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Within the Arena of Human Accountability: God vs. Gods

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by A Vestigial Mote, Jan 17, 2018.

  1. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    I was speaking with my brother on a number of topics and he more or less accidentally blurted something out in a fit of thought that got me thinking.

    In the case of belief in multiple gods that each attend to an area of reality - for example a wind god, sun god, sea god, etc., the humans believing in such would likely (as has been shown in the past) regard detrimental changes in those areas to be a result of the god of that area being upset - and the humans who bore the brunt of the detriment would likely consider that it was something they did in that area that caused the god to become upset. For example: an area of the ocean is over-fished, the fish of that area become scarce, and negative changes start to happen in the surrounding ecosystem. One may surmise that the act of over-fishing caused the sea god to become upset, and he is withholding his bounty.

    In the case of having only one believed-in God, those same sorts of scenarios that might see people attempting to make positive change in specific areas of their lives in order to appease the multiple "gods" of each of those areas, could very possibly have little to no effect on the behavior of people who believed in only one God. And for a very simple reason - how is anyone to know what has enraged God? How is anyone to know whether or not God's rage is even caused by something we have done in one area or another? In how many areas are we having trouble, and enraging God? How could we know whether or not anything was happening because God was angered, and how would we know precisely what angered Him? And were we to try and "figure it out", could any of us even agree as to the cause(s)?

    Where having trouble with the sea might prompt polytheistic believers to feel that the god of the sea was angered at some human behavior, and possibly, as a group, make some positive change to try and alleviate the issue, a group of believers in a single God would not necessarily be able to pinpoint what has angered God, and an individual would probably be less likely able to rally other believers together to make large-scale, impactful changes, considering that there would be differences in opinion as to where the community was failing to appease.

    It was just a very interesting perspective, something I had never thought of before, and I believe we see this sort of indecisiveness in monotheistic believers in today's society. Arbitrary blame for things is cast in all directions, and no one seems sure what "punishment" God actually had a hand in, or what He was ultimately angry about. Think along the lines of claims like those of hurricanes caused by God's anger toward homosexuality - that kind of arbitrary.

    So what do you think? Could there potentially be greater accountability held by a greater number of people in a polytheistic culture, where each god/goddess has his/her own area of responsibility and stewardship? As opposed to a single God, to whom no one is 100% sure what can/can't be attributed to, and about whom opinions of His actual domain may range widely.
     
  2. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    Not at all.

    From my perspective as a polytheist, it seems like you're taking ideas and assumptions common in classical monotheism (Christian traditions in particular) and then applying them to polytheisms. It doesn't really work, and it just looks wonky to me. You lost me when you said that a polytheist would interpret "bad" things happening to humans as the gods being "upset." That sounds ridiculous to me on a couple of fronts.

    On front one, the notion that the gods care about individual humans is just weird. It's something that early Christians created and sold to help sell the whole salvation gambit, I suppose. The idea is so pervasive in discussions about theology in Western culture that it is easy to forget that assuming a deity personally cares about you is indeed an assumption. It's an assumption that, as far as I'm aware, doesn't tend to be made by polytheistic religions. I mean, I sure don't make that assumption.

    On front two, wrapping up deities with morality is another particularly Christian idea. Again, I suppose it's a thing early practitioners developed to help justify the whole salvation gambit. It implies if you don't follow their path, you'll suffer and be punished. This thinking is pretty foreign to polytheistic religions too (again, as far as I'm aware), and it has no place in my tradition at all.

    So yeah, polytheism doesn't make me feel more accountable for anything. The gods don't revolve around me - they are not cosmic parents checking up on me and keeping some score card. When things happen in the universe, I'm not under any impression that it is because something greater than me gives a damn about me. Honestly, I think it takes no small amount of anthropocentric arrogance to suppose (for example) that a tornado that hits your house has anything to do with you. I get the human need to find meaning when things don't go our way, but moralizing the gods and thinking they give a damn are not ways that I do that as a polytheist.
     
  3. danieldemol

    danieldemol Well-Known Member
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    So you’re basically saying that monotheists can’t work out if overfishing is a problem when all the fish disappear. Rofl. You got that wrong.
     
  4. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    I wasn't specifically referencing "bad things" happening to individuals, or individual suffering being attributed to gods - though I am sure this notion was pretty common also - what I was referencing more were things that happened in the land around the people as a whole. Like drought, or flooding, massive storms or famine. Things affecting many multiple people at once. In not one sentence did I reference individual suffering specifically. And no... I don't believe i was applying ideas and assumptions taken from monotheism and applying to polytheism... I was applying assumptions and very vague knowledge I have seen/heard about polytheism and applying it to polytheism. Like the temper of "the god of the sea" being the reason for storms sailors might encounter, or something like lightning being Zeus' wrath. So yes, I was stereotyping polytheism to some fairly vague notions I have. But again here, I was specifically referencing beliefs that would include gods for which there are specific areas of "expertise" or stewardship. If your religion doesn't have this, then it doesn't really apply to the points I was trying to make.


    I don't know where you are getting this either. I only ever made mention of detrimental conditions that affect many people at once. And the assumption I made was more that the gods would be concerned with what the people (again, plural) had done to his/her area of stewardship. Not that they specifically punished one person, or cared about one person's plight or successes.


    Here again - who mentioned anything about morality? Do you see a single mention about it at all in my original post? Can you please cite? And again, I only mention a god's specific area of stewardship perhaps being negatively affected by humans, and therefore a form of punishment in the degradation of conditions of said area. That the area is utilized by humans, or may benefit them in some way is actually irrelevant. What is of importance is that the god finds disrespect of his/her arena of stewardship to be a punishable offense. And this only as it pertains to humans possibly inferring such as they realize they have made detrimental errors in said arena. Where does "morality" play into that at all? All you have is what a god (supposedly) desires, and people making good or failing to hold that up in reverence. I really start to wonder whether you simply like to tear people's ideas down just because you can't imagine anyone understanding your viewpoint, or you like exclusivity in your beliefs and so simply disagree with anything/everything (even a little bit) right out of the gate. You definitely seem to me to be quite combative most of the time.


    If I could sigh digitally, I would insert one here. What the god "gives a damn" about is, again (and again, and again) its area of stewardship or expertise. If that is negatively affected, then it is like a horse swatting at a fly if things then "go wrong" in that arena of life. The god may be attempting to rid itself of a minor annoyance. Whether it actually cares about anyone or anything else is moot.

    And that's fine. You are one person. One. With one belief set. One. Accounts I have read and heard of paint some polytheistic belief systems in a much different light. Where gods do care about their earthly spheres of influence, and are thought to (again, supposedly, for I don't believe in any of it, remember) take action against those who may trespass.

    I would also ask in finality... if your gods care about nothing at all in particular, then of what use are they to either the Earth or to you yourself?
     
  5. Buddha Dharma

    Buddha Dharma Dharma Practitioner

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    Personally, I don't believe the gods are rageful beings. Their faculties and insight must be higher than ours in most ways. I am not suggesting I grasp their ways, or that such beings hold the exact same ideas about good as general human morality does. However, I agree with the ancient philosophers of the east and the west that the gods are 'good'.

    They are full of concern and pity for humans. A traditional Chinese Buddhist author says of the Devas that if we could only see their great compassion for us humans every day, ways they act on our behalf, and how they constantly plead with the Buddha to be attentive to us- it would melt a hard heart. In my worldview deities are in their nature marked with the Four Immeasurables, which is a blessed nature.

    Likewise in the west, Epicurus and the Stoics believed the Indo-European gods that we share in common with Greece represent a high state of liberation and freedom from ills. That the deities of Mt. Olympus (Meru) bring no ill on anyone.
     
    #5 Buddha Dharma, Jan 17, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  6. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    Not at all what I was saying. They would recognize it as as much of a problem as anyone else.

    What I am saying is that they may not attribute it to their own actions as readily as someone who thinks a god specifically "of the sea" is possibly angered and that's why the fish are disappearing. And so, while a polytheistic believer may immediately take action to stop angering the "sea god" (again, an example), a monotheistic person would need to come to the conclusion to take action based only on the detriment they experienced themselves.

    Just think for a moment of individual fishermen who are all monotheistic in nature. Some of them raise the idea that they have angered God by over-fishing. However, that may not resonate with all of them - because who is to say what God feels about the fish in the sea, or the current predicament, or whether or not he cares about their practice of fishing. Fishing likely won't be a "sin" or taboo, obviously. So why would god do this?

    Then think of a culture where there is a specific "god of the sea", and the claim is made that perhaps the fish are disappearing because he is angered. This would probably resonate far more strongly with any who believed in this "sea god", because it is his domain specifically that is being affected... both by the humans themselves, and by the god himself in the form of the detriment he is bringing them (again, to their minds/opinions).
     
  7. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    @A Vestigial Mote

    I'm sorry, I don't know how to move on with this conversation. Your tone sounds kind of defensive, and I don't know how to take that. It was just my intent to illuminate some of the ways in which various assumptions about how polytheists relate to their gods in the opening post didn't sound right to me. Maybe I could have used examples, or picked different words... I don't know. :sweat:
     
  8. Muffled

    Muffled Jesus in me

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    I believe it is highly unlikely that the multiple gods of history are even present anymore let alone doing anything.

    I believe one could say that one does not know what multiple gods are doing either.

    At least in the Bible God tell prophets what He is doing.

    I haven't heard anything fro God about what He is doing except that He is now in judgement mode. I like to speculate that the catastrophes in New Orleans and Haiti were punishment for the practice of voodoo a religion that often allows people to harm other people.
     
  9. Holdasown

    Holdasown Active Member

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    As a polytheists and an animist I would think angering the spirit of that part of the ocean would do more then the god/goddess of the sea itself. While Aegir and Ran are the gods of that area they seem way more focused on attending the dead then other things. The more localized the problem the less likely a god is involved it that makes sense. You might clean beaches or fight for recycling or try to curb fishing to appease the gods. You would address that part of the sea with offerings and other types of help to keep the wights from getting aggressive.
     
  10. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    The ideas that the gods care about humanity and morality certainly didn't begin with Christianity. For instance, it runs all through Greek religious ideas that pre-date Christianity by a thousand years or more.

    I'm sure the same can be said about countless other ancient religions; I only mention the Greeks because I'm relatively familiar with Greek mythology.
     
  11. Buddha Dharma

    Buddha Dharma Dharma Practitioner

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    Why would your first statement be the case? If you wall me off in a cave and never let me out, am I not present in existence anymore? The old gods continue to be worshiped by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Taoists. Some of those gods are the very same westerners once worshiped widespread, due to Indo-European origins of the religions.

    Also, mythology is full of prophets and seers of the gods, so that doesn't make the Bible exclusive in that claim.
     
  12. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    You were completely off mark. You're right... there is no reason to continue with the mind-frame either of us ended up being in once you posted. What you replied with may have made sense to you... but had nothing to do with what I posted - which I informed you of, and you obviously have no defense of your own for - having handily ignored every word I wrote in reply. Sweat it all you want. You can rest assured I won't.
     
  13. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    This also misses the point, however. In no way do I believe that "the gods" are actually doing anything in any of what I posted. To be clear, I am not even assuming their existence AT ALL.

    All I am saying is, within the group of people who DO believe, could there possibly be a greater sense of understanding WHY a particular god might be upset, and greater propensity to take action or hold actions accountable within that god's area of stewardship, versus the case where you have only one, supreme God, and there are so many things going on in so many avenues of life that you can't possibly know what can be attributed to that God and what can't be?

    This obviously assumes that the people involved believe that God or the gods intervene and may be the cause of change in conditions that negatively (or positively) affect human lives. And I also made sure to tailor the over-fishing example to be one in which the human has some potential responsibility in the negative effects himself that can be observed, and that the overall negative effect could be attributed to retribution of some sort by God or a god, given that they might believe they have angered whatever god watches over the sea.
     
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