Re: The religion meme

From: Dace (
Date: Tue 19 Nov 2002 - 19:36:50 GMT

  • Next message: Alan Patrick: "Re: Why Europe is so Contrary"

    > From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    > You also have the civilizations such as Greece, Rome and Persia which
    > turned famous people into gods. Alexander was a god in much of the middle
    > east, for example and Zeus went from being an angry father to the father
    > we now call Deus or God. The Japanese concept of gods on the other hand
    > are things like trees and other natural objects but also include famous
    > who, through story telling, became greater than life. And like us, they
    > borrowed gods from other cultures such as China. Zoroaster seems to be
    > the first to have a god who came with an evil double resembling our devil,
    > dividing the world into good and evil and then requiring people to worship
    > the good and shun the evil. When I say "first" I just mean the earliest
    > example of it that I've run across so far. There may be older ones that I
    > don't know about.
    > I find people like Buddha and Christ interesting in the fact that they
    > didn't become gods by conquering people in war, but came to embody great
    > ideas that "conquered" the minds of people. Mattsu in China along with
    > Lautze and Confucius came about much the same way. Some people might
    > object that these are people not deities, but they are worshipped as such
    > people as if they were. They are prayed to, have temples built to their
    > memory, and their words are passed down from generation to generation with
    > great reverance. I think that's pretty much how all of the deities
    started out.

    Throughout the world many of the earliest deities were female, and their original models appear to have been animals, not people. Deifications of lions included Cybele of Anatolia, Sekmet of Egypt, whose "mane smoked with fire, her back had the colour of blood, her countenance glowed like the sun, her eyes shone with fire." The Indian goddess Durga was depicted as a tiger. The Sumerian goddess Inanna is depicted with her feet planted on the backs of lions. The Greek Artemis was alternately a lion or a bear. She wore of necklace of bull scrotums and demanded plenty of sacrifices. Sekmet tried to have the entire human race sacrificed on her behalf but was distracted by seven thousand jars of beer dyed red.

    Artemis was probably much older than the rest of the pantheon, perhaps even dating back to the paleolithic. The ubiquitous Venus figurines date back twenty to thirty thousand years. Before the Aryan gods arrived in India the Harappan culture worshipped a fierce goddess, though we have no name for her. In order for the Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli, to come to power, he first had to defeat his sister, the moon goddess Coyolxuahqui, in battle. The prehistoric Japanese worshipped Amaterasu, who was later joined by the other Shinto deities.

    Gods seem to represent a watering down of the original religious impulse. In India, if you worship a god you can offer fruits or candies at your alter. But if you worship a goddess, only blood will do. Fortunately, the blood of animals is allowed to stand in for the far more desirable blood of humans. It's hard to believe that goddesses are deifications of actual women. The original models for deities must have been lions, bears, wolves, etc. As to why they were deified in female form, Ehrenreich speculates that menstruation and childbirth might have endowed women with a sort of supernatural quality. Not only does a woman who bleeds profusely not die, she generates life. Menstruation cycles tend to synchronize among women in close, regular contact, and this cycle perfectly matches the lunar cycle. The moon was incredibly important to prehistoric peoples. All this would have caused deities to be associated with the feminine.

    At its core, religion (and war) is about sacrificing blood. "Durga eats. Durga eats everything."


    > >At 10:44 AM 17/11/02 -0800, you wrote:
    > > >> From: Vincent Campbell <>
    > > >
    > > >SNIP..........
    > > >> Thanks for this Ted, it does sound somewhat plausible. Just one
    > > >> question- a lot of early religions also place their gods in the
    > > >> sun, moon, stars, mountains, rivers etc. does this fit with the idea
    > > >> presented?
    > > >> I would think it should, environmental change beyond the control of
    > > >> humans might easily lead to features of the environment which might
    > > >> very significant when change occured (the Nacza and their famous
    > > >> for example, not runways for spaceships but ritual pathways relating
    > > >> the mountainous landscape that provided the arid plain with water).
    > > >>
    > > >> Vincent
    > > >>
    > >Hi To Ted and Vincent
    > >I think that I have some insights for you on this one. Whislt studying
    > >diverse cultures and their spiritualities through primary narratives it
    > >occured to me that cultures form thier spiritualities in the image of
    > >own cultures. This means that a hunter gatherer people have nature
    > >which include animals, geographic anomolies, springs, lakes, rivers, and
    > >on. Agrarian societies have seasons, fertility, winds, rain and so on.
    > >great male monotheism on the other hand derives from a patriarchal tribe
    > >herding people. The image of the great, all powerful God, standing guard
    > >over his flock (the Pope still even carries a curly stick) is the mirror
    > >Abraham and his people.
    > >I hope that this makes some sense to you, as it is late and I've had a
    > >rough day. I can explain this theory better with more time.
    > >Cheers
    > >Jeremy
    > >

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