Graveyard of the Gods

The University of North Georgia Skeptics Society held an illuminating event on campus this week, one that can and should be copied by other campus groups, especially with Halloween approaching.

They called it Graveyard of the Gods. It featured the tombstones of a number of ancient gods we now consider mythological. It also raised an important question: What’s stopping Allah and Yahweh from joining the mix?

“The important thing to note here is that religions come and go like fads or trends. In another thousand years, the big three [Christianity, Judaism and Islam] could very well migrate onto this list of deceased gods and religions,” said Sam Thomas, president of the NGSS. “Who knows, they may even be taught as myth. Religions and their gods come and go, most of which are forgotten.”

Sam Thomas has a point. Gods come and go in time. It’s entirely possible that the God of the Bible will eventually be thought of the same way we think of Zeus now — a silly idea that was made irrelevant by the passage of time and the accumulation of knowledge.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • ShoeUnited

    I see Ahura Mazda there, but there are still Zoroastrians. So that god isn’t quite dead. Just very weak. I think wikipedia said somewhere between 60k and 1M people worldwide.

  • Glasofruix

    Set?

  • ShoeUnited

    Egyptian god.

  • Glasofruix

    That would be Seth.

  • Pepe
  • 3lemenope

    What’s stopping Allah and Yahweh from joining the mix?

    Economics (in the broad strokes) and game theory (on the individual level).

  • 3lemenope

    It’s not like they used an alphabet.

  • islandbrewer

    Wait, is that third letter an Ibis or an Egret? Changes the whole meaning.

  • islandbrewer

    I don’t see Odin’s name up there, so obviously he’s real! Checkmate, Christians!

  • Jacqui H

    This post makes me think of the wonderful pratchett novel “Small Gods” where a god’s power is literally derived by the number of true believers the god has

  • # zbowman

    ‘Thou shalt not subject thy god to market forces!’

  • Alison

    Sounds like the same idea behind the book “American Gods” by Neil Gaimen

  • cryofly

    Among tomb stones, I think Krisna is an odd stone out. 15% of the world population in Hindu and just about 50% to all of them might be treating Krisna as the secret savior. Perhaps that is the reason he is got a quarter rock.

  • Paul Hemphill

    Krishna, too, and more so.

  • Tyrrlin Flamestrike

    Whoops, wrong comment spot.

  • Luciferadi

    One of my all-time favorite books.

  • Tyrrlin Flamestrike

    Or the computer game “Black and White”. :-)

  • 3lemenope

    I’ve actually been to an ISKCON service. Lots of dancing. Good food afterward.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Wow. I doubt there are very many Zeus believers today but there are over a billion people who believe in Krishna. Talk about your Christian privilege!

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    The problem with burying Jesus is that after three days he pops up again, wanders around and starts eating brains. You have to behead him and salt and burn the body.

  • ShoeUnited

    Check the rosetta stone. Those hieroglyphs are alphabetic.

  • JuneAbend

    I feel ya. The Ibis key on my laptop has been stuck ever since I spilled some myrhh on it.

  • viaten

    I was thinking that they should include “RIP” on the stones, but maybe, “Good Riddance” would be better.

  • Don Gwinn

    I was about to suggest that they’re using the Roddenberry/Gaiman conjecture on gods–they’re alive as long as they have enough followers. But that wouldn’t account for Krishna, would it? I dunno. Maybe they wanted the message to get across to Christians and Muslims without having to argue with them about their own gods . . . in fact, maybe they figure that question will bubble up in a Christian or Jewish or Muslim viewer’s mind, and be more persistent because it came from their own mind and wasn’t pushed on them.

  • TnkAgn

    I don’t see the FSM there, but in time, it too may recede into the pasta.

  • guest

    This is bound to be offensive to some Greek pagans and Hindus. I’m pretty sure there are people on Patheos who worship Zeus and Dionysus. There are Egyptian reconstructionists who worship Set. Krishna has a bunch of temples dedicated to him.
    Okay, I get the message, but when is someone’s worship legitamate or not? Who’s going to tell the Pagans their gods are dead?

  • Jordan

    They should have modern gods on hospice beds right next to them.

  • guest

    Not surprising since they collaborated on ‘Good Omens’.

  • TnkAgn

    They have some work to do. Where is Aton? Arguably the 1st true mono-god, Aton deserves a decent burial. Or pyramid.

  • TnkAgn

    I’m betting not so much, guest.

  • Mitch

    Especially when I forget to refrigerate the leftovers.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

    Sumerologist here (PhD UChicago). Enki =/= Satan. if you’re going to try to connect the xtian construct of satan, Ba’al is a more solid, if still tenuous, choice. “Ba’al” is also the Beel part of “beelzebub.” Enki was actually a beneficent god and part of the “upper” (heavenly) pantheon. Enki means “lord of the earth.”

    the ruler of “hell” or the under world for the Sumerians was Ereshkigal, and her chief judge, in later times, was Gilgamesh. who was a great hero in life; hell was not a punishment to Sumerians. just the place where little regular people ended up.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Er… it’s Aten.

    But yeah, he needs to be there, too.

  • TnkAgn

    We can both be right here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aten

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Thank you, that thing with Enki just slapped me in the face when I saw that image.

  • Saara Wintersgill

    The idea was that we would show how these religions used to be massive and now are not. We saw a lot of lightbulbs go off when we told students how many followers there used to be and how many there are now. It was probably one of the most effective points we had.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    That recipe sounds really bland, Holytape. Did you lose the middle page?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Some hieroglyphs are alphabetic, but others are morphemes. When I first read 3lemenope’s comment my brain jumped to Latin alphabet, which was a dumb jump.

  • Saara Wintersgill

    We explained how Krishna is essentially just known as Vishnu. I know a lot of Hindus who know Vishnu but not Krishna.

  • Saara Wintersgill

    We had a pagan visitor to the table and he was actually very interested in it. The point wasn’t to offend, it was to educate, and we were happy to find that most of the people that came to the table understood that.

  • TnkAgn

    As a child, my father used to take me to the Oriental Institute. He was a PHD candidate in Microbiology at the U of Chi, back when they still had barrage balloons hovering over Stagg Field. I still remember the huge winged god…Ashur? Not sure. But loved the visits and fed a curiosity in me.

    Next best, the Field Museum. My dad (now 86) still relates the story, that the first time I went there, probably about age 6, I ran around trying to see everything until I barfed. Good times, those.

  • Saara Wintersgill

    We discussed this when we were coming up with names to put on the stones. In Sumerian texts, there is a “Garden of Eden” story in which Enki (as a serpent) went to the humans and offered them knowledge and power. Later, the same story with some twists appeared in Xtian text — that is where we got the basis for him being Satan, among other comparisons we researched.

  • WallofSleep

    “Who’s going to tell the Pagans their gods are dead?”

    We’ll get a Roman Caesar or an Egyptian Pharaoh to do it.

  • Michael Harrison

    All I know is, thanks to Stargate SG-1, Ba’al is my favorite ancient god.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

    may i ask which text you refer to? specifically, with the text id?

    i’m not disagreeing with you, per se. remember: we’re talking about a religious figure who existed in the minds of believers for over 5,000 years. There’s the boat texts, the Inanna cycle, the annunaki stuff… Enki was a big deal for a while, and then took a back seat and got reworked into a bunch of later stuff for the benefit of other, more ‘new’ and popular gods. so anything is possible. also: i’m out of the business these days; there may be new texts unearthed since the war that i am not aware of, and have changed our understanding of this figure.

    my area of specialty is the really old stuff. pre-Akkadian. there’s that angle too: the Akkadians were western, semitic. the Sumerians were agglutinate and isolate, both as a language and a culture. their traditions were absorbed, and changed, by the later peoples who adopted their forms and took over their city states. the Akkadian tradition of Enki varies greatly from the OS I and II stuff, if you examine it closely.

  • EdmondWA

    Yeah, but reports of his immortality have been greatly exaggerated.

  • Stev84

    Also evidenced by the lack of the ice giants he defeated.

  • Soren

    You realize that Krishna and Ahura Mazda are worshiped even today. People seem to think that Hinduism is dead, but the fact is, it is still alive, and Hindu fundamentalists are just as bad as Christian fundamentalists.

  • GodlessPoutine

    This reminds me a bit of the Ben & Jerry’s Flavour Graveyard down in Vermont. I visited their factory a few years back and took a look at it.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2275955/The-Ben-Jerrys-graveyard-discontinued-ice-cream-flavor-gets-headstone-epitaph.html

    Yeah… not really related to dead gods. Unless you licked them.

  • Anna

    I was also surprised to see Krishna and Ahura Mazda on the list! You don’t even need to go to India to find Hindus and Zoroastrians. There are plenty in the United States, although perhaps not many in North Georgia.

    It’s interesting, however, that Christians in Western society have absolutely no problem dismissing those other deities out of hand. Why are they so unwilling to consider that their own god might be equally mythological? I guess childhood and cultural indoctrination accounts for most of it.

  • Soren

    Well, Hindu fundamentalists don’t deny the Big Bang Theory or evolution, since Hindu creationism is really vague and also, there is some stuff in the Vedas that at least says that advanced life sprang forth from less advanced life (i.e., it says that land animals came from fish, and that humans came from monkeys. I know humans coming from monkeys isn’t exactly what real evolution says, but hey, this stuff was written a couple thousands years ago.) Hindu creationism also says the universe began with a sound, which most modern Hindus take to be the Big Bang. I come from a Hindu background myself, and I put it down to coincidence that the Vedas (sort of) guessed what science would later prove.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Hindu:

    Lord Shiva decided that he would go and the first living being that he saw, he would take the head of that animal and put it on his son, and that was an elephant. That was Ganesh.

    Christian:

    That’s a myth. There’s no way that could have happened. I’m sorry, to me that’s just a off the wall fairy tale. That’s just kinda weird

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ucVDpmFz-E&t=1h29m10s

  • Saara Wintersgill

    When we were setting up the event we added Zoroastrianism to show students how large the following used to be and how small it is now. It surprised many of the Christians and got them to think. As for Krishna, we based off the fact he is hardly worshipped anymore by a lot of Hindus and is greater known as Vishnu nowadays.

  • Saara Wintersgill

    We used Krishna because most Hindus know him as Vishnu now. We highlighted the fact that gods evolve into other personas. There was a movement in the seventies to bring back Krishna but he’s still not as widely known as he once was.

  • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

    Although Dad had help from His brothers Vili and Vé in dispatching the giant Ymir.

  • ShoeUnited

    Odin was busy shooting another Thor movie for Marvel.

  • ShoeUnited

    That’s what I was trying to remember: Phoneme
    The hieroglyphs are phonemes.

    Thanks, I couldn’t think of it at the time.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Damn, you’re right. I missed the part were you have to apply a dry rub of rosemary and thyme. And slow roast Jesus over a bed of applewood charcoal.

  • Tobias2772

    Evolve faster goddammit

  • Nichelle Wrenn

    University?! I’m going to this to my yard. Thanks for the idea!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

    mmmm. roasted baby jeebus bbq. i’ll take a leg.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

    and what is really funny is how much of the bible is a knock off of traditions from Mesopotamia. not just Eden, but the Flood story, and dozens of other examples.

    what i love about the Flood story in Mesopotamia is how it’s very blunt about why the Flood happened. the gods just got annoyed, basically, with their creations. “they are making too much noise. kill them all.” which is more or less what happened with the biblical flood story, but xtians today sugarcoat it and make it seem like a parable of “sin” and the consequences.

    Moses: also not original. that whole baby in a basket story? Sargon was the original (sort of). and he was an actual historical character for which we have records, unlike “Moses.”

  • Pepe

    Hah, true

  • islandbrewer

    Do Zoroastrians now play Queen at all their religious ceremonies? If so, I might convert.

  • islandbrewer

    Wasn’t he the god of airports in the 70′s?

  • Harry Underwood
  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Damn you, there goes my night!

  • http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/unique-everybody-else Scott McGreal

    There’s a movement in Greece today to revive the worship of Zeus and the other Olympians
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenic_Polytheistic_Reconstructionism

    Seems like the Zeus fad has seen much better days though :-)

  • Intelligent Donkey
  • Itarion

    Funnily enough, even while he was still alive, Osiris was dead. Ain’t mythology the weirdest?

  • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

    I was thinking that each of the tombstones should have had a pithy saying, like “Here lies Lester Moor, Four shots from a .44, No Les, no more.”

    Like:

    Zeus, beloved father of the gods, kinda a dick with the ladies. WTF?!?! a goose or a rain of gold?!?!?

    Mithras: Too secret to know he was even dead until we noticed he wasn’t here any more.

    Osiris: Poor guy went to pieces. Literally.

    Set: Dude, you’re a snake. Weird.

    Well, that’s all I can come up with.

  • DavidMHart

    I am disappointed none of the Aztec gods are included in this graveyard. Sure, deities like Huitzilopochtli, Quetzalcoatl, Mictlantecuhtli, Tezcatlipoca and so on are going to take up a lot of room on a tombstone, but they’re fun to try to pronounce :-)

  • Sam Thomas

    Thank you for the post Hemant.
    I didn’t know about your blog, but now I do.
    Looks like you have another subscriber.

    In the month of October we plan to continue our healthy dosage of skepticism but point it in the direction of ghosts, ESP, and fortune telling.

    We have noticed that there are mother organizations like the SSA (Secular Student Alliance), but I have yet to hear anything about mother organization for general skepticism and critical thought.
    It’s really something that needs to be spread through the college level populace. That is where the struggle against religion and non-rational thought will be won, in the minds of developing scholars.

    I intend to see if we (The UNG Skeptics Society) can begin the ground work for a mother organization so that such a battle can be fought and can be won.
    My desire is to expedite that one thousand down to a couple of centuries.

    Once again,
    Thank You Hemant Mehta

  • Gaian

    Even when all humanity has moved on from our current crops of Gods, there will still be some retro minded people fighting over the “holy land”.

  • advancedatheist

    Probably should add a tombstone of the late Japanese Emperor Hirohito to the graveyard.

  • Soren

    Not true. In fact, Krishna is worshipped quite a lot.

  • Hans-Georg Lundahl

    Reminds me of a comment you made in “15 things not to say to an atheist”:

    http://notontimsblogroundhere.blogspot.com/2013/09/maybe-zeus-does-exist.html

  • Hans-Georg Lundahl

    Satan became lord of mankind and thus of earth by deceiving Adam, so Enki’s meaning is quite consistent with this.

    He is also a liar, and more than once posed as beneficient to mankind, and Enki’s pose of having saved Utnapishtim from the irrational madness of Enlil during the flood is quite consistent with that identification too.

    Not meaning the identification with Moloch Ba’al (worshipped by human sacrifice) is by any means wrong either. Or with Shiva/Apollo for that matter.

  • Hans-Georg Lundahl

    The theme of this post reminds me of a comment you made in 15 things never to say to an atheist, here is my reply:

    http://notontimsblogroundhere.blogspot.com/2013/09/maybe-zeus-does-exist.html

  • raveries

    Krishna is said to be one of the 10 avatars of Vishnu and he is very well known to practicing Hindus and those raised in Hindu communities. He features in the Mahabharat and is considered the author of the Bhagavad Gita. Additionally, Hindu children are raised with stories of his childhood via books and TV. I take your point about gods dying off, but given that there are around a billion Hindus and rising, this one is a little premature.

  • Don Gwinn

    That’s a great idea. Your target audience may be more knowledgeable than I am, but I have to admit, I didn’t realize that Krishna and Vishnu had anything more in common than that both were connected to Hinduism. I would not have picked up on your point (well, let’s be honest here–I *didn’t* get the point) because I didn’t have the prior knowledge to see it.

  • newenglandsun

    I resurrect them all with neo-paganism!

  • Flambe

    Most Hindus where exactly? I thought it was the Vishnu devotees who were slowly disappearing. Krishna’s playful story makes him a rather more interesting god than Vishnu — who is kind of an amalgamation of lots of gods bound with the flimsy “they’re all incarnations” excuse. Not to mention there are at least two immensely popular tv series about Krishna on Indian cable right now.


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