Friday, March 20, 2009

What Gods?

I suppose people who aren't pagan and don't study mythology don't realize that lots of religions have gods for the same things. Gods of planting, harvest, birth, death, hunting, fishing, and pretty much any other thing you can think of. Let's take childbirth. Here are a selection of goddess that are associated with childbirth: Bast (Egypt), Frigg (Norse), Hera (Roman), Artemis (Greek). That's a couple off the top of my head. There are tons more.
Of course every culture had a god or goddess for childbirth, women died in it all the time. It was a big deal. If something was a big deal and out of people's control, people made a god for it. Gods were a way for ancient cultures to answer the big questions, even if they don't seem that big to us (like weather, what the hell causes weather? We know now, but they didn't, hence weather gods).
I'm sure that there must have been other monotheistic religions before Judaism showed up, but Judaism is the one that stuck. Here we have a god than encompasses all Gods. Got a problem? You only need one altar, one name. It's like the Walmart of gods. Christianity, Judaism's bastard kid, is the Super Walmart, even better than one stop god shopping, because it's now easier to find stuff (I suppose if we follow that analogy far enough evangelicalism is a super Walmart with delivery service, since you literally don't do anything but say a prayer to get saved. It's astounding).
Of course the downside to that is that you don't have a god or goddess who handles a specific area. This super sky-daddy is apparently as in control of the weather as he is childbirth. As a pagan I really find that astounding too. Because you see gods have a lot to do. They are doing their thing, and then usually they are also having wild and crazy (and probably kinky) God-sex. They are bitching, fighting, over-throwing each other, and in general acting like the cross between your workplace and your favorite night-time soap. Because gods were also aspects of our own selves, the parts of our personalities that we didn't understand. They are a lot like us.
So pagan Gods were acting like people with super-powers. They screw up, make things better, etc. However with the sky-daddy god we see this whole new thing. A god that is infallable. A god that knows everything you do and watches you do it. How creepy! Doesn't this guy have anything better to do? He's supposed to be controlling a whole universe, maybe he should get on that.
There is something disturbing about a culture that thinks up an infalliable. omnipotent god. It implies a culture that is unable to control what happens to it (which would be the Israelites when they were slaves). It makes sense that if things finally look up after they start to worship this god that they would continue to do so. That is how religions start after all. I also imagine the simplicity of the worship (relatively speaking) made it appealing and kept it going. That and the whole eternal damnation thing. Nothing like scaring people into submission! This is also a religion that has no female counterpart to it's god. It's all man, all the time, and despite what the followers of this God may love us girls to believe, there were a number of pre-christian societies that had the women as the leaders.
This really seems to represent a whole new mindset when it comes to how religion is viewed. No more Gods for everything, no more equality within the pantheon, no more god that you can relate to. No more god that can teach you a lesson. Here is a god that rains down fire and brimstone for no reason. Here is a father figure, a huge disiplinarian, not a god. This is a god that makes Loki seem mature and down to earth (seriously, Loki spazzes out quite often in myths, he's jealous and nasty and represents the more unpleasant aspects of people's personalities, and this sky-daddy god is actually worse than that).
Evangelicals don't understand how this god is completely unaccessable to come people. They don't understand that there is almost nothing appealing about this god, nothing that gives you a handhold on his personality. Hate? That is appealing to some people but not everyone.
So, what does this say about current society that people are worshiping "other" religions or chosing to not believe in religion at all, and are doing it more and more? Is a statement of religion as a whole? Or just Christianity, and that particular kind? Maybe as we become more advanced as a society people who still need a faith will go to ones that allow a peaceful co-existance with science (may I suggest paganism? Heh), and those that have moved beyond faith will happily go to athiesm.
What do you guys think? Lurkers, you too.


  1. Super Walmart with a delivery service! LOL!

    I cannot for the life of me figure out why monotheism (and I think the Zoroastrians were first, but I'm not sure), specifically Christianity, took such a hold on people.

    Wait, what are the afterlife myths of pagan religions? Does christian heaven sound like a better deal?

  2. You know I guess it depends on what kind of person you are. The Norse believed that Freya and Odin divided the dead warriors between their palaces where you would wait until the end of the world and spend your time feasting, drinking and in general having one hellof a good time. Of course after that you die again. The people who weren't warriors were sent to Hel which was pretty much a cold and crappy place, but an eternal punishment like Hell is. You just weren't cool enough to sit at the cool kids table.
    Most religions seem to be set up that way, the most revered group of people in the society got the best afterlife, everyone else got to go somewhere not quite as good. Greek and Japanese mythologies have an afterlife where you get punished, but not every afterlife featured that.
    So I guess Christianity featured a Hell? Again, very attractive to certain people.

  3. Whether people choose to believe in mythical things or not isn't the issue, but rather what they do in support of that belief, much in the way drinking alcohol isn't an issue until you get behind the wheel and try to drive after a few drinks.

  4. PhillyChief: Hi! Now that is an interesting point. It's not the god but the belief and how you act on that belief. PersonalFailure had an interesting post about how some christian sects externalize good and evil, making it really hard to actually take responsibility for actions (it's here:
    If you can say, "The devil made me do this bad thing" instead of "I did this bad thing" then it's a smaller leap for you to do bad things in support of your belief.
    That isn't to say that there aren't religions that stress responsibility in all areas of your life. After all, aren't we trying to be good people? So act like one! Or at least that's why my faith says. Be good because it's the right thing to do.


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