Atheist’s Challenge Accepted ~ Unicorns

(Scottish Coat of Arms)

Before beginning this import from my old blog, let me say, the video I am updating this with is EXCELLENT! Not only can some creatures not known by modern man existed in the past (as my post shows), but the most plausible explanation is a change in definitions over the past couple hundred years. Good stuff Maynard.

This is a favorite of atheists, that is, to say that believing in God is just like believing in unicorns. The story use to be: believing in God is like believing in Santa Clause. But this analogy didn’t work to the atheists advantage… so they changed the story line.

However, this is not what the Christian is stating, and the analogy about Santa Clause will illustrate (which is why they changed the story line). First though, let me read from 1 Corinthians 15:14-17:

(14) And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (15) More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. (16) For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. (17) And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

Paul here is saying that this person Jesus is a historical being, and that his resurrection happened in history. Even the most ardent skeptic knows that Jesus existed in actual history, whereas we can say most probably — I will discuss this at the end — that unicorns do not exist. So the unicorn analogy is already falling apart. Which brings me to Jolly Old St. Nick.

Let us start with my favorite St. Nicholas who is said to have been from Asia Minor in what is now Turkey. He was a monk who rose to become the Bishop of Myra in the 4th century. Known for his generosity and compassion he worked to improve the lot of his fellow man. Stories and legends abound on the various things he is said to have done in helping the poor ranging from secret donations placed in shoes or stockings of the needy to protecting sailors at sea. He was imprisoned for ten years by the Romans as this was still a time of Christian persecution and was only released by the Emperor Constantine who was to later become Christian. He died Dec. 6th and that day is celebrated as St. Nicholas’s Day in much of Europe. His popularity only continued to grow following his death so that by the Middle Ages there were several thousand churches bearing his name.

This is closer to the analogy that we are looking for. Jesus REALLY existed; a monk named Nicholas REALLY existed. Horses REALLY exist.

There may be other discussions more valid here regarding whom Jesus of Nazareth was, but at least we need to realize that the unicorn analogy just doesn’t work. This puts mankind’s historic search for answers in a light not becoming of a persons intellect.

We are not applying Big-Bang cosmology and the beginning of the universe, the laws of causality, thermodynamics, the weak and strong nuclear forces (etc.) to a unicorn – which, if a historical mammal, would be within the space/time continuum… and thus subject to the laws of nature – but rather, we need a being that is the source or explanation for these historical events. We are looking to larger explanations as well as God’s actual dealing with events of history.

So the unicorn analogy would look more like this in the theistic sense of the explanation.

A friend said he met someone who said they saw a unicorn… in fact, he saw a family of them. They left the scene but there were many other people who saw it as well. In fact they wrote about it. Also discovered were hoof prints and a few shed horns. In fact, the government has tried to cover up this fact and started killing the eyewitnesses. They kill them because even under the most extreme torture conditions they are not recanting their stories. And we all know that if there were a group of people (say, 511 people) that would make up such a story that under torture conditions one of them would admit to lying. Because it is logical to think that people would die for a lie thinking it was true, but they wouldn’t die for a lie knowing it was a lie they fabricated. One bloke was tortured and then crucified on an upside down – broken – cross (Peter). Surely he would have recanted and settled this whole thing for the Roman Empire if he were knowingly lying.

This analogy is a bit closer to what is claimed in Scripture. Mind you the analogy is still a bit flawed, but at least the story line is closer to the truth of the HISTORICAL line of thinking. I will post this and a few other “pros” on my site for those who wish to actually study the issue instead of merely being critical of it. I am confident the evidence leads to God in general, and to Jesus specifically.

Below is just an historical example of this debate from the Grecian days. It is still relevant to this day, and a mammal that is subject to nature itself (like a unicorn) just doesn’t cut it in regards to explanatory power.

Plato wrote, “Some people, I believe, account for all things which have come to exist, all things which are coming into existence now, and all things which will do so in the future, by attributing them either to nature, … or chance.” Epicurean materialism was taught in the Stoic school founded by Zeno in 308 B.C.. And if there is a positive writing, there must be a negative one it is commenting on, for instance:

“When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers? Our friend Posidonius as you know has recently made a globe which in its revolution shows the movements of the sun and stars and planets, by day and night, just as they appear in the sky. Now if someone were to take this globe and show it to the people of Britain or Scythia [barbarians at this time] would a single one of those barbarians fail to see that it was the product of a conscious intelligence.” (Cicero, 106 B.C.–43 B.C.)

I hope one can see that the question of how we got here and us asking “what our purpose is in this existence we call life” is beyond a simple unicorn analogy. Not only that, but whomever makes the unicorn analogy should realize how un-educated this challenge really is.

Now to change the story a bit… I said that at this time we can say that unicorns do not exist, but history does hint at such a creature, since written records have been kept in fact. So it would be interesting to see if we can add a fossil find to the drawings and descriptions found through the historical record for creatures that are similar to the horse/ass that have a horn. Let’s just say the jury is still out.

Scottish Royal Arms

King James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I when she died childless in 1603, effectively uniting Scotland and England beneath one rule. The Scottish Royal Arms had, up to that point, used two unicorns as shield supporters. The English Arms had used a variety of supporters, but most frequently had included a lion. In a tactful gesture then, he placed a lion upon the left of the new Arms, and a unicorn upon the right. This was a potent bit of symbolism, for both the lion and the unicorn had long been thought to be deadly enemies: both regarded as king of the beasts, the unicorn rules through harmony while the lion rules through might, It came to symbolise a reconciliation between the Scottish unicorn and the English lion that the two should share the rule.

In 416BC, the physician Ctesias set out from his native town of Cnidus to attend the Persian King Darius II. There he stayed for eighteen years, and learned of many wonderful things during his time at court. Upon returning to Cnidus, he wote a book of his experiences which he called the Indica. In it is the earliest surviving written account of a Unicorn:

“There are in India certain wild asses which are as large as horses, and larger. Their bodies are white, their heads are dark red, and their eyes dark blue. They have a horn on the forehead which is about eighteen inches in length. The dust filed from this horn is administered in a potion as a protection against deadly drugs.”

The great philospher Aristotle, whose words were taken so seriously that they were widely held as gospel truth a thousand years later, could have destroyed the infant legend with a sentence, whatever the truth of the matter. However, he confirms its existence by a passing comment, which, though flawed in content, proved that this great man of learning clearly believed there was such a creature.

“We have never seen an animal with a solid hoof and two horns, and there are only a few that have a solid hoof and one horn, as the Indian Ass and the Oryx.”

The “Indian Ass” is none other than Ctesias’ Unicorn. Pliny the Elder, in the first century AD, mentions Unicorns, saying of them that there is:

An exceedingly wild beast called the Monoceros, which has a stag’s head, elephant’s feet, and a boar’s tail, the rest of its body being like that of a horse. It makes a deep lowing noise, and one black horn two cubits long projects from the middle of its forehead. This animal, they say, cannot be taken alive.”

There are some indications here that he was confusing the creature with a rhinoceros, a creature known to his race but often confused because the rhino was a known animal and the Unicorn was not! It never crossed the minds of many scholars that they might be talking of one and the same creature!

The same mistake has been attributed to the Roman scholar Aelian, who lived some five hundred years after Aristotle. He wrote a book about animals that mentioned the Unicorn quite frequently. In one passage he states:

“I have found that wild asses as large as horses are to be found in India. The body of this animal is white, except on the head, which is red, while the eyes are azure. It has a horn on the brow, about one cubit and a half in length, which is white at the base, crimson at the top, and black between. These variegated horns are used as drinking cups by the Indians. …It is said that whosoever drinks from this kind of horn is safe from all incurable diseases such as convulsions and the so-called holy disease, and that he cannot be killed by poison.”

Elsewhere he says,

“They say that there are mountains in the interior regions of India which are inaccessible to men and therefore full of wild beasts. Among these is the Unicorn, which they call the kartajan [Sanscrit: Lord of the desert]. This animal is as large as a full-grown horse, and it has a mane, tawny hair, feet like those of an elephant, and the tail of a goat. It is exceedingly swift of foot. Between its brows there stands a single black horn tapering to a very sharp point. Where other animals approach it it is gentle, but it fights with those of its own kind. It seeks out the most deserted places and wanders there alone.”

Other notable Greeks and Romans have noted the unicorn: Julius Caesar for example, who said they could be found in the Hercynian Forest. However, for all the weight these mighty scholars and writers wielded in the literary world, the Unicorn was not well known among the ordinary people. It was yet a beast of books and libraries, and there it might have dwindled into obscurity and never been known to us….

….The unicorn had actually long been a Royal Beast associated with kings and rulers.

Aelian had said that only great men could own the cups made from his horn, and Philostatus had stated that only the kings of India might hunt them. The Physiologus mentions that the captive unicorn is taken before the King, and the Chinese Ki-lin has always been associated with Emperors. The Bible (Daniel chapter 8) relates the following vision:

“And behold, a he-goat came from the West on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.”

The goat in question is later interpreted as “the king of Grecia”, Alexander the Great, and it is also interesting to note that Alexander was once gifted with a unicorn by Queen Candace as tribute. We know that Caesar also wrote of unicorns. Ghengis Khan, about to invade India, saw a unicorn and took it as an omen that India was not to be his. He turned back immediately….

No invisible pink unicorns here!

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