Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The history of gods

I recently watched a show on the Smithsonian Channel called the Lost Gods. It wasn't very good, but it did make me think about something. First, however, a little about the show. It basically traced the history of some of the gods that came before Christianity, following the Egyptians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, etc. The show didn't have great production value and the content wasn't exactly earth-shattering. 

But the main point that stood out and led to this post was the fact that there were "gods" long before the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god of the bible. The Sumerians believed in An and Enki, who predate the bible god by about 2,000 years. There are others, of course, but doesn't it bother believers that there were gods even before their one true god? The concept of a god existed long before Yahweh-Allah-Jesus. If any of these latter deities were indeed the one true god, then where was he when his "children" were conjuring up these other gods?

The late Christopher Hitchens, a hero to many, used to like to make this argument on his book/debating tours: Humans have been here in our current form anywhere between 100K-250K years, depending who you ask. He always took the modest guess of 100K for his point. If humans have been around for 100K years, that means for at least 95K years the one "true" god sat around indifferently while we struggled with survival, died of simple ailments, lived to about 25 years old, invented dozens (and ultimately thousands) of other gods and lived in fear of the unknown (like inclement weather) while tribes annihilated each other. 

Then, out of the blue, he says, "That's long enough, time for an intervention." He even gives commandments, one of which is forbidding other gods. People today try to interpret this to mean false idols (money, power) but it's so clearly not that. Gods were ubiquitous throughout the world when the bible was written, and these peasants wanted to be sure their god was the only one worshipped.

What was interesting about the show was how the gods were either phased out or outright eliminated by new leadership or conquering empires. These gods were legitimate to their people, no different than how the biblical god is "legit" to the followers today. But as these tribes and civilizations died out or were assimilated into other cultures, their gods disappeared, replaced by the newer incoming deities.

Now, when people refer to the Greek or Roman gods they call it mythology, yet when they refer to the biblical god they root it in history. How is their god any different? They have no proof, so isn't it mythology as well?

Will the replacement of the current god happen again? Given the downturn in religious numbers and the Internet, which provides instant research and answers, a belief in god could just fade on its own. But can a god be eliminated like it did in Egypt when Greece took over? Probably not. In those days, countries were susceptible to invasions and new ideologies were forced on survivors. 

Now, technological weapons and the United Nations all but assure the majority of the world won't be overtaken by any one idea. But, it is plausible that religion will become mythology, in fact it's very likely. Fingers crossed.

No comments:

Post a Comment