The following is part of a Series called Conversation with a Deconverter.
Mia has answered Question Number Four this way:
Okay, with great gnashing of teeth my friends have agreed that it is more likely that this belief is due to Confirmation Bias than it is due to the fact that Helios is The One, True God. This is if we take your hypothetical as a given and only answer based on the information you provided. It could be different with more information.
Taking Mia’s answer and moving on, I’m going to follow the same format and ask the same type of question so that we can all agree that the question being asked is reasonable, even if just a hypothetical. This next question is the longest one, so I promise no more long ones like this. It’s long because the narrative for it is long. Its the narrative called the “Flood Epic of Gilgamesh”. Here it is:
Question Number 5
In the flood story of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (circa 1800 BCE) the “gods” are just getting annoyed with humans because they reproduce too much and they are making too much noise for the gods to sleep. A meeting is held between all these gods to decide what to do about this and it is agreed that a flood will be created to wipe most of them out. In this meeting there is one who disagrees because he has a soft spot for human beings partly because he likes the sacrifices they offer to the gods (called “scape goating”, a term that comes from the sacrifcing of goats to gods). Though he is out-voted, he discreetly comes down to Earth and discloses the flood plan to a select small group of people and tells them to “build an ark”. Utnapishtim is the human leader he warns, and he instructs him in the construction of the ark and that he is to take a pair of all animals with him. Then the flood begins.
As the body count begins to mount, the gods begin to have second thoughts about the flood. “Why did we decide to destroy our people”, they asked and they all cried and trembled. So they called a halt to the flood. The clouds parted and Utnapishtim sends out various birds to test for dry ground. All the gods agree that should never do this again and a rainbow appears.
Now, we can frame this one of two ways. This religion was polytheistic. But the point in asking these questions is to identify the One, True God, even if it means that the answer is polytheistic:
it doesn’t much matter for my purposes whether we identify one or many gods as long as we can make a meaningiful identification. I’ll accept either one.
But I’ll refer to one of the gods – Utnapishtim – in this story as a candidate for that role understanding that we could consider it either all of the gods or just Utnapishtim.
So, Utnapishtim can be meant to be a god or even a human being, as long as it is understood as a stand-in for The One, True God. So, I will test my question by asking, could Utnapishtim be The One, True God? This god is associated with a “flood narrative” which, though it is long, I believe any Judeo-Christian adherent will nonetheless find not a little fantastically interesting. Here is the relevant excerpt.
Please read it all the way through:
Gilgamesh said to him, to Utnapishtim, the distant:”I gazeupon thee (in amazement), O Utnapishtim!
Thy appearance has not changed, like unto me thou art also.
And thy nature itself has not changed, like unto me thou art also,
though thou hast departed this life. But my heart has still to struggle
against all that no longer (?) lies upon thee.
Tell me, How didst thou come to dwell (here?) and obtain eternal life among the gods?”
[From the shore Utnapishtim, the favourite of the gods, now relates the story of the deluge to the hero, who, sitting in his ship, is listening to him.]
Utnapishtim then said unto Gilgamesh:
“I will reveal unto thee, O Gilgamesh, the mysterious story, and the mystery of the gods I will tell thee.
The city of Shurippak, a city which, as thou knowest,is situated on the bank of the river Euphrates.
That city was corrupt, so that the gods within it decided to bring about a deluge, even the great gods, as many as?] there were: their father, Anu; their counsellor, the warrior Bel; their leader, Ninib; their champion, the god En-nu-gi. But Ea, the lord of unfathomable wisdom, argued with them. Their plan he told to a reed-hut, (saying):
‘Reed-hut, reed-hut, clay-structure, clay-structure!
Reed-hut, hear; clay-structure, pay attention!
Thou man of Shurippak, son of Ubara-Tutu,
Build a house, construct a ship;
Forsake thy possessions, take heed for thy life!
Abandon thy goods, save (thy) life,
and bring living seed of every kind into the ship.
As for the ship, which thou shalt build,
let its proportions be well measured:
Its breadth and its length shall bear proportion each to each,
and into the sea then launch it.’
I took heed, and said to Ea, my lord:
‘I will do, my lord, as thou hast commanded;
I will observe and will fulfil the command.
But what shall I answer to (the inquiries of) the city,
the people, and the elders?’
Ea opened his mouth and spoke,
and he said unto me, his servant:
‘Man, as an answer say thus unto them:
“I know that Bel hates me. No longer can I live in your city;
Nor on Bel’s territory can I live securely any longer; I will go down to the ‘deep,’ I will live with Ea, my lord.
Upon you he will (for a time?) pour down rich blessing.
He will grant you] fowl [in plenty] and fish in abundance,
Herds of cattle and an abundant] harvest.
Shamash has appointed a time when the rulers of darkness
at eventide will pour down upon you] a destructive rain.”‘
The lower part of Col. I is unfortunately much mutilated. Line 48 seems to read:
As soon as early dawn appeared.
Then continues line 55:
The brightness [of day?] I feared;
All that was necessary I collected together.
On the fifth day I drew its design;
In its middle part its sides were ten gar high;
Ten gar also was the extent of its deck;
I added a front-roof to it and closed it in.
I built it in six stories,
thus making seven floors in all;
The interior of each I divided again into nine partitions.
Beaks for water within I cut out.
I selected a pole and added all that was necessary.
Three (variant, five) shar of pitch I smeared on its outside;
three shar of asphalt I used for the inside (so as to make
Three shar of oil the men carried, carrying it in vessels.
One shar of oil I kept out and used it for sacrifices,
while the other two shar the boatman stowed away.
For the temple of the gods (?) I slaughtered oxen;
I killed lambs (?) day by day.
Jugs of cider (?), of oil, and of sweet wine,
Large bowls (filled therewith?), like river water (i. e., freely)
I poured out as libations.
I made a feast (to the gods) like that of the New-Year’s Day.
To god Shamash my hands brought oil.
[* * *] the ship was completed.
[* * *] heavy was the work, and
I added tackling above and below, [and after all was finished] ,
The ship sank into water] two thirds of its height.
With all that I possessed I filled it;
with all the silver I had I filled it;
with all the gold I had I filled it;
with living creatures of every kind I filled it.
Then I embarked also all my family and my relatives,
cattle of the field, beasts of the field, and the uprighteous people—all them I embarked.
A time had Shamash appointed, (namely):
‘When the rulers of darkness send at eventide a destructive rain,
then enter into the ship and shut its door.’
This very sign came to pass, and
The rulers of darkness sent a destructive rain at eventide.
I saw the approach of the storm,
and I was afraid to witness the storm;
I entered the ship and shut the door.
I intrusted the guidance of the ship to Purur-bel, the boatman,
the great house, and the contents thereof.
As soon as early dawn appeared,
there rose up from the horizon a black cloud,
within which the weather god (Adad) thundered,
and Nabu and the king of the gods (Marduk) went before.
The destroyers passed across mountain and dale (literally, country).
Dibbara, the great, tore loose the anchor-cable (?).
There went Ninib and he caused the banks to overflow;
the Anunnaki lifted on high (their) torches,
and with the brightness thereof they illuminated the universe.
The storm brought on by Adad swept even up to the heavens
and all light was turned into darkness.
[ ] overflooded the land like * * *
It blew with violence and in one day (?) it rose above the mountains (??).
Like an onslaught in battle it rushed in on the people.
Not could brother look after brother.
Not were recognised the people from heaven.
The gods even were afraid of the storm;
they retreated and took refuge in the heaven of Anu.
There the gods crouched down like dogs, on the inclosure of heaven they sat cowering.
Then Ishtar cried out like a woman in travail
and the lady of the gods lamented with a loud voice, (saying):
‘The world of old has been turned back into clay,
because I assented to this evil in the assembly of the gods.
Alas! that when I assented to this evil in the council of the gods,
I was for the destruction of my own people.
What I have created, where is it?
Like the spawn of fish it fills the sea.’
The gods wailed with her over the Anunnaki.
The gods were bowed down, and sat there weeping.
Their lips were pressed together (in fear and in terror).
Six days and nights
The wind blew, and storm and tempest overwhelmed the country.
When the seventh day drew nigh the tempest, the storm, the battle
which they had waged like a great host began to moderate.
The sea quieted down; hurricane and storm ceased.
I looked out upon the sea and raised loud my voice,
But all mankind had turned back into clay.
Like the surrounding field had become the bed of the rivers.
I opened the air-hole and light fell upon my cheek.
Dumfounded I sank backward, and sat weeping, while over my cheek flowed the tears.
I looked in every direction, and behold, all was sea.
Now, after twelve (days?) there rose (out of the water) a strip of land.
To Mount Nisir the ship drifted.
On Mount Nisir the boat stuck fast and it did not slip away.
The first day, the second day, Mount Nisir held the ship fast, and did not let it slip away.
The third day, the fourth day, Mount Nisir held the ship fast, and did not let it slip away.
The fifth day, the sixth day, Mount Nisir held the ship,fast, and did not let it slip away.
When the seventh day drew nigh
I sent out a dove, and let her go.
The dove flew hither and thither,
but as there was no resting-place for her, she returned.
Then I sent out a swallow, and let her go.
The swallow flew hither and thither,
but as there was no resting-place for her she also returned.
Then I sent out a raven, and let her go.
The raven flew away and saw the abatement of the waters.
She settled down to feed, went away, and returned no more.
Then I let everything go out unto the four winds, and I offered a sacrifice.
I poured out a libation upon the peak of the mountain.
I placed the censers seven and seven,
and poured into them calamus, cedar-wood, and sweet incense.
The gods smelt the savour;
yea, the gods smelt the sweet savour;
the gods gathered like flies around the sacrificer.
But when now the lady of the gods (Ishtar) drew nigh,
she lifted up the precious ornaments (?)which Anu had made according to her wish (and said):
‘Ye gods here! by my necklace, not will I forget.
These days will I remember, never will I forget (them).
Let the gods come to the offering;
But Bel shall not come to the offering,
Since rashly he caused the flood-storm,
and handed over my people unto destruction.’
Now, when Bel drew nigh,
and saw the ship, the god was wroth,
and anger against the gods, the Igigi, filled his heart, (and he said):
‘Who then has escaped here (with his life)?
No man was to survive the universal destruction.’
Then Ninib opened his mouth and spoke,
saying unto Bel, the warrior:
‘Who but Ea could have planned this!
For does not Ea know all arts?’
Then Ea opened his mouth and spoke,
saying unto Bel, the warrior:
‘Ay, thou wise one among the gods, thou warrior,
how rash of thee to bring about a flood-storm!
On the sinner visit his sin,and on the wicked his wickedness;
but be merciful, forbear, let not all be destroyed!
Be considerate, let not everything be [confounded]!
Instead of sending a flood-storm,
let lions come and diminish mankind;
Instead of sending a flood-storm,
let tigers come and diminish mankind;
Instead of sending a flood-storm,
let famine come and smite the land;
Instead of sending a flood-storm,
let pestilence come and kill off the people.
I did not reveal the mystery of the great gods.
(Some one?) caused Atrachasis to see (it) in a dream, and so he (Utnapishtim) heard the mystery of the gods.”
Thereupon Bel arrived at a decision.
Bel went up into the ship, took me by the hand and led me out.
He led out also my wife and made her kneel beside me;
He turned us face to face, and standing between us, blessed us, (saying)
‘Ere this Utnapishtim was only human;
But now Utnapishtim and his wife shall be lofty like unto the gods;
Let Utnapishtim live far away (from men) at the mouth of the (two?) rivers.’
Then they took me and let us dwell far away at the mouth of the rivers.”
After Utnapishtim had finished this account, he turned to Gilgamesh and said:
“Now as for thee, which one of the gods shall give thee strength,
that the life thou desirest thou shalt obtain?
Now sleep!” And for six days and seven nights
Gilgamesh resembled one lying lame.
Sleep came over him like a storm wind.
Then Utnapishtim said to his wife:
“Behold, here is the hero whose desire is life (= recovery)!
Sleep came upon him like a storm wind.”
And the wife replied to Utnapishtim, the distant:
“Transform him; let the man eat of the charm-root.
Let him, restored in health, return on the road on which he came.
Let him pass out through the great door unto his own country.”
And Utnapishtim said to his wife:
“The suffering (and torture) of the man pain thee.
Well, then, cook now for him the food and place it at his head.”
And while Gilgamesh slept on board of his ship,
she cooked the food to place it at his head.
And while he slept on board of his ship,
firstly, his food was prepared (?);
secondly, it was peeled;
thirdly, it was moistened;
fourthly, his food (?) was cleaned;
fifthly, shiba (i. e., old age) was added;
sixthly, it was cooked;
seventhly, of a sudden the man was transformed, having eaten of the magic food.
Then spoke Gilgamesh, and said unto Utnapishtim, the distant:
“I had sunk down, and sleep had befallen me.
Of a sudden thou didst charm me, and thus help me” (?).
And Utnapishtim said unto Gilgamesh:
“* * * Gilgamesh partake of (?) thy food.
* * * shall be told unto thee:
thy food was prepared (?);
secondly, it was peeled;
thirdly, it was moistened;
fourthly, thy food (?) was cleaned;
fifthly, shipa was added;
sixthly, it was cooked;
seventhly, I transformed thee suddenly,
and thou didst eat of the magic food.”
And Gilgamesh said unto Utnapishtim, the distant:
“What?] shall I do, Utnapishtim? whither shall I go?
The demon (of the dead?) has seized my [friend?].
Upon my couch death now sits.
And where my * * * there is death.”
And Utnapishtim said to Urshabani, the ferryman:
“Urshabani, thou * * * at thy side (?), let the boat carry thee;
whosoever attempts to board [the ship?] exclude him from it.
The man, before whom thou goest,
has his body covered with sores,
and the eruption of his skin has altered the beauty of his body.
Take him, Urshabani, and bring him to the place of purification,
where he can wash his sores in water that they may become white as snow;
Let him cast off his (sore?) skin and the sea will carry it away;
His body shall then appear well (and healthy);
Let the turban also be replaced on his head,
and the garment that covers his nakedness.
Until he returns to his city,
until he arrives at his road.
The garment shall not shed [hair?], it shall remain entirely new.”
And Urshabani took him and brought him to the place of purification,
where he washed his sores in water so that they became white as snow;
he cast off his (sore?) skin and the sea carried it away;
his body appeared well (and healthy) again;
He replaced also the turban on his head;
and the garment that covered his nakedness;
until he should return to his city;
until he should arrive at his road;
[the garment did not shed hair], it remained entirely new.
Then Gilgamesh and Urshabani embarked again,
and during their journey the ship tossed to and fro.
[After Gilgamesh and Urshabani had returned from the place of purification:]
The wife of Utnapishtim spoke unto her husband, the distant, (saying):
“Gilgamesh did go away, laboured, and has pulled (the oar?).
What now wilt thou do (or give), that he may return to his country?”
And Gilgamesh lifted up the pole, and drew the boat nearer to the shore.
Then Utnapishtim spoke unto Gilgamesh (and said):
“Gilgamesh, thou didst go away, didst labour and pull (the oar?).
What now shall I give thee, that thou mayest return to thy country?
I will reveal unto thee, Gilgamesh, a mystery,
and [the decision of the gods] I will announce unto thee.
There is a plant resembling buckthorn, its thorn (?) stings like that of a bramble.
When thy hands can reach that plant * * *
[The following lines 286-293 are greatly mutilated]
When Gilgamesh had heard this he opened the * * *
bound heavy stones [to his feet],
which dragged him down to the sea [and thus he found the plant].
Then he grasped the (magic) plant.
He removed [from his feet] the heavy stones [and one fell down?],
and a second he threw down to the [first?].
And Gilgamesh said unto Urshabani, the ferryman:
“Urshabani, this plant is a plant of great renown (or transformation?);
and what man desires in his heart, he obtains.
I will take it to Uruk the strong-walled, I will nurse (plant?) it there and then cut it off.
Its name is (?): ‘Even an old man will be rejuvenated!’
I will eat of this and return (again) to the vigour of my youth.”
[And now they start out to return home to Uruk the strong-walled.]
Every twenty double-leagues they then took a meal:
and every thirty double-leagues they took a rest.
And Gilgamesh saw a well wherein was cool (and refreshing) water;
He stepped into it and poured out some water.
A (demon in the shape of a) serpent darted out; the plant slipped [away from his hands];
he came [out of the well?], and took the plant away,
and as he turned back, he uttered a curse (?).
And after this Gilgamesh sat down and wept.
Tears flowed down his cheeks,
and he said unto Urshabani, the ferryman:
“Why, Urshabani, did my hands tremble?
Why did the blood of my heart stand still?
Not on myself did I bestow any benefit.
tOn the ground-lion (?) this benefit has been bestowed.
After a journey of only twenty double-leagues the plant has been snatched away,
As I opened the well, and lowered the vessel (?).
I see the sign, that has become an omen to me. I am to return,
leaving the ship on the shore.”
Then they continued to take a meal every twenty double-leagues,
and every thirty double-leagues they took a rest,
until they arrived at Uruk the strong-walled.
Gilgamesh then spoke to Urshabani, the ferryman, (and said):
“Urshabani, ascend and walk about on the wall of Uruk,
Inspect the corner-stone, and examine its brick-work,
whether its wall is not made of burned brick, and its foundation (overlaid with?) pitch.
‘Sevenfold is thy name’ (?).
[The closing lines can not be correctly translated.]
Human beings have a known strong tendency to engage in anthropomorphization. Persons with brain damage and Autism tend to be devoid of this tendency or to have aweakened expression of it. This demonstrates how ubiquitous this is in human beings. It is a strong biasing factor. When confronted with mysterious and dramatic events human beings tend to fill the void of uncertainty with human-like agents. The drama provides the motive and the agent solves the mystery. Intelligent deisgn and teleological agruments used by adherent apologists are a form of anthropomorphization. Independent of religious belief, studies show that people will tend to see a “purpose” in the design of perfectly natural (or even abstract) objects by default. The rates for this in young adults are about 33% for natural abiotic objects, 69% for biological organisms and 96% for human artifacts. But when these experiments are conducted with 5 year old children, children make very little distinction between these things. Their numbers are 73% natural objects, 78% biological organisms and 83% human artifact. What this demonstrates is a strong, innate human bias to perceive design in any object. Only upon being socialized and “educated” do human beings begin to refrain, to some degree, from this tendency.
Seeing purpose – or Agenticity – in a horrific, massive geological event such as a global flood is a virtual certainty given what the studies now show. One doesn’t even need a god for it, the event will create one if its not there already.
Is it more likely that belief in the Utnapishtim narrative is the result of Agenticity or that Utnapishtim is The One, True God?
Go to Question Number Six