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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sometimes I wonder

. . . what our world would be like if the monotheists had never become more than a minor Persian cult.

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9 Comments:

  • Persian? Not familiar with that bent. I always saw monotheism's core as a fetish of a minor tribe on the Levant. Are we giving it to Zoroaster?

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 11:15 AM  

  • that's what i was taught.

    although i suppose the cult of Ahura Mazda was more than minor back then.

    By Blogger Barry, at 11:19 AM  

  • See what you've done, you've sent me to Wikipedia for a half an hour. I actually didn't realize that Zoroastrianism was as old as it's now commonly thought (apparently we can place its origins within about a six millennia period). I was also taught that "dualism" was more appropriate there, although in the sense that you had one "good" and one "bad" god each, it's no more dualist than versions of Christianity or Islam that features a prominent devil.

    In answer to your question, I generally postulate that the Western notions of "right" and "wrong" (or "good" and "evil"), even in an a-theistic (note the hyphen) but still universal context, derive largely from notions of monotheism.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 12:05 PM  

  • Pretty sure that pre-monotheistic cultures had moral codes, and certainly the polytheists that were contemporary in Greece and Egypt with the Hebrews had them.

    By Blogger Barry, at 12:14 PM  

  • They had moral codes, certainly, but to my eye, they were more about actions and consequences than about universal, unconditional rights and wrongs. I don't have near enough data to make an assertion, but I'd say concepts such as "Justice," "Truth," and "Light," writ large and capitalized, are much less prevalent in polytheistic mythologies. The morality is more about not offending particular gods/forces lest they get pissed off at you in a more limited, compartmentalized way.

    I'm specifically making a descriptive argument here, not a normative one, although given that most Westerners subscribe to the notion of universal rights and wrongs, there's certainly an implited normative.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 2:36 PM  

  • Not sure that "subscribe" is the word i would use to describe the relationship between western cultures and the existence of universal rights.

    Dance around, perhaps.

    By Blogger Barry, at 2:43 PM  

  • Note I said "subscribe to the notion," not "practice." But point taken that not all even would subscribe to it.

    That said, in the Indian and Chinese philosophy I've read, the notion of a global, pan-human "good" has been absent. On the other hand, I'd think that most Westerners, if pressed, would tell you that they believe in at least some vaguely abstract concepts of good and evil. But hey, I haven't taken a poll.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 5:04 PM  

  • A goodly chunk of the practitioners of Christianity believe that heaven awaits those who profess faith in the lord Jesus Christ, without having to actually do, you know, good things while on earth.

    Not sure that Gandhi, for one, would agree.

    By Blogger Barry, at 5:36 PM  

  • I think if the Romans hadn't converted to Christianity, we might have colonized the stars by now.

    That's completely unverifiable of course, but no less so than most religious doctrine, so, whatever...

    By Blogger Brian, at 6:44 PM  

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