• Moliere
    I suppose my thought is that I find it hard to give a general answer. I see multiplicity. Even in current religions, of which we can participate and get a sense for, we get multiplicity -- gods are sometimes explanations, sometimes beings we relate to, sometimes beings we contrast with, sometimes principles or lofty ideals, sometimes that which we submit to, sometimes that which we rebel against. . .

    Gods inhabit stories. They are in some way above humans. But to get a sense for any god the stories they inhabit are important to know, and there's a real sense in which unless you are a believer in such things you simply will not "get it". Gods are before sense -- either their stories coincide with sense or they do not, and this dualism isn't determined by the bounds of sense. Rather gods become sensical if believed in or they are obviously nonsensical if not.
  • Mariner
    Great, then I misread you originally. We're now in agreement, thanks for clarifying.
  • frank
    I don't think monotheism does inevitably lead to atheism or humanism. Prosperity does that. No longer at the mercy of nature, a sense of separation from it appears. Much of what was once called "divine" is now only found in the realm of the psyche, which is apparently between the ears.

    And the movement to call the psyche an illusion is an attempt to kill the divine and any superstition that might accompany the idea once and for all.
  • Mariner
    I don't think monotheism does inevitably lead to atheism or humanism. Prosperity does that.frank

    Perhaps. But monotheism may have played a causal role behind prosperity :D. It certainly did have a major influence in the development of science.
  • frank
    It certainly did have a major influence in the development of science.Mariner

    In which it is still embedded.
  • All sight
    Living and dead gods. Etymologically "God" is that which sacrifices are made to, and as such, one worships the bloom because they sacrifice, and prepare for it. They live with it in most of their actions, and work for its blessings. As life moves on, and the names get detached from the actions, the gods die, as communion with them, and relationship with them dies. When Paul was in Greece, no one really believed that the gods interacted with humanity anymore, and hadn't for something like five thousand years. Rather, the caste system was such that prominent families linked their lineage to the gods, and heroes of old. When Herodotus wrote about the Persians, he said that they claimed that they had something like 25,000 year old written history (lying to them about having lost the ability to read the ancient language), and that the gods hadn't interacted with people for much longer than five thousand years. Calling into question the lineages of prominent families.

    When Christianity was coming about, when Paul met Jesus, the world he found himself in was one of stale religions and dead gods already. The world had become too big, and too diverse of lifestyle and practice, even as they recognized more and more gods, into the hundreds. This is why the new religions, the new monotheisms that sprung up around that time emphasized that their God was living, and universal.

    People worship money they say today, because that is precisely what we make sacrifices to. What we do stuff for. No one cares to get paid for doing things that they want to (though it would be a bonus), and only do the things they have to for the sustaining of their life and well-being. The significance and meaning leaves everything else. Being told you just won ten million would really get the blood moving though, now that is meaningful.
  • Wayfarer
    The de-divinization of the world was achieved as a direct effect of the development of monotheism; a monotheism that insisted (against all evidence, in the contemporary worldview) that the one god that mattered (originally -- later, they would claim that he was the only god that was real in any sense) was emphatically not to be identified with the sun, the storm, the ocean, and other "big powers".Mariner

    I have had the subversive idea from time to time that 'God' is not actually 'a god' at all, but that the only way the 'first principle' or 'original cause' could be communicated in the ancient world, was in terms of being 'a God' - namely, the one true God or only God, Who displaced all of the ancient pantheon.

    Now I know that is rather a strange thing to say, but I notice that amongst secular atheism, the attitude that the atheist just believes in 'one God less', in that monotheism has already dispatched Baal, Jupiter, Isis, and so on - so atheism claims to have simply extended the process to God also. But I think an objection to this is that the 'God' of monotheism is not of the same kind as the ancient pagan deities - in fact, not 'a God' at all. But as the entire culture in which the dialogue was situated could only envisage such a being in terms of 'Gods', then God was categorised in those terms - so as to make it intelligible to that culture.

    I noticed this, in reading Eastern spiritual teachers such as Krishnamurti. in his Notebook, he often speaks of 'a presence' which is inherently benevolent etc - very much as a Christian might describe the presence of the Divine. But Krishnamurti, when pressed, denied that this was 'God'. Furthermore, as is well-known, the Buddha likewise eschews any conception of a 'creator God' however Buddhist practical ethics and spirituality are nonetheless remarkably similar to the Christian in many ways.

    I am a practitioner of the so-called apophatic or 'negative way' of meditation. In that understanding, 'God' is completely imageless and formless, and is best invoked in terms of 'the not' - as in, not-manifest, not-born, not-made; certainly, 'not anything' and not any of the kinds of things that are often invoked by religious believers, on the one hand, and then denied by atheism. This then is very different from the general depiction of God as a 'heavenly father', but then, that image itself is very much associated with a particular aeon of cultural development. In any case, I often reflect that I don't believe in a God at all - but I'm also not atheist, in that I don't believe that the phenomenal domain has a reality of its own.

    As for the nature of the ancient Gods - I am reticent about any attempt to 'explain' them.
  • praxis
    I don't believe in a God at allWayfarer

    No matter how you paint the picture it's 'one God fewer'. Besides, there are gods in Buddhist doctrine but they're regarded as merely other sentient beings and ignorant of their true nature ("not-manifest, not-born, not-made," etc), if I'm not mistaken.
  • S
    Gods have been with us since the beginning of time.Mariner

    They've just been hiding really well from the start, and have yet to come out of hiding. It's almost as though they don't exist, and never have.

    Oh, you mean something else. But then, where's the controversy in there being representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles? Where's the controversy in there being mental instruments? Isn't there supposed to be controversy? Isn't there supposed to be a meaningful difference between theism and atheism? And isn't it a problem that when an atheist says that he doesn't believe in any god or gods, he doesn't mean to deny that there are representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles, or that there are mental instruments? I think that you're deliberately choosing meanings which miss the point of what the whole debate is about.

    There would be controversy if, for example, these representations were said to be human-like beings with special powers, like striking people down with lightning, and that they could answer prayers, and if they were said to actually exist. But absent something like that, it seems vague enough to pass as something uncontroversial to an atheist. I could paint a picture of a hurricane and call that a representation of a force of nature. Would my painting be a god?
  • Janus
    Perhaps. But monotheism may have played a causal role behind prosperity :D. It certainly did have a major influence in the development of science.Mariner

    I doubt this. I think the discovery and use of fossil fuels, the beneficence of cheap energy, is the main cause of both prosperity and the development of science.
  • Wayfarer
    I think the discovery and use of fossil fuels, the beneficence of cheap energy, is the main cause of both prosperity and the development of science.Janus

    I wonder what use would have been made of fossil fuels in the absence of engines which burn them.

    In any case, I think the argument that Western culture in particular gave rise to modern science, has pretty solid historical backing. Of interest in this regard is the life and work of Benedictine monk, Fr Stanley Jaki (with doctorates in physics, theology and philosophy,)
  • Janus
    I wonder what use would have been made of fossil fuels in the absence of engines which burn them.Wayfarer

    The engines were developed to burn them or to utilize the heat from burning them. The existence of the available fuels led to the research and development within the context of which the technologies to utilize them were discovered/ invented

    the argument that Western culture in particular gave rise to modern scienceWayfarer

    Science may have developed predominately in the West; and science in the sense of natural philosophy is widely considered to have originated in Ancient Greece. From these facts it does not follow that science (and prosperity) could not have developed elsewhere.

    In any case it is difficult to imagine how the tremendous burgeoning of science, technology and prosperity that has occured since the Industrial Revolution could have happened without cheap energy, i.e. without fossil fuels.
  • Blue Lux
    If you are referring to religions or spirituality... These came long after the taboo was created, and also much longer after totemism and worship of spirits, gods, forces, including magic or mana, etc etc was around... And it is these very primitive cultures and belief systems which almost all of religious or spiritualistic ideologies include in their ancestry.
    Furthermore, in the context of spiritual or religious belief, there are behaviors, rituals, customs and taboos which have absolutely no logical explanation and seem to have been motivated by something completely lacking even the slightest, most-remote form of intelligence.
  • Wayfarer
    You would only ever expect hooey from a monk, wouldn’t you? Even if he did have three doctorates to his name.
  • Wayfarer
    I bet there are many monks who wouldn't reduce the history of science to the history of theology or try to defend this with something as obviously fallacious as the last sentence of my quoteΠετροκότσυφας

    Got any in mind?

    Hey, I’m not a Stanley Jaki fan in particular. I’ve run across his ideas and books over the years - actually was introduced to him by a physics professor who was interested in his work. I simply referred to him as an advocate of the idea that the Western cultural tradition, in particular, was what gave rise to modern science. Now I do know that saying that kind of thing is tremendously non-PC nowadays, but this is an open forum, and that’s my view.
  • creativesoul
    Gods were/are inventions of the imagination. They fill in all the gaps of our knowledge. God did it.
  • Wayfarer
    I think it's quite a defensible argument, as a matter of fact, and 'the Western cultural tradition' is, or at least was, a Christian tradition, and may yet continue to be. But Christianity also absorbed many seminal ideas from Greek philosophy and continued to elaborate them for centuries thereafter. Fundamental ideas like substance, matter, form, causation, universals, types, and logic. And reading that essay again, I continue to find much of value in it.

    In respect of the Dalai Lama, I found much of value in his book on philosophy of science, Universe in a Single Atom.
  • Blue Lux
    The scientific tradition has its roots in many places and many cultures, and many a-cultural things as well.
  • Wayfarer
    t's kind of funny though that at one time modern culture is secular and atheist and materialist and something's missing and all that, while now it "may yet continue to be" Christian.Πετροκότσυφας

    Apologies for my many shortcomings in explaining what I mean. I do tend to follow flights of ideas.

    Anyway - my basic view, without trying to launch into an essay-length post, is that the Western cultural tradition, in which Platonism and Christianity are formative, gave rise to many of the underlying factors which were essential to the 'scientific revolution'. But I also believe that this tradition is basically not materialist in its outlook, and that scientific materialism has in some ways hijacked the tradition that gave rise to it. But that is quite a different topic to 'the nature of the Gods', so will leave it there for now.
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