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Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 10:19 pm
by crazymonkie_
This creation of this thread has been inspired by the long thread hijack in the "Texas Creationists Defeated" thread between myself and debunker. I thought I'd take this opportunity to make a new thread, this one about the merits or demerits of polytheism versus monotheism.

A few ground rules:
-Please, first of all, no verses from any 'scripture' proclaiming the awfulness of polytheism.
-Try to take the philosophical systems on their own terms- IE: Don't project the need for a transcendent, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good god where it doesn't exist, and then try to act as if the lack of that type of god disproves polytheism in and of itself.
-Distinguish, whenever possible, between evidence based upon logical principles, and evidence based upon established doctrine. For instance, if you are trying to disprove polytheism, and you arrive at a conclusion that it must be false because the doctrine of immanence has been disproven by science- you have only disproven immanence.
-Be respectful. This is hard to do, and I know I myself often fail in this regard, so I will ask your indulgence if I get carried away.

I will start:

I believe it is possible that polytheism may be correct. I don't believe that gods are necessarily in things or natural processes, but that they may have created or still sustain them. The existence of the gods explains evil and apparently arbitrary suffering by innocent and guilty alike- each god has its own will, each god may help or hinder humans based upon their plans or whims, and humans may be helped or harmed by the gods based upon actions either purposeful or accidental.

I believe that multiple gods may be more likely than one god- especially one that takes interest in humanity as a whole- based upon the fact of arbitrary suffering.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 10:28 pm
by Yohan
Gods, whether there is only one big one or many or so many little ones, simply do not exist. They exist only in man's fantacies. So Polytheism is as baseless as Monotheism. Religions are man's self fullfilling fantacy. Nothing more!

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 11:40 pm
by crazymonkie_
I totally agree with you. However, I still think it would be interesting, as an intellectual exercise, to debate the merits of poly and monotheism on a more or less level ground.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:22 am
by BlacKStaR
This is a topic that is wider than anything. Anyway, I wouldnt care if there is one god, two or three gods. Hindus are pantheists so therefore it doesnt really matter.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:31 am
by crazymonkie_
Okay, but what's your take on it?

What's your argument for or against polytheism?

I don't care one way or another either- it's all bunk to me. I just want someone to say something other than "I don't care." Otherwise this is just wasted space.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:54 am
by Yohan
Technically speaking, there is currently only one major polytheistic religion. That is Hinduism. The major piece missing in a polytheistic religion is the absence of moral principles. In other words, anything goes. One may find that to be the case with now extinct Roman and Greek polytheist religions too.

Keepers of the Monotheistic religions had over time managed to bring in moral principles into religion. Now there are good and bad morals as you know. Monotheistic relgions which emphasises good moral principles tend to do more good things for its believers, and are more attractive.

Lately Polytheistic religion Hinduism for example is copying monotheistic ones in this regard and trying to integrate moral principles into it. Now Hindus will not accept this 'copying' business since it is too much for their bloated egos.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:37 am
by BlacKStaR
Yohan wrote:Technically speaking, there is currently only one major polytheistic religion. That is Hinduism. The major piece missing in a polytheistic religion is the absence of moral principles. In other words, anything goes. One may find that to be the case with now extinct Roman and Greek polytheist religions too.

Keepers of the Monotheistic religions had over time managed to bring in moral principles into religion. Now there are good and bad morals as you know. Monotheistic relgions which emphasises good moral principles tend to do more good things for its believers, and are more attractive.

Lately Polytheistic religion Hinduism for example is copying monotheistic ones in this regard and trying to integrate moral principles into it. Now Hindus will not accept this 'copying' business since it is too much for their bloated egos.



A good example of what shallow knowledge is..

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:57 am
by crazymonkie_
Yohan wrote:Technically speaking, there is currently only one major polytheistic religion. That is Hinduism.

Currently, yes.

But discounting all others because they're not 'major' or have no followers is an appeal to popularity (a logical fallacy.)

The major piece missing in a polytheistic religion is the absence of moral principles. In other words, anything goes. One may find that to be the case with now extinct Roman and Greek polytheist religions too.

Oh?

Tell that to the Stoics- whose harsh moral code was borrowed by the Christians.

Tell that to the followers of Socrates- they obsessed over virtue, epistemology and social order.

What- is it because they were big on buggery? How antiquated.

Keepers of the Monotheistic religions had over time managed to bring in moral principles into religion.

No- they simply stole the principles, unattributed, and then slandered their names and destroyed their books to the point that we have ignoramuses like you coming on here and saying 'the major piece missing in polytheistic religion is the absence of moral principles.'

We should be forever grateful to those who managed to separate from discussions about 'paganism' the Socratic method, Plato's various Dialogues, and Aristotle. And for the fluke discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts- and we should curse forever the ignorant fools who discovered them in the first place; they used some of these priceless artifacts as kindling, and lost more through poor handling.

Moral questions are common to all belief systems. Most agree with each other, partially due to cultural exchange, and partially due to the fact that the simplest answers (enlightened self-interest and reciprocity) tend to crop up again and again.

What monotheism did (at least Christianity, and, I assume, Islam) was to add in powerful senses of guilt, fear and shame, and enshrine the bad treatment of women and homosexuals (homosexual men, particularly). Though usually with homosexual men, nobody particularly cared as long as they produced heirs.... not easy, but it could be done (Oscar Wilde, possibly one of the gayest men EVER, had three biological children- no lie).

Now there are good and bad morals as you know. Monotheistic relgions which emphasises good moral principles tend to do more good things for its believers, and are more attractive.

First sentence: That's axiomatic. Second sentence: Nope. As I already said, monotheism didn't add anything but a sense of guilt, fear and shame. Suddenly it wasn't enough (at least for Christians) to live a good life and be judged based on that. No, their god demanded that people be *grateful* for the effort he put into fixing his own mess!

And for some reason, Christians weren't supposed to think about how horrible it was that their friends, family members and neighbors could be suffering for all eternity (unless they happened to be sociopathic or misanthropic- but why would god want to bring someone like that into paradise?) Hence why, for centuries, the church believed in purgatory. It made god's justice much more, well, just.

When it comes to polytheistic religions, none of this is even a concern. Depending on which system you talk about, there is no afterlife; or you get more than one life; or you just get one, but you're actually judged on what you *do,* rather than on some impossible standard.

Lately Polytheistic religion Hinduism for example is copying monotheistic ones in this regard and trying to integrate moral principles into it. Now Hindus will not accept this 'copying' business since it is too much for their bloated egos.

OMFG!!!!

Look- the Upanishads predate all monotheistic religions, save Judaism, by hundreds of years. And those were later additions to the Indic philosophical canon. They have TONS of moral instruction- in and amongst the cosmology and various philosophical speculations, as well as specific instructions for sacrifices and such.

To say that Hinduism *copied* from monotheism is beyond ridiculous. To say that monotheistic religion (and in this case, you'd have to be talking about Islam) is somehow carrying the light of moral uprightness to the benighted masses in the world is... 'arrogant' doesn't even begin to describe it.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:58 am
by THHuxley
Yohan wrote:Technically speaking, there is currently only one major polytheistic religion. That is Hinduism. The major piece missing in a polytheistic religion is the absence of moral principles. In other words, anything goes. One may find that to be the case with now extinct Roman and Greek polytheist religions too.

What a very strange idea. The Roman religion had no shortage of embedded moral principles, and even had a specific deity, Virtus who was the embodiment of physical and moral excellence. Virtus was often associated with Honos (the personification of honor) and they shared a double temple inside the Porta Capena of Rome.

Nothing in Roman life was so trivial that it failed to merit the attention of their deities and their religion... especially when accounting for the original Roman religion that predated their adoption of the Greek Pantheon. Each of the individual "Roman Virtues" was associated with specific religious obligations, and most of them were were represented as deities on their own and had their own cults and temples. Cicero said of these "as each divine power confers its own benefits, so it is recognized as a god in accordance with the importance of the benefits which it confers, and the power which resides in each of the gods is expressed in their names."

In other words, moral values were themselves worshiped as part of the Roman Pantheon.

While many of them do not directly translate into English, an adequate accounting of the Roman Virtues would be as follows:

* Auctoritas — "Spiritual Authority"
* Comitas — "Humour"
* Constantinum — "Perseverance"
* Clementia — "Mercy"
* Dignitas — "Dignity"
* Disciplina — "Discipline"
* Firmitas — "Tenacity"
* Frugalitas — "Frugalness"
* Gravitas — "Gravity"
* Honestas — "Respectability"
* Humanitas — "Humanity"
* Industria — "Industriousness"
* Iustitia — "Justice"
* Pietas — "Dutifulness"
* Prudentia — "Prudence"
* Salubritas — "Wholesomeness"
* Severitas — "Sternness"
* Veritas — "Truthfulness"

This is (in case you are not paying attention) a rather more comprehensive moral framework than those afforded by the Abrahamic monotheisms. In the judgment of some, it was also superior.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 4:03 am
by BlacKStaR
THHuxley wrote:
Yohan wrote:Technically speaking, there is currently only one major polytheistic religion. That is Hinduism. The major piece missing in a polytheistic religion is the absence of moral principles. In other words, anything goes. One may find that to be the case with now extinct Roman and Greek polytheist religions too.

What a very strange idea. The Roman religion had no shortage of embedded moral principles, and even had a specific deity, Virtus who was the embodiment of physical and moral excellence. Virtus was often associated with Honos (the personification of honor) and they shared a double temple inside the Porta Capena of Rome.

Nothing in Roman life was so trivial that it failed to merit the attention of their deities and their religion... especially when accounting for the original Roman religion that predated their adoption of the Greek Pantheon. Each of the individual "Roman Virtues" was associated with specific religious obligations, and most of them were were represented as deities on their own and had their own cults and temples. Cicero said of these "as each divine power confers its own benefits, so it is recognized as a god in accordance with the importance of the benefits which it confers, and the power which resides in each of the gods is expressed in their names."

In other words, moral values were themselves worshiped as part of the Roman Pantheon.

While many of them do not directly translate into English, an adequate accounting of the Roman Virtues would be as follows:

* Auctoritas — "Spiritual Authority"
* Comitas — "Humour"
* Constantinum — "Perseverance"
* Clementia — "Mercy"
* Dignitas — "Dignity"
* Disciplina — "Discipline"
* Firmitas — "Tenacity"
* Frugalitas — "Frugalness"
* Gravitas — "Gravity"
* Honestas — "Respectability"
* Humanitas — "Humanity"
* Industria — "Industriousness"
* Iustitia — "Justice"
* Pietas — "Dutifulness"
* Prudentia — "Prudence"
* Salubritas — "Wholesomeness"
* Severitas — "Sternness"
* Veritas — "Truthfulness"

This is (in case you are not paying attention) a rather more comprehensive moral framework than those afforded by the Abrahamic monotheisms. In the judgment of some, it was also superior.


Sounds good to me.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 5:51 am
by debunker
Hello,

This is in response to the latest posts here:
viewtopic.php?f=32&t=1638&start=180

@ SOT

Religion could theoretically be true. But any random story I make up could be true. We do not have the luxury of believing arbitrary things. It could be true that if you don't sacrifice an animal every day to the God of the aliens that live in near Alpha Centauri, you go to hell and suffer eternal torment. It could be true. We just don't have the luxury of believing in it because we have no proof and no way to investigate it.


I never said that any religion (set of beliefs, miracles, etc) should make more sense than others. What I said to you is that if you think God is a possibility then you should consider religion. Find the one most appealing to you and follow it.

You might say it follows from belief in God that God can do miracles, but I don't see that that's necessary. There's nothing wrong with a God who cannot work miracles. Depends on what God.


Of course it depends on your definition of the word "God". The definition that appeals to me is God = an infinitely powerful being. Anything and everything is absolutely within His power and completely under His control. Some people might find other definitions of God more appealing.




@ CM

That it was the idea of tyranny is rather odd, though, considering how tyrannical even the god of the Gospels/Epistles is. Oh sure, he makes a lot of noise about love and forgiveness, but when it comes down to it, the choices are: Accept Jesus, get into heaven and eternal bliss OR reject Jesus, go to a horrible place of suffering for all eternity. Yes, I know *some* Christians don't believe in that sort of afterlife, but their beliefs are not based on Scripture, which is where the ultimate authority for Christian belief should be. The point is this: The god of the Bible is still offering a binary choice based not on forgiveness and grace, but on bribery and fear. If that's not tyrannical, I don't know what is.


First, please see my definition of God above. Now, you, me and all of humanity are an absolute zero compared to this God. Is it tyrannical if this God chose to throw this zero in an everlasting Hell? I don't think so. The very fact that He chose to care about us enough to save some of us under certain conditions is a great sign of infinite mercy on His part. Only when you accept the fact that you are infinitely small and insignificant compared to His infinite majesty, will you able to accept that Him throwing all of us in Hell is justice and Him saving some of us is mercy.

.... You serious?

POLYTHEISM!!!!!

Look: Monotheism didn't even EXIST until the 8th/7th century BCE, when Hezekiah took out all the ESTABLISHED competing gods from the (very tiny) kingdom of Israel. Before that time, there were NO MONOTHEISTS. Anywhere.

Proof? There's been almost 100 years of painstaking archaeological and historical research into places all over the world, including the Near East. Beyond what the Bible claims about what the Hebrews believed, there is NO EVIDENCE AT ALL for monotheism before the violent expulsion of competing god-cults of ancient Israel and the establishment of the idea of a transcendent god, divorced from place or culture.


Wow! So that's your proof? No archeologocal evidence was found yet of a monotheistic religion before Judiasm? Do you claim that the current archeological findings are absolutely conclusive?

And to top it off, it seems that you're implying that since some Israelites were polytheistic then the Hebrew Bible was preaching polytheism!!! Did I understand you correctly?

There's absolutely no evidence that you can't twist to make fit the conclusion that you've already reached. You assume monotheism comes first because that's what you want to be true. You work backward from this conclusion, picking evidence or making the evidence fit based on the interpretation you want already. In logical terms that is called 'begging the question,' and it is a HUGE logical fallacy.


Of course I have no evidence for my claim just like all you have is that archeology so far did not find an evidence for monotheism before Judiasm.




@ Hux

This was rather firmly established with the excavation at Ugarit, and the realization that Biblical monotheism was an evolutionary descendent of Canaanite polytheism. Originally, the "head god" was EL, and with his consort Asherah begat seventy sons... the multiple national gods of the levant. Each member of the divine family was assigned a nation of their own, an event still recorded in Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (you want to look at the Dead Sea Scroll or Septuagint version rather than the edited Masoretic text). Yahweh was assigned the nation of Judah, and was originally just one god among others. Yawheh himself makes that point in the "First Commandment."

"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me."

Yahweh himself seems to fully accept the existence of other gods, simply demanding that his nation (Judah/Israel) worship only him.

Other traces of Israel's original polytheism remain in the Bible to this day, from the plural "Elohim" to the Nephilim to the 82d Psalm in which the father of the gods, El presides in a divine assembly at which Yahweh stands up and stages the overthrow of his brothers, the other gods.

While other monotheisms might boast other origins, the Abrahamic faiths all descend in a straight line from that original polytheism found in Ugarit and fossilized still in the Old Testament.


You make such BIG claims. By the way, such claims (if proven) are the kind that can easily shatter my belief in God (not the fact that there's no evidence for Him).

Now, could you please elaborate on these claims. In other words, do you think that the current archelogical findings are conclusive? Do you think they tell the whole story? No room for speculation is left.

And although I'm not particularly interested in defending the Bible, I feel inclined to point this out: God in the the Hebrew Bible never acknowleged other gods as real (as you seem to suggest) but rather false gods not to be worshipped.

I checked Deuteronomy 32:8-9 and Pslam 82

I see no problem in Deuteronomy 32:8-9.

As for Psalm 82, and although I don't like the description of God's servants as His sons/gods (who will die like men) this can still be explained as metaphorical expression. I have no evidence for my speculation, but do you have evidence for your claim?

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?se ... ersion=49;

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?se ... ersion=49;

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 6:38 am
by crazymonkie_
debunker wrote:
That it was the idea of tyranny is rather odd, though, considering how tyrannical even the god of the Gospels/Epistles is. Oh sure, he makes a lot of noise about love and forgiveness, but when it comes down to it, the choices are: Accept Jesus, get into heaven and eternal bliss OR reject Jesus, go to a horrible place of suffering for all eternity. Yes, I know *some* Christians don't believe in that sort of afterlife, but their beliefs are not based on Scripture, which is where the ultimate authority for Christian belief should be. The point is this: The god of the Bible is still offering a binary choice based not on forgiveness and grace, but on bribery and fear. If that's not tyrannical, I don't know what is.


First, please see my definition of God above. Now, you, me and all of humanity are an absolute zero compared to this God. Is it tyrannical if this God chose to throw this zero in an everlasting Hell? I don't think so. The very fact that He chose to care about us enough to save some of us under certain conditions is a great sign of infinite mercy on His part. Only when you accept the fact that you are infinitely small and insignificant compared to His infinite majesty, will you able to accept that Him throwing all of us in Hell is justice and Him saving some of us is mercy.

So because god is super-powerful and we're just stupid, stupid beings that don't understand him, he knows best?

The fact that logic applies to this doesn't matter- we just have to acquiesce to the divine plan?

Look: It comes down to this. The basis of your entire argument is centered upon the Christian belief in the historical narrative of god's big 'send myself as my own son to fix the things that are right' plan. The problem is, THAT narrative's foundation is rotten. Here's the first problem, and the point that utterly annihilates your argument for 'god's mercy' when it comes to 'this zero:' Until the Christians said so, the monotheistic god of the Israelites didn't expect perfection. He knew he couldn't get it. He expected a LOT from his followers, and was incredibly harsh when they failed, but he didn't ever say 'be perfect.'

Now, Christianity comes along, claiming to be a continuation of the Jewish faith. One problem with the connection has to do with the issue above. Before Christianity, there was no idea that god wanted perfection. Without the need for god wanting us perfect, there would be no need for Jesus. Thus no need to make this nonsense argument of 'the mystery of god' with regards to the doctrine of eternal punishment or eternal reward.

And let me ask you a hypothetical (play god, for a second): If you knew, for 100%, that someone you knew and loved was going to reject the rules that you set down, based upon their intellectual inquiry, would you be just if you sent this person to a place of eternal torment?

Wow! So that's your proof? No archeologocal evidence was found yet of a monotheistic religion before Judiasm? Do you claim that the current archeological findings are absolutely conclusive?


No debunker, my point is that it's not ANYWHERE. No place on EARTH had monotheism before the Israelites. Well... there was that weird blip with Akhenaten in Egypt a few hundred years before, but that's it.

If the Bible says one thing, and the historical and archaeological research says otherwise... and if one is based upon a methodology without which we would be DRASTICALLY poorer intellectually, and which is used by other fields of study as well; and the other is based upon centuries-old hearsay that was *believed* to be true because human beings were ignorant of archaeological evidence... which one do you think I believe?

Oh, and a few video links:
This first one's pretty short, but really cool: http://www.infidelguy.com/modules.php?name=Video_Stream&page=watch&id=50&d=1
This one's LONG, but the parts that concern our current discussion are in the first two or three parts anyway: http://www.infidelguy.com/modules.php?name=Video_Stream&page=watch&id=28&d=2

And to top it off, it seems that you're implying that since some Israelites were polytheistic then the Hebrew Bible was preaching polytheism!!! Did I understand you correctly?

No, you don't. The Hebrew Bible was codified precisely to dislodge polytheism from the ancient Israelite kingdoms. The Hebrews, and the Israelites, until the time of Hezekiah, were polytheists. BUT, the Tanakh was codified and canonized, compiled from several sources, in order to make sure that the Jewish people had a narrative and a common god-belief. YHWH stopped being a consort of Asherah and the preferred god of the Israelites, and became THE GOD.

The first video talks about the implications of this a bit.

Of course I have no evidence for my claim just like all you have is that archeology so far did not find an evidence for monotheism before Judiasm.

Wow. Did you just equate the painstaking process of archaeology to Biblical apologetics? I wish I could say I'm shocked, but I'm really not.

But hey, maybe you're right. Maybe the people who have this down to a science have to *believe* the evidence points to polytheism degenerating from a pre-lapsarian monotheism. Maybe geologists just have to believe that there was worldwide flood, and climatologists just have to believe that thousands of years of that much water vapor in the sky wouldn't make the world either incredibly hot or incredibly cold.

It all makes sense now. We just need *new ways of seeing evidence!* It's so clear.

You make such BIG claims. By the way, such claims (if proven) are the kind that can easily shatter my belief in God (not the fact that there's no evidence for Him).

This sentence is chilling, for me. Debunker, I know my last reply was pretty harsh, but I'm being serious here: This sort of anti-intellectualism, a refusal to see the very clear signs that the Tanakh was a political document as much as religious, that the monotheism of the Israelites was a relatively late development, really scares me.

It's exactly what I'm trying to struggle against in general. Not necessarily god-belief, though if part of it involves this sort of anti-intellectualism, then I'm VERY against it. Nor am I necessarily, say, pro-Communist. In fact, the idea of the vanguard party disgusts me, and the fact that the theory of Marx put into practice failed at every instance it was attempted, speaks volumes for putting Leninist/Stalinist Communism into the same anti-intellectual category as most religions.

So believe me when I say: I truly hope you can see the truth here. That your desire for some sort of supernatural being is comforting to you, in some way, and that you're clinging to an idea that is hurting you- whether or not you think so- and that god-belief, at least anti-intellectual god-belief (I've yet to see an intellectual god-belief, but I suppose it *could* be out there) is a shackle holding you back from true happiness. Though the true happiness won't come at first. In fact, it can be horrifying to stop believing in a god. It took me years to get over it. And then it took me even more years to get over religion itself.


If I were you, though, I'd stray far from apologist sites as proof. Bible Gateway is one of the worst, as far as distributing misinformation is concerned.

Here: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/

Now there are quite a few points where the site goes overboard, and some of the points may be invalid- but the majority do stand on their own. For proof of that, one only need look at the apologists' replies to it (bottom of some of the link pages). Lots of mental gymnastics going on.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 6:51 am
by debunker
I'll reply to your post later, but I need to clarify this now. I am a Muslim.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:42 am
by crazymonkie_
Fair 'nough.

I'll come clean too: I'm not even remotely able to make any sort of arguments against what the Koran says.

My knowledge is in Christianity- very early theology and apologetics (pre-Nicene Council), a bit about how the Gospels and Epistles came to be in their present form, some of the arguments for Christianity that were demolished by Kant in the 18th century (though I still haven't read Aquinas; apparently he was the 'big one' when it came to Christian errors) and the assertions that post-war Evangelicals have been making since the 40s and 50s. Oh, and I'm moderately acquainted with some of the Second Great Awakening creeds and doctrines. But not too much.

So I probably won't be able to answer Muslim-specific claims. However, I will be able to use logic in order to back up or tear down whatever beliefs there may be.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 8:09 am
by debunker
the only reason why I clarified that I'm a Muslim was because you seemed to imply that I was fond of Jesus' sacrifice.

Anyway, what I want to discuss is not Islam vs. other monotheistic religions but rather God's alleged tyranny as defined by sending people to hell. And I'll be very honest. I'll list the most troubling verses regarding this matter.

I'll get back to you later.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:29 pm
by Yohan
In reply to the comments on my last post by others, let me say the following.

Yes, moral virtues in the form of deities were worshipped in Roman/Greek religions. Actually the same is true today in Hinduism too. All such worship was/is done at a personal or family level. So the effect was never felt across the society at large. With or without religion, man is born with some inherent moral virtues which he extends across his community depending on the situation. Spreading such values across a society consistently requires another level of effort. You know morality in most cases just can't be legislated. That is where moral religions come in.

Let's just look at the simple short christian prayer chanted by billions of people on this planet daily. It is actually a prayer of morality. If one takes away praising the God part, it comes down to urging the one who prays to forgive those who harm him. That is the gist of the Christian prayer. In Buddhism, morality takes even a step further, as it is emphasised even without being shepherded by a God.

Ancient Greek/Roman religions never preached morality that way, and society paid a price in the end, and people adopted another religion as a result. Hinduism got off on the wrong foot to begin with, as It didn't even accept the precept that all humans are created equal. What kind of morality could one have in such a world?

(Socrates. Plato and so on were secular philosophers, and not religious preachers of any sense.)

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:04 pm
by THHuxley
debunker wrote:You make such BIG claims. By the way, such claims (if proven) are the kind that can easily shatter my belief in God (not the fact that there's no evidence for Him).

Now, could you please elaborate on these claims. In other words, do you think that the current archelogical findings are conclusive? Do you think they tell the whole story? No room for speculation is left.

I absolutely consider the current archeological findings conclusive enough that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent that they are true. There is always "room for speculation," since speculation requires no room whatsoever (or evidence for that matter).

debunker wrote:And although I'm not particularly interested in defending the Bible, I feel inclined to point this out: God in the the Hebrew Bible never acknowleged other gods as real (as you seem to suggest) but rather false gods not to be worshipped.

The Bible demonstrates that Yahweh's attitude towards the other gods evolves over time, certainly in pace with the attitudes of the Israelites themselves. This is not dissimilar to the evolution of Muhammad's attitude towards the Jews and Christians as recorded in the Qur'an.

As pointed out in the Ten Commandments, the other gods are not labeled "false" at all. In fact, the very phrase "false gods" is excruciatingly rare in English translations of the Old Testament. In the New International Version I can only find it 5 times. Twice in the Psalms, twice in Jeremiah, and once in Amos. It is never found once in the Torah.

Compare that with Yahweh's self reference as a "jealous god," almost always in the context of being jealous of "other gods." What would he be have to be jealous of if they didn't exist?

Your interpretation that "God in the the Hebrew Bible never acknowleged other gods as real (as you seem to suggest) but rather false gods not to be worshipped," appears to be unsupportable by the words of the Bible itself. It is wishful thinking at best.

debunker wrote:I checked Deuteronomy 32:8-9 and Pslam 82

I see no problem in Deuteronomy 32:8-9.

Almost certainly because you used a translation working off the edited Masoretic text. That version translates thusly:

8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
when he divided all mankind,
he set up boundaries for the peoples
according to the number of the sons of
Israel.

9 For the LORD's portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.


But the oldest actual copies we have of this text is different, reading as follows:

8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
when he divided all mankind,
he set up boundaries for the peoples
according to the number of the sons of
God.

9 For the LORD's portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.


The original version describes the assignment of the different nations to their respective national gods by the "Most High" god El. Mankind was divided into nations, and they were distributed according to the number of the son's of El. (According to the Ugaritic pantheon, there were 70 children of El, how many were sons and how many were daughters I am not certain.) The "LORD's (Yahweh's) portion" was Jacob. Jacob, as you recall, was the original name of Israel. And Yahweh's position as a son of El is reinforced by the fact that this is his "inheritance." Sons inherit things from fathers. How can Yahweh inherit anything from anybody else if there is nobody else?

The assignment of Yahweh as the national god of the Israelites also makes Yahweh's later jealousy understandable, as the jealousy was always initiated when the Israelites had the temerity to worship one of the other national gods, many of whom are mentioned by name both in the Bible and in the records of Ugarit.

The polytheistic nature of this passage was so obvious to the later Jews that the editing of the Masoretic text was necessary, even if the editing doesn't ultimately make sense. And if you doubt my accounting of the competing versions, I note that you use BibleGateway. The different versions are explicitly referenced in the notes on that page.

debunker wrote:As for Psalm 82, and although I don't like the description of God's servants as His sons/gods (who will die like men) this can still be explained as metaphorical expression. I have no evidence for my speculation, but do you have evidence for your claim?

Of course you have to resort to the old "metaphor" excuse. In Biblical (and also Qur'anic) hermeneutics, it is the tool of choice when the passage says in clear language something the interpreter does not want it to say. You can explain away anything by asserting that the author did not actually mean what he wrote. This is not a tool I find much intellectual rigor in.

The evidence I have for my claim is, first and foremost, the clear language of the text... always the first and most compelling hermeneutic tool. The rest of the evidence is that it is consistent with the rest of the Old Testament's evolving portrayal of Jewish monotheism. There are numerous other supporting passages as well. Let's talk, for example, about the Nephilim found in Genesis 6.

1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal ; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."

4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.


We find again the sons of God... and this time they clearly cannot be a metaphor for "God's servants." They are the sons of God in contrast to the daughters of men. Between the divine sons of God and the mortal daughters of men, they had children who were heroes; the Nephilim. Other verses say that they were "giants."

This is a rather unambiguous passage, lending itself in no significant way to claims of "metaphor."

And... tying this all back to the original Canaanite polytheism from which Yahweh arose as initially the national god of the Jewish people:

The Ugaritic pantheon was headed by the chief god, El. He and his consort Asherah had 70 children, collectively the Elohim. Asherah not only appears by name in the book 2nd Kings, she is found in 8th century inscriptions from Kuntillet 'Ajrud where she is worshiped respectfully along with Yahweh. Other Ugaritic gods appear elsewhere in the Bible. For example, the gods Resheph and Deber are members of Yahweh's military retinue in Habakkuk 3:5, where they are translated into English as "plague and pestilence." And let's not forget Yahweh's archenemy Ba'al.

The Ugaritic Pantheon had four levels:

1) The chief god and his wife (El and Asherah)

2) The seventy divine children (the Elohim, including Ba'al, Astarte, Anat, probably Resheph as well as the sun-goddess Shapshu and the moon-god Yerak)

3) The head helper of the divine household, Kothar wa-Hasis

4) The "servants of the divine household," or messenger-gods; i.e. the angels.

By some point in the late monarchy, it is evident that Yahweh was starting to takeover the position of the god El. We find inscriptions in which Yahweh-El is the husband of the goddess, Asherah. This is the situation represented by biblical condemnations of her cult symbol in the Jerusalem temple in 2 Kings 21 and 23, and in the inscription mentioned above. In this form, the religious devotion to Yahweh casts him in the role of the Divine King ruling over all the other deities.

This picture gradually evolved into a more strict monotheism between the eighth and the sixth centuries. The other gods gradually became mere expressions of Yahweh's power, and the divine messengers became understood as little more than minor divine beings doing god's will.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:08 pm
by THHuxley
Yohan wrote:Yes, moral virtues in the form of deities were worshipped in Roman/Greek religions. Actually the same is true today in Hinduism too. All such worship was/is done at a personal or family level. So the effect was never felt across the society at large. With or without religion, man is born with some inherent moral virtues which he extends across his community depending on the situation. Spreading such values across a society consistently requires another level of effort. You know morality in most cases just can't be legislated. That is where moral religions come in.

Another absolutely indefensible assertion.

Roman religion was pervasive, it was communal, and morality was deeply ingrained in their "legislation." There was no separation of church and state in ancient Rome. They were the same.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 1:51 am
by Yohan
THHuxley wrote:
Yohan wrote:Yes, moral virtues in the form of deities were worshipped in Roman/Greek religions. Actually the same is true today in Hinduism too. All such worship was/is done at a personal or family level. So the effect was never felt across the society at large. With or without religion, man is born with some inherent moral virtues which he extends across his community depending on the situation. Spreading such values across a society consistently requires another level of effort. You know morality in most cases just can't be legislated. That is where moral religions come in.
Another absolutely indefensible assertion.

Roman religion was pervasive, it was communal, and morality was deeply ingrained in their "legislation." There was no separation of church and state in ancient Rome. They were the same.

Rome probably had high moral values early on. But things changed rapidly. Here are just a few. Homosexuality was encouraged everywhere and imposed upon young boys. Some way to bring up good men! Public entertainment degenerated into torture and brutality. Even more strange is that people got a kick out of such sadistic pervert acts. Core family structure itself broke down, where wives with children were abandoned to poverty and destitution, and husbands went off to live with other women. It was the disintegration of the basic family unit which finally did make the Empire collapse (not the Barbarians). Romans couldn't reproduce enough Romans with good principles to keep the empire going.

Actually Christianity's rule of "one husband-one wife in one's life" came into being to bring stability to the basic family unit across the Roman empire. Early converts to Christianity, Roman empire women, demanded it.

Re: Polytheism and monotheism

PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 2:31 am
by THHuxley
Yohan wrote:ome probably had high moral values early on. But things changed rapidly. Here are just a few. Homosexuality was encouraged everywhere and imposed upon young boys. Some way to bring up good men!

You've got your ancient cultures confused. You are referring to the Greeks. The Romans had an almost pathological homophobia. The slur that Gaius Julius Caesar had been the homosexual lover of the King of Bythnia was one of the most powerful slurs used against him by his political adversaries. I can hardly figure out why you insist on pursuing this fabrication of yours... as you progress you demonstrate more and more that you have no idea what you are talking about.

Yohan wrote:It was the disintegration of the basic family unit which finally did make the Empire collapse (not the Barbarians). Romans couldn't reproduce enough Romans with good principles to keep the empire going.

Let's pretend that very goofy theory is true... just for the sake of argument.

The Roman Empire collapsed for whatever reason only after it had become Christian.