Defining God: Yours and Mine

One day, late in my career as a biology teacher, we had finished our lesson for the day on organic evolution, and there were a few minutes left in the hour. A student asked me if I believed in god. I replied that the question was fair and well received, but that the question was asked at the wrong time and place as this was a science class that dealt with secular subjects only, in a secular institution, supported by a secular state and secular nation. I also made the point that science addresses itself only to our questions about natural phenomena, and has nothing whatever to say about theological, extra-natural, or supernatural subjects.

If she were to ask me off campus if I believed in a god I would first have to ask, “Which one?” because the word “god” could be understood only in a generic context. People have created literally thousands of gods, and therefore the idea of “god” could mean disparate things to many people. In the approximately 150,000 year history of modern human beings, people have always created their own gods from their own experience, and to suit their own purpose whether for their perceived needs, or to control others.

I would have asked her, “Specifically, which god are you asking about? If she had said, “The Christian God”, I would have replied that I was still at something of a loss for an answer because I did not know what she meant by “god.” I would have explained that I had asked maybe a thousand people, both professional and lay people, to define what they meant by “god,” and that I had received an equal number of definitions. One young mother had told me that she defined “god” as, “the space between the molecules.”

I had read what scores and scores of theologians and philosophers had to say about what, or who god was, or is, and they all had different opinions, and they all thought they were right, and that the others were wrong. Even the early Catholic Church was rent asunder because different factions defined their god in different terms. Now, we can only wonder how many different concepts of “god” there are among 2500 denominations of Protestants.

Some Christian theologians had been accused and convicted of heresy because their ideas about “god” were different from some others. I knew that this had been going on for more than twenty centuries, and there was still no resolution to the differences of opinion, even from those who allegedly knew the most about the subject. The likelihood that I understood “god” in the same context as my student was so remote that if she were asking if I believed in the same idea of god as she did, the answer would statistically have to be, “Probably not.” This begs the question: “After more than two millennia, are we any closer to having a clearer and more universal understanding of who or what “god” is?

If she was asking if I believed in an anthropomorphic, paternalistic, patriarchal, personal, creator god (a kind of cosmic designer) who chronically meddled in the lives of people, (a kind of cosmic cop); or a kind of god who meted out rewards and punishments, condemning some people to eternal damnation in a fiery hell for disobedience or unbelief (a kind of cosmic judge) I would have to say, “Surely, you jest.”

If she were asking if I believed in a god who blessed some people with remarkable talents while denying them to others, or played favorites by designating some people as his “Chosen People,” or made countless egregious errors while creating millions of babies born with horrifying genetic or congenital defects, I would have said, “Not on your life.”

If she were asking if I believed in a god who played a role in the generation of natural phenomena (earthquakes, volcanism, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes) without warning people, or who played dice with the universe; or otherwise “watches over us”, then all this is nothing more than worship of an idealized form of ourselves. Such a world view is not only elementary and primitive, it is intellectually unsophisticated and indefensible in light of a more modern understanding of natural phenomena. I would have to say, “You’ve got to be kidding me–please don’t insult my intelligence!”

If the most authoritative god believers couldn’t agree about what or who “god” was/is, what different believers believed really depended on who they had been listening to; even then there was a lot of disagreement. Christians, Jews and Muslims all believe that there is only one God, but they have profound differences in what they believe is true about their God. The differences are so great that they have been killing each other over their different beliefs for centuries; and it is still going on. Christians even kill other Christians over their differences. (See Ireland and Yugoslavia.) The same is true for Muslims (see Sunni’s and Shia) even though all of them preach the “Golden Rule,” forgiveness, charity, tolerance and “love one another.” It seems as though, in spite of all of the rhetoric, the message has been lost, or the message has made little impression on the believers, or that their omniscient and omnipotent God has been either unwilling, incapable or indifferent about doing anything about it.

It seems as though there is an enormous amount of confusion about a subject that should be universally simple, direct and consistent, especially among believers. Such is not the case, and resolution does not appear to be forthcoming.

Some of my Christian friends have suggested that I, like they, should love, honor, obey and worship their Hebrew god who, according to the most learned theologians is: unknowable, indescribable, inscrutable, ineffable, and completely incomprehensible. If we cannot find consensus among theologians as to what, or who, “God” is, then we cannot escape the idea that those who engage in “God talk” really don’t know what they are talking about. We are left hopelessly adrift without a rudder, in a stormy sea of semantic obfuscation and blinding confusion, falling headlong into a philosophical black hole. Are these people then, even worthy of our attention? Should we even give consideration to their unverifiable claims and groundless assertions?

I suggested that if we were created in the image of an omniscient “god,” and that people have always created their gods in their own image, then such a god must be a lot like us. That being so, then worshiping such a deity would be little more than another form of anthropomorphic idolatry which would be narcissism at its worst. This is not only patently absurd, it is intellectually abhorrent.

So, back to my student’s original question–do I believe in God? Almost everyone believes in a god or gods. It depends on how “God” is defined and whose definition is accepted. If we examine and understand our own history, and the history of gods, it is not difficult at all to understand why there is such incredible diversity in our concepts of “God.” It just depends on how we define our own idea of “God,” or if we accept someone else’s concept of “God.”

If we accept someone else’s concept of “God” on faith, then we are allowing them to do our thinking for us. If people are inadequately educated and/or incapable of thinking for themselves and defining their own god, in their own terms, to their own purposes, then I suppose that is the best they can do. Unthinking people (the ignorant masses) have always believed what thinking people, (the king and the priests) have told them what they should believe, and how they should behave. It is not difficult to imagine why so many educated people have rejected that kind of intellectual and emotional manipulation.

If we accept the unsupported and unverifiable claims and assertions of others in the secular world, we will be branded as, and known as, gullible, credulous fools, and deservedly so. If we accept the unsupported claims and unverifiable assertions as truth from those who claim divine sanction, are we any different from those in a secular context? Is there anyone who thinks we have two brains and a double set of consciousness, one for secular concerns and one for religious concerns? Can we afford to be critical and analytical thinkers on just a part-time basis and abandon our higher thought processes to satisfy our appetite for warm, comfort-able emotional trips into wishful thinking, and an escape from reality?

Will we educate our children with the highest level of our modern, intellectual knowledge base, or indoctrinate them with ancient, and archaic biases, prejudices and religio-political agendas derived from a tribal mind set to solve the problems they will face in the 21st century?

Do I believe in a god? Certainly not in the context of any of the monotheistic religions which are derived from a pre-modern knowledge base that can best be described as somewhere between Paleolithic conjecture and Bronze Age speculation.

I did believe in a god as a naive child because I was indoctrinated with that idea before I could think critically and evaluate the arguments and the evidence for and against the existence of a god. Like everyone else, I was the product of my environment. Subsequently, however, in the light of a modern, scientific knowledge base, gods of any kind, whether one or many, cannot stand up to critical examination. Gods, like all religions, are grounded in, and derived from, a profound misunderstanding and misinter-pretation of natural phenomena. Gods cannot be reconciled with the realities of the known laws of the universe.

Can I prove that a god or gods do not exist? Of course not. One can never prove a negative, nor is one ever compelled to try to do so. The burden of proof is always on the claimant, and thus far, no one has ever provided a single scintilla of compelling evidence to support the assertion that a god or gods exist.

Nearly everyone understands this. Believing in a god then, is a matter of choice–it is a personal option that is exercised according to one’s perceived needs and reflects the level of one’s understanding of the world and the cosmos in which one lives. If your definition of a god does not agree with mine, that is all right with me. I say you’re entitled to your own definition of your god. If my definition does not agree with yours, is that all right with you?

I define god as, “The nature of Nature.” This works for me. If it doesn’t work for you I will NOT say that you are evil, or immoral, or amoral, or doomed to spend eternity being seared in flames. I will not label you as blasphemous, nor call you a heretic.

If you disagree with my definition of “God,” you have just two choices: you can define your god in your own way, in your own terms, to serve your own purpose, or you can let someone else do your thinking for you.

Rodney Sheffer is a retired biology teacher. He is also a self-appointed and self-authenticating social critic, as well as an apostate Presbyterian & Bon Vivant. He can be reached at: rodcarfl@lightningspeed.net. Read other articles by Rodney, or visit Rodney's website.

25 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on February 20th, 2008 at 6:28am #

    Globally, we are demanding 1.3 planets to support our lifestyles this year, and yet we only have one planet earth.

    Ecological Debt Day marks the day when we begin living beyond our ecological means. Ecological Footprint accounting shows that, as of October 6, 2007, humanity has consumed the total amount of new resources that our planet can produce this year.

    Today, humanity uses about 30% more in one year than nature can regenerate in that same year. This is called “overshoot”. An ecological overshoot of 30% means that it takes over one year and three months for the Earth to regenerate what is being used by people in one year. This overshoot accumulates over time to create a global ecological debt.

    We currently maintain this overshoot by liquidating the planet’s natural resources. For example we can cut trees faster than they re-grow, and catch fish at a rate faster than they repopulate. While this can be done for a short while, overshoot ultimately leads to the depletion of resources on which our economy depends.

    Overshoot is like ecological overspending. Just as any business that does not keep financial books will go bankrupt over time, we must document whether we’re living within our ecological budget or running an ecological debt that will eventually deplete our renewable assets.

    Overshoot could be the biggest issue you’ve never heard of, yet its causes and effects are as simple as they are significant. For example, in any given year if we cut down trees faster than the forests can grow them back or catch more fish than the oceans can replenish, we begin liquidating the planet’s assets. The consequences of our annual overshoot is an accumulating ecological debt, with consequences including global climate change, species extinction, insecure energy supplies.

    Today, humanity uses about 30% more in one year than nature can regenerate in that same year.
    “The nature of Nature.” Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts

  2. Michael Kenny said on February 20th, 2008 at 9:19am #

    Very well said! During my short stay in the US 40 years ago, I went to a Catholic high school and there, I was taught Darwinian evolution in biology class as established scientific fact. In religion class, the sheer complexity of evolution was pointed to as one of the proofs that God exists. Darwin is science, God’s existence is a philosophical interpretation of the science (which would, of course, be nonsensical if it contradicted the science).

    What always shocks me about modern American religion is that it has degenerated into mere hocus-pocus. Mere “faith”, as the yuppies call it. We had a joke in school that went like this: Q: Do you believe in God? A: No! (Shock and horror! That in a Catholic school!) To which the answerer then added: I don’t need to BELIEVE in God, because I KNOW there is a God. God is not a mere “belief”. God’s existence is a rational conclusion to be drawn from a philosophical analysis of the available scientific evidence. Atheism is irrational because it is based on the lesser scientific knowledge of an earlier age.

  3. Rechill said on February 20th, 2008 at 11:09am #

    Oh PLEASE with the eco-this and eco-that. Look a little harder and you will find that even in the US, there is more forested area than in the 19th century. You have me partially sold on overfishing but there have never been more rules, regulations and treaties in the fishing industry.

    What I do not hear much anymore is talk about REAL pollution. REAL, flaming rivers, pools of toxic waste, relocated neighborhoods POLLUTION. You know, the kind that is under no control of your average citizen. If there was as much outcry over tangible environmental concerns then maybe we wouldn’t be chasing the ghosts of anthropogenic global warming and carbon dioxide.

    The next time I hear about the new (ironically toxic) lightbulbs I’m supposed to be guilted into buying, I’m going to shove my carbon footprint into someone’s ass.

    All of this trendy eco-nonsense truly upsets the true conservationists and anti-pollution activists who devoted their lives to real environmental problems. We care more about humans not having to ingest man-made poisons dumped by criminals, not criminalizing the industrial revolution. STAY FOCUSED people. But, alas, Al Gore gets the Oscar. Excuse me while I lose my lunch.

  4. David A. Smith said on February 20th, 2008 at 11:20am #

    Religion? Science? to me it’s all the same. If you use religion to judge science, you get a mess. Same goes the other way. If you want to judge God or Religion using the measuring sticks of science (e.g., rational, empirical), then you are predetermining the result. For an analogy, do we criticize the baseball player because he fails to score a touchdown?

    When you proclaim that religion or belief in “God” is “a profound misunderstanding and misinterpretation of natural phenomena,” all you have done is arrogate to yourself the position of final arbiter of what those “natural phenomena” actually are.

  5. El Oaxuco said on February 20th, 2008 at 12:19pm #

    >>If she were asking if I believed in a god who blessed some people with remarkable talents while denying them to others, or played favorites by designating some people as his “Chosen People,” or made countless egregious errors while creating millions of babies born with horrifying genetic or congenital defects, I would have said, “Not on your life.”<>If she were asking if I believed in a god who played a role in the generation of natural phenomena (earthquakes, volcanism, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes) without warning people, or who played dice with the universe; or otherwise “watches over us”, then all this is nothing more than worship of an idealized form of ourselves. Such a world view is not only elementary and primitive, it is intellectually unsophisticated and indefensible in light of a more modern understanding of natural phenomena. I would have to say, “You’ve got to be kidding me–please don’t insult my intelligence!”<<

    Yes, we may understand phenomena such as volcanoes and earthquakes better than our predecessors, but this in no way precludes the existance of a God that calls the shots (ie. one that designed these complex phenomena and who allows or prevents them from hapenning). God designed nature with precisely the complexity and unpredictability that our ‘advanced’ understanding reveals.

  6. El Oaxuco said on February 20th, 2008 at 12:30pm #

    >>If she were asking if I believed in a god who blessed some people with remarkable talents while denying them to others, or played favorites by designating some people as his “Chosen People,” or made countless egregious errors while creating millions of babies born with horrifying genetic or congenital defects, I would have said, “Not on your life.”<<

    What’s wrong with God granting talents in varying degrees. This is just part of nature’s diversity. Who wants a world full of Einsteins?

    As far as “countless egregious errors,” how do you know that God was aiming for 100% healthy humans? Suffering is a part of life and it is so by design. People of faith understand suffering as a means to cleanse our sins. Surely the babies have not sinned, but their ticket to paradise is guaranteed. The parents and relatives, however, suffer and must deal with their condition. This life is a temporary existance intended as a test. It is the afterlife that is eternal.

  7. Doug Tarnopol said on February 20th, 2008 at 1:08pm #

    “If you disagree with my definition of ‘God,’ you have just two choices: you can define your god in your own way, in your own terms, to serve your own purpose, or you can let someone else do your thinking for you.”

    Well, there’s a third option: jettisoning the notion of “God” altogether. I’m sure you wouldn’t have a problem with this, either.

    I think the entire discussion about god in the US (atheists, fundamentalists, and many in between) is utterly beside the point. What matters is how one acts; what one believes is one’s own choice, as you rightly say. It’s the imposition of those beliefs on others, specifically in religion, that is the problem. I have no problem imposing (or rather adhering to) the rules of the Enlightenment game: separate church and state. Reasons? See European history up to the 19th century (and beyond). Or any other region’s history. As you point out.

    I’m an atheist, but the Dawkins et al types are really missing the point. I couldn’t care less whether someone builds houses for the homeless out of faith for Jesus, personal guilt, spite, or anything else. I just care that the house was built.

    Amazing how difficult taking that stance apparently is in the good ol’ USA.

  8. DavidG. said on February 20th, 2008 at 4:12pm #

    Religion is the greatest con that has ever been perpetrated upon ever-gullible human beings. Capitalism is the next closely followed by nationalism.

    If we got rid of religion, capitalism and nationalism, then and only then will we stand some chance of living together in peace.

    Fat chance of that ever happening!

  9. D.R. Munro said on February 20th, 2008 at 4:21pm #

    The only way you could get rid of religion, capitalism, and nationalism is to get rid of humans.

    And we’re slowly working on that.

    And I agree 100% with Doug Tarnopol. I too am an atheist, but I really couldn’t care less if people are feeding and clothing the poor in the name of Jesus or Abraham or whoever else you want to feed the poor for.

    All that matters is that the poor are being fed. Period.

  10. Don Hawkins said on February 20th, 2008 at 6:54pm #

    Tonight on MSNBC on The Tucker show there were two guests talking about Obama and Tucker I could tell didn’t like the idea of Obama becoming President. I think it was more the change thing that he didn’t like. Well the one guest also saw this and said, “Tucker calm down don’t worry even if Obama becomes President there will not be much change.” How does that go God helps those who help themselves. We are now at the point in human history whether or not you believe in God that we must help ourselves and fast. We need to keep CO 2 levels below 450ppm. We needed to start yesterday and now we only have about eight years before we go beyond that level and to me the day we pass that level will be a dark day in hell.
    The only way you could get rid of religion, capitalism, and nationalism is to get rid of humans.
    And we’re slowly working on that one.
    D.R you are not the only one who thinks that way.
    Morpheus: I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?

    Obama do you read DV?

  11. Don Hawkins said on February 20th, 2008 at 7:25pm #

    Human-made greenhouse gas emissions today are enormous,
    especially carbon dioxide (CO2), with annual emissions of over 8 Gigatons of carbon and
    average annual increases of about 2 ppm (parts per million) of CO2 in the air. For the past 30
    years the planet has been warming at a rate of about 0.2°C per decade. And the planet is out of
    energy balance by between ½ and 1 W/m2 (more energy coming in than going out), so additional
    warming of about 0.5°C is “in the pipeline”.
    These facts are no cause for despair. There are enough health-damaging pollutants in the
    air today such that, if they (tropospheric ozone, its principal precursor methane, black soot, and
    some other trace gases that contribute to the global warming) were reduced by feasible amounts,
    the planet’s energy balance could be restored, or nearly so. That is a doable task, and it would
    have many side benefits.

    My concern is with trying to close the
    gap between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community, and
    what is known by those who need to know, the public and policy makers. I think that we still
    have a long way to go in making the danger clear, in part because of the inertia of the climate
    system and the danger of passing tipping points – points at which little or no additional forcing is
    needed to cause large, relatively rapid, undesirable effects.
    Our fellow species feel the danger in climate change. Animals are not on the run for the sake of exercise. But
    they do not control what is happening. We do. We cannot avert our eyes and pretend that we do
    not understand the consequences of continued “business as usual”.
    A related alternative metaphor, perhaps less objectionable while still making the most
    basic point, comes to mind in connection with an image of crashing of massive ice sheets fronts
    into the sea — an image of relevance to both climate tipping points and consequences (sea level
    rise). Can these crashing glaciers serve as a Krystal Nacht, and wake us up to the inhumane
    consequences of averting our eyes?
    Alas, that metaphor probably would be greeted with the same reaction from the people
    who objected to the first. That reaction may have been spurred by the clever mischaracterization
    of the CEO, aiming to achieve just such a reaction. So far that seems to have been the story: the
    special interests have been cleverer than us, preventing the public from seeing the crisis that
    should be in view. It is hard for me to think of a different equally poignant example of the
    foreseeable consequence faced by fellow creatures on the planet. Suggestions are welcome. James Hansen
    WE CAN DO IT, YES WE CAN

  12. Mike McNiven said on February 21st, 2008 at 3:17am #

    Thank you Mr. Sheffer!
    The following DV piece needs your attention too:
    http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2008/02/render-unto-caesar-religion-and-the-law/

  13. samson asfaha said on February 21st, 2008 at 4:13am #

    i want to say shortly that religion is a curtail that block the mind of human beings to not fully reach the true God.who thoght us that God can not speak to us,can not make relationship with human beings is religion. unless we tear down the curtail of religion we are not going to enter to the throne of God.

  14. hp said on February 21st, 2008 at 11:00am #

    Maybe if I behave real good, mind my P’s and Q’s, pay all my taxes and support Israel unconditionally, I may someday be able to convert to Judaism and become one of the “chosen” favorites of, how do they spell it… g-d.
    No? Damn it!

  15. Eileen Fleming said on February 21st, 2008 at 11:24am #

    Fundamentalism is all about NOT THINKING!

    These United States were founded by rebels, revolutionaries and dissidents, not conservatives or neo-cons, and the same goes for the founders of Christianity and true followers of Jesus/JC.

    From the abolition of slavery to civil rights, people of all faiths and atheists united to revolt against the status quo for the greater good; equal human rights!

    The neo-con base is made up of fundamentalist Christians [Christo-terrorists] who are pro-war, pro-empire and anti-the Mystery of love. They lust for Armageddon and worship a god they have created in their own image; judgmental, unforgiving and violent.

    NOT at all what JC was about.

    The term ‘Christian’ was not even coined until the days of Paul, about 3 decades after Jesus walked the earth a man. The early followers were called Members of The Way; being the way JC taught: to love and forgive ones enemies and do not judge any other.

    JC was NEVER a Christian, but he was a social justice, radical revolutionary Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior who rose up and challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were:

    Sinners, poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Military Occupation.

    2,000 years ago The Cross had NO symbolic religious meaning, nor was it a piece of jewelry.

    When JC said: “Pick up your cross and follow me,” he was issuing a POLITICAL statement, for the main roads in Jerusalem were lined with crucified agitators, rebels, dissidents and any others who disturbed the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces.

    “If enough Christians followed the gospel, they could bring any state to its knees.” -Father Philip Francis Berrigan

  16. D.R. Munro said on February 21st, 2008 at 5:39pm #

    This is the thing, humans have always played their stupid insidious games on one another, but it hasn’t interrupted the stability until quite recently.

    When Romans committed their genocides, they’d stick you with a spear, not riddle you with shells containing depleted uranium.

    The game is the same, but the stacks are as high as they can ever be now. I don’t think many people realize just how important the time we are living in right now is. More important than 1914, more important than 1939.

    It’s time to change – or face extinction as a species.

  17. Lee Salisbury said on February 22nd, 2008 at 8:56am #

    As a former Christian preacher I must acknowledge the author’s sage insight revealing the true motivations of practically all god belief, “anthropomorphic idolatry… narcissism at its worst.”

    Christians do not like to admit the many definitions of god within their inerrant tradition-based or bible-based faith. Nevertheless, they are no different than the worshippers of the many savior-gods of 2,000 years ago. The Greek culture who produced the likes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had Zeus and Dionysis. The Egyptians had Horus. The Romans had Mithra and Apollo. The Jews have Jehovah. Christians have Jesus. Our western civilization is a product of these cultures and replicates these same religious patterns. Same old, same old.

    Will we ever learn? No. Why? We are an insecure species in need of self assurance and comfort in an ever changing world. We are prone to self-deception ever searching to justify belief in the god most suitable to our likes and dislikes, i.e. “anthropomorphic idolatry.”

    Right on target Mr Sheffer! Thank you.

  18. rosemarie jackowski said on February 22nd, 2008 at 9:42am #

    I like David Smith’s comment.

    It seems to me that there is a 3rd alternative to believing or not believing and that is to simply doubt. Agnostics do not have the burden of proof. The other 2 sides do. Both have failed.

  19. Andrew Benson said on February 22nd, 2008 at 1:15pm #

    To answer Roddney Sheffer’s question: “Specifically, which god are you asking about?”
    Bring your god here and let’s examine him, (or her).
    1. Jesus: Is Jesus God? Ask any Jehovah’s Witness, or a Jew, or a Muslim. They will explain to you why Jesus is not God.
    2. The Holy Spirit: Is the Holy Spirit is not God? Ask any Jehovah’s Witness, or a Jew, or a Muslim. They will explain to you why the Holy Spirit is not God.
    Or, you can go to http://www.prudentialpublishing.info/
    to read about Jesus:
    Or, consider this: according to the New Testament, thousands of people in Israel saw Jesus. Is Jesus God? The answer is right in the New Testament itself: “No man has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18 KJV)

    3. As for God, the Father, is he God? Who is he? “And God spoke to Israel {Jacob} in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God {Heb. El}, the god {Heb. elohim – a noun} of your father {Abraham}.” (Genesis 46:2-3) The phrase “I am El {proper name}, the god {noun} of your father” elucidates the proper name of the god of Abraham. The name of Abraham’s god was El.
    Who was El?
    El was the highest god of the Canaanite pantheon. He is mentioned in passages of the Ugaritic texts. (See, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 129, 135, 137-141, 143-148, 150-152, 154, 155, 519, 659.) For example, “Your decree, O El, is wise, Your wisdom is eternal …” (See, Mullen, Jr., Theodore E., The Assembly of the Gods, p. 145.)
    Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote, “But he who first built it {the city of Salem/Jerusalem} was a potent man among the Canaanites, and is in our own tongue called the righteous King {Melchizedek}, for such he really was; on which account he was the first priest of God, and first built a temple {Gr. ιερόν}, and called the city Jerusalem, which was formerly called Salem.” (See, Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 6, cha. 10, par. 1, (437).) Josephus’ statement is remarkable, because, according to the Old Testament, Solomon was the first to build a temple for God. But, according to Josephus, before the times of Abraham, there was a temple of God in Salem and Melchizedek was the first priest of God: that is, El; El Elyon. His worshippers were the Canaanites. The god of Abraham was the highest god of the Canaanite pantheon.
    Philo of Byblos (Byblos was a city located in modern-day Lebanon) was a 1st century CE historian. His book Phoenician History was presumably a translation of the book of Sanchuniathon, an early Phoenician historian. Eusebius quotes Philo, who quoted what Sanchuniathon wrote: “Kronos {the Greek god, who was represented by the planet Saturn}, therefore, whom the Phoenicians call El {the god El}, who was king of the {Phoenician} country, and subsequently, after his decease, was deified and changed into the star Saturn …” (See, Eusebius, The Preparation for the Gospel, Book. IV. cha. XVI, par. 156d.) King El was a man, who was deified after his death. He became the highest god of the Canaanites, El Elyon.
    (This is a big subject condensed in three paragraphs.) The bottom line is this: The Head-God of Christianity can be traced to the god of Abraham. The god of Abraham was the god of Melchizedek, the king of Salem. That god’s name was El. El was a king who lived before Melchizedek, and who was deified after his death (this custom survived, up to the Roman times- Julius Caesar became a god after his death). Therefore, the Head-God of Christianity originated, as a man, about 3,800 years ago.
    As Roddney Sheffer would ask, “Specifically, which god are you asking about?” Do you want to ask about Zeus?

    Andrew

  20. Figaro said on February 22nd, 2008 at 1:30pm #

    Well said,
    let’s hear more.
    Figaro

  21. John Hatch said on February 22nd, 2008 at 7:18pm #

    I think the much villified and misunderstood Nietzsche got it about right when he referred to organized religion (specifically Christianity) as ‘voluntary stupidity’. So many volunteers! So much stupidity!

  22. Tyler said on February 22nd, 2008 at 10:36pm #

    rosemarie wrote: “Agnostics do not have the burden of proof. The other 2 sides do. Both have failed.”

    This is a common misconception of (logically consistent) definitions of the terms.

    A/gnosticism refers to knowledge (from the greek term ‘gnosis,’ or knowledge – the prefix ‘a’ means ‘without’ or ‘absence of’) The agnostic simply contends that (any) god(s) cannot be known. The agnostic is without knowledge of any god.

    A/theism refers to belief. A theist (from the greek ‘theos,’ or ‘with god[s]‘) is one who believes in a god (or gods). The atheist (a= without/absence of + theism=belief in a god or gods) simply lacks belief in any god. Atheism is not an assertion that (any) god does not exist, hence, there is no burden of proof.

  23. rosemarie jackowski said on February 23rd, 2008 at 1:03pm #

    Tyler… Webster’s Unabridged disagrees with your comment. Also, most of my friends are atheists. Some of them are so passionate in their belief system that I call them “Evangelical Atheists.”
    I don’t understand why we just don’t respect everyone else’s beliefs. Religions have done much harm, but occasionally religion inspires goodness – Archbishop Romero, the Berrigan Brothers, Fr. Roy of the SOA, etc.
    On the other hand, Capitalism rarely inspires good and has caused great suffering on the planet. Maybe that should be the main focus of criticism.

  24. Tyler said on February 24th, 2008 at 12:23pm #

    rosemarie wrote: “Tyler… Webster’s Unabridged disagrees with your comment.”

    I’m well aware of this, but that doesn’t change the fact that Webster imparts an illogical definition of the word (if for no other reason than it only takes one ‘god’ into account), nor the fact that there are several other dictionary definitions which do agree with my comment. There are dictionary definitions that define atheism as ‘godlessness; immorality.’ Are your atheist friends immoral people?

    rosemarie wrote: “Also, most of my friends are atheists.”

    Everyone is an atheist to varying degrees. Christians/Muslims/Jews are atheists regarding every god save the one they’ve respectively made an exception for. They all lack belief, for example, in the gods of the Greek Pantheon, or all of the gods of Hinduism. The ‘full blown’ atheist simply makes no exception for any god(s).

    rosemarie wrote: “Some of them are so passionate in their belief system that I call them ‘Evangelical Atheists.’”

    Their ‘belief system’ consisting of what, exactly? The belief that there is no god? I as an atheist do not hold such a belief, nor would I allow your friends to define who I am as an atheist – someone who lacks belief in any and all gods. Nonetheless, if they can make a logically consistent case for their belief that no gods exist, is that case any less valid than the theist who invariably cannot make such a case?

    rosemarie wrote: “I don’t understand why we just don’t respect everyone else’s beliefs.”

    Why are beliefs inherently worthy of respect? If I believed that anyone with the name ‘rosemarie’ is a serial killer, or a child molester, would you respect that belief?

    rosemarie wrote: “Religions have done much harm, but occasionally religion inspires goodness -”

    Sure, religion inspires ‘goodness.’ But this does not lend one shred of veracity to religious/theological claims. If ‘goodness’ was all that religion inspired, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would speak out against it. But the harm it has caused over the centuries far outweighs the ‘good’ it’s inspired, which is why so many people speak out against it – religious people included.

    I don’t have any points of contention regarding your comments on capitalism, other than the fact that they have little if anything to do with the topic at hand.

  25. hp said on February 25th, 2008 at 9:20am #

    As usual all things West, relegating the ones who taught us how to talk and count to oblivion. Never stopping to think, let alone accept that the Hebrews, Greeks and all the rest lifted their ‘God,’ their divine legends and past times from the Vedas, which preceeded them all while containing every aspect of them all.
    Talk about the son usurping the father.
    No good can come from this and sure enough these Johnny come lately, which is what they are, holier than thou fakers have done a bang up job, haven’t they.
    The Hebrews/Jews, their Jewish lite countewrparts the Christians and their long since blood relatives the Muslims.
    Very impressive indeed.
    Right on the cutting edge of destroying the world, each other and the rest of us infidels, if you will.
    My cup runneth over.