the son of Aprhrodite, who was the daughter of Zeus. He came after Zeus freed the Titans and the Cyclopes from Tartarus (below the earth) who made the trident to control the sea, the helmet for invisibility, and the lightning bolt to control the weather.
Also, Zeus re-imprisoned the Titans at this point, but made Atlas hold up the sky. Still before Eros was born.
But the remaining idea of something existing by necessity, which causes the universe and the universe existing contingently? Fine, I argue the same thing but with a different conception of the necessary being. When you agree a necessary being exists that was the transcendant cause of the universe, we can quibble over the identity later. Right now, it just seems you listed these off to score points with other atheists.
Don’t atheists hate when theists quibble over definitions?
Neither is “species;” “kind” means something different–so what?
Nope; the universe is what you understand it as: EVERYTHING IN THIS MATERIAL EXISTENCE. I don’t comment on Genesis in relation to modern science as a rule, but check Evidence for God from Science for a more complete overview.
Norm Geisler answered those charges in Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism. Pantheism isn’t a valid answer to orgins, because it falls prey to the same criticism as naturalistic science in trying to explain the universe. The universe exists contigently, as it can be shown to have an absolute begining some time ago. The cause of the universe, therefore, must be transcendant outside the universe, and such a cause (deduced logically) automatically excludes the idea that God is identical with the natural world. Thus, any of the family of religions springing from this notion (such as you mention) are doomed to those criticisms.
And I admit that I might be assigning more significance to it than it warrants, but I thought it was funny that she seems to quite naturally understand my refutation of “You’re an atheist to thousands of other gods, I just go one god farther” sound bite, while many atheists struggle with it.
I was going more for some light-hearted humor, rather than making a sweeping critique of world religions.
Hmm. Seems we have some cleaning up to do. Let’s begin ;
No, it wasn’t. Claiming you ignorant on a subject is just that; a claim of ignorance. It’s a common cannard amongst believers (for some odd reason) to take the statement of ignorance as an insult. It’s not, it’s just saying you don’t know much about a given subject. I’m for example ignorant of brain surgery. No offense in that, just a statement of fact, and here used to point out that your claimed expertize (given through heavy commentary) is a false promise.
Also, the reference to arrogance is given in context; we looking on to you. Note I didn’t say you are arrogant, I said you now stand as an example of what arrogance looks like to us from the outside. You either accept that your behavior comes across like that, or ignore it. But ad hominem it most certainly is not.
“I’m not picking on every religion, just polytheistic ones”
You are not clear in who you pick on, and that was my point. Even Hinduism falls into the polytheistic category, and I’m pretty sure you’re not meaning that. Also, the polytheistic religion you do pick on (through your last post) would be applicable if you meant fundamentally duotheistic (of which Wiccan is, and Hinduism is not, for example) of Wicca is a modern religion that has very little to do with actual pagan religions. It’s as pagan as Unitarian Universalist is to Christianity, a link even you would concede was nonsense in any knowledgeable form.
“You offer counterexamples from other religions that aren’t pagan or nature-worshiping”
In your original post you didn’t mention pagan nor nature-worshipping at all, and your saying by critique is irrelevant based on new definitions not originally there. There’s a name for this; shifting the goal-posts.
“I love when people accuse me of misrepresentation”
No, you don’t. 🙂 But yes, I was mistaken on that one due to the way it was written; you went from the mythos of Dungeons & Dragons straight to Greek mythology. I now see that you meant children *of* the duotheistic entities, not that the duotheistic entities were children of the creator god. My bad.
As to Greek mythology in general, there are more than one myth, and maybe that’s where some of this confusion comes from. Greek mythology, just like Roman, just like Vedic, just like Abrahamic, just like Australian Aboriginal, just like Norse mythology, are interlocking, different and similar mythos; sometimes defined in a scripture, some times in dogma, other times differences become new religions, and so on. Greek mythology is quite diverse (but not as diverse as some).
“But the remaining idea of something existing by necessity, which causes the universe and the universe existing contingently? Fine, I argue the same thing but with a different conception of the necessary being. When you agree a necessary being exists that was the transcendant cause of the universe, we can quibble over the identity later. Right now, it just seems you listed these off to score points with other atheists.”
I never score points with anyone. I don’t belong to any category you can define as such, nor am I after scoring points. I do, however, want truth.
Existence by necessity is a religious concept that far too often tracks back to the want of a soul, to put some meaning onto our sorry lives on this crazy rock of ours. But there’s no need for anything to exists by necessity; it’s just a linguistic phrase we’ve come up with, loading it with bias of our own importance. There’s nothing to suggest that you are important. There’s nothing to suggest you had to exist. And this apply equally well to all religions. Think of it this way;
If one religion was true about this, that something existed necessary, then all other religions cancels the necessity of themselves out. Saying your god is a necessary being is only true if you want to justify your belief. You want to justify your belief. You want there to be a necessary god, and hence you believe it is. But think about it; ontologically nor epistemologically is there any need for anything to be necessary. Even logic precludes this notion. We are nothing more than linguistic artifacts of our wants and needs.
“Don’t atheists hate when theists quibble over definitions?”
No, of course not. A quibble is the perfect thing to do; let’s create the constraints of our words so that our discussion becomes as correct as we can make it. However, people will of course react if your proposed definitions are absurd, weak, faulty, silly, wrong, incomprehensible or otherwise *hinders* the communications we seek.
Me: “Given that the universe is not mentioned at all in Genesis,”
You: “Neither is ‘species;’ ‘kind’ means something different–so what?”
So what? You are talking about how your god created the universe, but the universe is not mentioned. In fact, the only things mentioned were things that bronze-age people could see and know about. Doesn’t that provide us with some clues to where the Christian creation myth was concocted by?
“Nope; the universe is what you understand it as: EVERYTHING IN THIS MATERIAL EXISTENCE”
Why? The bible never talks about any such thing, and is in fact closer to define heaven, the kingdom of your god, as part of it. You have to understand, Cory, that your argument in your original post is about how your god is special for creating a universe from nothing, and that this is why the definition of the universe is important, and *also* why it’s important that the universe you then define it as is *not* defined that way in the bible (the source of your creation myth).
As to the atheist creed of “I’m only atheist to one more god” seems to fail more on the Christian’s behalf than the Atheist that *made it*. You don’t seem to realize why this is an important concept;
There are thousands of religions. There are even more thousands of cults, denominations and categories of each. And they *all* claim that their’s is the correct one. Now, here’s the point; are you treating your own religion to the criteria to which you reject all the thousands of others? The answer is *clearly* no.
I, on the other hand, clearly do. I do not make special pleading and conditions for my own beliefs that I don’t also give to other models.
Cory, look at Hinduism. Try to make yourself look at it critically, feel it, let it wash over you in terms of what they proclaim to be truth, and then apply a sense of critique to it. Why are you rejecting their claims? Lack of evidence would be some, others are lack of coherent context, maybe something about historic and cultural bias, maybe you fail to see their point because dharma doesn’t feel mutually exclusive to karma (or other such ontological boot-scraping), or there’s no logical argument for reincarnation in lieu of evolution or geological time (depending on school of thought).
And after you’ve done all that, have you done the same to your own beliefs? That’s what it means. It means to be critical of your own model of belief in the same way you are critical of Thor, Juju up the mountain and Zeus.
Yahweh is not the only creator deity.
Maybe you could response to the slogan: “You’re an atheist to literally thousands of CREATOR gods. I’m only an atheist to one more CREATOR god than you!” ?
Yes, people make up all kinds of gods, some more powerful than others. This doesn’t make your god more likely; in fact, the reverse is true.
Interesting post. Keep up the good work. Out of the mouth of babes.
One of my favorite apologists, Dr. Hugh Ross, coming from a non-religious background, studied every major religion before coming to the conclusion that Chrisitianity is the one true religion. One cannot simply dismiss the Judeo-Christian God as just another god among a plethora of imagined or invented gods without having carefully weighed the evidence. Although there is much other eveidence to be considered, the Bible alone is reason enough for me to realize that there is much about the Christian God that is unique among all other religions and that the pluasibilty of his existence stands high abouve all others.
Wanna list some of the things you think make your god unique?
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