Ghosts & Gods

A ghost is supposedly “the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living.” So, to believe in ghosts it would seem you would have to believe that living things have “souls” or “spirits.” “Souls” are defined as “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal,” and “spirit,” in this context, is defined as “the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.”

If we are to accept evolution, at what point would there be any evolutionary pressure for a “soul” to evolve in ANY living thing? What would be the evolutionary advantage that would drive it?

Of course, it would seem that you would also have to believe in the supernatural to believe in “souls” (by any literal definition), and there isn’t any empirical evidence for anything supernatural. So, most people who believe in them seem to be theists who believe that everyone has an immortal soul that will somehow exist beyond death for eternity in some kind of afterlife. And many of them believe the “soul” enters the body at the point of conception, which is why many of them are supposedly opposed to abortion.

And it seems to be a point of contention among believers in the supernatural if other lifeforms have “souls” besides humans. It seems dogs (as one example) may be excluded from heaven according to the beliefs of some (because only humans are “special” enough to merit “souls”). And, of course, some argue that any potential human clones would not have “souls.”

The way a lot of theists seem to think about it is that the physical human is just some kind of an avatar for the actual person, who only truly exists as a “soul” (independent of the material world).

Consider the case of Charles Whitman. According to Wikipedia, “Charles Joseph Whitman (June 24, 1941 – August 1, 1966) was an American mass murderer who became infamous as the ‘Texas Tower Sniper’. On August 1, 1966, he murdered his mother and wife in their homes, then went to the University of Texas at Austin where he shot and killed three people inside the university’s tower. He then went to the tower’s 28th-floor observation deck, where he fired at random for some 96 minutes, killing an additional eleven people and wounding thirty-one before being shot and killed by police. Sixteen people were killed in total; a 17th victim died in 2001 from injuries sustained in the attack.”

The day before he committed the mass killing, he wrote:

“I do not quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I do not really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. These thoughts constantly recur, and it requires a tremendous mental effort to concentrate on useful and progressive tasks.”

According to Wikipedia, “In his note, he went on to request an autopsy be performed on his remains after he was dead to determine if there had been a discernible biological contributory cause for his actions and for his continuing and increasingly intense headaches.”

The autopsy found that he had a “pecan-sized” brain tumor. Texas Governor John Connally commissioned a task force to look into the matter. Psychiatric contributors to the report concluded that the “tumor conceivably could have contributed to his inability to control his emotions and actions.”

Assuming the brain tumor had something to do with Charles Whitman’s actions, was his “soul” sending commands to his human avatar that were being blocked by the tumor? Was his “soul” responsible for his actions, or had his “soul” lost control of his physical mind? If we presume the latter case, it would seem the “soul” only has limited control of its human avatar that can be overpowered by the physical/material world.

This is probably only one of the most dramatic examples of a multitude of recorded instances where people have been known to start acting and behaving differently as a result of damage to the brain (either from physical injury or from other reasons like tumors or dementia). Where would we even begin to consider the “soul” responsible vs. some physical element?

I think this calls into question the whole idea of a supernatural “soul” having any kind of control at all. If we believed that it did, we would either have to accept that it could easily be thwarted by physical/material happenstance, OR that the “emotions and character” of the “soul” happened to change–just by coincidence–at the same time that damage to the brain occurred.

There are many other things that might be unpacked here (like why are there so many reports of ghosts wearing clothes; or what enables them to float and pass through walls, but keeps them attached to the earth; or if all aborted fetuses go to heaven, what’s so bad about that, etc. but I’ll not go into all that here).

The main thing I want to keep focus on here is how a immaterial, supernatural “soul” can have ANY influence or communication with the physical person while the person is living.

The most interesting answer to this question seems to have been resolved when the Higgs Boson was discovered in 2012.

Cosmological physicists such as Sean Carroll and Brian Cox make the argument that the physics we currently know is sufficient to rule out the possibility of such things as ghosts. As Carroll says, “Within QFT [Quantum Field Theory], there can’t be a new collection of ‘spirit particles’ and ‘spirit forces’ that interact with our regular atoms, because we would have detected them in existing experiments.”

Sean Carroll explained it at the 2013 AHA conference.…

Brian Cox agrees…

Ghosts definitely don’t exist because otherwise the Large Hadron Collider would have found them, claims Brian Cox

If this is the case, then it would seem to also rule out any definition of a “spiritual/supernatural” god who could interact with the material world. In other words, this may be empirical evidence that “gods” (by any definition that matters to us) don’t exist.

In the Beginning….

This was published by The Humanist for the Humanist Network News on May 13, 2010.

In the Beginning….

…there was void, or chaos, or nothing, or everything and nothing, or water, or darkness, or wind, or mist, or a mist of lights, or air and water, or a tree, or a shell, or a blue lotus, or an egg, or many eggs, or many regions, or different planes, or a sky world, or heaven, or heaven and earth together, or heaven and water together, or six heavens and six hells, or ice and fire, or a supreme formless Entity, or several Entities, or Tao, or some combination thereof with various modifications.

In this primordial Initial State, either Kamui, Udan, Hadau, Pangu, Mbombo, Mangala, Damballah, Olurun, Unkulunkulu, Hiranyagarbha, Purusha, Brahma, Vahiguru, Ptah, Dayuni’si, Allah, Jehovah, Tu-chai-pai, Maasaw, Jamahara, Marduk (or Assur), Atum, JoMulJu, Gitche Manitou, Ahura Mazda, Con Tiqui Viracocha, Esaugetuh Emissee, Inktomi, Coatlique, Chaos, a Spirit, the “King Above the Sky,” the “Grandfather of All Things,” the “Holy Supreme Wind,” the Dreamtime gods, a supreme formless Entity and the Archetypal Man, Izanagi and Izanami, Ranginui and Papatuanuku, Langit and Linaw, Tepeu and Gucamatz, Jehovah and Elohim, Olodumare and Obatala, Niflheim and Muspelheim and Ginnungagap, Nu/Naunet and Amun/Amunet and Kuk/Kauket and Huh/Hauhet, Earth-Initiate and Turtle and Father-of-the-Secret-Society, men and women living in the Sky World, the ground of being, the trickster in the form of Raven, the Goddess, a small bearded man inside a white and yellow disc, a water beetle, a bird, two loons, or some other divine, or supernatural, or superhuman, or extra-human being (or beings) or elemental essence or concept that I might have overlooked…

…either dreamed, spoke, vomited, stole, shed, caused, separated, gathered, blew, churned, collected, stabbed, split, made, impregnated, laid eggs, planted seeds, gave birth, brought forth, arranged, formed, melted, sacrificed itself, was sacrificed by others, masturbated, or some other such action or series of events that eventually resulted in the creation of the universe as we know it.


Later, in some cases, either Alcmene, Athena, Chimalman, Coatlicue, Cybele, Devaki, Hera, Hertha, Isis, Juno, Mary, Maya, Nana, Neith, Nutria, Ostara, Rohini, Semele, Shin-Moo, Sochiquetzal, or some other virgin mother whose name is lost to us (or who I may have overlooked), may, or may not have, given birth to other gods or god-men like….

Kukulcan, Huitzilopochtli, Krishna, Horus, Osiris, Serapis, Mars/Ares, Buddha, Lao-kiun, Attis, Dionysus/Bacchus, Quetzalcoatl, Jesus, Adad, Adonis, Apollo, Heracles (“Hercules”), Alcides, Baal, Bali, Beddru, Crite, Deva Tat, Hesus, Indra, Jao, Krishna, Mikado, Mithra, Odin, Prometheus, Quetzalcoatl, Salivahana, Tammuz, Thor, Wittoba, Xamolxis, Zeus’s children, Zarathustra/Zoroaster, Zoar, or a dozen or more others I missed, many of whom were either crucified or executed in sacrifice for mankind.

From there it gets more complicated. In fact, were I to continue, it may become entirely incomprehensible.

What I attempted to do is combine stories from many of the various beliefs of the past and present. The point is to show how many there are (and these aren’t all of them by a long shot).

They can’t all be true, so how do I determine which one to believe in? I’ve been told my “eternal soul” might be at stake and I don’t want to bet on the wrong horse after all.

Should I pick whichever one is the oldest? I don’t know which one that might be since many were passed down orally for many years before they were written down. The oldest ones might have been lost by now anyway.

Should I pick whichever one has the largest number of adherents? I’m not sure that would be right. There have been times in the past that more people believed something different than they do today. Christianity has the largest number of adherents now, but that wasn’t always the case. Did the truth change at the moment belief in Christianity exceeded whatever beliefs were more popular before it? If Islam overtakes Christianity in number of adherents in the future (considering it is growing faster), would that make a difference in whether or not it’s true?

Also, since the majority of the world’s population doesn’t believe in Christianity would that outweigh the fact that it had the largest number of adherents? What if people stopped believing in it entirely?

OK, I just sent my Southern Baptist brother an email. I asked him hypothetically if in 5,000 years (more or less) no one believed in Christianity anymore, would that mean it was wrong.

He said no.

Although this in no way constitutes a scientific survey by any stretch of the imagination, I suspect this would be the opinion of most believers. Obviously there have been many things in the past that most people believed that turned out to be wrong, so I can’t decide this based on the number of adherents.

I guess that rules out my next question; that is: “Could I dismiss all the ones no one believes in anymore simply because no one believes them?”

It would also rule out my question: “Should I decide by whichever one was oldest that still had adherents?”

Should I believe in whichever one is the most recent? Since new religions keep popping up, I would have to expect to have to change my beliefs every so often. That doesn’t seem to be very smart.

What if I picked based on what my parents’ believed? Would that make sense? I guess that’s no way to tell which one is true for sure. It appears that believing what your parents’ believed has resulted in people coming to many different conclusions.

I think Newton was a pretty smart guy… should I choose based on what he believed? I know there have been other very intelligent people that had other beliefs, so I can’t go by that.

What if I picked based on what most people around me believed so that I won’t be shunned or ridiculed? I don’t think that would be very courageous or any more likely to result in me choosing correctly.

Should I pick based on which one I like best? Would that be the best way to decide which one is true? I know from experience that the truth about something is not always the most appealing thing I might want to believe. What if I pick one I really like and it turns out to be wrong? I might spend eternity in hell-fire or something.

Maybe I should believe the one that makes the most terrible threats for not believing it? If I do that at least I’ll know I won’t suffer the worst fate among all the options….

The problem with that is that there are several of them that seem equally bad. Also, what if a new one comes along that threatens something worse?

What if I just come up with my own? Evidently some people have done it; why not me?

I suppose coming up with my own wouldn’t necessarily make it true (no matter how fun it might be).

What if I put a list of all the gods I know down on paper, close my eyes, and ask for guidance before I put my finger down somewhere on the page without looking?

Hold on….

It looks like the old Korean god JoMulJu wins! Believers have always told me to ask for guidance and put my faith in something and I would get an answer. If that is true, JoMulJu is the one true God!

Hmmm… The problem with that is it seems when other people do it they get other responses. Maybe that isn’t the best way to do it either.

Are there any of them that seem to have anything special about them, something to recommend them above the others? Hmmm….

Let’s see… several claim that their prophecies have been fulfilled, so I can’t go by that. There are many that claim a Son of God figure, death and resurrection, healings, revelations, miracles and such things, so I can’t go by that. We have already ruled out judging by whichever one is the oldest, has most adherents, is oldest that still has adherents, is most recent, is most threatening, is most appealing….

What else?

Can I judge based on the effects various religions have on adherents? Maybe that is the something special I could look for?

Buddhism might be the least violent, but then there are the Quakers and Jehovah’s Witnesses…. Christians might have the most material wealth overall, but that seems like it might be contrary to their own scriptures…. Jews seem to have survived as a people for a long time despite facing some really harsh attacks over the years…. Islam seems to be more dynamic lately….

It seems there are some unique things about each one, but how do I pick which unique thing is more important (or relevant), or if being unique in some way is any more likely to make something true?

Can I eliminate some based on how silly or absurd they seem? Some of them seem pretty strange: a god vomiting the sun, a god being impregnated by an obsidian knife, a god placing land on the back of a golden frog, a god making a woman out of a bear, a god making a man out of clay, a god making a woman out of a man’s rib…. If you get into them you find everything from winged horses and virgin births to “stopping” the sun and parting the seas. Most of them are filled with hard to believe, miraculous, or supernatural claims.

I guess if I had to pick one that had the least absurd aspects, Buddhism might come out on top (or maybe some of the ones I didn’t cover like Jainism or the Baha’i Faith).

But some may make the argument of fideism, that is, credo quia absurdum or “I believe it because it is absurd.” So I might not be able to rule out something just because it seems absurd.

Can I judge by their “holy” books?

I’ve read most all of the holy books of the major religions. They all seem to have internal problems that their adherents have to do tortured and convoluted back-flips to explain. Another problem is if I pick any one of them, I will find their adherents interpreting the same holy book differently, which leads to different sects within each of the various beliefs….

That compounds my dilemma. Even if I pick one out of these, I’ll then need to pick among the different sects. There might be just enough difference between the Baptists’ and the Catholics’ requirements for salvation, for example, that it would significantly affect my fate. And then there are all the different Baptists, and the different individual interpretations even within the same congregation…but I’ll not worry about that right now.

Some people claim to have had personal revelations from their God, but you can find people claiming personal revelations in every religion that has adherents. I’ve had my own epiphany moments, but I’ve never had some supernatural being providing revelations to me even when I was open to receive them. The only person I found I was talking to when I prayed as a kid was myself. Even if I did have some God come down and talk to me, how could I distinguish it from some mental delusion (or some powerful demon posing just to lead me astray)?

There are people in every active religion that think they hear their God speaking to them or claim some personal revelation, so I can’t go by that.

So how do I pick? If I want to bet that one of these is correct, if I want to bet that there is some absurd or supernatural explanation (rather than a natural one that we don’t yet understand), how do I decide?

See, it isn’t a 50/50 chance here. It isn’t like I can just bet there is a God rather than bet there isn’t to cover my ass (Pascal’s Wager), I’ve got to decide which supernatural explanation of the ones that have been proposed is the correct one (and I’ve got to consider the possibility that there is a supernatural explanation that no one has conceived of yet — or that there could be some supernatural explanations that might never be conceived — that could be the correct one).

I know there will be some believers that read this and think they have some convincing reason for their belief that I didn’t cover. I’ve been studying this most of my life and I haven’t seen or heard a convincing one yet. There is nothing they can say that I haven’t heard something similar about regarding another religion. If there is something they think is unique, then believers of other religions have some other unique thing they can say about their religion as well.

“True” believers of any of these religions should try to talk to “true” believers of some of the other religions. If they spend some time listening to the other believer’s argument, I’m sure they will find things that will seem absurd to them, things that don’t make sense, and things that appear outrageous. That is how they all sound to me. If they can understand why they don’t buy what a “true” believer of another religion is saying (or why they reject most all the other beliefs I’ve touched on here), they will begin to understand why I’m not buying what they are saying.

I’m sitting here in a default position of not actively believing in any of these, just like a newborn baby. I’ve been told I should take a “leap of faith” in one direction or another into belief, but how do I decide which way to leap? It seems to me that leaping in the wrong direction might be worse than not leaping at all.

I don’t actively have to do anything not to believe something, I don’t have to believe one thing to not to have a belief in something else, and I don’t even have to know with absolute metaphysical certainty if something is true (or not true) not to believe it.

What would cause me to take such a leap into belief?

I would have to be provided some compelling reason and, as Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Until and unless someone or something provides me with that evidence, I see no reason to move from my default position.

I don’t have to prove that all these beliefs (and the gods that go with them) aren’t true. If people ask me why I don’t believe in God, I have a right to ask them which one they are talking about. Since some people have a different idea about what they mean by God (e.g.: Nature, a “force” as opposed to a being, etc.) than anything I’ve covered here, I think I have a right to ask them to define what they mean by “God,” so I will know what they are asking me. If they don’t want to define what they mean, then how can I know what they are talking about? I’m not aware that I possess any mind-reading abilities.

If they can describe what they mean, then I might be able to answer them. If they can’t, then the best answer I can give is that I’ve not seen any compelling reason or evidence that would motivate me to take that “leap of faith” into belief in any one of these many supernatural options.

On the most basic level; theism is “a belief in a God or gods,” a-theism is “without a belief in a God or gods.”

I guess that makes me an atheist.

The Gods Themselves

This was published by The Humanist for the Humanist Network News on June 9, 2010.

There are thousands and thousands of supernatural beings that people have believed in over time.

Here are some of the ones that start with the letter “A” (feel free to skim):

A, A’as, A’ra, A-a, Aa Maakhuer, Aabit, Aaghu Gugu, Aah, Aahmes Nefertari, Aakuluujjusi, Aasith, Aataentsic, Aatxe, Ab Kin Xoc, Aba khatun Baikal, Abaangui, Abaasy, Abaddon, Abandinus, Abarta, Abassi, Abat[t]ur, Abeguwo, Abello (Abellio), Abeona, Abere, Abgal (Apkallu), Abgal, Abhijit, Abhijnaraja, Abhiyoga, Abira, Abnona, Abora, Abowie, Abraxas (Abraxis, Abrsax), Abu, Abuk, Abunciada (Abondia, Habondia), Abundantia (Abundita), Abziu, Acala, Acat, Acatl (Omacatl) , Acaum (Ah Can Cum), Acaviser, Acca, Acca Larentia, Accasbel, Acchupta, Acco, Achelois, Achiyalatopa, Achlae (Achelous, Acleloos, Aclelous), Achtland, Aclla, Acna (Akna), Acolmiztli, Acolnahuacatl, Acoran Gran Canary, Adad, Adamanthea, Adamisil Wedo, Adam[m]as, Adaro, Addanc, Adekagagwaa, Adeona, Adeos, Adhimukticarya, Adibuddha, Adidharma, Adimurti, Aditi, Adityas, Adonis, Adonis, Adrammelech, Adrastea, Adrasteia, Adro, Adroa, Adsullata, Aea, Aeacoc, Aebhel (Aeval), Aebhel Afekan, Aed, Aedos, Aegeria, Aegir, Aelus (Aiolos) , Aengus, Aeolos, Aequitas, Aericura, Aerten (Aerfen, Aeron), Aesculapius (Ascelpius), Aesir, Aesma Daeva, Aestas, Aesun, Aether, Aetna, Aeval, Afekan, Afi, Afreet, Ag’o, Agaman Nibo, Agamede, Agas, Agasaya, Agathos Daimon, Age Fon, Agischanak, Aglaia, Aglibol, Agni, Agni Hindu, Agnikumara, Agnostos Theos, Agrona, Agrotera, Agu’gux, Aguara, Agwe, Agwe, Agwe, Agweta, Ah Bolom Tzacab, Ah Bolon Dz’acab, Ah Chun Caan, Ah Ciliz, Ah Cun Can, Ah Hulneb, Ah Kin, Ah Kin Xoc, Ah Kinchil, Ah Kumix Unicob, Ah Mun, Ah Muzecab, Ah Patnar Uinicob, Ah Peku, Ah Puch, Ah Tabai, Ah Uaynih, Ah Unicir Dz’acab, Ah Uuc Ticab, Ah Wink ir Masa, Aha, Ahat, Ahau Chamahez, Ahau Kin, Ahemait, Aheramenmthoou, Ahladini-Sadini (Parvati), Ahmakiq, Ahnt Alis Pok’, Ahnt kai, Ahone, Ahriman, Ahsonnutli, Ahti, Ahuic, Ahulane, Ahura Mazda, Ahurani, Ai Ada, Ai Apec Mochica, Ai Tojon, Ai Tupua’i, Aiakos, Aialila’axa, Aiaru, Aibell, Aibheaeg, Aida Wedo, Aidin, Aido Wedo, Aife (Aoife), Aige, Aijo, Ailsie, Aimend, Ain, Aine of Knockaine, Aino, Airmid, Airsekui, Airyaman, Aisha, Aisha Qandisha, Aittsamka Bella, Aitu, Aitvaras, Aius Locutius, Aizen-Myoo, Aizen-Myoo, Aja, Aja, Ajalamo Yoruba, Ajatar, Ajaya, Ajbit, Aje, Aji Suki Taka Hi Kone, Ajok, Ajtzak, Ajysyt Yakut, Aka, Akasagarbha, Akelos, Aken, Aker, Akerbeltz, Akert khentet auset[s], Akeru, Akewa, Akhushtal, Akkadia (Isara), Akkadia (Sulman[u] Mesopotamia), Akonadi, Akongo, Akras Karelian (Egres) , Aksayajnana-Karmanda, Aksobhya, Aktunowihio, Akuj Akuj, Akusaa, Akycha, Akycha, Al Kahdir N. (Kahdir), Al Lat, Al Shua, Al Uzza, Ala, Ala Ibo, Ala Muki, Alaaye (Olodumare) , Alaghom Naom Tzentel, Alaisiagae, Alako, Alalahe, Alalu Ossetian, Alalus, Alastor, Alatangana Kono, Alaunus, Alauwaimis, Albasta, Albina, Alcis, Alecto, Alecto of Eumenides, Alectrona, Alemona, Alephus, Alfhild, Alfs, Alignak, Alii Menehune, Alisanos, Alk’unta’m Bella, Alkonost, Allah, Allatu[m], Almaqah, Almha, Almoshi, Aloadae (Aloidae), Alom, Alopurbi, Alpanu, Alpheus, Alphito, Altan Telgey, Altria, Aluelp, Aluluei, Am-Heh, Ama, Ama No Uzume, Ama Terasu, Ama-arhus (Amat-Ama-arhus, Arad-Ama-arhus), Ama-Tsu-Mara, Amaethon, Amagandar, Amakandu (Sakka[n]) , Amalthea, Amasagnul, Amaterasu O-Mi-Kami (Amaterasu), Amatsu Mikaboshi, Amaunet, Amayicoyondi, Amba Dravidian, Amberella, Ambikas (Mataras) , Ambisagrus, Ame No Uzume, Ame-No-Kagase-Wo, Ame-No-Mi-Kumari-No-Kami, Ame-No-Minaka-Nushi-No-Kami, Ame-No-Tanabata-Hime-No-Mikoto, Ame-No-Toko-Tachi-No-Kami, Ame-Waka-Hiko, Amelenwa, Amelia, Amen, Ament, Amesha, Ami, Amida, Amimitl, Amitabha, Amitolane, Amm, Amma, Amma, Amma, Ammavaru, Ammit, Ammon (Amen), Amn, Amogahasiddhi, Amoghapasa, Amon (Amun), Amor, Amphion, Amphitrite, Amponyinamoa, Amset (Imset), Amsu, Amun, Amunet, Amurru, Amymone, An, An Zu, Anael, Anahita, Anahita, Anaitis, Anala, Ananke, Ananse, Ananta, Anantamukhi, Anantesa, Anapel, Anasuya, Anat (Anath), Anath, Anatis, Anatu, Anaulikutsai’x Bella, Anbay S., Ancasta, Anceta, Andarta, Andjety, Andrasta Icene, Andriaahoabu, Andriam Vabi Rano, Androgyne, Andromeda, Andvari, Anextiomarus, Angels, Angerona, Angina, Angitia, Angitia, Angpetu Wi, Angru Mainya, Angus, Angus Mac Og, Angus Og, Anguta, Anhouri, Anhur, Ani, Anieros, Anila, Aningan, Anjea, Ankalamman, Anna Kuari, Anna Perenna, Annalia, Annallja Tu Bari, Annapatni, Annapurna, Annis, Anpao, Anqet, Ansa, Ansar, Anshur (Ashur, Asshur), Antaboga, Antai, Anteros, Antevorta, Antheia, Anti, Antu, Anuanaitu, Anubis, Anuket, Anukis, Anulap, Anumati, Anunit, Anunitu, Anunnaki, Anuradha, Anus (Anann, Anu), Anwho, Anyigba, Anzety, Aondo Tiv, Apa, Apacita, Apam Napat, Apap Teso, Apate, Apaturia, Apedmak, Apep, Apesh, Apet, Aphaea, Aphrodisias, Aphrodite, Aphrodite Pandemos, Apis, Apiu, Apo, Apollo, Apolonia, Aponibolinayen, Apophis, Apozanoltl, Appias, Apsaras, Apsu, Apuat, Aquilo, Aquit, Arachne, Aralo (Aparajita, Aray), Aramazd, Aranyani, Aranzahas, Arapacana, Ararat, Araua, Arawa Suk, Arawn (Arawen, Arawyn, Arrawn), Arazu, Archons, Ard Greimme, Ardhanarit savara, Ardra, Arduinna, Ardvi Sura Anahita, Ardwinna, Arebati, Areimanios, Ares, Arete, Argante, Arge, Ari Au Tchesf, Ariadne, Arianrhod, Arianrod, Aricia, Arimanius (Areimaios), Arinna, Aristaeus, Aristatos, Arito, Arjuna, Arma, Armaz, Arna’kuagsak (Nuli’rahak), Arnakua’gak, Arnamentia, Arnemetia, Arom Kafir, Arsan Duolai Yakut, Arsay, Arsu, Artaius, Artemis, Arthapratisamvit, Artio of Muti, Aruna, Arundhati, Aruru, Arvenus, Arya-Tara, Aryaman, Aryong Jong, As, As ava, As-im-babbar (Nanna), Asa Poorna, Asalluha, Asar, Asase Afua, Asase Ya, Asbit, Ascelpius, Asertu, Asgaya Gigagei, Ashera, Asherah, Asherali, Ashi, Ashiakle, Ashima, Ashimbabbar, Ashirat, Ashis, Ashkit, Ashnan (Asnan), Ashtaroth, Ashur, Ashvins, Asi, Asiaq, Asima Si, Asintmah Athabasca, Asira, Asis Suk, Askelpios, Aslea[s], Aso, Asokottamasri, Asopos, Aspalis W., Asrael, Asratum, Assur, Astabis, Astamastara, Astapaios, Astar, Astaroth, Astarte, Astarte, Astarte, Astarte, Asterodeia, Asthertet, Astlik Georgia, Astoreth, Astraea, Astraeos, Astrik, Asuha-No-Kami, Asuras, Asurkumara, Asvayujau, Asvins, At Em, Ataa Naa Nyongmo Gan, Atabei (Attabeira), Ataecina, Atahensic, Atai, Atalacamani, Atanea, Atanea, Atar, Atargatis, Atasamain, Ate, Atea, Aten, Atete, Athena (Athene), Athirat, Athor, Athtart, Atida, Atira, Atius (Tirawa), Atl, Atlacoya, Atlahua, Atlaonin, Atlas, Atma, Atoja, Atropos, Attabeira Atahensic, Attar, Attis, Atua Fafine Tikopia, Atua I Kafika Tikopia, Atua I Raropuka Tikpoa, Atugan, Atum, Atunis, Au, Au Co, Auchimalgen, Audjal, Aufaniae, Augeus, Augralids, Auilix, Aura, Aurita, Aurora, Ausaitis, Auseklis, Auset, Austeja, Auster (Notus), Austrine, Autyeb, Auxesia, Avalokitesvara, Avatar, Avatea, Averruncus, Aversa, Aveta, Avfruvva, Avrikiti Fon, Awitelin Tsita, Awonawilona, Axiocersa, Axo Mama, Aya, Ayaba, Ayas, Ayauhteot, Ayauhteotl, Ayi’ Uru’n Toyoy’n Yakut (Uru’n Ajy Toyo’n), Ayida, Ayiyanayaka, Ayizan, Aylekete (Agbe), Ayt’ar, Ayurvasita, Ayyapan, Azacca, Azapane (Bele), Azele Yaba, Azer Ava, Azi, Aziri, and Azizos.

It is an alphabet soup of supernatural beings up there (aren’t you glad I didn’t go through the whole alphabet?). You could just about stir up some random combination of letters and come up with a god. There are even some different ones with the same name.

Some of these are creator gods; some are chief gods; some are gods of the sun or moon, some are gods of fire, water, rain, and war; some are demons or gods of the underworld; some are gods of storms and other natural catastrophes; some are gods of various human passions or sex; some are gods of the fetus, some are gods of women and children; some of the names are of whole hosts of supernatural beings; some are gods for construction workers, sailors, or other trades; some are local gods; some are gods for potato crops, wine, salmon, etc.; some gods are for toothaches or other pains and illnesses, there are even a couple of gods for bees in this list — and this is an incomplete list of just the ones that begin with “A.”

I didn’t notice a god of incontinence, but I’m pretty sure I could find one if I looked hard enough.

It is funny how you can find gods of water; gods of oceans or seas; gods of rivers, springs, and mists; gods of rain; gods of running or fresh water, etc., all from the same group of people. There seems to have been a lot of gods who were specialists in their fields…. Or should I say field? In many cases, while there might have been a god of the crops (who must have been like an overseer), you could still dig up a god of the potato crop (for example), who was just in charge of that specifically. Of course, he might have to have dealings with the god of the soil or earth, the god of the sun, and the god of the water or the rain (while appeasing the god of the storm or the god of droughts).

In other words, people seemed to have some very specific information about these beings. It wasn’t like some vague notion that there is this god that has been hanging around… or there is this god that has something to do with liquid or growing things. It is like they knew their names and specifically what their areas of responsibility were. They even seemed to know stories about them, their history, their personality types, events in their lives, other supernatural beings with which they interacted, what would make them pleased or angry, and so on. They seemed to know their gods fairly intimately, almost as if they lived around the corner and popped by on occasion to gossip over tea and crumpets.

I don’t guess most of the people reading through this list truly believe that most of these supernatural beings really exist, so where did all this information come from?

I mean, there are a lot of gods here and this is just the tip of the iceberg. That is a lot of detailed information about a lot of supernatural beings that had to come from somewhere. Where did it come from?

Where did they all come from?

If they aren’t real, if the stories aren’t true, then they must have been made-up.

Who made up all these stories?

It seems fairly evident to me (although I expect there will be some who differ), that it was human beings that made this stuff up.

Why did they make it up?

Well, there might be a number of reasons for that, but I would venture to guess the main reason was to explain what they didn’t understand.

Where did all these gods go? Why don’t most people believe in most of them now?

Could it be that as people begin to understand more and more about how nature really worked more rational explanations replaced them?

I can hear some believers making the claim (on one level or another): “But my god is different! He is much more sophisticated than these other gods.”

Yeah? In what way? Wasn’t he originally made of the same stuff as these others were, out of the imagination of the human mind? Old Jehovah, for example, started out as a tribal war god that lived on a mountaintop before he “evolved” into the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, supreme creator God Being that we are presented with today. This conception is more sophisticated only in that he has made himself less available for examination and detection than he supposedly was when people were much more ignorant about the world than they are today. Although he is supposedly more powerful than he was formerly, he uses his power with such subtlety that even the best scientists can’t tell the difference between his actions and events unfolding as they would have if he wasn’t even there at all.

If all these other “lesser” gods have been exposed for the shams they really were when the light of knowledge was pointed in their direction, how are gods people still believe in today any different than these others except that they have managed to retreat into the last refuges of darkness where the light has yet to shine? They have removed themselves not only beyond human detection but beyond all human reason as well. They have become increasingly irrelevant and nonsensical. Yet despite all this, believers claim to know some fairly intimate details about their histories, their natures, their personalities, their desires, what makes them pleased or angry, their plans, how they want us to act, what they have in store for us, etc., etc., but they don’t want to define their god, no sir. It is “beyond human understanding and reason,” they will say.

I see no good reason to take these claims any more seriously than the claims made before about all the other gods.

We haven’t found proof of one supernatural being yet, out of all the ones that now seem to have been demoted to the mythological realm. If we had run across at least one or two of the lesser ones when we were learning about our universe, it might make sense to think we might run across some more powerful ones later. We’ve never captured a demon to study, or an angel that has fallen from the sky. We haven’t ever turned up even an elf or a fairy or any other supernatural thing ever. It looks like in all this time we might have found one scrap of irrefutable evidence of something or anything that was supernatural: a magic wand, a genie in a bottle, a magic hat with an unlimited supply of rabbits….

Finding something like that wouldn’t necessarily prove or disprove a god, but it might demonstrate that supernatural things were at least possible.

Not only is it the case that there is no empirical evidence for whatever god you might believe in, there is no evidence for any god, or gods, or supernatural beings, or supernatural things, or any evidence whatsoever that the word “supernatural” might mean anything more than the word “imaginary.”

If we can’t tell the difference between something that is supernatural and something that is imaginary, then why should we give any more respect for people’s claims of knowledge about a supernatural god than we give for other people’s claims about an imaginary friend?