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Apologetics Requested

Post  A. Paterculus on Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:04 pm

After running across this essay at Patheos, I wondered how actual Hellenists might respond to Adam Lee's arguments. Obviously, most of the points are simply irrelevant because they presume a degree of literalism which few, if any, people actually subscribe to, but how would you answer an acquaintance who made similar statements to you in conversation? Have you ever encountered stronger arguments against Olypianism, and, if so, how did you reply?
  Anyway, it was nice to see an Atheist tract which at least bothered to argue against Classical religious ideas, rather than simply assume no reader could possibly believe them.

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Re: Apologetics Requested

Post  Linda on Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:35 pm

It sure was an interesting take on the ever so tedious work of trying to reach fundamentalists of various faiths. Perhaps some of those may stop and look themselves in the mirror upon reading this, having a laugh perhaps before recognizing who this guy is supposedly really adressing.

If I personally was met with those arguments, I'd try to do my best to explain that I'm not a believer of the letter by letter kind. I see these stories like a set of allegories over the ways of nature and the world and of humanity. Or, as in the case of Homer, just pure entertainment for that matters :DLike Olympos - for the ancients the top of Olympos was unreachable, and it reflected well the way of the way we see the home of the gods, a place unreachable for humans. And the fact that we can today reach the very physical mountaintop and not find any divine abode does not change that fact IMO. (Besides, who's to tell that the gods aren't really hiding up there, only that they are so well concealed that we don't find them, but just keep walking around at loss Razz )

And the story of Demeter-Persephone-Hades - to me that one is mostly an allegory of children growing up and the struggle parents meet when they have to let go. Something which can be very hard. I believe everyone of us have been Persephone at some stage in life, want to have our own life and being sick of an over-protective parent. And any woman with a teenage daughter who suddenly won't come home at night can recognize herself in Demeter. (Oh, well, speaking for myself...) And there sure are men out there who recognize themselves in Hades upon encountering a stubborn mother-in-law. Finally Zeus has an heartbreaking extra as the absent father as well. So what we have here is a story where the gods try to give us some perspective of our own lives, trying to be life councellors by acting on stage for us. And they do it well, even if it can be a bit 'soapy' for the 21 century audience.

Nevertheless, I haven't really encountered any Hellenistic fundamentalists of the kind who argues that the sun is really and physically Apollo's chariot the way the ancients pictured it et cetera. As well as no one who has been arguing that the myths were 'real' in that tangible way. But I'd probably end up arguing with that person as well, finding such a debate very interesting.
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Re: Apologetics Requested

Post  Erodius on Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:24 pm

Well, rather than belabor the point and restate the already obvious that this article is written from an intentionally mocking and literalistic standpoint, I will simply provide my answer/rebuttal.

I. Physical Evidence

a. Mt. Olympus
God is present in and through all things, including the summit of Mt. Olympus, and any other mountain, or place, anywhere. There were numerous physical places called Mt. Olympus even in Antiquity. No educated person, then or now, honestly would have believed in literal palaces set on the top of a mountain in Greece. However, in answer to his point that, 'all myths depict Gods as purely physical' — yes, they are. But so is air, and space, and other things we cannot see or touch, and Gods are embodied by aether, which exceeds even air in its intangibility to us. Gods are very much physical and exist within the same world we do, and have bodies of matter — but it is simply the source matter, and can thus take on any shape or form

Regarding why the wicked are often not punished immediately, the justification is clear — Sallustius says,
"There is no need to be surprised if neither these sins nor yet others bring immediate punishment upon sinners. For it is not only spirits who punish the evil, the soul brings itself to judgment: and also it is not right for those who endure for ever to attain everything in a short time: and also, there is need of human virtue. If punishment followed instantly upon sin, men would act justly from fear and have no virtue.

Souls are punished when they have gone forth from the body, some wandering among us, some going to hot or cold places of the earth, some harassed by spirits. Under all circumstances they suffer with the irrational part of their nature, with which they also sinned. For its sake there subsists that shadowy body which is seen about graves, especially the graves of evil livers."


b. Apollo and the Sun
Certainly, at the cosmic scale, the Earth goes around the Sun, and so is the Sun, as Orpheus taught, the king of our cosmos, and equated thus to Jove. However, ontological level is crucial in understanding many aspects of myth. At the level of the spectator on Earth, yes, the Sun does go around the Earth. The assertion that it moves by means of a quadriga chariot is not religiously important. This is simply a poetic manner of saying that the Sun moves across the sky in a glorious, proud, and unstoppable way — as if in a golden quadriga.

c. Hera and the Milky Way
This is another poetic manner of phrasing a truth. All the stars and planets were born from the fertility and motherhood of Night, the First Juno/Hera — being the consort of Protogonus, the First Jove. Earth is by no means the center of the cosmos at the supernal level, but at the terrestrial ontological level, it certainly is, in precisely the same way that, if you are on Earth, the Sun indeed does go around you.

d. Zeus and Lightning
Jove, as Neptune in Orphic teaching, ruler of the sea and skies, is said to be the one responsible for lightning. This is religiously symbolic. Lightning is one of the closest things we can perceive to pure aether, the power of Divinity itself — purely energized matter — which is responsible for 'driving' the creation and existence of the cosmos. Aether also begets fertility — which we see, purely scientifically, in the nitrogen enhancing benefit that electrical storms bring to the earth and ground.

e. Persephone and Spring
The etiological interpretation of the Rape of Cora certainly hearkens to the shifting of the growing and dying seasons, but the peoples of Classical Antiquity were not fools. For thousands of years, the cult at Eleusis, tied intimately with this myth, brought countless individuals to a profound religious experience, transformation and perception of the hereafter. The shifting seasons certainly reflect Cora's descent into the Hades, but the ultimate meaning is light years from such lowliness. In our tradition, we teach that Cora, the daughter of the Earth, who at that time in the progression of creation has taken up the name De-Metra (Earth-Mother), was born of a divine conjunction with Jove to be taken down to the realm of death in order that she oversee the judgment and life of the other, wayward children of Earth — the Titanic souls, imprisoned here in mortality. Her loving mother, Demetra, transformed through stasis as Rhea from the hostile Earth to the righteous Earth, having been forgiven and redeemed through re-marriage to the heir of Heaven, laments her daughter's job assignment — being subjected to life in the realm of death, remembering, all the while, with heavy heart, why it is that her daughter must do this in the first place. Cora remains always present in the world of death, but in the springtime, when life predominates in the world, she is much less occupied with tending to the procedural details of death, and so associates all the more with the higher gods.

g. the Underworld
Orphic religion teaches indeed that the Kingdom of the Dead is a real, physical, and accessible place. It is where we sit right at this moment. To us, the placement of the Underworld beneath the earth is both symbolic of its placement beneath the true, divine world of the gods, as well as a combination of misunderstanding of myth, and perpetuation, even by those with the right understanding, as a kind of clever joke.

h. Mythological creatures
This barely even deserves to be addressed. Some mythic creatures have metaphorical symbolism, others are simply parts of Greek folklore and really have no special purpose or relationship to religion at all. Not all myth is religious.

II. Logical Evidence
The idea that the Gods in any way require mortals’ worship is plainly nonsensical, and is reflective of what we teach to be precisely the superstitious degeneracy, visible in some passages of the Homeric cycle, that preceded the arising of the prophetic and sophic movement, and which its succession continually worked to remedy. If this were true, it would negate the being of any gods prior to humankind, as well as their presence anywhere where humanity is not. Gods require nothing from the mortal beings of earth, by virtue of godhood, they require nothing. Lack of worship out of simple human ignorance could not be any concern to a deity. Irreligiosity is only an issue when it is malicious — that is to say, when the lack of worship is an intentional effort on a person’s part to snub God. Insolence receives its due measure of consequence, which is up to Fate and the Mind of Jove to levy, whether in this life or the next, in whatever way or manner is most fitting.

In total contrast to the literalist myopia of so many contemporary myth readers who, unable to see past the most external visible layer, see the myriad transformations and transmutations of various mythic characters as their being ‘punished’, usually at the instigation of Juno, and usually for consorting with Jove, fail to realize that these same stories have been taught with a mystical interpretation by the more enlightened and contemplative movements. This, I see, is due to our culture’s demonization of death, in which dying in any form is seen, with almost no exceptions, as a basically negative and unfortunate thing. Nevertheless, without divulging more than is befitting, as we teach it, ‘divine intercourse’ is a metaphor for the most powerful sacred sacrament with which anyone can be blessed, and it is one that, typically, enacts what we term the Final Death, which is apotheosis. Far from being a punishment, being struck truly by Jove’s fiery bolt is no curse, but the greatest blessing one can ever hope to attain.

The lust of Jove is a common conception (and we would argue, misunderstanding) that many have held of the Jovian myths even in Antiquity. However, we assert that it is due to an understandable misunderstanding of the character of any god. In reality, it is the active, hot, energetic, aetherial power springing from those deities described as ‘male’ to human ears, that is responsible for all motion, development, and formation in the cosmos. Matter, or Chaos, as the receptive element of the aetherial force, has ever been described as female, and it is in likening the interaction of Aether and Chaos to the procreative sexual intercourse of a man and woman that this concept was first taught to primitive peoples by the earliest theologues. Since all generation involves the divine seed of Aether, it somewhat logically degenerated, in the minds of the more ‘rustic’ and religiously/spiritually unconcerned, into a simple human drama of lusty, lecherous gods. In our theology, all the gods derive ultimately from the Firstborn Jove, and thus, of course we say that Jove sleeps with everybody! His seed is scattered everywhere, in everyone, throughout all the cosmos. There is no generation at all that does not involve it.

Regarding arrogance and claiming superiority to gods, I have partially answered this already in addressing the question of why none appear to be punished for lack of worship of the Gods. In truth, it does not seem even possible to be for anyone to genuine exhibit impious hybris in such boasting if such a one does not know of or believe in the powers over which he/she is claiming superiority. Further, as I mentioned, the Gods are ever wise and all perceiving, why should we be so presumptuous as to think that we will see or understand the punishment of every man or woman for the misdeeds done in such a one’s life?

III. Internal Inconsistencies
The lameness of Vulcan/Ἥφαιστος is, of course, not literal, but symbolic. In our didactic tradition, his lameness is symbolic of his fabricative fire changing the direction of the descent of the heavenly Aether, diffusing it throughout the space of the world, bending it toward the bottom part of its descent, giving the mental image of one lame or misshapen in his/her feet.

IV. Moral Arguments
Once again, seeing the Gods as “bloodthirsty, ignorant and belligerent . . . arrogant and insecure, demanding constant sacrifice and flattery and reacting with disproportionate fury toward those who do not provide it” evinces the all-too-common unholy union of simply corruption of mythic stories through transmission by various ancient and later authors with their own, usually religiously unrelated, agendas, with the dangerous misunderstanding of genuine sacred drama that can come about when viewing such stories without proper guidance and instruction in the transmitted hermeneutical lenses.

Any god is purely righteous, purely wise, unmoved by passions of anger, arrogance or anything else, do not require any sacrifice whatsoever, or even worship, and, by virtue of their very nature, are unable to venture outside of what is right, due and proper.

It is articles like this that demonstrate just how much this writer, as much as he may wish to be a ‘free minded atheist’ is profoundly influenced by a Christianized view of Classical myth and religion.
——————

How is that for a refutation?

Erodius will take him on. Haha. Wink 

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Apologetics Requested

Post  Linda on Wed Sep 18, 2013 4:29 am

The lust of Jove - I addressed that matter in another place, but it can be interesting to have it here as well.

Many stories deal with Zeus fathering this or that royal house and whatnot. I'm certain that's originally some form of political propaganda. That was the king's way to legitimate and consolidate his rule. By claiming to be a descendant from the king of the gods himself, he elevated his royal line from the mere population and painted in a more glorious way.

It's really nothing different from medieval kings, who claimed that they ruled by 'the grace of god' or when Barack Obama quotes JF Kennedy and ML King, to somehow have these old legends rubbing off some of their glory upon him.
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Thank You

Post  A. Paterculus on Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:39 am

Thank you both for replying to this query; I think that responses to these kinds of things are valuable not only for clearing up the misconceptions of others, but also for showing by contrast what one really does believe. That is one reason I was glad that two people offered rebuttals in which plausible, different, explanations were offered to counter each argument. It shows the value of these myths that they can contain messages on various levels which a more direct teaching couldn’t encompass.

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