Over at teh Pharyngula, there was an interesting idea brought up by one of the site's designated punching bags, Silver Fox. It is, as follows:
"Every other God?
What you're talking about is other NAMES. There is only one God. No matter if you're talking about the Toltec god who THEY THOUGHT demanded human sacrifice or Yehweh who THEY THOUGHT demanded rams and goats. There is only one God and that's a logical imperative. You need to get away from names and focus on the essential concept."
This is more or less the perspective of the Bah'ai faith, where all other faiths worship merely an aspect, or manifestation, of the true, slightly deistic creation deity that really exists. The qualities that others attribute to it do not matter (presumably). Of course, Silver Fox is instead using this concept (that every deity ever worshiped is merely a representation of the real god) to justify the Christian conception of God, which doesn't work nearly as well as he would like, I am sure.
The gods of history, which he is suggesting are just "other names" for the actual god, have contradictory characteristics, or only function in a network of larger deities. If they are just manifestations of a single god, that god may or may not have the characteristics of the vast array of deities that we have come to believe in. And that's exactly the problem: even if we grant that every god ever described is just a description of a single deity, we consequently have no idea what the characteristics of this real deity happen to be, due to all the disparities of details. We could dismiss the relevance of qualities all together, but that leaves us with a undefined deity, without any form of known traits to be extrapolated from all of the creatures that have been imagined based on its unknown nature. It is God for a vanishing definition of "God". And, otherwise, it is kind of hard to believe that Loki, Aphrodite, and Amaterasu are just different labels for the same deity, and even harder to find a way to actually find out the true qualities of a deity that could misinterpreted as all three of them.
But, perhaps I shouldn't bring that up, because polytheism isn't logical. Yes, that was sarcasm, and this is a segue.
"There can be no other gods. Why? Because God is perfection; anything possessed by another god would diminish the first god and that god would be less than perfect. So there can be only one God. Two gods would be a logical contradiction since it would imply that something can be perfect and imperfect at the same time. Now, you can call God by many names and attribute many different powers and characteristics to Him."
First off, you have to presume that "god" means "perfection" from the outset (namely, grant one of the many descriptions applied to the Christian God, but not necessarily of others, as true) in order for this argument to even get off the ground. Second off, perfect has an awfully slippery definition. Two gods would not be a logical contradiction if they were "perfect" by definitions all definitions, save maybe definition 2 (and definitions 9, 10, and 11 since they don't make much sense in this context). They could be "perfect", in the sense of completion, and yet be essentially different creatures: different kinds of "perfect". If you consider something only to be perfect if it has all qualities, and is complete to exclusion of all other things, then you may have described the universe, rather than a deity, but I digress. It is only when you are speaking of perfect by definition of "being without fault or blemish" that problems arise, primarily due to the qualities that are deemed to be "faults". For instance, the ontological argument is famous for the assumption that non-existence is a form of fault (therefore, something perfect must exist, because if it doesn't exist, it wouldn't be perfect). Indeed, in order to have two gods that weren't essentially clones of each other, they would need to relative "faults" by some measure. That's how polytheistic narratives worked: by having gods being essentially super-powered humanoid creatures who often had petty squabbles or conflicts with each other. But, I don't see how having two or more equally perfect clone gods would trigger any problems, or how simply having two or gods who are different kinds of perfect (i.e. there are no perfect personality traits, and the divine essence, in of itself, constitutes perfection) would be a problem either.
Oh, and one last issue!
"The atheist lives the negative proposition; "I do NOT believe in God". So, he is in a position where he has to prove there is no God. Only if he can do that is there a basis for affirming the negative proposition. This is problematic for him because he cannot prove a negative proposition."
Oooooo. I dealt with this one with Esteemed Lord Master Slick of the Intertubes. But, I guess it bears repeating: it is exactly BECAUSE one cannot prove a negative proposition that the burden of proof is on the one asserting the affirmative "God exists". Because, ostensibly, this can actually be proven. Atheism is a skeptical position, and it is consistent with the default position assumed by any logical human being about any similar positive proposition presented to them. It really is that simple .
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