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My grandson named his dog Anubis after the ancient Egyptian canine deity that is either a jackal or a dog.

Those long-ago Egyptians worshiped about 2,000 different gods of every variety, some part animal and part human. The holies were served by an army of priests in lavish temples. The Egyptian priesthood held enormous wealth.

Does anyone today think those gods were real—or just products of the fertile human imagination?

Similarly, the Aztecs of Central America sacrificed an estimated 20,000 people yearly to an array of strange deities, including an invisible feathered serpent. Did those gods actually exist, or were they pure fantasy?

Most people know that ancient Greeks had a pantheon of colorful gods atop Mount Olympus. Greeks sacrificed great numbers of animals to them. And they visited oracles who supposedly transmitted messages from the gods. Wealth accumulated by the oracle of Delphi caused “sacred wars” that allowed Macedonians and Alexander to seize Greece and end the era of city-states.

The Roman empire had a similar pantheon. Were the Greek and Roman gods anything but imaginary?

Ancient Scandinavians worshiped a zoo of Norse gods—now considered imaginary.

Aged Hindu vedas say there are 33 gods, but later upanishads say 330 million. One, Ganesha, has an elephant head. Some Hindus pray over models of Shiva’s penis. Shiva’s consort, Kali, supposedly has many arms. In the 19th century, some Kali followers called Thugs strangled people on her behalf. They claimed that Brahma the creator was making people faster than Shiva the destroyer could eliminate them, so Kali requested help with termination.

Is any of this real—or merely imaginary?

The Encyclopedia of Gods lists 2,500 known deities—all the way to Nyakaya, the Shilluk crocodile goddess. Who knows what a crocodile goddess is, or doubts that she was imaginary?

Montaigne said: “Man is certainly stark mad. He cannot make a worm, but he will make gods by the dozen.”

Since thousands of former deities now are seen as fantasies, why should anyone think that today’s supernatural gods are real?

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...