Tell me, some atheists say things such as “Your god is like the gods of Ancient Greece” or “Your holy book sounds like something from the Iliad and the Odyssey”. Please give me arguments that go against such thinking so I may defend the faith and also to mend my doubt regarding my God. Thank you!
Well, first of all you should note that those are not arguments. It is just a try to ridicule Catholicism. Something that was meant to be funny and offensive, but should be seen as just boring and ignorant.
One answer is a simple question: “How exactly are they similar?”. Well, how? They have stories that are considered to be good? They have poetry that is considered to be good? Is that something we (or Homer) should be ashamed of? Another likely similarity is this: it is very probable that your opponent hasn’t actually read any of them…
And then we get differences. We believe in God who is one. The Ancient Greeks believed in many gods. We have philosophical arguments that support existence of God. The arguments in favour of existence of Zeus or Athena are much rarer, to say the least. Greek gods were not omnipotent, they were not omniscient, they could fight among themselves… They were said to live on Mount Olympus - now we can look at the satellite images and see that there isn’t that much to be seen there…
One more answer is that now we know that there is truth behind Iliad: Troy did exist and its siege did happen. Do your opponents really want to imply that they are just as wrong in mistrusting Bible, as people were wrong in mistrusting Iliad before ruins of Troy were discovered?
You have to wonder, had no Greek man at the time ever laid eyes on Mt. Olympus and noticed that there was nothing on top? And did no one try to climb it?
But anyway, the lack of anything on Mt. Olympus proves the Ancient Greeks wrong.
One might say that the bible is then one with various myths with only a sliver of truth. How can one defend the validity of the bible even with such an argument as you presented?
They were not meant to be arguments showing that Bible is inerrant etc. They were meant to shut down the specific claims you mentioned in original post.
And I think that might be a better approach. Start with things that are simple - for example, ways to respond to such silly objections, as the ones that you mentioned. You will reach more complex arguments a bit later. And simple answers to silly objections have their uses: are you sure those your opponents would be willing to listen to a “lecture” that is more than minute long? For all I know, a simple, but funny “one-liner” with some real truth behind it might actually do more good.
Also, acceptance that there is a “sliver of truth” in the Bible might be a great improvement for them (I am not sure you will manage to get an acknowledgement of something like that out of your opponents). It could also be a step towards some stronger propositions…
And if you want to see some arguments supporting inerrancy of Bible for yourself, there are some tracts and articles, like catholic.com/magazine/articles/are-the-gospels-myth or catholic.com/tracts/proving-inspiration.
One has to realize two things:
It is believed in the Church that there is such a thing as truth written in the law of nature. It is not impossible for men to gain a fair knowledge of the truth by rational means. It does, however, require revelation for the fullness of it. By way of a parallel example, some of the ancients posited the idea of atoms millenia before science established the reality of atoms.
The Iliad and the Odessey do not speak of the gods on one level only, but on multiple levels. There is some truth to the idea that “Homer” had a concept of God very much like that of the Hebrews, but also sometimes presented them in the contemporary sense. Sometimes, for instance, Zeus is practically just a man; vain, jealous, lustful, vengeful. But sometimes he is truly “Te andron, te theon”; the “father of gods and men”. He is sometimes almighty and, alone, the creator of the universe, all wise and all just; very different from the lesser portrayal of Zeus. One really has to study the Iliad and the Odessey to realize that. It’s striking if one truly does that. Why were those works (oral poems, originally) like that? Well, because they were presented to philosophers of high intellect, to tradesmen, hoplites and helots. They understood “god” in different ways.
So, how did Homer come up with the better concept of God; the one very much like the God of the Jews and Christians? Well, by human reason, just as the Church has always taught one could get an (imperfect but pretty good) idea of God if one properly uses his human faculties. God’s truth is, to a degree, “written on the heart of man.”
I’m not convinced that Ridgerunner’s arguments will hold much sway with atheists. The whole “written on the heart of man” idea is most likely to get the response that the heart is an organ for pumping blood. It does no thinking or feeling and so no amount of ‘writing on it’ literally or metaphorically makes much sense.
Most of the atheists that I have debated with want specifics and they want precise language. Talking in metaphors is not useful. Inaccuracy is a close kin to falsehood.
Also, by pointing out that, by human reason, people can get a pretty good idea of God will most likely lead them to respond that it is their human reason that leads them not to be convinced of the existence of God (or gods).
I think the original poster will need something rather more convincing to answer the atheist.
There’s no need to argue against this line of reasoning because it’s all right that there are similarities between the pagan myths and those of Jews and Christians.
If an atheist wants to discuss comparitive religions, then he’d better be prepared to know something about those religions. I rather think, though, that the intention isn’t to point out similarities between mythologies, but rather to attempt to disprove all mythologies by making it appear that all mythologies are fabricated stories. This is to misunderstand mythology and how it is used in religions. But this not the thread to discuss that.
The reason mythologies are so similar is that they were written by human beings with a common ancestry. If they didn’t have similarities then we would have to suppose they were written by another species with a commonality of their own.
In the Jewish/Christian understanding all men came from the same family–of Adam and Eve. As the population grew divergences occurred, but they all carried with them the germ of the common human mythology of a savior because of the promise made by God to Adam and Eve, which has been called the protoevangelium or the promise of salvation given to our original parents.
Now, an atheist isn’t going to acknowledge this, but if he wants to discuss religions in religious terms–and he opened up that door by comparing religions, then he has to at least concede that there is a religious explanation even if he doesn’t accept it.
If he won’t concede this logical point, he’s must fall back on clinging to his idea that since there is no God no religion is any better than another or any truer than another. But he cannot then say that within the Christian tradition there is no explanation for the similarities between Christian and pagan mythologies.
Here’s a good reply that covers it:
That answers Fundamentalists objections, and is perfectly fine. I’m just wondering if an atheist would acknowledge them because the central issue isn’t addressed from his point of view.
C. S. Lewis once said that the pagan mythologies are like an image in a broken mirror. It’s there but in distorted fragments. His and J. R. R. Tolkien’s view was that the mythology of Christ is seen in those broken images, but that the mythology became a reality in the Incarnation–to which the other pagan mythologies pointed, if not always coherently. This understanding is one of the things that drew Lewis from atheism back to practicing his Anglican faith.
Nobody can convince an atheist who wishes to remain sceptical. Was it grating that I used a metaphor? Well, all in the world it means is that rational minds can, and have, reached the similar conclusions about the existence and nature of God as that which Christians hold. And they have done it over and over again.
My response was intended to let the OP know, if he/she did not know it already, that the gods of the Iliad and the Odessey are not what people generally think they are, and if the atheist interlocutor thinks of the gods of the Greek epics the way most do, and if he is disabused of the notion, then possibly he would be open to rethinking his preconceptions in other ways.
Sometimes realizing one’s preconceptions are not necessarily the best authority causes people to rethink their conclusions more generally.
But you’re right. Letting an atheist know he is ignorant in one way does not persuade him he is unreasonable or ignorant in another way. Nothing can be proved to a person who is resolved to be sceptical, and that’s true.
Tell them they actually need to read the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Yes. I have read mythologies and find much to admire in them. They speak to the human experience through stories that fire the imagination. Many demostrate why we need to live lives of virtue and the consequences of ignoring the divine. No one who has actually read them can dismiss them irrelevant. Some tell actualy history, through the lens of the actions of their gods–their way of explaining why those who would seem to be victorious weren’t. Good stuff and subject of some of our greatest poets and authors.
Look at the Bible. Other gods are mentioned but they were not God but distortions. I’ve studied world mythologies beyond the more common Greek, and they all have common elements, but if the reality of Jesus Christ is not accepted, then all you can do is to repeat the truth.
In the 1970s, I got the following: “Show me God. If you can show me God I might believe in him.” Things have not changed. Or “Of all these religions, how do I know which one is the right one?” The power of God and prayer play a role.
I was more getting at the fact that the Bible really doesn’t sound like something from either work. Anyone who makes the claim that the Bible sounds like something from the Iliad or the Odyssey either hasn’t actually read the Bible, hasn’t actually read the Iliad and/or the Odyssey, hasn’t actually read any of them, or is just trying to make a flippant comment to inflame the other person.
Don’t, even though any of the analogies they make up are going to post date Christ, they aren’t going to listen to the facts. Don’t waste your time.
One irony of this subject is that Greeks were very much attuned to the concept of “place”, of balance, of humility in nobility and the consequences of overweening pride. A lot of the “revenge of the gods” is really just symbolic of the self-destruction wrought by vanity. But again, the Iliad and the Odessey are multi-level works. To some Greek listeners, it would have been thought of more literally; Apollo really did induce Paris to shoot Achilles and guided the arrow to his heel, for instance. On another level, Achilles’ dishonoring the body of Hektor before his people, was an act of overweening pride and disdain; a self-elevation beyond that which is given to man, and that very pride and disdain exposed him to his undoing through his only vulnerability. Moreover, there is a moral balance (Apollo in the literal sense, a more ephemeral but mightier justice in another sense) that will ultimately undo the prideful man who attempts to be godlike, and restore the proper balance in the universe.
And when one announces to himself “I am above the gods inasmuch as I banish them from acknowledged existence.” ???
Yes, this is true. There’s a different emphasis between the biblical accounts and those mythologies. God is the actor in the Bible, not some distance personage about whom nothing can be known but who must still be appeased. God reveals himself to his people not hides from them. He does not demand, like the Greek gods, that they serve him in ignorance and blind faith. And the follies and sins of the biblical stories are so endearingly human, not grand and overblown. There’s a taste of earth and water and food in the Bible all the while telling us about the One who made them all.
Again, in the epics, there are different levels. But it has to be said that on the most developed theological level in, say, the Iliad, Zeus is far more abstract as the “father of gods and men” (when he is in that role) than is the God of the Hebrews. Zeus, at that level, is more a philosophical principle; a “first cause” who maintains the proper balance in the universe.
Of course, the heroes of the Iliad are pretty abstract as well; Hektor being perhaps the most fleshed out. A lot of the heroes are mythological and architypical as well; purported ancestors of the aristocratic listeners, whose “place” (and that of their descendants) is elucidated in their “aristeia” (from which we derive the word “aristocrat”) or most heroic segments of the story. Also, of course, departures from “place” occur among them, but by and large not.
Yeah they are just stirring, I would tell them the Greek god were not gods at all because they were all limited in what they could do and fought between each other and had plots to kill various ones. They were just a race of beings who had certain abilities greater than humans. Fallen angels I would suggest. The bible says they came down and lived among men. The book of Enoch goes into detail about what they did and they made themselves as gods above men. I know book of Enoch was rejected and is not in the bible but it makes sence of the origins of the Greek gods and their monsters like minator.
The god of the Aztec’s was a white dude with wings. And the Aztecs were not white. It makes sence.