Room for one more?

19 06 2010

This post is related to the former post.

While thinking about monotheism versus polytheism, and The One and Only God always going on about how everybody should convert, otherwise they will burn in hell, and if they don’t you should kill them, otherwise you will burn in hell… (Which is why christian missionaries swarm the world trying to ”save souls” and why Muslim terrorists think they get rewarded with eternal orgies and 72 virgins in heaven, because killing ”infidels” is something God likes.) I came to the conclusion that polytheist religions don’t have this jealousy hang up. Sure some Gods always wanted a bigger share than other Gods, but in the end nobody could deny that all gods have a right to some worship. Moreover, if you allready have a score of Gods, it’s not that weird an idea about other people having other Gods. And it certainly doesn’t spring to mind to kill them for it.
Or to ”convert” them by force, forcing them to change religion or else…

We did not really see this jealousy obsession a few thousand years ago when the rule for most societies was polytheism.
After all, when you have a whole pantheon of useful Gods why not add a few more? You can never have too much help!
Befriended rulers would even lend one of their own Gods to help out a neighbouring ruler who was sick. I think it was the Hittites, who send one of their Gods to help out a Pharao when he was sick. Because the Pharao was so pleased with the power and helpful attitude of this God or Goddess he was a bit reluctant to send Him or Her back, and when He or She had enough, He or She sent a few plagues to convince the Pharao, and he then finally send the borrowed God back with a caravan of suitable presents.
Or was it the other way around?

The Romans had a very relaxed attitude towards foreign Gods, They noticed that many were just a more exotic form of the ones they already knew, and so the Romans happily combined them. Like for example the Celtic Goddess Sulis, She was combined with the Roman Goddess Minerva and the Romans built a temple for Minerva-Sulis in Bath. They certainly did not try to ”convert” the Celts to their pantheon at the point of a bloody sword!

All Gods were worshipped in Rome. And just to make sure no foreign God would miss out they build the Pantheon, one of the most beautiful structures ever, as a home for those Gods they might have missed or not yet have heard about.

How’s that for coexistence?

But this can’t happen with the more modern monotheistic religions. Those gods are jealous Gods. Does nobody else get the feeling that makes them a lot less divine? Our modern male Gods can’t bear any competition. And worse; they call for bloodshed and murder, punishment and death, to establish themselves as ”The Only One”.

To be sure the modern monotheistic religions are very inferior to the older polytheist religions and have a lot to learn yet.

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2 responses

25 06 2010
Daisy

Hi Aafke,
After a long time I visited your blog and found this very candid post! You are very right about the ancient cultures always giving space to a new god – or a goddess for that matter – in their ever-expanding pantheon. This is very typical of Hinduism, which has assimilated innumerable deities as its followers came in contact with more and more social groups. You will find places in South India, where Mary is a Hinduised deity, placed in a temple with devotees offering animal sacrifice or fruits and sweets to her as they would do to a local goddess. In some Kali (Goddess) temples of Kerala, St. John is a brother of Kali and in Goa you’ll find people offering flowers, incense and lamps to Jesus and dancing before him as they would do in front of a Hindu deity.

Your story of the Pharaoh and the Hittites is hilarious! 🙂 I always enjoyed reading about the Greek gods and goddesses and could easily relate to their stories as a child. In fact there are many parallels between Hindu deities and the Greco-Roman deities’ identities.

Fortunately in India so far the monotheistic religions have not been able to erase the myriad ways of conceptualising the divine power. In fact, they have mellowed down their aggression to be able to live with the people of Indian religions – after all, it’s not possible to kill more than 800 million people if they decide not to convert.

When I read Islamic history, I can never understand why all the Arab tribes agreed to leave their deities and follow Muhammad – this didn’t happen in Indian history, where Muslim rulers ruled for about a thousand years. They ruled politically, but not religiously. That’s precisely why the Mughals developed a policy of giving space to Hindus in their polity and fusing the Hindu and Muslim cultural practices – they simply couldn’t kill hundreds of millions and they wanted to establish a powerful empire here.

The painting on top of your post looks like a typical painting on cloth as is usually made in the Indian states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

30 06 2010
saphia

greetings Aafke, by the way i really love your name! its beautiful!
just wanted to say that maybe you are not aware but the jewish God, the christian God and the muslim God is…….the SAME God!!!!!!!!! lol. do a little research dear, from RELIABLE sources. There were more than 250,000 Prophets that came preaching the oneness of God, and believe it or not they were all preaching on behalf of the SAME god.
and another thing, terrorists who believe they are muslims… THEY ARE NOT MUSLIMS! the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said “none of you is a true believer until others are safe from your tongue (foul speech) and your hand (i.e any bad deed that maybe done by the hand)
and Daisy dear, read the history of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and you shall realise that it was his beautiful character that hypnotised the millions and billions of followers world wide and still there are 1000s swarming towards Islam everyday
no hard feelings to anyone, i do not intend to offend anyone, and if i did, forgive me.

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