There's at least a dozen questions I could preface, infer, or imply with this. One of the prevalent ones being xians' belief that the Bible proves the existence of Yahweh. Also worth mentioning is xians' belief that only Yahweh is real, and that all other gods are fake. There are more, but I'm going to focus on these two for now; please feel free to add to the mix if you feel so inclined.

Does the Bible ever actually say the others are fake gods? This might just be arguing technicalities, but as I recall the Bible refers to them as false gods. In fact most of the time the Bible doesn't even imply that much, sometimes just referring to them as gods. This seems to indicate that Yahweh (or at least the Bible authors) knew these other gods existed. Yahweh does mention that he is jealous, and that his people should worship no other gods before him. The theme seems to repeat often through the Old Testaments: acknowledgment of other gods, and then reinforcing that they are the wrong gods.

If the Bible provides repeated 'proof' of Yahweh, doesn't this same argument work as proof of other gods? Especially when you consider that Yahweh himself acknowledges the existence of these other gods.

So based on this information, couldn't we imply that anyone who believes in the existence of Yahweh should thus believe in the existence of these other gods? Even if they don't worship these other gods, wouldn't it make sense to concede they exist?

But how many other gods are there in the Bible? Probably more than you think, and definitely more than most xians think.

Some of the Gods Mentioned in the Bible
*not an exhaustive list
Adrammelech II Kings 17:31 Sepharvite God.
Anammelech II Kings 17:31 Sepharvite God.
Ashima II Kings 17:30 Samaritan Moon Goddess.
Ashtoreth I Kings 11:05 Canaanite Goddess.
Baal I Kings 18:19 Canaanite God ("Lord") of fertility, vegitation, and storms.
Baal-berith Judges 8:33 A regional variation/aspect of Baal.
Baal-peor Numbers 25:03 Moabite regional variation/aspect of Baal.
Baal-zebub Luke 11:19 Philistine/Ekronian regional variation/aspect of Baal.
Baalim I Kings 18:18 Canaanite Gods ("Lords"), a collective of the different aspects of Baa.
Bel Isiah 46:01 Assyrian/Babylonian/Sumerian God ("Lord").
Chemosh I Kings 11:07 Moabite war God.
Dagon I Samuel 05:02 Philistine/Ekronian/Babylonian God of agriculture.
Diana of the Ephesians Acts 19:35 Ephesian moon and nature Goddess, ("Divine/Brilliant").
Jehovah Exodus 6:03 Hebrew God
Jupiter Acts 14:12 Roman God (possibly derived from 'Zeus-pater', Father Zeus).
Lucifer Isiah 14:12 ("Light-Bearer")
Mercurius Acts 14:12 Otherwise known as the Roman God Mercury, God of communication and travel, and messenger of the Gods...which is probably why Paul was called this at Lystra.
Milcom I Kings 11:05 Ammonite God
Molech I Kings 11:07 Ammonite God, also called Moloch, most probably Baal-Hammon of Carthage.
Nebo Isiah 46:01 Assyrian/Babylonian/Chaldean God of wisdom and writing, also called Nabu.
Nergal II Kings 17:30 Cuth/Assyrian/Babylonian war and underworld God, also called Meshlamthea.
Nibhaz II Kings 17:31 Avites God
Nisroch II Kings 19:37 Assyrian God
Rimmon II Kings 05:18 Babylonian/Syrian storm God involved (as Ramman) with the Deluge, according to Hebrew texts; also known as Ramman/Rammon.
Succoth-benoth II Kings 17:30 Babylonian fertility Goddess ("She Who Produces Seed"), also known as Zarpanitu/Zerpanitum.
Tammuz Ezekial 8:14 Assyrian/Babylonian God
Tartak II Kings 17:31 Avites God

I'm well aware of course that most xians would never take this conversation seriously; they are so set on their god being real and all others being make-believe.

Another side thought while we're here... Is Yahweh even a monotheistic god? You really could argue that he is more polytheistic. This is something Dawkins briefly touches on in God Delusion; but also take a look at some of these Bible verses.

Thanks to Norbert Sykes for the table.

Views: 9833

Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on April 30, 2009 at 1:39am
I never understood that way of thought. I read the Bible.. a few times.. even as a child in Sunday school. I always wondered what happened to all the other gods when no one believed in them anymore....which lead to some awkward questions.
I'm forever amused at the identity crisis of Lucifer/Satan/Beezlebub/The Devil.
Hmm.. I might blog on that soon.
Comment by Morgan Matthew on April 30, 2009 at 5:12am
great post

Comment by Pam on April 30, 2009 at 8:20am
Interesting post Johnny!

I'm not trying to side with Christians or anything, but it could be argued that the Genesis verses from the Skeptic's Bible are either talking about "the Trinity", or are referring to the host of Heaven. The trinity argument would be pretty weak, though, because the doctrine itself was developed from this very polytheistic-seeming language. (You could also argue that the trinity is a polytheistic concept. But the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are treated as three extensions of the same god, so that case might not fly. I don't know.)

The rest of the verses, coming from the OT, were probably written in reaction to the treatment of the Jewish people by the Egyptians. It's not unlike commentary we'd see today, if, for example, the Hindus enslaved and then exiled the Christians of some other nation. "You're gods are fake." "My god is a god above your gods." etc. etc. The authors of these texts aren't necessarily saying these other gods exist, but that their god is #1, and what better way to piss people off than to say "my X is better than your X" or "your X is just a fake X."?

But for a text that is supposed to be the divinely inspired, if not THE, word of god, that's a petty, childish way of making your presence known. Why not just say, "I am the only god anywhere that ever has or ever will exist. There are no other gods at all. Just me."? Or better yet, if you were an omnipotent god that really did exist, just make all your creations believe in and know of your existence, and implant in them the moral behaviors you expect them to follow. Cut out the middle man. Leave no room for misinterpretation.
Comment by Thomas Blood on July 6, 2014 at 12:06pm

A good commentary of the Bible based on form criticism and historical analysis clears up this seeming contradiction. YHWH began as a family god, the god of Abraham's clan. Somewhere in Palestine,  these myths became entangeled with the stories of Israel, (the person, not the nation) who was originally unrelated to Abraham. When a group of escaped slaves from Egypt  (the hibiru: not a proper name but a kind of ethnic slur) arrived, their Moses mythology was added to the mix. When the nation of Israel arose, YHWH became a national god, and was referenced accordingly. He was "above all gods", i.e., "my god can whip your god". When the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, mythology centered around the temple in Judea, and more storied were added.

When Judea was conquered and taken into Babylonian captivity, the priesthood faced a huge theological crisis. With the temple gone, what happened to god? Our god got whipped. Do we worship the victor? This was the logical thing to do, and is what ancient people generalyl did. If you're smart, you worship the bad ass god.

Instead, the priests, who were very innovative (and desperate) rewrote the theology. The genesis account of creation was written during the Babylonian captivity, and much of the scriptures were redacted to reflect this new system. A lot of Zoroastrian theology, a Persian religion, finds its way into the OT at this time. (The word "angels" comes from Persian, not Hebrew or Greek.) God morphs from a national deity into an exclusive one who is himself responsible for the situation everyone is in. The term "messiah", the chosen of god, is first used to describe Cyrus, the Persian emperor who lets the Jews return to their homeland.

Because the texts are sacred, the priests did not remove ancient stories, but simply rearranged and changed some things to align the old text with the new theology. They, of course were not the only ones to do this. (The book of Job has at least 3 significant, and competing, authors. Theologians changed parts of the scriptures to argue contradicting points of view.) This evolution from family god to exclusive creator of the universe took about a millennia.

Comment by Dr. Bob on July 6, 2014 at 3:28pm

I think most biblical scholars feel that the Old Testament is a tale of the Hebrews moving from pantheism to polytheism to monotheism in much the way @Thomas describes.  In Genesis, he is the family god of Abraham.   In Exodus, the older proto-texts all tend to refer to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as being the Hebrews (tribal) god.  He is stronger than the gods of the Egyptians, but they are still real.  Later, in the Kingdom, the notion of a "jealous" God means that among Hebrews (and sometimes within areas they control) only worship of their god is allowed. He has become a national God. Still later comes the notion that He is not only stronger, but he is Only.  Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad comes from Deuteronomy, not Leviticus. 

So what we have is a tale of a people learning over time that there is only one God, and along the way talking about the worship of other gods, sometimes by their own people, sometimes by other tribes and peoples.  Sometimes considered real, later considered false and idolatrous.

Most of us traditional Christians just find it interesting, and not particularly upsetting.  It's a tale of humans learning and growing in our understanding with time.   You should consider how many different names (and forms) science has used for "energy" over just the past 300 years, before we reached our shema moment and established they were all One.

Comment by Diane on July 6, 2014 at 10:07pm

Somewhere along the line, the nature of reality has to be questioned.  I believe Christians came to believe that there was one true God, but I remain unconvinced that any deity actually exists.  What is existence, anyway?  Is a deity real if people's faith is profound enough?  Do they make it "real"?  It is true in their realities, I guess, but not others'.

What I want to know is how can people know of humanity's track record of conjuring gods in their minds, throughout our long history and across cultures, and yet believe that somehow they have arrived at knowledge of the absolute existence of a God? 

I really am curious, Dr. Bob, if you believe your God actually exists, or is it an artificial construct?  Do you believe it is both, or that one came from the other?  I can understand engaging a willing suspension of disbelief and acting as if there is a God, and I have known people who have started that way and ended up actually believing.

The net effect would be the same, it seems to me, whether God existed or not. What matters is what we think and do, based on what we believe to be true, and not upon actual truth.

I am hoping this doesn't sound sarcastic, because I don't mean it to be.  I do not have the fund of knowledge to be able to debate the nature of reality in a classical sense.  What I am asking is, what do you believe in your heart?  I really am curious.

Comment by Dr. Bob on July 9, 2014 at 2:57pm

I really am curious, Dr. Bob, if you believe your God actually exists, or is it an artificial construct?  Do you believe it is both, or that one came from the other?

I think from a human religious perspective God is an idea.  For me as a physicist, the idea of God really isn't that different from the idea of "energy".  Both are human ideas.  Neither can be measured or observed. 

Does energy exist?  Well... what do we mean by exist?  It exists as an idea, certainly.  More than that, I think it is a useful idea in many ways.  We can teach and use the idea while recognizing that it's still just a human notion.  I think, though, that most physicists would say that energy is real, that it describes an underlying characteristic of the universe.  I'd be in that group, but I recognize that is just an unprovable belief.

So similarly, I recognize that God is a human idea.  It has persisted as an idea because it is a useful idea in many ways.  We can teach and use the idea in religion, while recognizing that religion is just a human discipline the same way physics (or constitutional democracy, or Keynesian economics, etc.) is - a way of looking at the world that seems useful.  I think, though, that most theologians would believe that the idea of God does describe some overarching truth.  I'm in that group, too.

The net effect would be the same, it seems to me, whether God existed or not. What matters is what we think and do, based on what we believe to be true, and not upon actual truth.

Yep, I agree.  For individual humans, an idea is "real" for us when we choose to act on it in some way.  That's the "real enough to bet on it" test, I suppose. 

Mostly, though, I think people join communities, and communities share some ways of talking and thinking.

What I am asking is, what do you believe in your heart?

I really do believe quite strongly in the Christian God, and am very comfortable within the Catholic intellectual/religious framework.  I would make personal choices based on that belief and framework without hesitation, in the same way I would make choices or predictions based on momentum-energy conservation.

Comment by _Robert_ on July 9, 2014 at 4:15pm

For me as a physicist, the idea of God really isn't that different from the idea of "energy".  Both are human ideas.  Neither can be measured or observed.

Certainly energy and it's application per time are measurable.

Comment by Dr. Bob on July 9, 2014 at 8:56pm
Certainly energy and it's application per time are measurable.


@Robert, I'm conscious of the fact that is a comment area, not a TA discussion, so I'll be brief. Just consider the thought experiment: Try to describe a direct empirical observation or measurement of energy. Not of mass, or velocity, or temperature, or photon frequency, or force, or time or whatnot. Just energy.
Comment by _Robert_ on July 9, 2014 at 10:06pm

@Bob, I would say energy is a "property" of all matter that is both measureable and observable.  I do not consider it just be an idea because we can observe it working all around us, all the time. The very transformation that makes life possible. A slice of bread is a slice of bread AND it is energy.

Contrast that to the 2,000 plus gods (and as the OP states, many that are mentioned in the Bible) that are not principals of matter and exist only as ideas. No transformation, no ability to do work, except for miracle stories contrived just so that gods will seem as real as energy.






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