The first gods are fake

I freely admit that I may be on shaky ground here, but if literature like the Iliad and the Odyssey is anything to go by (yes, I know they are way too “modern” for you), they typically burn the food and spill the wine, and the amount is relatively symbolic. Like a pig or ox leg, or a prime cut of the animal. But of course, if we assume you are right, this could just as well be an evolution of earlier practices. However, I digress.

Interpreting ancient texts in such detail sounds a bit dangerous to me, especially if you’re not an expert in these ancient cultures. And with the very oldest texts, context and cultural understanding means a lot, especially since we are >4000 years distant from them both linguistically and in cultural understanding. How do we know what the scribes actually meant when they said that “Horus eats the pieces”? Did they mean it literally or symbolically? And how do we (you) know?

I understand that, but I’m just trying to understand, in my own confused way, what exactly OP is after.

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[quote=“Get_off_my_lawn, post:21, topic:1519, full:true”]

Again, great questions and ones I have to answer. You’re not digressing.

To your point about offerings being burned or poured out: I’ve looked into that because you’re right, there were rituals in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China where elites burned offerings for gods, suggesting those gods did not eat them, and poured libations onto the floor. However, that was not always the case. In the Neo-Assyrian empire for instance, I’ve found texts from the royal library in the palace at Nineveh stating libations after a feasting ritual for the statue-god Assur went to a city scribe, implying they weren’t irrecoverable. Sumerian texts like ‘Enki’s Journey to Nippur’ also speak of gods drinking from bronze vessels in temples.

To your point about the language being symbolic. I don’t think that’s likely at least in many cases because of language suggesting Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Chinese gods actually consumed their offerings. Take Egypt again: wall texts about Horus from the temple at Edfu include statements like, “You open your lips, you eat it,” it being white bread, you being a statue. That sounds like consumption. Others about Sobek from Tebtunis speak about offerings “filling” Sobek, implying the same. Sumerian tablets also speak of the moon-god Suen in these terms: "The crescent [i.e., Suen] will not smell incense if his mouth be not opened. Food he will not eat, water he will not drink (Blackman 1924:52) (mouth opening was a ritual meant to enliven a statue through possession). The aim is clear, even though that aim is impossible. That’s where I’m coming from. How could a priest sincerely believe in what they said? Could they have understood their own language as symbolic? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean the language doesn’t imply something else. They performed feasting rituals insincerely, I’m arguing, knowing their own language did not reflect what actually happened.

I don’t know that I’m after anything. I’m certainly more skeptical than ever that any gods exist given the research I’ve done. If I’m after anything it’s that, urging skepticism because the earliest organized religions appear so deceptive in my reading.

I want to draw parallels to the texts kings and regents had inscribed on tablets, on steles, etc. Here, they bragged on about things they claimed they did and were responsible for, things we now know they greatly exaggerated, things they positively did not do, and things we know were impossible. After all, these kings were considered gods, so if ancient texts told untruths about god-kings, why wouldn’t they exaggerate a little regarding the “real” gods? Also, texts about god-kings were heavily sanitized, to avoid e.g. embarrassing statements. Why would it be any different for the other gods?

See above.

Well, don’t all religions appear deceptive, especially the ones you don’t belive in? If you are an atheist, you just have one more religion you find deceptive.

I see your point, but aren’t you conceding my point too that early kings, priests, etc. lied about gods? If they lied, that begs the question why. Kings lied about their accomplishments, as you highlighted, probably to make themselves seem invincible or more important than they really were; they lied for ego’s sake I guess. If kings, priests, etc. lied about statues and spirits, as I argue, they must have had some motive. I’m saying the motive was the offerings: they lied to peasants and other citizens about these early gods to get the offerings from non-elites, and did not tell non-elites that they ate and drank those offerings themselves. That’s motive enough to lie.

I wouldn’t call any non-demonstrable faith deceptive. I don’t agree with Pentecostalism, for example, but the people I was around as a kid, and the leaders I interviewed for that study I published, seemed to sincerely believe in their own god claims. I don’t share their beliefs but they weren’t deceiving people that I could tell. That’s because their claims aren’t demonstrable. A Christian doesn’t see their god as a statue in a shrine, their god is invisible, felt perhaps, but they might believe in those feelings. A Christian who feels goosebumps and takes that for god might not know any better, I mean, they might not know where the feeling comes from physiologically. A priest who says a statue eats or drinks before their very eyes knows better, I’m saying. They can’t avoid knowing that because they supposedly watched or listened to it go on.

Same thing goes for Islam, Buddhism, other faiths about invisible gods, or gods which don’t do demonstrable things. People can sincerely believe in those gods. I wouldn’t call Allah deceptive, or the Buddha deceptive, I would say people who believe in them are sincerely mistaken.

Now, Pentecostal preachers who tell people to donate money because they’ll become wealthy from their donations… they’re deceiving people. L. Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith Jr., people like that, they deceived people and knew it. I want to draw that distinction. I think you asked why I didn’t include deceptive faiths like Scientology and it’s because I want to focus on faiths in ‘The lie of the first gods’ which center around the exchange of food and drink. I do mention Joseph Smith Jr. because he tricked a farmer out of a sheep one time using a story about a spirit he needed to appease to find a treasure. I also mention a more modern faith called Manichaeism which centered around “elect” begging for vegetables, fruits, and grain under the pretense of returning light particles in those foods to a high god.

Then I humbly offer three suggestions.

First, read my name. Your error makes one question your self-proclaimed status as a scholar.

Secondly, when you submit your thesis for publication, ensure the title mirrors the subject, which is not about the first gods, instead that you are examining and exposing specific religions and societies.

Thirdly, gods are unfalsifiable. You cannot prove they do not exist. The gods may be fake, or they may not be. You do not possess the tools to ascertain such. You may be able to prove that the religions that worship those gods are cons.


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At no point did I say you were wrong. At most I am asserting you are saying nothing new. Even if we go back to Shaman in tribal societies, their job was to foretell the rains, the outcomes of wars, administer to births and resolve the spiritual needs and superstitious woo woo of the tribe, probably mixing herbs and summing up with remedies for ailments. It was a job. I’m not getting the "con’ part. Especially the further back in history we go. But of course you will argue that. Religion becomes a con with the age of enlightenment in my thinking. It is no longer the way of making sense of the world around us that it once was. At any rate, no one has called you wrong. What I have said is that what you have written thus far is “scattered,” not tied down to anything, and that it looks like you may be cherry picking your examples as “original” religions to fit your narrative.

The information you provided does not indicate what you will be writing about very well. Perhaps if you imagined the little review panel that appears on the back of most books which give a quick synopsis of the book. What would yours say?

Here is an example from “Forged” by Bhart Eherman.
" It is often said, even by critical scholars who should know better, that “writing in the name of another” was widely accepted in antiquity. But New York Times bestselling author Bart D. Ehrman dares to call it what it was: literary forgery, a practice that was as scandalous then as it is today. In Forged, Ehrman’s fresh and original research takes readers back to the ancient world, where forgeries were used as weapons by unknown authors to fend off attacks to their faith and establish their church. So, if many of the books in the Bible were not in fact written by Jesus’s inner circle—but by writers living decades later, with differing agendas in rival communities—what does that do to the authority of Scripture?

Ehrman investigates ancient sources to:

Reveal which New Testament books were outright forgeries.
Explain how widely forgery was practiced by early Christian writers—and how strongly it was
condemned in the ancient world as fraudulent and illicit.
Expose the deception in the history of the Christian religion.
Ehrman’s fascinating story of fraud and deceit is essential reading for anyone interested in the truth about the Bible and the dubious origins of Christianity’s sacred texts."

Now I a pretty clear what this book is about. I know its scope, it’s target, and its position is clearly stated. The Hittites claimed over a thousand gods, the Hindus perhaps more. There are gods in the Americas. China and indeed most of Asia has a long history of Ancestor worship. … Point is… where are you drawing lines?

All I have asked — over and over and over is — what is your book about? You think you have explained it and I am telling you… You Have Not.

I don’t have any stakes or strong feelings in this, whether it goes one way or the other. Like I said earlier, I’m trying to figure out what you mean in my own confused way. So expect me to random-walk, backtrack, etc :slight_smile:

Wouldn’t the Christian communion qualify as a modern parallel here? What happens to that little piece of bread and that little sip of wine? Is it really transmogrified into the flesh and blood of Jesus, like devout catholics believe? Or is it a symbolic act, which is the belief of other Christian denominations? Are all devout catholics consciously and positively lying when they make the transmogrification claim? How can you tell which ones are lying about their religious practice, and which ones are not? If all we had from Christian religious practices were descriptions of e.g. the communion 4000 years into the future, how can you tell if the scribe/priest actually believes that the wafer/wine is transformed into flesh/blood, or if it is a symbolic action (and they know it) accompanied by religious lingo, or if they are lying through their teeth? If it is difficult to tell lies from delusions in modern religious practice, how can you do that distinction with ancient texts?

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I wouldn’t argue that any Catholics are lying about bread and wine becoming Jesus’ body and blood. No one can know if that claim is true or false. That’s what I mean when I say I wouldn’t call Christianity deceptive. A person can sincerely believe a claim like that because it isn’t demonstrable. The wafer isn’t said to produce flesh, for example, and the wine isn’t said to look like blood or something. I hope I’m being clear.

The difference here is that the organized religions I’m studying make demonstrable claims. A statue either eats or it doesn’t, and priests supposedly watched or listened to this go on. They brought in and then cleared vessels full of food and drink, which presented them with immediate evidence of whether this actually happened. That’s the difference I see: evidence (or supposed evidence) versus a lack of evidence. The wafer and wine aren’t supposed to change visibly, they change supernaturally. Mesopotamian, Chinese, and Egyptian gods were said to dine naturally, using their bodies.

David_Kittens: Look, I didn’t come here to toot my own horn, but I’m not a “self-proclaimed scholar.” I’ve published twice in the scholarly, peer-reviewed journal Sociology of Religion, and my work has been cited 23 times in other scholarly publications (Google Scholar, it’s the first result). Enough said on that.

I’m open to changing the title, the first part of it at least. “The lie of the first gods” might even sound better as “Feasting statues and spirits: Food Cons in Early Mesopotamian, Chinese, and Egyptian Religion.” I’m open to that and I see your point.

I disagree that some gods are unfalsifiable. I know for a fact that statues do not come to life, for one. Those gods did not exist as they were described existing by early elites in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Period. Now, the heavenly gods who supposedly possessed those statues, they might exist, I can’t prove or disprove that.

Actually, catholics/the catholic church are making falsifiable claims regarding “miracles”. Take the example of the “weeping Jesus of Mumbai”, which was exposed by Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku. Edamaruku proved positively that the “tears” were really the result of sewer water sucked up through the Jesus-figure through capillary action. The catholic church didn’t concede, instead invoking Indian blasphemy laws, forcing Edamaruku to flee India and obtain asylum in Finland. So here’s the question: Are the top dogs (and the small puppies, for that matter) deluded and actually believe it is a miracle, despite all the evidence, or are they lying through their teeth?

Sanal Edamaruku is a pretty hard core rationalist, by the way. Among other things, he participated in a TV programme to see if a tantric guru could kill him remotely, without touching or giving him things to eat/drink. He and his colleagues also have a history of travelling around the Indian countryside exposing guru con men, and setting up shows where they educate the public on exactly how the superstition-based trickery is done.

I’m not familiar with any of those but they sure sound like cons. I don’t know who sincerely believes and who is conning the faithful in your examples but… sounds like someone is conning people knowingly. I doubt the faithful know they’re being conned in these instances, but that’s just my gut reaction. I would have to look into it.

I’m reading that article you posted about the guru, it’s great. Thanks for linking that.

FFS, please READ and absorb.

My name is David_Killens

No t’s in there. I am not a kitten. I requested that you take care and read, yet you made the same error as before. Your comprehension skills are now questionable in my eyes.

My bad dude. I didn’t know what you meant, and it’s not a big deal.

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Not to you perhaps. However, more than a few people feel a tad dismissed when others forget or misspell their name. .

Having read your posts I do not get the impression of either metal discipline nor scholarly rigour. That you have already received the suggestion about the title of your book [for the sake of clarity] says a great deal.

Writing an informative, non fiction book requires a great deal of work. Plus, your area and position have already been deeply mined over millennia***

Might I suggest that you take a look at a couple of popular historians? I’ll only mention two I’ve read and liked; A N Wilson, for “The Victorians” and
“Paul ; Mind of The Apostle” plus Peter Ackroyd for "London: The Biography’
and “Thames; Sacred River”

I urge you to pay special attention to their references and bibliographies.

***An anonymous ancient Roman, possibly Seneca, wrote; “To the ordinary man the gods are real, to the wise man, foolish, and to the ruler, useful”


My own position is that organised religion is the greatest confidence trick ever perpetuated on the human race. The con is not about whether the gods are real. It’s because people en masse have been conned into believing that an entire, privileged class is needed to act on their behalf with the gods.

Getting back to the topic, we need to keep in mind the positive aspects religion and their con men possibly contributed.

They provided continuity in culture and laws. They gave organization to the masses, and even enforced laws. And what we may now consider nonsense, some of those religious sayings provided information on the seasons, when to plant, when to harvest, and so on. If different communities shared the same religion, that was a link that allowed each community to communicate with each other (even in times of stress), possibly avoiding misunderstandings and conflict.

In times of war they provided hope, even motivation to fight harder and braver.

I do agree that the religious and community leaders did benefit from their status, many lived very well. But we must examine whether they were complete parasites to the community, or contributed enough to earn their benefits.

Lol :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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Philosophically, I don’t see law as a benefit of early civilization. Early law codes supposedly came from gods and conveniently protect elite interests. The law has always done that and still does. Laws are oppressive by nature. They protect people only indirectly because they were intended and are intended to protect elites from non-elites.

Were early elites complete parasites? I can’t say one way or another. But if they resorted to tricking peasants and other citizens out of their food and drink, as I argue, they at least lived well off tricks. They took food and drink away from people who could have used it for themselves, whether to eat and drink or to become a little more wealthy than they were by bartering with it. They took it from them under false pretenses, and never really needed it to feed gods.

boomer47: You’re welcome to your opinion, but the purpose of this post was getting feedback, including on the title, which is what a scholar would do. They would be open to criticism and questions and they would take it into consideration. My willingness to hear that criticism out to the point of changing the title says a lot about me.

I did a very cursory look at what may be the first legal code, the Urukagina.

From Wiki …Urukagina - Wikipedia

Although the actual text has not been discovered, much of its content may be surmised from other references to it that have been found. In it, he exempted widows and orphans from taxes; compelled the city to pay funeral expenses (including the ritual food and drink libations for the journey of the dead into the lower world; and decreed that the rich must use silver when purchasing from the poor, and if the poor does not wish to sell, the powerful man (the rich man or the priest) cannot force him to do so.

Urukagina’s code has been widely hailed as the first recorded example of government reform, seeking to achieve a higher level of freedom and equality. It limited the power of the and large property owners, and took measures against usury, burdensome controls, hunger, theft, murder, and seizure (of people’s property and persons); as he states, “The widow and the orphan were no longer at the mercy of the powerful man”. Here, the word “freedom” (“ama-gi”), appears for the first time in recorded history.

I did not post all of the content from this article, just extracted certain portions that explain reforms.

This appears to be in conflict with your position.