Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Return to Traditional Values!

...But probably not the ones some Christians so actively call for...

So shortly after my own post on religious diversity I have come across this LA Times article by Mary Lefkowitz talking about the same thing. Her solution is a return to the Greek way of looking at religion. While that is not exactly my thought, I can certainly support the notion.

Prominent secular and atheist commentators have argued lately that religion "poisons" human life and causes endless violence and suffering. But the poison isn't religion; it's monotheism. The polytheistic Greeks didn't advocate killing those who worshiped different gods, and they did not pretend that their religion provided the right answers. Their religion made the ancient Greeks aware of their ignorance and weakness, letting them recognize multiple points of view.
Zeus, the ruler of the gods, retained his power by using his intelligence along with superior force. Unlike his father (whom he deposed), he did not keep all the power for himself but granted rights and privileges to other gods. He was not an autocratic ruler but listened to, and was often persuaded by, the other gods.

Openness to discussion and inquiry is a distinguishing feature of Greek theology. It suggests that collective decisions often lead to a better outcome. Respect for a diversity of viewpoints informs the cooperative system of government the Athenians called democracy.
The world, as the Greek philosopher Thales wrote, is full of gods, and all deserve respect and honor. Such a generous understanding of the nature of divinity allowed the ancient Greeks and Romans to accept and respect other people's gods and to admire (rather than despise) other nations for their own notions of piety.
Paradoxically, the main advantage of ancient Greek religion lies in this ability to recognize and accept human fallibility. Mortals cannot suppose that they have all the answers. The people most likely to know what to do are prophets directly inspired by a god. Yet prophets inevitably meet resistance, because people hear only what they wish to hear, whether or not it is true.
Greek theology openly discourages blind confidence based on unrealistic hopes that everything will work out in the end. Such healthy skepticism about human intelligence and achievements has never been needed more than it is today.


  1. That'd be a giant strawman. The "return to traditional values" that many religious conservatives so clearly desire isn't a desire to return to values that are OLD. It's a desire to return to values that were important as foundational to our society. By making this argument (Or even just echoing it without completely agreeing with it) you're missing the point entirely.

    I'd also like to point out that the Aztecs were polytheists. I don't suppose you're going to say that returning to their "let's rip the beating heart out of some poor sap as an offering to Tezcatlipoca" is a concept we should return to.

    Blaming monotheism as a system for violence perpetrated by certain particular monotheists is as moronic as blaming polytheism for the horrors committed by certain polytheists. Calling monotheism "poison" is hateful and ridiculous, and isn't any better than any Christians who insist that all non-Christians are hate filled demon worshipers.

    Don't like it when people make absurd statements about your religion? No one does. So why not do unto others as you would have them do unto you?

    Oh....right. That's a Christian, AKA monotheist concept, and is therefore poisonous. Silly me.

  2. I'm pretty sure that Greek values are in fact foundational to our democratic society.

    Also, if you had read the article, in her conclusion she states about practice such as the Aztec, and reading entrails, animal sacrifice, etc. etc. as outdated, and that it's good we have moved on from them.

    I think you entirely missed the point.

  3. Oh yes, just like the Greek values that treated human beings as property, and didn't give women civil rights? That embraced the concept of pedophilia? THOSE Greek values?

    Certain Greek concepts later led to ideas that were important in the development of our democacy.

    Having read the article, I can only conclude that the author doesn't know a whole lot about Christianity. And if you agree with her, you probably don't either.

  4. No guyperson. Not those values.

    The ones she talked about in the article. Those values.

    Also, seeing as I was a very devout Christian for 17 years of my life, you would be wrong on that other count.


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