Some Cats are Gods (An Atheist Confesses)

Some Cats are Gods (An Atheist Confesses) May 5, 2016

Ipreviously pointed out that, if atheism means denying the existence of any being that is believed by some humans to be divine, then the existence of cats disproves atheism. Hemant Mehta seems to have seen the light, since he posted the image below under a title acknowledging that “some cats are gods”:

foretold in the ancient murals

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  • The Eh’theist

    Theism is such a sloppy word, which in turn makes atheism an equally sloppy word. Beyond that is the reality that you (and many others) have pointed out: that there are things that have the label of “god” which have evidence for their existence. The quandary is that these things wouldn’t be considered appropriate subjects for Theism in a formal definition.

    So I’ve found it more helpful to simply take various ideas of “God” on their individual merits, rather than trying to create a universal disproof of a generic “god” that no one believes in.

    • arcseconds

      I’ve an inclination towards thinking that atheism is an attitude as much as anything else.

      An atheist could presumably admit to the existence of powerful beings if there were enough evidence, but wouldn’t be inclined to worship any of them.

      And of course atheists generally don’t deny the existence of the universe, so admit the existence of the entity that pantheists call God, but simply aren’t inclined to call it God.

      In other words, irreverence seems as important an attribute of atheism as any other…

      • Ian

        Can anything be said to not exist, if the counter-example is someone using the word to refer to something that does?

        Does the luminiferous ether exist if it refers to something that light flows through? Does hell exist if a prisoner describes their incarceration as a living hell? Are there zombies, folks who haven’t had their morning coffee? Gay men used to be referred to as faeries here, so faeries can’t be denied. Someone from another country was once called an alien, so aliens clearly exist. At least one species of Dragon is extent in the world, so Dragons, yup.

        So these folks who deny hell, the ether, zombies, faeries, aliens in our midst and dragons… well, we may as well just deride them.

        It’s of similar tenor and profundity as a typical evangelical ‘gotcha’ argument. And like them, when someone with half-a-brain puts them forwards, they usually do it under cover of ironic flippancy as if there’s some deeper level on which is really is profound. I’m not seeing it myself.

        • arcseconds

          I think you have mistaken me for someone else, Ian, as I’m not trying to deride anyone, but make the actual point of difference clear, which gets obscured by the usual Christian vs. Atheist grudge-match where all too frequently little distinction is made among Christianity, traditional theism, other forms of non-atheist beliefs that are distinct from traditional theism, and religion.

          (These distinctions are lost on plenty of Christians, of course, I’m not suggesting that atheists are somehow unique in being overly simplistic)

          In point of fact, both pantheists and atheists deny the literal existence of a transcendent being distinct from the universe, who created the universe, who is three and one at the same time and like a person in many respects (can talk to people, apparently makes decisions, has likes and dislikes, etc.).

          (And I think this is basically where McGrath is going with this too. )

          But there is nevertheless a difference, and I don’t think Dawkins is right in that it’s merely that pantheism is just plain sexier. No doubt the conception of the universe is different, but a much more obvious and I think ultimately more pertinent difference is that the pantheist is inclined to take a reverential attitude to the universe that the atheist is not inclined to take.

          And I also think man — probably most — atheists on the whole are disinclined to sing hymns of praises to anyone or anything, so if some being appeared to us and convinced us that it really was speaking to Moses from the burning bush, the answer from many atheists might be ‘so?’

          (Bascially, I think the portrayal of ‘gods’ in the classic Star Trek series shows us something about atheism)

          Which is why I think the difference between atheists and other people is at least as much about attitudes as it is about anything else.

          • Ian

            Sorry, I was riffing on the ‘admitting’ part, and chiming in on the OP, not accusing you of the original gotcha. If I disagree at all it is that I’d reject the argument more strongly.

      • The Eh’theist

        You may feel free to chuckle that my first reading of your last sentence inadvertently substituted “irrelevance” rather than “irreverence.” It’s been a long week. 🙂

        We’re essentially in agreement. It’s funny that given the drift away from the philosophical understand of Theism in most speech, that its increased breadth of meaning essentially makes it (and the related term atheism) meaningless in any productive sense.

        My only quibble might be that there is a strong subset of atheists who are atheists in despair, who would very much like to be reverent if they could believe again in an object worthy of reverence. I’m not one of them, but I can understand their situation.

        • arcseconds

          Yes, atheists aren’t all cut from the same cloth, I quite agree. I often try to make it clear that one can’t really accurately generalize about atheists any more than one can about Christians, but I neglected the caveats in the post you’re replying to.

          I often resort to ‘movement atheist’ to describe atheists who engage with the atheist community or the atheist movement, and there I think it is fair to say that they on the whole are irreverent. Even that term is a bit inaccurate as plenty of them do have some kind of awe or something of that nature at the universe and the things within it (Dawkins has said so, as a high-profile example) but they’re not, one gets the impression, inclined to turn up one day a week to sing praise songs to it.

          But I really wanted to be a bit wider than movement atheists, because there is a wider group that share many qualities with movement atheists, like a respect for science and a rejection of religion on scientific grounds, but don’t engage with the movement.

          I don’t have a term for this wider group, so I just gave up and said ‘atheist’.

          But there are of course many atheists who are atheists for different reasons: they were raised non-religious and haven’t really thought about it, or they have rejected religion because their church wouldn’t marry a divorcée, or because their child died tragically at a young age.

          I’ve got to the end of this post and realised that the dispairing atheists probably cut across those categories, so that’s an added complication I hadn’t thought about before… thanks!

  • Orion Jones

    Firstly, as I’m sure you’re fully aware (but seemingly unable to admit), most atheists don’t deny the existence of gods or any other type of divine being/entity, they simply lack belief in them.

    But even if we accepted your ‘denial’ definition, then atheists wouldn’t deny the existence of a actual beings (e.g. cats) that some people believe are divine, they would deny that those beings are actually divine.

    It’s says a lot about the you that whenever you say anything about atheists, you have to misrepresent what the majority of them are actually saying.

  • James Byron

    Atheism’s denial of (or lack of belief in) a theistic god. That’s usually taken as a supernatural entity with attributes like omnipotence, omniscience, timelessness, and so on.

    Cats, and people attributing godhood to their moggy of choice, entirely compatible!