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The Dodecatheons
Posted: 08 January 2005 02:02 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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This is an abstract of an article from Archaeology Magazine (http://www.archaeology.org). The whole article is extremely interesting in demonstrating the desperation many people feel about the intolerable oppression of Christianity in some countries. I had no idea they had such a hold on the whole country of Greece, where dissent is strongly discouraged.

Heres the website:  

I'm pretty sure, however, that Dodecatheonism is not the answer.

"For some modern Greeks and a growing number of foreigners, conventional ways of embracing Greece's rich past are insufficient. A perusal of Herodotus or an excursion to the Acropolis lack the personal satisfaction of participating in something larger than oneself. They want to live according to ancient ways, and to bring those ways to life through themselves.

There is no way to confirm the number of followers, but leaders of the very loosely organized movement, commonly referred to as the Hellenes or the Dodecatheon, after the 12 gods of the Greek pantheon, say there are maybe 2,000 hard-core practicing followers, and perhaps 100,000 nationwide who are open to the ideas and pursue some sort of interest. The movement has two main goals: to introduce a reformed version of ancient Greek religion, philosophy, and values to modern Greek society; and to curb the enormous power of the Greek Orthodox Christian Church. Many of the Hellenes' values are based on secular ancient Greek principles. Their mission is spread through self-published books, the Internet, and, on a more local level, discussion groups, courses in ancient Greek, and field trips to archaeological sites. Religious ceremonies and rituals are held both in groups and by individuals, at home and in public. The liturgical texts are largely based on Orphic hymns—invocations to the gods attributed to the mythical singer—and other ancient poetry. Some followers have small statues of the 12 gods on their living room shelves at home. One family allegedly has a miniature indoor temple.

But in both scholarly approach and purpose, the return of the Hellenes elicits only skepticism from scholars. "In my opinion, it is impossible for a modern society to go back to the 'ancient ways' of any kind," says Aristotelis Mentzos, an early Byzantine archaeologist at Thessaloniki University. "They sound like old well-to-do ladies musing about how much worse modern society is and how much better it used to be in the 'good old days.'" "

Matthew Brunwasser is an investigative journalist based in Sofia, Bulgaria.

© 2005 by the Archaeological Institute of America
http://www.archaeology.org/0501/abstracts/letter.html

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Posted: 13 March 2005 12:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I think this is typical of the global renewal of interest in ancestral traditions and beliefs. The likely source of this interest is the recogiition of the oppressive nature of the Abrahamic faiths and the mess that 2000 years of Christianity has left us in.  As the root post points out, these ancestral beliefs were highly tolerant and did not include the evangelical mission that is present in Christianity and Islam and did not oppress scientific thinking.  I doubt that there were any mass killings in the name of Zeus or Odin.  From a rational perspective one can argue that this meerly repalces one mythology with another and certainly this comment is valid. However, I think that is an error to dismiss these beliefs as being without value. Myths To Live By - Joseph Campbell, is interesting reading on this topic and the video interviews of Campbell by Bill Moyers are compelling. The Northern European renewal in ancestral polytheistic heathen beliefs is called Asatru which is a recognized religion in Iceland and has a following in Europe and the U.S.. Interesting that Iceland, the last country to fall to the Christians, is the first to recognize their ancestral faith. Before this is dismissed as just more mythology, take a look at the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru. They are: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance and Perseverance. Any value here as a philosopy of life and conduct? 

Stay Well

Wot

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Posted: 13 March 2005 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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There’s definitely value there as philosophy. Still, I can live by those principles without also believing in magic and miracles, and in fact I think those beliefs trivialize life and completely miss the real grandeur of the natural universe.

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Posted: 14 March 2005 01:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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The interesting thing about these revivals of ancestral beliefs is that they are free from the firm tenets found in the Abrahamic traditions. Belief in any deity, magic or miracles is not required and allows the individual the latitude to apply logic, reason and rationality to extract principles and codes accordingly. Before being too dismissive, some examination of the potential impacts may be useful.
Heathenism provides no foundation for racial or sexual prejudices. Unlike the Abrahamic tradition, women were never seen as inferior to men. In fact, women were often viewed as superior to men in issues of wisdom and perception.
While the Abrahamic persuasions give man dominion over the environment, Heathenism teaches a respect and responsibility for the environment, the world system of which the individual is a part. Damage to the cosmos (referred to by the Norse heathen as the wird) is viewed very negatively and the individual is required to correct or compensate for such damage.
Forgiveness of sins is not a concept found in heathenry. Transgressions against men or nature require compensation which seems consistent with the needs of the human psyche and principles of law.

I don’t see that any of this trivializes life and I do think that it sensitizes the individual to nature and instills a respect and responsibility therefore. I guess it can be argued that no belief system is required to adopt responsible behaviors but I believe that the summation of these beliefs, precepts and values is what we call our culture. It is also useful to write a few of down in the interest of definition I wonder how different our culture would be today had we been raised in the heathen traditions rather than the Abrahamic. I see this as the motivating force behind the worldwide renewal of interest in traditional beliefs.

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Posted: 14 March 2005 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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John J. Reilly has an interesting view on this subject. This appeared on the alt.history.what-if newsgroup in 1994. The subject was “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?”

For most of the first three centuries of its existence, Christianity was an underground religion. It was sufficiently obscure that you have to hunt through Classical sources even to find criticisms of it. Its absence during this period would have made a difference, I suspect, chiefly to Judaism. The process of canonical and doctrinal synthesis that occurred in Jewish culture after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. was driven, at least to some degree, by the desire to sort Judaism out from Christianity. While the Torah would probably have been preserved much as we know it today, it is not at all clear that anything like the Talmud would have been compiled. Rather than rabbinical Judaism, the result would have been a Judaism of local “temples” and syncretizing theology, not unlike Zoroastrianism. This sort of thing was always threatening to happen in pre- Talmudic Judaism, as the still-surviving Samaritans illustrate. Without the Temple and with no aggressive ideological threat from a proselytizing competitor, Judaism could well have faded into the general background of Middle Eastern religion.

In the later stages of Roman imperial history, the implications of the absence of Christianity become more dramatic. The late Classical world was moving toward monotheism as surely as physics today is moving toward a united field theory (many people think that both ideas are delusional). Science and systematic philosophy were not forgotten, but they had ceased to be persuasive to the educated. People at all levels of society were ready for revelation, for the coincidence of this world and the next. Oswald Spengler calls this cultural mode “the Second Religiousness.” It is a lifeless but fervent return to the naive religiousness that colors the early life of a civilized culture. Arnold Toynbee says that the victory of a “mystery religion” is a necessary feature of the late history of every civilization. The problem with late Roman history has always been that Christianity should not have been the victor in this contest. It should not even have been a contestant. “Pagans and Christians,” cited above, is in fact an attempt to show that the Christianization of the Roman Empire was an accident resulting from the victory of Constantine in the civil wars of the early fourth century.

The victor should have been something called “astral piety.” The theoretical basis of this is the Neoplatonism that became fashionable in the third century. Plato had held that there was an intelligible world, a world of ideas, behind the world of experience. This world could be approached, even to the One Absolute Idea which gave meaning to the whole, by philosophical reflection. The Neoplatonists in the decadent final centuries of Plato’s civilization were interested in the steps, the levels of being that stood between the everyday world and Plato’s One. These levels were associated with the Classical gods, with the stars of astrology, with the crystal sphere within crystal sphere described by Ptolemy’s astronomy and supported by Aristotle’s physics. The Neoplatonists were also interested in direct, ecstatic experience of the One. Thus this somewhat academic system came into contact with popular Gnosticism. Gnosticism, the belief that ultimate reality is accessible to an elite holding secret knowledge, appeared about the same time as Christianity and was the chief danger to Christian orthodoxy in the murky religious underground of the first and second centuries. It practice, it was a faith of magicians and wonder-workers and private revelations, a sort of shamanism for city-folk. It gave life to the old gods again. This was the vital force that made the astral piety of Diocletian a mass phenomenon. Even after Constantine ended the persecution of Christianity, it made a vigorous reappearance as the state cult supported by the emperor Julian the Apostate. To this day, it has been the chief constituent of the “hermetic underground” which peeps into the light of day from time to time in Western history. A history without Christianity is one in which this underground becomes the surface.

The Roman Empire itself, one suspects, would have trundled to its doom in much the way it did no matter which mystery religion had government support. (One can imagine the man who would have been Saint Augustine, for instance, playing very much the same role for the state’s Neoplatonic Church as he did for the Church of Christ. He was always temperamentally better suited to Manichaeanism than he was to Christianity.) The end of Roman history was the beginning of Byzantine history. This development was occasioned partly by the division of the empire into eastern and western halves for administrative convenience, but it also reflected real differences between the spirit of the weary and depopulated West, in contrast to that of the vibrant and creative East.

Surprisingly, it is easy to imagine a Byzantine Empire without Christianity. The divisions we make in late antique history between East and West are really somewhat artificial. Byzantium and the Sassanid Persian Empire were in many ways part of the same culture. This has long been recognized in their politics. Byzantium adopted Persian court ceremonial, eastern liturgical practices, even much of their eastern enemy’s military technique. Both were theocracies supported by feudal magnates. Both professed intricate versions of monotheism. The only real difference was that the western half of this culture area had been ruled by the alien Roman Empire for several centuries. Without Christianity, much of the friction between Byzantium and Persia would have been eased. Intermarriage between important families in each empire would have been greatly facilitated, for instance. They might, conceivably, have evolved toward the same cult. Indeed, without the centralizing effect of continuous warfare, one can imagine the both of them disarticulating into a single “family of nations” like Europe or (for most of its history) India.

The really interesting question is what would have happened to Islam. In medieval Europe, Islam was considered simply a Christian heresy, and in fact Islam did absorb a quite remarkable amount of slightly-garbled christology, just as it did much of Judaism. Spengler suggests that the best way to look on Islam is as a Reformation, as a movement to simplify and reinvigorate the common religious life of the Middle East. My own reading of the Koran suggests that “Islam,” of a sort, would have been possible even if Christianity were non-existent and Judaism were fading into a folk religion. The energizing principle found in the Koran is that every people has its hour, its book and its prophet. In the seventh century, Mohammed said that the hour of the Arab people had come. Their hour would have come, one suspects, even if the religion he was simplifying had nothing to say about the Persons of the Hypostatic Union, but was quite eloquent about the energies of the Neoplatonic Archons. The big difference would have been in the international environment. In the late sixth and early seventh centuries, Byzantium and Persia had gone through the equivalent of a world war. Persia had finally disintegrated, but the whole region was exhausted. More important, the provinces of the Byzantine Empire bordering Arabia hated Byzantium, because the central government kept imposing ever finer definitions of Christian doctrine to which all local Churches had to submit. When the Muslims came, much of the Middle East considered them to be liberators.

It is probably true that Christianity is more likely than most religions to generate the “odium theologicum.” Christian theology is historical; it is simply drawing the implications from history. Neoplatonic theology, on the other hand, is more like mathematics; facts are irrelevant. On the whole, history starts more fistfights than arguments about pure abstractions. In the politically more pluralistic Middle East which would have obtained without Christianity, the Muslims might have had to deal only with small kingdoms, but the inhabitants of these places would not have been so disaffected by the doctrinal preoccupations of their rulers. The Muslim advance would been slower, its victories more ambiguous. It is unlikely that it would have reached Spain and Sicily by the eighth century, if at all. The unchristian West would have been left to develop in peace.

Every culture in its youth is intensely religious. The organizational proclivities of the West would have ensured that something like the hierarchical church we know from history, with its penchants for rarified definitions of doctrine and precocious bureaucratization, would probably have happened no matter what the content of the religion of the Springtime had been. Again surprisingly, we do not have to imagine what a Neoplatonic Church would have looked like, since one existed in the twelfth and thirteenth century. The Albigensian Church, centered in the Provencal region of France, was just such a church. It was not even Christian in any serious sense, since it denied (with the Muslims) that Jesus had ever been crucified. Their religion was one of sophisticated myth, not of stubborn history. They believed in reincarnation. They had their own hierarchy, a set of their own sacraments, their own sacred books. (If you believe some people, they also had the Holy Grail, but that is another story.) With the Gnostics, they held that the God of the Old Testament was the devil. With the Manicheans, they held that matter was evil. Reproduction was an indulgence granted to those members of their community who, through social circumstance, simply had to have children. They promoted birth control and nonreproductive varieties of sex. (If you are interested in a remarkable speculation about what would have happened if they had not been totally destroyed in the Albigensian Crusade of the thirteen century, read Theodore Roszak’s insufficiently appreciated novel, “Flicker.”)

What they did not have, anymore than did Julian the Apostate’s Neoplatonic cult, was any notion of “standing guard” on the state. Why should they? In St. Augustine’s theology, progress is both possible and desirable in history. God loves the world, and calls men to repair the damage they have done to it. In the Gnostic view of things, on the other hand, the world is the devil’s kingdom. The true God had nothing to do with creating it. The only improvement this world can look forward to is destruction. The idea of “the two swords,” that church and state are different social powers even when they support each other, is one of the persistent themes in Western history. It is a necessary corollary to the fact that the Church is pursuing its own vision of the good. The state is necessary, the state is even a good thing in itself. However, it has its natural limits. Without Christianity, one suspects, the state would have been as omnipotent in political theory as it is in China and Islam.

What the spirit of the Neoplatonic Church would have been like at the emotional level, we can only speculate. There is only one day in the calendar that has never been Christianized, that preserves the pre-Christian spirit of Old Europe. That day is Halloween. There would have been nothing in the heritage from late antiquity to change this. In the Neoplatonic scheme of things, individual human beings are only flickering hints of a transcendent One. In some forms of Gnosticism, I gather, the mass of mankind are considered soulless cattle. Whatever else a non-Christian West might have produced, it would not have produced anything like a theory of human rights. Slavery might have become rare in Europe for economic reasons, but it would have been less likely to die out.

Arguably, Neoplatonic Europe would not have produced anything like science, either. Whatever else you may say about Christianity, it is certainly a very anthropocentric religion. Its theory of history is wholly man-centered. It adherents are predisposed to find the universe friendly, understandable, the product of a great Mind not wholly unlike their own minds. It is a religion of Incarnation, one which respects matter. (The art of a Neoplatonic West would almost certainly have been overwhelmingly nonrepresentational, like that of Islam.) It is also a religion of history, which means that it respects particular facts even when there is no theory for them. The Benedictine physicist Stanley Jaki has argued throughout a long career (see, for instance, his “Savior of Science”) that science could not have occurred if Western culture did not implicitly assume, even when it explicitly denied, a metaphysics something like that of St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas was what is known as a “moderate Realist.” That is, he thought that abstract ideas were real and could be investigated, but that they could be investigated only through the senses. Both in politics and natural philosophy, he espoused the principle of subsidiarity. In politics, this means that a higher level of government should not interfere with a lower one if the lower one is capable of handling a given question. In natural philosophy, it means that you don’t have to understand everything before you can understand something. There is a passage in the “Summa Theologica” in which the Angelic Doctor explains that Scripture and the world are separate spheres, each of which must be understood in its own terms. This passage has been called the “declaration of independence” of science. If Christianity had never existed, that declaration might never have been issued.

Perhaps Fr. Jaki overstates the case. A Neoplatonic West would in some ways have been even more fitted to pursue science than a Christian one. The real difference between Western science and that of China is not Francis Bacon, but Pythagoras. Modern science began in the late Renaissance along with the Neoplatonic revival of that era. The roll of great scientists who have been inspired chiefly by pure number, by the elegance of order, would include people from Kepler to Heisenberg and beyond. On the other hand, one suspects that something would have been lost if the historical cast to Western thought were missing, an almost sure loss if Christianity had never existed. There would have been no Darwinism, for instance. Quite possibly astronomy would suffered, since that science is so much connected with calendrical concerns. Let us cut the baby in half, and say that something like science would have appeared, but that it would have developed less evenly, and would have been harder to adapt to engineering purposes.

Although the missionary impulse has played an important part in all the dealings the West has had with the world up to the present day, quite likely the West’s unique desire to explore the whole world would still have been operative even if the West had not been Christian. (Other societies, notably those of Polynesia, seem to have the same impulse to travel and settle as far as their technology allows. Others, such as Hindu India, positively forbade oceanic travel.) A non-Christian West would have felt less impulse to remake societies in its own image. One can easily imagine prolonged relations of trade and border wars between the first European outposts in the Caribbean and the Aztec hegemony, since the Europeans would not have felt any special horror at Aztec religious practices. But if the West met the rest of the world with less presumption, it would also have met it with less charity.

There is little ground for this speculation, but I think that we should be pleased if we never know just what the West would have become had it never become Christian. A shadow of it may have been manifest in Carthage, or at least in Carthage as described in G.K. Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man.” It would have been altogether a darker, more rigid, more ruthless civilization. The real choice in ethics, it has long seemed to me, is not between Christianity and liberalism, but between Jesus and Nietzsche. Had the shepherds slept soundly that night, we would be living in Nietzsche’s world.

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Posted: 15 March 2005 11:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Thanks for puting up the Reilly speculation. Interesting stuff indeed. Reilly said:

There is little ground for this speculation, but I think that we should be pleased if we never know just what the West would have become had it never become Christian. A shadow of it may have been manifest in Carthage, or at least in Carthage as described in G.K. Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man.” It would have been altogether a darker, more rigid, more ruthless civilization. The real choice in ethics, it has long seemed to me, is not between Christianity and liberalism, but between Jesus and Nietzsche. Had the shepherds slept soundly that night, we would be living in Nietzsche’s world.

I am struggling some with the speculation about “pleased if we never know just what the West would have become had it never become Christian.” I have not read The Everlasting Man but perhaps someone who has can offer some insight. Living in Nietzche’s world…..hmmmm. What would be on my agenda today in that world?

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Posted: 16 March 2005 02:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Living in Nietzsches world of today, would I be reading a contrarian book titled ” The End of Reason” - logic, rationality and the future of faith? Pehaps to much George Carlin tinking.

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Posted: 16 March 2005 02:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Guys, get a life. We do live largely in Nietzsche’s world.

Despite the fact that some ridiculous number of americans claim to believe in god, most don’t actually behave as though they do. Most behave in an entirely Nietzschean way. They go to school to improve themselves, try to get a job to earn money to compete in the ratrace, take up crime if they fail or are too lazy, fight the government’s attempts to take their money away, compete with their neighbours to see who’s got the widest falt screen and so on. If they loved their neighbour as themselves and believed that the meek would inherit the earth (and all the rest of the mumbo-jumbo), they wouldn’t do any of these things.

For sure, it is a shallow, meaningless bastardisation of Nietzsche’s ideal for mankind, but it is the best this pathetic species can come up with at this stage in its evolution. There are always pockets of joy and aesthetic excellence, but by and large, it’s a depressingly stupid and pointless existence for most of humanity (I’m not trying to be negative here, that’s just the way it is). If only we were living in a truly Nietzschean world, where each person was able to find the strength to live their lives optimally. Maybe another few hundred millenia of evolution will sort us out.

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Posted: 16 March 2005 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Freddy said:

For sure, it is a shallow, meaningless bastardisation of Nietzsche’s ideal for mankind, but it is the best this pathetic species can come up with at this stage in its evolution. There are always pockets of joy and aesthetic excellence, but by and large, it’s a depressingly stupid and pointless existence for most of humanity (I’m not trying to be negative here, that’s just the way it is).

Quit being so positive. Say what you really think and feel. Let it all hang out.
Maybe step back, get a look and a perspective. Say something deep and relevant. Try again.

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Posted: 16 March 2005 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Reilly may have an limited or overly negative assessment of Nietzsche. But his larger point is that without the Abrahamic faiths—and in particular, Christianity—the West probably would not have developed modern science or theories of liberty. At the time he posted this, a number of other list members were posting scenarios of utopian bliss absent the rise of the Christian West, and he wanted to deflate those presumptions. Even ideas we in the modern, secular world find silly have had positive consequences on history.

Personally, I’m more with Reilly than I am with the Dodecatheons. Abrahamic faiths (even Islam) have historically been more materialist, individualist and multi-cultural than their rivals. All three began as populist faiths, appealing to the poor and downtrodden, the outsiders, unlike the polytheistic traditions which tended to emphasize elitism.  Also, unlike many of the myths Campbell praises, the founders of the Abrahamic faiths weren’t writing stories designed to flatter the ruling elites; they were dissidents working against ruling elites.

None of this means we should ignore the negative impact Abrahamic religions have had on the human race. But we should not ignore their positive consequences, either.

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Posted: 16 March 2005 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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I’m always unimpressed by people who paint Nietzsche in a negative light - some sort of cross between Faust and Kafka (whatever that might mean?) - all doom and gloom.  I read Nietzsche with joy and with hope (especially Thus Spoke Zarathustra).  Most people tend to take Nietzsche without understanding the full impact of Schopenhauer’s Buddhism, realism and atheism on his writings and thoughts.  They see his adamant anti-Platonism and his irreverent anti-Christianity playing out against his stark “will to power” ideas, but the buddhist undertones (and overtones) of Nietzsche’s notion of the Ubermensch serve to fill his vision with a joy and a hope that is truly transcendent in the affairs of human thought.

Nietzsche is one writer that must be read in the context of the history that preceded him and that enveloped his ideas.  Without knowing why he wrote what he did, much of his philosophy comes across as angry, nihilistic and anti-human, when in fact it is exactly the opposite given the context of his time.

Bob

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Posted: 16 March 2005 07:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“Wotansson”]

Quit being so positive. Say what you really think and feel. Let it all hang out.
Maybe step back, get a look and a perspective. Say something deep and relevant. Try again.

OK, I’ll try again. Look, I can see how you might imagine me sitting in a morbid stupor, railing at the world - but in fact I’m not. I ‘m a perfectly indifferent about the fate of humanity. The point I’m making is that for most of humanity, life is not a bed of roses.

If you are sitting in north america, own a computer and can function intellectually well enough to contribute to this website, the chances are you are in the top 1% of the world’s population, in terms of having your basic survival needs satisfied. You can afford to sit around self-actualising - and bully for you.  But you should not lose sight of the fact that this is not a good representation of the human condition - it is a very biased sample of daily human life. I live in Africa and I see a more representative slice of humanity every day - and it’s not fun for most people. There might be moments of joy, and there are plenty of people who can get by adequately with very little comfort in their lives because they just have to, but it’s a life full of discomfort, hunger, crime, death and unhappiness.

This existential reality is the foundation for Nietzsche’s work. Nietzsche had the clarity of mind to sweep away all the nonsense and paint reality the way it is. Only from the right foundations can we hope to create a stronger human, an ubermensch.

This vacuum of hope and happiness is what creates the demand for religious answers in the first place - people are so desperate for hope they will even suspend disbelief to get some. If you really want to understand why humanity is so religious, first try to understand why it is so unhappy. It is no surprise that educated, socially-supported western europeans are the happiest people in the world and the least religious (all supported by recent research).

So, with greatest respect, why don’t you awaken out of your self-actualising smugness and get a perspective. You are one of the lucky few.

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Posted: 17 March 2005 01:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Freddy said:

So, with greatest respect, why don’t you awaken out of your self-actualising smugness and get a perspective. You are one of the lucky few.

So here I sit, computer in hand, trying to get a small glimpse of truth and to strain a few babies out of the bath water - those truths that the pressures of youth, work and conformity allowed no time for - before I pass into the next world.  This is the reason I come to this forum and I suspect this is common to most other participants. I have no stong issues with what you say but I do find it to be overly-negative and not productive. Perhaps this comes out of your environment which I cannot fully appreciate. I find that I have more questions than answers.  So what shall I do to abandon my self-actualizing smugness? Give me a list.

This existential reality is the foundation for Nietzsche’s work. Nietzsche had the clarity of mind to sweep away all the nonsense and paint reality the way it is. Only from the right foundations can we hope to create a stronger human, an ubermensch.

Agreed and well stated but why don’t you label this as just more self- actualizing smugness? It’s consistent with my methods and objectives.

If you really want to understand why humanity is so religious, first try to understand why it is so unhappy. It is no surprise that educated, socially-supported western europeans are the happiest people in the world and the least religious (all supported by recent research).


I have a special interest in these western Europeans, especially northerns, since 100% of my genes come from that pool.  I do admire the mass abandonment of religious notion and affiliation and one can even admire the French for this. Not wishing to cast a too-negative turd into the punch bowl of their happiness, I do have some first-hand observations. The far-northern Europeans seem to have lapsed into the laziness of extreme socializism.  The state is expected to do everything and personal initiative is at an all time low. Taxes reflect this. In the former soviet block nations, the problem is worse as individuals continue with the state-dependent mentality and endeavor to put in the minimum effort required for minimum existence.  Drunkeness is a significant problem although I suppose this can be considered a form of happiness.  I see the Germans as one of the few potential models.


Stay Well

Wot

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Posted: 17 March 2005 02:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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GVI said:

Reilly may have an limited or overly negative assessment of Nietzsche. But his larger point is that without the Abrahamic faiths—and in particular, Christianity—the West probably would not have developed modern science or theories of liberty. At the time he posted this, a number of other list members were posting scenarios of utopian bliss absent the rise of the Christian West, and he wanted to deflate those presumptions. Even ideas we in the modern, secular world find silly have had positive consequences on history.

Personally, I’m more with Reilly than I am with the Dodecatheons. Abrahamic faiths (even Islam) have historically been more materialist, individualist and multi-cultural than their rivals. All three began as populist faiths, appealing to the poor and downtrodden, the outsiders, unlike the polytheistic traditions which tended to emphasize elitism. Also, unlike many of the myths Campbell praises, the founders of the Abrahamic faiths weren’t writing stories designed to flatter the ruling elites; they were dissidents working against ruling elites.

None of this means we should ignore the negative impact Abrahamic religions have had on the human race. But we should not ignore their positive consequences, either.


Yet the rise of Islam and Arab theocracy is frequently seen as the cause of the decline in the Arab world and Christianity supressed science where it conflict with church doctrine and authority thereby retarding the progess of scientific knowledge. Death and/or incineration tend to be pursasive negative incentives.  I am trying to understand your view of polytheism as an elitist faith.  It may be usefull to remember that the spread of Christianity to Europe at the hands of the Romans was more a political movement than spititual. Christiazition of Europe was a tops-down movement, not a grass-roots, bottoms-up movement as European rulers sought political advantage through alliances and Christianization.  Subjects were expected to comform to the religion of the ruler with the usual Christian evangelical consequence - death.  I doubt there was much spitituality going on in this process.  So again, where was the elitism?

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Posted: 17 March 2005 02:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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I am thinking about this and that other essay that speculates how the history of the world would have been different sans Christianity.

In it’s early years Christianity absorbed many other religions, and their traces are still with us.

I think I need to think more on this, but one thing that bothers me alot is the dimissive tone taken about the other major existing religions at the time, and the contention that scientific development wouldnt have been possible under other forms of religion.

I will get back to you when I have decided what I think.

Abrahamic faiths (even Islam) have historically been more materialist, individualist and multi-cultural than their rivals

This quote for sure doesnt jive with my understanding of the origins of Judaism nor Islam, nor even the birth throes of Christianity.

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Posted: 17 March 2005 03:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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This quote for sure doesnt jive with my understanding of the origins of Judaism nor Islam, nor even the birth throes of Christianity.


Good point and it does not conform to my understanding either.  Was not the Old Testament written by Jews, about Jews and for Jews?  The NT states that Jesus is sent to the Jews and then Jesus changes his mind and broadens his perspective to include the Gentiles. Then Saul becomes the great converter (conscriptor?) of the Gentiles. Multicultural? Not by my definition.

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