Tag Archives: Christianity

Polemical topics for Polytheists (part 10): Multiculturalism

First view: Multiculturalism is good and consistent with polytheism, because there was plenty of cultural exchange in ancient times

Second view: Multiculturalism is bad and harmful to polytheism, because it is associated with expansive empires that pretend to be inclusive.

Balanced view: We can’t overlook that multiculturalism is both a result of good cultural exchange and harmful imperialism, but this old conflict may need to be understood in a new manner.

At a time when multiculturalism (also called diversity) is praised so often as an essential component of the modern world, or strongly opposed as such, it may be problematic to find a common ground between the two sides. But in the spirit of the previous piece about politics, I will attempt to do so here. The ancients, whose polytheisms we follow, were living through new experiences in what could be called an experiment of the human condition. Their world was growing, their knowledge of foreign things was increasing, but why? Expansive trade was practiced since the Bronze Age among complex urbanized societies, also called civilizations, and this useful activity brought mutual benefits—as did the stories, news and food exchanged during the trade. On the other hand, along with this expansive trade, there was expansive empire: If trade has to do with money, surely it is not difficult to see how money is inherently connected to power, land and resources, i.e. empire. Ancient civilizations gradually grew from regional to imperial, and this was accepted as common and even desirable at that time, because it was associated with survival as well as glory. Yet, after so many centuries, are we still living in this paradoxical manner? The answer is yes. The multiculturalism promoted today can be seen from the global trade that is being carried out, connecting all large urban centers throughout the world. But this is not a complete perspective: What is often overlooked about multiculturalism is that its current form is a product of imperial Westernization and Christianity. At first there was the Catholic Church which promoted a united “Christendom” (the word “Catholic” means “universal”, by the way), but after the rise of Protestantism, Anglo-America now leads the movement. It is no secret that America today, like the Catholic Church and Great Britain formerly, is an expansive empire that seeks domination. It is often wrongly presumed by many that multiculturalism creates an equal field for all to flourish; this is a simplistic mistake because it is not possible for all cultures to be represented fairly in one place at the same time. The emphasis is on the words “in one place at the same time”: Cultures need to be distinct and dominant at their place of origin*. After a certain point, following Anglo-American culture, however tolerant it may pretend to be, is succumbing to cultural imperialism and living in subjugation. One of the eternal advantages of polytheism is that it allows for exchange, but at the same time, requires us to respect foreign cultures as distinct without interference. If each foreign culture has its own God, can we assault their cultural distinction without assaulting their God? I think not. Can all cultures (and by extension Gods) live equally in the same place at the same time? I think not. We are a cooperative species, but also one that engages in conflicts, and our Gods are no different from us in that respect. My reconciliation of cultural exchange and cultural imperialism is already hinted, but for a larger consideration, I would refer my kind readers to part 6 of this series, entitled (significantly) “indigenism”.
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*While this is a convenient rule for the Old World, a discussion of the New World is more complex because dominant cultures there had been replaced through colonization. I have already attempted a discussion in part 6 previously.

Good and bad polytheists (part 20): Conclusion

Papyrus scrollAfter presenting various historical characters and stories from a range of almost 4000 years, a conclusion is needed to put an end to the series. After the 13th century, polytheism declined gradually throughout the Old World, surviving only in the Indian and Far East, as well as in other isolated places where some traditions have endured even to this day. At the end of the 15th century, as we know, the New World was linked to the Old, and the indigenous polytheism of those lands began a decline also at the hands of the Christian conquerors, though not without their own instances of bravery. When we polytheists of this day look back, we marvel at the changes that the world has gone through at the hands of mankind, and we forget the many stories and lessons about our ancestors that have long since past. Of the great and known personages that history has left us with, we find that not all of them were exemplary and good; indeed, in some cases, they contributed, by means of their selfish actions (knowingly or unknowingly), to the rise of evils and misfortunes that still plague the world.

The question remains, how exactly can a good polytheist be known then, and distinguished from a bad? Part of this answer is obvious to all, because the good and bad has certain universal standards. Generosity, courage, fidelity, humility, magnanimity, piety, prudence, honesty, justice, etc. are examples of virtues that are known to be good throughout the world and have been held as such throughout history. The other part is more particular to culture and the circumstances of the times. A good polytheist will always endeavor to respect his own culture as well as others, not setting one at the expense of another, and will be active in promoting the good within his community, even if the times tempt him with rewards for a bad and selfish endeavor. And when circumstances or times are otherwise bad and dangerous, he will also attempt to turn them as much as possible to a good direction, for the benefit and protection of his people, yet without excess. In the meantime, he will not forget of the Gods, nor insult them directly. Furthermore, he will not act with the pride of false piety, by pretending to act as if in their company.

The earliest bad polytheist we know of is King Sargon, falsely (like several others) called “the great”. As the founder of the very first empire*, he established the horrible precedent for uncontrolled expansion and conquest, which never since ended. Imperialism is a condition that has always plagued polytheism, and in some respects, it could very well be said that it gave rise to monotheism and atheism, which are imperialisms, only in ideological form. If Abraham flourished at the period the biblical scholars agree upon, i.e. about 1900 BCE, then this was about 5 centuries after Sargon. Likewise, Akhenaten propagated his idea of monotheism during the New Kingdom, a period during which Egypt made foreign conquests and assimilated foreigners. This is also about the same time Moses is said to have lived. The exclusive and hostile monotheism of a sect of the Canaanites (said to be descendants of Abraham and followers of Moses’ commandments), commonly called the Jews, developed in a region and during historical ages that were plagued by continuous imperialism; the Jews were pressed from the east by the Egyptians, from the north by the Hittites, and from the East by the Babylonians and Assyrians. Is it any wonder then that they came to hate foreigners so much and make themselves differ from them in every way? If Judaic monotheism was an evil idea, it arose within an evil environment. The same could be said of the far more dangerous religion of Christianity, which arose during the unprecedented hegemony of the Roman Empire.

If there is any way to sum up this series of good and bad polytheists, it cannot be better done than by means of this theme of imperialism and the resistance to it. Abrahamic monotheism has attributed the source of evil to the pride of the Devil and his defiance of his master, causing an eternal battle in which man must resist evil or be punished by it and for it. Although this is a horribly poisonous view of the world and universe (since it presupposes that Abraham’s people are the only good ones, against the rest of the world), it has its advantages in directing the masses and gaining power. Polytheists must study history and learn from this lesson; it is possible to adjust and apply it in a good way, with a good intention. Imperialism is to us, what the Devil is to Abrahamic monotheists: it is a perfect an embodiment of most of the overgrown evils that have plagued the world. I say overgrown because we polytheists don’t believe in pure dualism or the eternal war between the good and evil. Imperialism is therefore the condition (ideologically and materially) that aggravates, multiplies, and propagates injustice, impiety, slavery, destruction of nature, genocide (cultural and ethnic), high ambition, universal war, and many more. Imperialism is the greatest false promise the world has ever known; it has promised people eternal happiness, protection, glory, and prosperity, but has given them only the shadows and shells of those blessings. After 4500 years since Sargon, with a continual series of empires, this is too evident already to need further explanation. If there is one thing that should be remembered then after this long series, it is the horror of imperialism and the nobility of resisting all its forms. Our present battle against monotheism and atheism verifies that truth beyond any doubt.

 

 

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* Although Egypt was said to have been unified many centuries before Sargon (i.e. about 3100 BCE), the circumstances were different, and did not lead to empire. Egypt had already been divided into a Northern and Southern Kingdom, not too different culturally and ethnically (unlike Mesopotamia), which were then united for reasons not precisely known. It can be observed in general that civilizations, which begin independently and accidentally along rivers (a constant source of water and hence food), are prone to growth and conflict, which often leads to centralized systems. There was what could be called temporary “proto-empire” before Sargon in the region of Mesopotamia, where city-states attempted at domination and achieved it temporarily. However, Sargon was the first to celebrate himself as a glorious conqueror who managed (in one lifetime) to conquer 34 city-states and stretch his dominions from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean sea, achieving therefore not only what had never been done before, but also (in his mind) what is worthy of imitation, because he falsely claimed he was inspired by the Goddess Ishtar. By this means, he added a dangerous idea to an existing (and somewhat undesirable) material condition, i.e. the glory of large conquests beyond one’s ethnic and cultural bounds. This is how the entity of empire was created and cemented in history, multiplying in an unbroken succession (see part 1) from 2400 BCE to this very day.

 

Good and bad polytheists (part 14): Roman Emperors

Among the Roman emperors that were polytheists, ruling from 27 BCE until about 325 BCE (with one exception afterwards), the good were few and all the rest were more or less bad. Since it was the ambition of Julius Caesar that had laid a foundation for the empire, after he had waged bloody wars against the Gauls and his adversaries in the Senate, it is no wonder that it should be so difficult to judge the good leaders of such a deformed and ugly entity. The legacy of Alexander, a proud and bad polytheist indeed, had already established a precedent for extreme conquest in Europe, and the Romans took up the task soon after defeating the Carthaginians. The Romans, though generally a religious and traditional people, were corrupted by this lust for growth and wealth, which gradually wore out their original piety; their love for their own ways and Gods often proved at the expense of foreign cultures and Gods. The truth is, the period following Alexander was a time of decline for polytheism in general, or at the very least, a time of failed experiments. Empire was now a common thing in the world, one that seemed more honorable to raise and more secure to keep than any other form of government. Even the best Roman emperors inherited a heavy dilemma that they could not escape from: either to preserve and make the most of what they have, or lose all to ambition and war. The disease of empire was pandemic, although nobody could truly see it, because nobody could comprehend it. However we judge of details, it is necessary to understand that the Roman empire, and certain actions by Roman emperors, gave rise to many evils, including the one which put an end to polytheism altogether, i.e. Christianity.  Below is a list of the most notable emperors with notes on their respective reigns and deeds.

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