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A tricky Answer

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A tricky Answer

Post  holden1420 on Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:56 am

I have a friend who has recently learned that I am a Hellenist, He's a christian but has never been rude or challenging about my beliefs, we both have a live and let live philosophy. A couple of days ago we and a group of friends got into a conversation about religion, it went on for about 30 minutes, we're all college students so it was a pretty good debate on the history of religion over the past 3000 years or so. One of the people in our group asked a question about how during the end of the classical era, when the ancient religions of the west were being surprised, the Gods of these ancient religions were described by early Christians as false gods and even demons in disguise and how i felt about that and if i ever had doubts or bad feelings about Hellenism. I guess the question just hit me the wrong way because i couldn't gave a very detailed answer to her and changed the subject, needless to say the debate ended shortly after that. I wanted to come on to this form that has really help me over the past several months and see how all of you felt about this question.

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  DavidMcCann on Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:44 pm

I suppose the quickest answer to those early Christians who called our gods demons is "where's your evidence?"

In Augustine's City of God, he argued that the theatre was said to have been introduced to Rome from Greece as the result of an oracle. Since everyone knows that the theatre is evil, that shows that the god who gave the oracle was evil. Are we really to take such people seriously? In our time, the Vatican Council's statement on non-Christian religions said that the Church "… regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men." There's hope for them yet.

One might turn the tables and look at some of the teachings of Christianity. When Jesus's preaching at Capernaum got a poor reception, he told them "To hell thou shalt be cast down!" There are so many references in his preaching to hell, "where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is not quenched." And his worshipers call our gods evil!

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Tue Oct 28, 2014 3:49 pm

The various philosophies found within Hellenic thought reasonably assert that it is impossible for the Gods to be evil, and explains why. The logic is sound. And if God indeed be God, he must rational.

Compare to the genocide, homicides, etc. asserted as factual occurrence dictated by th Judeo-Christian God. Considering those to be metaphor, very well. Then turn to the character of Jesus, critically analyzing his sayings and personality from gospel to gospel. He seems to be more like a man who thought the end of the world was eminent in his time and taught accordingly which there were many in his time. It wasn't very rational, in any case.

I used to consider Jesus an incarnation of Dionysos, but... no longer. Jesus was most likely just a man who's life story was embellished and syncretised with other figures.

I went on a tangent. When someone criticizes the nature of.the Gods, turn to philosophy. It will demonstrate their nature as good and enlightened beings.

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  Vadzhij on Tue Mar 17, 2015 10:25 pm

I honestly believe that the argument of evil demons was actually appropriated by Christians from some pagan circles that viewed matter as evil and planetary powers and demons as imperfect agents if not outright evil. Even Porphyry had taken this stance to the delight of Christians. But not everyone viewed matter as evil or Nature as fallen. Iamblichus and others countered this view and thoroughly opposed it.

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Tue Mar 17, 2015 10:44 pm

I can't say I'm overly fond of Porphyry.

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  calebofall on Wed May 06, 2015 8:04 am

I think the problems between christianity and hellenism in antiquity, in one respect anyway, had much to do with idols. If you browse the images of Zeus in the net, many of them look very fierce and unkind, they do not seem glorious to me. But the real thing is, would it be so hard to make good images of Zeus that do exhibit glory and beauty? I think that at some point in the ancient time these good images of the gods were hidden away, destroyed, bought and refashioned. It almost feels like a conspiracy theory to me. And I can imagine that at this point the christians returned to their principles of not accepting images and idols at all. Which was bad for them, because forbidding idols completely is not a rational act, all things considered. When things go wrong, it's a matter of there being both good and evil people everywhere. A specific sin cannot be formulated that unhinges this truth of life. Except that there are more living and thinking and acting people than us on this planet. IE, evil angels, real demons that want no good, spirits that are mad, etc.

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Wed May 06, 2015 11:31 pm

calebofall wrote:I think the problems between christianity and hellenism in antiquity, in one respect anyway, had much to do with idols. If you browse the images of Zeus in the net, many of them look very fierce and unkind, they do not seem glorious to me. But the real thing is, would it be so hard to make good images of Zeus that do exhibit glory and beauty? I think that at some point in the ancient time these good images of the gods were hidden away, destroyed, bought and refashioned. It almost feels like a conspiracy theory to me. And I can imagine that at this point the christians returned to their principles of not accepting images and idols at all. Which was bad for them, because forbidding idols completely is not a rational act, all things considered. When things go wrong, it's a matter of there being both good and evil people everywhere. A specific sin cannot be formulated that unhinges this truth of life. Except that there are more living and thinking and acting people than us on this planet. IE, evil angels, real demons that want no good, spirits that are mad, etc.

There is a difference between benevolence and tenderness. Zeus is not a bad God (no such thing as a "bad" God), he desires to help all beings. Doesn't mean he'll coddle you, though. Images of Zeus can most definitely seem fierce, but "stern" is probably a more apt description than "unkind." And he is most definitely a stern God. Not so much "unkind."

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  calebofall on Thu May 07, 2015 1:44 am

Okay. I'd like to see Zeus' character with the eyes of an ancient poor person though. I do not believe that they clung to a hellenic religion that was equivalent to how the christian religion was practiced so often. The ancients knew they had a fair and forgiving God in Zeus. They did not see the Iliad or other writings as inerrant books. They probably thought that the Gods tried to contact them through fantasy, story, life and imagination. Zeus never started an evangelical religion, which is much reason for me to be happy.

Here is a german folklore song about Greece that you might like. I hope you have a good day, mate!

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Thu May 07, 2015 2:15 am

calebofall wrote:Okay. I'd like to see Zeus' character with the eyes of an ancient poor person though. I do not believe that they clung to a hellenic religion that was equivalent to how the christian religion was practiced so often. The ancients knew they had a fair and forgiving God in Zeus. They did not see the Iliad or other writings as inerrant books. They probably thought that the Gods tried to contact them through fantasy, story, life and imagination. Zeus never started an evangelical religion, which is much reason for me to be happy.

Here is a german folklore song about Greece that you might like. I hope you have a good day, mate!


The closest one will get to seeing the character of Zeus through the eyes of "an ancient poor person" is probably through the works of Hesiod. And he didn't have a "love-and-light" view of Zeus. There was a custom to bring people before statues of Zeus as the God who presides over oaths so they can deliver their oath in Zeus' presence, precisely because people feared- yes, feared- the power of Zeus and what he might bring about if someone dared to break an oath to him. Zeus is a God of justice, of righteousness. The myths of thunder blasting the Titans and devising a myriad of punishments for some people in the underworld did not come about because people thought Zeus was a happy-go-lucky guy. They saw him as a king, a stern ruler of both Gods and men, one who metted out both the good and the bad in a person's life. And there are a few mystery religions, some extant today, that do have Zeus being the God who willed those religious practices to be gifted to man, so yes there are "evangelical" religions which were said to have been "started" by Zeus.

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  calebofall on Thu May 07, 2015 4:27 am

Do not cling too much to the "evidences" of some of what we call the historic record. And consider how terms like "justice" have a sound if you speak them out, and that you can vary the sound in order to bring about terms with different meanings. Justice. Whisper it. Speak it nicely. Speak it with some tiny force. Speak it charismatically. Then you have Zeus, I think. But you can imagine that you can also speak the word Justice like Hitler would do it. Then you have evil. The idol problem is similar. FYI, it's similar with the bible. "King Og of Baschan" was likely some rich asshole they called King because he behaved as such. Like evil kings of the past the neighbors of the Jews and the Jews history-gossiped about.

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Re: A tricky Answer

Post  De Li on Sat May 09, 2015 6:58 am

Aktaion wrote:
[...]
There is a difference between benevolence and tenderness. Zeus is not a bad God (no such thing as a "bad" God), he desires to help all beings. Doesn't mean he'll coddle you, though. Images of Zeus can most definitely seem fierce, but "stern" is probably a more apt description than "unkind." And he is most definitely a stern God. Not so much "unkind."

-- I have been using the exact same argumentation in regards to Hera! Smile
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