还没讲完的多神宗教《Polytheism》

连续上一篇。材料取自互联网课程《The Brief History of Humankind》。

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The basic polytheistic insight is that the supreme power of the universe has no interest and no biases. So if people want help in their mundane affairs, they should address one of the subordinate gods, rather than the supreme power. And each person could choose whatever god or gods, were most suitable to him.

One person wanted to worship Apollo, another person worshiped Zeus. A third person worshiped Aphrodite and so forth. With time, however followers of certain polytheistic gods, they became so fond their particular god, that they drifted away from this basic insight.

They began to believe that their particular god is not one among many, but is the only god and that he is in fact, identical to the supreme power of the universe. Yet, at the same time, they continued to view their god as having interests and biases.

They continued to believe, that their god even though it is the supreme power of the universe, it still cares about the mundane affairs of humans and that they can still make all kinds of deals with this god, like doing this sacrifice in exchange for getting victory in the war or whatever.

This is how monotheistic religions were born. Monotheistic religions believe that you could make deals with the supreme power of the universe, in order to recover from illness, or win the lottery or gain victory in war.

The first monotheistic religion which we know about for sure appeared in ancient Egypt, about 1314 B.C. when Pharoah Akhenaten declared that one of the previously minor deities of the Egyptian pantheon, the god Athen was in fact the supreme power, ruling the entire universe and all the other gods and goddesses. Akhenaten institutionalized the worship of Athen as the state religion and tried to stop the worship of all the other gods and goddesses.

His religious revolution however was unsuccessful. After he died, or was murdered, we are not sure, the worship of Athen was abandoned. And the Egyptian returned to worshiping the old pantheon of gods and goddesses.

Over the centuries, polytheism continued to give birth here and there, to other monotheistic religions, but they remained marginal, no least because they failed to digest, to understand their own universal message.

Judaism for example, is a religion that argued that the supreme power of the universe has biases and interests, but his chief interest is in the small Jewish nation, in this obscure land of Israel. And Judaism had very little to offer other lands and other nations. So it's no wonder that the two remained a rather marginal religion and did not spread very widely.

The big breakthrough of monotheism came only with Christianity. In the beginning was no more than an esoteric Jewish sect that taught Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was their long awaited messiah. However one of the first leaders of the Christian sect, a man by the name of Paul of Tarsus, he reasoned that if the supreme power of the universe has interests and biases and if he had bothered to incarnate himself in the flesh and to die on the cross for the salvation of humankind, then this is something that everybody should hear about, not just the Jews.

And Paul's arguments fell on fertile ground. Christians began to organize widespread missionary activities, which were aimed at all human beings not only at Jews. And in one of the strangest twists ever in human history, this tiny persecuted esoteric Jewish sect, managed to take over the mighty Roman Empire and from this base spread later on, over greater parts of the world.

The amazing success of the Christians later on served as the model for another monotheistic religion, that appeared in the Arabian peninsula, in the 7th century. Like Christian, Islam too began as a small sect in a remote corner of the world. But in an even stranger and swifter historical surprise, Islam managed to break out the desert of Arabia and to conquer an immense empire, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

Henceforth, the monotheistic ideal became a central player in the world history. Monotheists, it's important to realize about them something that they tended to be, not always, but in many occasions, much more fanatical and also much more missionary, than polytheists. A religion that recognizes the legitimacy of other faith, implies either that its god is not the supreme power of the universe or that it received from the one and only god, only part of the universal truth. This is something that polytheists were able to live with. But monotheists could not live with these ideals.

Since monotheists usually believed that they are in possession of the entire message of the one and only god, they were compelled to discredit all other religions. If our religion is true, no other religion can also simultaneously be true.

Over the last two millennium, monotheists repeated tried to prove the truth of their religion and to strengthen their position, simply by exterminating all the competition with violence, with persecutions and holy wars. Whereas polytheists very rarely wage religious wars and persecutions, monotheists began to wage a lot of them, and it worked.

At the beginning of the first century A.D., there were hardly any monotheists in the world. Over the last 2000 years, monotheist religions became the dominant religions of the entire world, with the exception of east and southeast Asia, where Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism are still dominant.

Yet polytheism and animism did not completely disappear. Even though monotheists persecuted the old animist and polytheist religions, in many ways the animist and polytheist beliefs and practices continued to live on within the monotheist religions.

Because most people have found it difficult to fully accept and digest the monotheist universal ideal that there is only one God and that this one God cares about everybody equally. This was very hard for people to accept because sapiens as we discussed, are biologically tend to divide the world into we versus they. And sapiens always want to be in contact with powerful entities, that will help us against them.

So the idea there is only one power, supreme power in the world and that he cares about everybody equally, this was very difficult, even for Christians and Muslims to fully accept and understand. Consequently Christianity proclaimed publicly that there is only one God and that nobody should worship any other gods. But, simultaneously Christianity created an entire new panthaeon of saints, and people simply began to worship all kinds of Christian saints just as previously they worshiped all kinds of different gods.

In the middle ages, and even today to same extent every Christian kingdom and state has its own patron saint, that helps it to overcome difficulties and to win wars, even wars against other Christian countries.

England for example, was and is protected by Saint George. Scotland is helped by a different saint, Saint Andrew. Hungary is helped by Saint Stefan and France by Saint Martin. So when the king of England and the king of France went to war in the middle ages, it is believed that Saint Martin helps the French and Saint George helps the English.

It's just like the old gods. Not only countries but also cities and towns and professions and even particular diseases, each had its own patron saint.

For example the city of Milan in Italy, was protected by Saint Ambrose. The city of Venice was looked after by Saint Matthew. When a tax collector was in trouble, he called on Saint Matthew to help him because Saint Matthew was the patron saint of tax collectors. If you suffered from a headache, you prayed to Saint Agathius, he was responsible for headaches. But if you suffered from a toothache, then you prayed to Saint Apollonia. She was responsible for helping with toothaches.

The Christian saints did not merely resemble the old polytheistic gods, in many occasions, they're exactly the same gods in disguise. For example in Ireland the chief goddess of Celtic Ireland before the coming of Christianity to the island was the goddess Brigid.

When Ireland was converted to Christianity, people did not stop worshiping Brigid, they simply changed her name and story. They baptized her to Christianity. The Celtic goddess Brigid became the Catholic saint, Saint Brigid. And to this very day, the most revered saint in Catholic Ireland is Saint Brigid, the descendant of this polytheistic goddess.

So in this way polytheism gave birth to monotheism. And even though monotheism turned against its parent and tried to destroy polytheism, polytheism continued to survive within monotheism, in all kinds of prophecies and beliefs.
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关照古往今来,人性是顽固不化的, 也是愚昧的。

有个大哉问:

宗教是为人类服务?或是相反的,人该为宗教(神)服务?

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