Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Monotheism And Science

Was the monotheist idea that the entire world had been designed and ordered by a single creator necessary for the development of science and thus ultimately for the industrial revolution? Poul Anderson's "Delenda Est" and "The House of Sorrows" answer yes. In a history without Judaism or Christianity, the world remains divided between warring polytheist tribes and empires with very limited technology in the twentieth century.

Of course, however, people did not accept monotheism on the basis that, "This will lead us to something beneficial called "science'"! What my modern Pagan friends call "hard", i. e., literal polytheism became hard to sustain. Monotheism appealed to philosophers, priests and imperialists. The Jewish tribal confederation's exclusive covenant with its one god became full monotheism under the prophets. Paul freed this monotheism from divisive dietary laws, ritual cleanliness and circumcision. Constantine established Christianity and insisted that it be doctrinally uniform to unite his Empire.

There is a sense of historical inevitability about all this. But monotheism is not necessary for the continuation of science. On the contrary, scientific cosmogony and Darwinism now show what could not have been known before, namely that order need not have been designed. Many people are secularists although some revive hard polytheism while others develop soft versions. Some of us practice Buddhist meditation. It is good to know that Buddhist traditions and philosophical inquiries would have continued even in the polytheist timelines imagined by Anderson.

5 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    Oops! I see you touched on some of the ideas I discussed in a note I left in the combox of your previous blog piece.

    I sometimes feel a bit impatient with the emphasis some place in St. Paul. And he himself would agree with me. More than once St. Paul thought it necessary to stress that he taught only what Our Lord revealed to him and what the other apostles had taught him. And even the stress on how the Jewish ritual and purity laws were no longer needed did not originate with St. Paul. I only need only point out Mark 7.17-23 and Acts 15.

    And Constantine did not "establish" Christianity if you mean declaring it the religion of the Roman Empire. What he did was to repeal the anti Christian laws and make it a "religio licita." And with or without Constantine, my view is that the Church would have condemned the Arian heresy. Take note of how MANY times the Church opposed the State in matters of faith and morals when the State trespassed beyond its proper bounds.

    Sean

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  2. My view of Paul, of course, is that he did not meet Jesus on the road to Damascus and he certainly didn't quote Jesus in his Epistles. My understanding, from reading books on the subject, is that he did oppose the Jerusalem Church on the Law and circumcision + the Gospels & Acts were written in Pauline Churchs to reflect his position.

    I googled Constantine because I wanted to get this right. He legalized and favoured Christianity and a process started that ended up with Christianity effectively becoming the state religion. The Bishop of Rome became the Pontifex Maximus, ie, the chief priest of the Roman state religion and the power of the state was needed to banish heretics.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Ah! Now you touch on matters where we have to disagree. Because I DO believe Our Lord appeared to St. Paul on the road to Damascus.

      And I also don't agree that opposition to imposing the ritual/kosher laws on Christians was solely "Pauline" in origin. And I base this both on the NT and OTHER books you have not read. One example being Frs. Raymond E. Brown and John Meier's ANTIOCH & ROME: NEW TESTAMENT CENTERS OF CATHOLIC CHRISTIANITY.

      I agree Emperor Constantine repealed the anti Christian laws. And, yes, Theodosius I effectively made Christianity the state religion of the Empire some 80 years later. But, I don't believe the authoritative position of the Bishop of Rome was a mere accident. I can argue from both Scripture and the writings of such EARLY Fathers as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, etc., that the belief the bishop of Rome has a special and authoritative role is VERY old in the Church, long before Constantine.

      Sean

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  3. Sean,
    Thank you for the information about Theodosius. I thought Constantine had proclaimed Christ the sole god of the state and proscribed other religions (he certainly exiled some heretics) but, of course, googling his life did not show him as having done this. I was also surprised that Constantine as Emperor retained the title Pontifex Maximus which therefore went to the Bishop of Rome at some later stage.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Glad I helped you a bit! While Constantine more and more favored Christianity, that did not mean he changed many purely ROMAN customs or precedents, such as the titles carried by the Emperors. It was Emperor Gratian who eventually abandoned "Pontifex Maximus" as an Imperial title, because he thought it was unfitting for a Christian to bear a pagan religious title. I don't know exactly when "Pontifex Maximus" became attached to the Bishops of Rome, however. Perhaps during the 400s or 500s?

      Sean

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