Monday, 24 February 2014

Divergent Religion

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006).

In our history, the Egyptian god Amun was called Zeus Ammon by the Greeks, Jupiter Ammon by the Romans and Amon by the Hebrews.

In the alternative history of Poul Anderson's "Delenda Est," in about 100 BC, Germanic tribes invaded Italy which in the twentieth century is called Cimberland and at that time its most powerful deity is Wotan Ammon. Thus, this name, mentioned only once in the story, is not a mere arbitrary juxtaposition invented by Anderson but is a logical extrapolation of the religion in a timeline where Wotan-worshipers had conquered Jupiter-worshipers and had then identified their chief deity with the important Egyptian Amun.

The twentieth century is polytheist. Not only did the destruction of the Romans by the Carthaginians (instead of vice versa) enable Germanic tribes to conquer Italy, it also enabled the Syrians, unopposed by the Romans, to suppress the Maccabees. Hence, no Judaism or Christianity. Prophetic monotheism excludes other gods whereas a different kind of inclusive monotheism can grow out of Paganism:

"'The more educated people think that there is a Great Baal who made all the lesser gods...'" (p. 195)

This is more like the Hindu approach. Recognition of the great Baal is compatible with maintaining the ancient cults and with respecting the more powerful foreign gods: "'Best not to chance their anger.'" (ibid.)

Respect other people's gods, yes. Fear their anger, no. Tibetan Buddhists have a story about one of their founding monks taming the local gods. Thus, the gods can still be there but should no longer be feared.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I can and should respect worhipers of Jupiter, Amon, Odin, etc., as persons; but I have no respect for gods I don't believe were even real PERSONS, that I don't believe ever existed. It makes no sense to respect something which does not exist!

Yes, I'm a follower of that prophetic monotheism taught by Judaism and Christianity!


Paul Shackley said...

I am prepared to go further. I accept food that has been offered to Krishna because his devotees then offer it to the public but I do not accept Communion in a church because I know that that implies a common acceptance of Christian faith. So whether I am in a Temple or a Church, I am respecting the worshipers and their deity - unless somebody points out that I am doing it wrong, in which case I will apologize and back off.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I had to go to work when I first read this note of yours. But I have more time now for responding.

I fully agree with what you said. In fact, St. Paul said very much the same as what you said as regards food offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 10.25-27: "Anything that is sold in the market, eat, asking no question for conscience' sake. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat whatever is set before you, and ask no questions for conscience' sake."

What St. Paul was saying to his converts was that they shoud not hesitate to buy food in the market which may have been offered to idols. Or even to dine with pagans who placed before their guests food which had been offered to pagan gods.
He did say "strong" converts should defer to the scruples of "weaker" converts if the latter raised doubts or objections about such foods.

And you behaved with perfect propriety in showing both respect to believers and declining Holy Communion in a Catholic church if you no longer believe as I do what that Communion is. And, the same of course, if you were visiting an Anglican or Methodist church or Hindu temple.