Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Ancient Argument

I came across a neat bit of history while reading through the introduction of The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook of Sacred Text. This book contains interesting letter fragments, pagan liturgy, plays, and recorded dialogue from symposium forums and debates from antiquity.

In this source book, I discovered an interesting account about how the Greco-Roman Pantheon fell out of favor with many of their former worshipers. It seems that the theology of the Pantheon was intertwined with the concept of the Polis or city-state going into the Hellenistic period. But as Alexander the Great unified Greece, the general views concerning the Polis changed.

As a result, the general views towards the gods changed, as well. After all, these two concepts were intertwined and influenced each other.

Plays writes, poets and philosophers began to point out the discrepancies between their changing world-view and their changing ideas about the gods.

This scrutiny started to produce questions like:

How could Zeus allow the polis system to fail?
Why does Zeus sometimes seem unfair or cruel?
What if Zeus doesn't even exist?

How could the Pantheon be legitimate if they couldn't seem to protect society from outside forces?

Some critics of Zeus and the Pantheon were punished for their blasphemy. Other critics of the Pantheon escaped punishment, but were given a nice little label of distinction:


Many members of the atheist community of today are asking similar questions like that of their ancient counterparts.

How could God allow evil in the world?
Why do some depictions of God make him seem unfair or cruel?
What if God doesn't even exist?

I wonder if a person who was an atheos in the past would be atheist today.

Also interesting to me is the fact that Zeus is commonly seen as a mythological character nowadays.

Is that just a coincidence?
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