Sunday, 28 October 2012
Bribing The Gods
Does this sound like a very early and immature stage of religion? If there is a superhuman being Who can control the elements, why does He want bulls? And would we respect such a being if He helped us only when bribed? A higher concept of divinity is of beings who work for our good regardless.
Poul Anderson imagines this kind of religion continuing into the future. Nicholas van Rijn is intelligent, informed and canny. He has amassed vast wealth by his own efforts and more by employing capable people. Furthermore, he knows that this is the case. Yet he offers candles, altar cloths and the like to St Dismas in return for success in his enterprises, like a mariner putting oil in a lamp in the temple of Tanith on returning to Tyre in one of Anderson's Time Patrol stories.
Van Rijn seems to be like many successful people who acknowledge that there may be some truth in religion but who leave the custody of that truth in the hands of the priests. Meanwhile, they conduct their own mercantile affairs while making an outward observance by at least paying for the endowment of places of worship.