The Tentative Apologist
7/24/09 at 11:41 AM 4 Comments

Disproving the existence of Zeus (Round 1)

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My fan club of skeptics was not happy with my last post in which I explained the rational basis on which a Christian (or anybody else) can recognize the existence of one particular deity (e.g. Yahweh) whilst not being required to concede the existence of another (e.g. Zeus). Thus, recognizing the existence of one particular god does not commit a person to recognizing innumerable other gods. There is a fully rational stopping point in place.

Nonetheless, the fan club was not satisfied with this outcome, and it insists that I disprove the existence of Zeus. I take up the challenge, with the proviso that it is a personal exercise for a pleasant Friday morning (Mountain time) rather than a universal obligation for all Christians.

First let it be noted again that there are different kinds of disproof. I have provided three: logical, beyond a reasonable doubt, and by a preponderance of the evidence.

Shall I offer a logical proof for the non-existence of Zeus? Fine, here's one:

(1) If I exist then Zeus does not exist.

(2) I exist.

(3) Therefore, Zeus does not exist.

Done. Now what else would you like me to disprove?

Wait, you don't find the first premise compelling? Well I'll have another go at it. But before I do let me make another distinction. I could disprove the existence of Zeus simpliciter or I could disprove the claim that Zeus is that being than which none greater can be conceived. I take it that the latter task is of inestimably greater importance since the existence (or lack thereof) of a being than which none greater can be conceived is surely of the utmost importance. By contrast, the existence of a finite and imperfect spirit being, while important, is not a complete game changer. With that in mind, I'll have a go at disproving the identity of Zeus as God so defined:

(1) A being that owes its existence to other beings cannot be the being than which none greater can be conceived.

(2) Zeus owes his existence to other beings.

(3) Therefore, Zeus cannot be the being than which none greater can be conceived.

Now in this case the premises are both logically compelling (unless you have good reason to challenge the intuition that motivates (1)), and the argument is valid. Thus, it provides a solid proof for the more important question.

I cannot provide the strongest disproof for Zeus' existence simpliciter. Nor did I ever say that I could.

In a subsequent post I shall turn to providing grounds (that is, weaker proofs) for Zeus' non-existence simpliciter. But be clear that I just established that Zeus is not a proper object of religious worship or devotion (unless I have grounds to believe that the being than which none greater can be conceived has declared him so, and I have none). And that is a lot to accomplish on a pleasant Friday morning.

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