Why do I say “Oh God!”, not “Oh Zeus!”

I was listening to a gateway Church podcast recently (yes, I listen to all the hit Christian podcasts), and the preacher presented to the audience an argument for why Christianity is a much more valid religion than Buddhism or the Greek gods of mythology. He presented this (paraphrasing):-
Why is it that when a theologian debates with an agnostic or a heathen (he used those terms), you can talk all you want about various theological concepts and ideas, but when the idea of Christianity or Jesus comes to the fray, they always get a bit more animated, angry and excitable. This is because Christianity has some undeniable truth about it, and they always have to resort to a bit more force in their words. And Why is it, that when they see something that amazes them they say, “Oh My God” and when they bang their hand with a hammer they say “God dammit!” Why is that? It’s because somewhere, deep down inside, they have the breath of the holy spirit within them. Blah Blah Blah… and on he went.
I had to stop the podcast at this moment. I had to think about this one because it was an argument for god, and not just some more “Believe in Jesus” talk. I have thought about it, and here are a few reasons why us atheists say God, not Buddha. I’ll also say that I personally do not say “Oh my God”, I prefer to use “Zeus almighty!” or “Thor! God of Thunder!”

First of all, most of us in the western world have grown up in Christian backgrounds, so must of us atheists used to be Christians, which means that our ‘cursing of god’s name’ is just a remnant of our pasts. I f I had grown up in a home where my father and mother had said, “Zeus help me” every time I was being stubborn, I would probably grow up to use Zeus as a curse word in my vocabulary. It’s also a lot easier to say ‘god’ (1 syllable), as opposed to ‘Anextiomarus’ (Celtic sun-god) (6 syllables) when I’m angry.

Second of all, The reason why atheists get so animated when you start talking specifically about Jesus, is because we are sick of it all. Most of us can tolerate you saying that your god wrote the rulebook and then just sat back and watched it all happen, but when you start telling me that “God made me with a special plan in mind”, “Jesus is patiently knocking on the door to my soul”, or “You really do know that god is real, but you are just suppressing it and denying it”, because these statements are so out there, random, intangible with reality, unproved, logically strange and impossible, that our brains overload with logical fallacy alarms, dumbass alerts and goes into shut down mode, or explodes.

The third objection to this argument, the reason why we use deities in our curses at all, is simple, and it comes back to 90% (ball-park, don’t quote me on this) of us having grown up in religious homes.  There is mounting evidence in many scientific tests that swearing reduces the sensation of pain. So when you stick your hand in a bucket of ice-cold water, using some expletives will give you a substantial amount of time more, with your hand in the water. When I was a Christian, and still now in my Christian home, saying “Oh My God” was as bad as the f-bomb or any other common expletive. So nowadays, ‘using god’s name in vein’ still gives me that therapeutic feeling that I experience with other swear words. That’s why I still do it.

I hope today’s post has put across the point that this argument for Christianity is paper-thin, with no logic or evidence to support it. I will you with a quote from Carl Sagan, “You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.”, Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and science popularizer of some note.

14 thoughts on “Why do I say “Oh God!”, not “Oh Zeus!”

  1. We by design (bottom-up that is) are inclined to curse. Every culture does it, every language has curse-words and it is only natural to use those of your own languages. It’s not like it’s a rational process. I mean nobody says oh my god or jesus fucking christ to refer to god or jesus, you do it to express something.

    I think religious people do that because to them it is still a source of inspiration. So they’ll automatically be biased when it comes to estimating the power of an argument or whether it could be used for any other religion. If you don’t mind I’ll even go further off-topic and say that I have this too sometimes. When people attack evolution, I get really sensitive about it. And I can’t say this is just because evolution is right. It’s because just like the religious with their “theories”, when you attack the theory of evolution I in a way feel like you’re attacking my sense of wonder.

    No I am not trying to equate the two when it comes to relevance or truth. I am merely saying that allot of this is irrational, and we still are irrational. We just got it channeled in more subtle ways.

    • Yes it is true, us ‘evolutionists’ still have that feeling of irritation when when somebody argues against evolution, and there is a bit more than just being bored of the same old arguements over and over again. There is still that feeling of a personal attack of ones own beliefs. But as rational people who are aware of the rules of logic, we must try and detach ourselves from our beliefs, and we manage to do it much better than the religious people do it.

      • I do wonder if we would gain any information of comparing mri-scans of a firm believer who thinks about belief and somebody who draws upon the theory of evolution to get inspiration. I mean the nature is just very different, on the one hand you have something designed to tickle the parts in your brain that deal with belief. On the other hand you have an explanatory theory which sheer complexity gives you awe.

        • That would be an interesting experiment, but on the topic of MRI scans, I would like to see this. Hook it up to Christians who pray and claim to literally ‘talk with god’, and see which parts of the brain light up. My hypothesis would be that the part of the brain responsible for creating language would be working overtime, while the part of the brain responsible for hearing, decoding, and listening to spoken word would be rather lacking. I think this is because Christians (and other religions) who claim to talk to god are actually just hearing their own little voice inside their head talking to them, and this being interpreted as God. I think that Creationists would still have some hand-waving excuse as to why the brain scans turned out that way.

          There is a fundamental difference between evolution and creationism in the brain, and that is the assurance of ones self. In the Creationists mind, they have already made their decision, and are going to find some supporting evidence, whereas evolution, it is just an honest and unbiased interpretation of all the data and evidence, not just the parts we like.

        • WOW! I haven’t checked your blog for a week or so, so this is news to me. Good on you for not trying to deny it to much.
          Just on that post, it was well written, it made me think back to when I first started to question my faith. Hang in there, its really hard for a while before you really get your head around not believing any more, but once you finally get to it, it feels really good… It sets you free.

          I think you have some site renovating to do now, your blog bio still tells us ‘a christian stuggle…’, might want to change that so as not to confuse people.

          • I think the easy part was searching within myself and reasoning with truth to discover if this Christianity think truly made any sense. And after closely examing not just the christian religion but the BIBLE, you have to come to the conclusion that its all just exaggerated stories.

            For me, once I let go of the idea that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, its just a slippery slope for the rest of Christianity.

            Now begins the hard part of beginning to tell family and friends. Cause I still have not told my wife.

            But your right, I probably should change some things for clarity in my stance.

        • About the using of obscure gods in expletives… you still have to get the right ring to it. I find the following to be very catchy
          “Zeus almighty!”
          “Thor give me strength”
          “Thank Ra”
          “OYG (oh your god)”
          “Damn it, Krishna!”
          Try to find ones that are very catchy, I find myself saying them quite often now.

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