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Gutting on the existence of Zeus

Originally printed here.  A poem of quotes from the New York Times by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, titled “Did Zeus Exist?”.


why we are so certain that Zeus never existed.
we are in no position to say that he did.
But are we really in a position to say that he didn’t?
we have no evidence at all for his existence
no reports of avenging thunderbolts
or of attempted seductions,
no sightings around Mount Olympus.
But back in the day (say, 500-400 B.C.),
Zeus’s reality remained widely unquestioned.
Socrates and Plato criticized certain poetic treatments,
which showed Zeus and the gods in an unworthy light.
But they never questioned the very existence of the gods
There were many questions about the true nature of the divine,
but few about its existence.
Why did belief in the gods persist in spite of critical challenges?
The greatest evidence for the existence of gods is that piety works . . .
with by far the most emphasis given to the perils of ignoring the gods
One knows that the gods exist because one feels their presence
during the drama of the mysteries
or the elation of the choral dance.
as weather conditions hampering an enemy,
a miraculous escape, or a cure
Most of us do not find our world so filled with the divine,
But how can we be so sure that the Greeks lived in the same sort of world?
take seriously the possibility that they existed
he people who worshiped Zeus claimed to experience his presence
There’s no reason for us to accept this claim,
but we have no reason for thinking they were wrong.
everyone was rightly convinced
from their own and others’ experiences
that the gods existed.
We may well think that our world contains little or no evidence of the supernatural.
But that is no reason to think the same was true of the Greek world.
an atheistic denial of Zeus is ungrounded.
to deny that he existed in his Grecian heyday
we need to assume yet
We have no reason to make this assumption.
supposing that Zeus did exist in ancient times,
do we really have evidence that he has ceased to exist?
He may, for all we know, just be in hiding
Or it may be that we have lost the ability to perceive the divine.

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