Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book Review: "On The Existence Of Gods" by Vox Day and Dominic Saltarelli

I have been looking forward to this book ever since I heard about the debate on Vox's Blog, and for anyone who wishes to take a serious, thoughtful look at the question of the existence of gods, this is probably required reading. This is a topic very near and dear to me, and I am nearly always disappointed by the quality and tenor of such debates (such as the dumpster fire that was the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate). 

Not so here. 

Everyone involved was highly intelligent, respectful, and knew why they were there. This is demonstrated, at least to me, in two major ways; the format, and the fact that a good deal of time was spent on definitions.

First, let's address the format. Each participant made an opening argument blind, then rebutted the argument blind, and the panel of judges (one each of Christian, Atheist and  Agnostic) judged the arguments and rebuttals and assigned a winner of the round. At that point, the winner was afforded the opportunity to press their point, the loser rebutted, and the judges decided the winner of that round. There were three rounds in total, and while I would have enjoyed more rounds, I can't see how it would have added much to the discussion.

In addition, the judges were given space to explain their thoughts and reasoning behind their decision, and it often contributed as much to the discussion as Vox and Dominic.

All in all, it worked extremely well, and I would like to see it used elsewhere.

The second thing, and perhaps the most important thing, was the effort that went into defining what a god is, as well as evidence and logic. It's very rare to see it even come up in a debate in a meaningful way, and that has always struck me as foolish. It seems a  bit like arguing for or against string theory but never actually defining the model you are using.

I have long felt that this is the largest issue with the discussion, as the average  Atheist I have talked to has built a mental narrative in which they cannot lose by defining a god as a being who does magic, magic breaks physics and is fake, and anything that falls within any form of natural law is not magic, therefore not a god. As Vox very neatly points out, there is an issue of scale to be considered, regardless of where you draw the line.

Likewise, I know a lot of fellow Christians that feel that examining the topic closely is either a waste of time (citing 'if God wants them, he'll call them, I don't have to do anything but recite the truth' as justification) or even a bit sinister, as though wondering about how it all works is going to somehow change the facts.

It's also worth noting that I found the material compelling enough that my first attempt at this review ended up blossoming into a short book length examination of the arguments made rather than a review proper. There is a lot of meat here for the taking.

One of the biggest surprises for me was Dominic's comparison of the accounts of angels and gods of old to modern abduction stories, including a fascinating comparison of Ezekiel's Wheel to a V-22 Osprey. 

I was quite glad to see this particular direction addressed so early, as I have been in this camp for a number of years (those interested in this line of  reasoning may want to check out Return of the Nephilim by Chuck  Missler of K-House for a dialectic primer on the topic), though I believe it runs in reverse. Rather than ancients mistaking aliens for gods and angels, fallen angels adapt themselves to the culture for the most impact in drawing people away from Christ. These days it's more fashionable to embrace technology and scientism, so they are advanced aliens from Pleiades now.

While I agree that this book is unlikely to  change minds, I believe a much greater victory was scored here. Far from being a matter of evidence (as it is overwhelming in favor of gods of some description), your belief or unbelief in gods or a Creator God has much more to do with your belief about your own station within the universe. Ultimately, the argument against gods seems to boil down to "I don't consider X entity to be sufficiently more advanced than me to consider it a god, regardless of it's power and authority".

That's not a position I would like to find out I was wrong on when standing at the Judgement.

Nor is it an inherently objective position to take, especially considering how often Atheists will, with their next breath, pontificate at length about how humans are just one tiny blip on a small blue rock flying through an unfathomably large universe, go on about how we're probably not being contacted by aliens because we're so Podunk, and so on. One cannot be both insignificant and the contemporary of beings who can make universes.

On the balance, this book is a must-read for any serious seeker, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum. Props go to Saltarelli for one of the most intellectually honest attempts to defend Atheism I have ever seen(It got weird in  a few places, addressed some interesting angles such as deja vu/dreams of the future maybe indicating evidence of nonlinear time, but it is still much better than the normal 'gotcha' game), and the panel of judges did an excellent job overall of remaining ideologically neutral and judging the effectiveness of the arguments rather than their personal opinion of them.

Well worth the price of admission, and if a print version is ever made available, it will be going on my shelf. For now, there is only a Kindle version, which you can get here. As a bonus, the one-star review on Amazon is quite amusing. I am assuming the derogatory use of 'nerd' plus the constant references to being confused means the  one star is butthurt because he couldn't keep up, while the dismissive tone regarding all participants is unreasonably inflated self ego.


  1. I'm expecting more 1 stars in the future. Vox has a lot of ankle-biters.... a lot.

    Plus, in my defense I was trying to say that the evidence points to something neither god nor alien. The mistake is assuming that "X", as you say, is a conscious entity at all. If that didn't come through, then that's my fault. I just sort of took it for granted that any mention of aliens would cause people to roll their eyes. Which was the point.

    Regardless, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Appreciate the comment, I certainly wasn't expecting the response I have gotten so far.

      I had wondered if that wasn't where you were trying to get to, but often our words do not carry us where we would like to go. Still, that would by itself be an interesting topic I think, and not one heavily explored.

      Regardless, it's a rare event to see such a good debate, and I hope it was as profitable to you as reading about it was to me.