Polytheism in Modern Society

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Right, now to answer the actual OP:

This is, as you might imagine, a really popular topic among modern polytheists, who usually extol all the wonderful things that we'd have if we never had to deal with a colonizing Christianity. I usually stay silent, and think of some of the things we *wouldn't* have if we never had to deal with a colonizing Christianity, like a sense of all of humanity as a collective needing care and aid, the ability to get out of an abusive home environment and completely disown it (both blessing and curse, really), and all of the regard for individual care, growth, and welfare that came when the thinkers of the Enlightenment rose up to challenge entrenched Christianity-- and from that, quite probably, my country wouldn't *exist* were it not for that Enlightenment thinking, because at deep root, the US is a very Enlightenment country.

It's hard to tell if there would have been anything like the Enlightenment if polytheism had kept on truckin'. It wouldn't have looked the same, because the one change that I can call out even with it being that much of a hypothetical, is that our culture would be a lot more community/family-based and dramatically less interested in all of humanity as one or in anything resembling "rugged individualism" because these are concepts that ancient polytheisms had no use for. I agree with the early-on post that said "look to Shinto", because I think that's true-- indigenous religions in general are more tribal and less interested in a larger whole, and more community-oriented over individual-oriented. I think we'd probably be a lot more religiously tolerant without colonizing monotheisms, because religious strife for religion's sake wasn't really a thing before Christ. We'd probably just look at the person we just met and think "okay, so their Thoth is our Hermes...", make a mental note about it, and go on about our day. And we'd have a level of cultural diversity that we can only dream about now, because monotheistic religions made such a point of actively destroying so much folk belief and folk practice. The shards we've got today are a pale imitation next to what the reality would have looked like.

(As for who I'd follow, given that I'm a Norse Pagan with a bit of a focus on Frigga, I guess my life has already answered that. :)

JemothSkarii:
Now let me start off that my mythology and history is a bit rusty...very rusty in hindsight. Anyways I was thinking the other day: What would life today be like if the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Norse etc. still worshiped their ancient gods (Zues, Jupiter, Ra, Odin and all those other gods)?

What would it be like amongst the monotheistic religions today? Without the monotheistic?

I think it would be interesting since to my knowledge there were so many different followers of different gods. Would organized religion be as large as it is today? Society be more savage? Thoughts on this.

Also, god you'd follow if it was the case.

First of all without the spread of the monotheistic Abramic religions like Christianity,Judaism and Islam,our societies wouldn't have the taboos we have. People would probably walk around the streets naked,women and men would be considered equal,and neither we would have Catholicism torturing people and burning women for being witches and holding progression of science,and we wouldn't have the crusades,we wouldn't have the Ottoman Empire invading Christian nations for Jihad,we wouldn't have women treated as sub-humans in Islamic countries,and the world would be a place with more equality,higher advanced tech,and less taboos.
Of course still people would build statues and gather together in front of them to dance and drug themselves in favor of their deities,but that's another story.

Stavros Dimou:

First of all without the spread of the monotheistic Abramic religions like Christianity,Judaism and Islam,our societies wouldn't have the taboos we have. People would probably walk around the streets naked,women and men would be considered equal,and neither we would have Catholicism torturing people and burning women for being witches and holding progression of science,and we wouldn't have the crusades,we wouldn't have the Ottoman Empire invading Christian nations for Jihad,we wouldn't have women treated as sub-humans in Islamic countries,and the world would be a place with more equality,higher advanced tech,and less taboos.
Of course still people would build statues and gather together in front of them to dance and drug themselves in favor of their deities,but that's another story.

Eh. Kind of. I've got a migraine right now so I'm not thinking as clearly as earlier tonight, but Christianity made a few actual *improvements* in women's rights in Germanic lands after conversion, like requiring consent (or, at least the veneer of consent) from the woman before she gets handed off in marriage. Pre-Christianity, it's quite possible for a woman to never have even *met* the man her family had picked for her to wed. The thing I'm trying to remember from the article I just read last week on this is the thing that changed w/r/t a woman having a baby without the father being known-- I think if she didn't name the father she and baby were both exposed pre-Christianity, and Christianity shifted that very slightly. Women couldn't speak in Thing before or after conversion, but pre-conversion a woman could divorce her husband and take her stuff back to her family's house with I think just a word as a pretext, and that got a bit harder? Women pre-conversion *could* own property & land. Basically, men and women weren't *equal*, in the modern sense, anywhere in the ancient world that I know of, but women definitely had some rights then that they didn't years after conversion and conversely, *gained* a few rights after conversion that they didn't have before. Kind of a mixed bag, at first. Some of the things some modern Christians bang on about are actually pretty recent concerns-- the whole "angel in the household" thing we're all so used to thinking about w/r/t how women are treated wasn't a thing until the Victorians (and wasn't a thing for poor women even then).

The nakedness thing, though, more or less true. Archaeology is increasingly showing ancient garments to have been what we'd consider today to be shockingly immodest. I think you're probably also right about tech, to at least some degree. Wars would knock back progress, but ancient cultures on the whole were pretty practical and I don't know as I can remember reading anything where there was an advancement that a culture deliberately held itself back from using (please contradict me, if any of you have got something on this).

(It's also worth a comment about historical Islam-- Islamic countries were pretty tolerant places for a good while there, IIRC. Definitely safer places to be Jewish, ironically. And in modern terms, they're often not as repressive as people think they are, and some Western ones (most notably the US) aren't as equal as people think they are. I'm loath to crow about American cultural superiority w/r/t women after freaking Steubenville and the many incidents like it (not that I'd crow about it before, but that was tangibly on the same radar as some of the shit we've heard about over there). I've met more than a few women from the Middle East who feel less safe in the US than in their home countries.)

Stavros Dimou:
First of all without the spread of the monotheistic Abramic religions like Christianity,Judaism and Islam,our societies wouldn't have the taboos we have.

Well, many societies wouldn't share the same taboos.

Greece and Rome were very patriarchal, had less hang-ups about certain expressions of sexuality but not none of them, and Alcibiades got in serious trouble for revealing the Eleusinian Mysteries.

OTOH, there are lots of places that got Abramic taboos stamped upon them by monotheists, though.

Polarity27:

Yes on Ammit (and you had to work pretty hard in your villainy to get your ka thrown to Ammit), a big "no" on Set. Well, a qualified no. Set's image changed markedly over time. Remember, Set represented half of the Niswt's double crown; Herw represented the other half. The Contendings is something of a coming of age story, Herw-sa-Aset (Horus the Younger) wasn't ready to bear the crown. Set's actions tested his maturity until he *was* ready. Set also stood in for the foreigners, and generally represented the desert beyond the bounds of fertile territory-- Set guards Ra's solar barque every night from the threat of Apep, another manifestation of Set watching over the outland for the Netjeru. The closer to the Greek period you got (from partway through the New Kingdom on forward), the more Set's image took a drubbing. Set=Satan is still wrong, though. (Apep=Satan is closer, but still not right. There really isn't a polytheistic version of the modern Christian idea of Satan. The "inimical to people" part, yes. The "god of this world who tempts the soul of every man" part, not so much, no.)

I think you may have misunderstood. I never said that Seth was an equivalent to Satan; I'm well aware that he wasn't, and that earlier in Egyptian history his image was far lighter than his later image.

My point was purely about how our modern society would treat the figure (as I took that to be the topic of the thread). I mean, how modern society treats the Devil is far from his origins/ intentions, too.

Polarity27:

Polytheism doesn't work this way, despite how many modern Pagans think it does. You follow your local area's gods, you don't pick and choose a personal patron from among them. If you *do* toss more offerings one god's way, it's not because you think they're cool, it's because of what you do or what you need. I especially revere Frigga because my disability means I spend almost all of my time in my home, because I'm also trying to get *out* of this house and sell it and find a new place to live, hearth-related concerns are pretty central to me.

I know this isn't how it works (although many Roman households did have shrines to specific deities, based often on personal preference or family history).

I was merely answering the question in the OP's post; it was purely fun.

Polarity27:

Someone else already had fun with this one, but I admit it did make me chortle. Odin, the death god with the berserker cult? Less violent than *who*?

I freely admit that Odin scares the shit out of me. I pay him heed where it's appropriate, and generally otherwise hope he doesn't notice me.

Y'should have noticed my reply to that other poster, too; I did not mean that he was worshipped exclusively for less violent reasons. He was also the patron of wisdom, foresight, good rule, etc.

I admit this wasn't clear, but it wasn't my intention to imply that.

thaluikhain:

Major god, yes. You had oodles of minor gods that weren't important enough, or fell from popularity.

Oh, certainly. The Greeks had gods for damn near every river they came across, many of which would be rivers the Romans would not be readily acquainted with. I believe they probably would have kept Achelous, for his role in the story of Herakles, but other than that, unlikely.

But my point stands; to say that Jupiter and Zeus were truly distinct entities is untrue.

Polarity27:
*snip*

Some interesting points, but instead of debating wherever the Enlightenment would have happened if it wasn't for Christianity it may be more accurate to discuss what underpinned the Enlightenment, the Renaissance.

As i'm sure you know the Church played a major role in preserving and copying ancient texts, which meant that such texts could be "re-discovered" by natural philosophers in the 15th century, who by critically studying these texts gradually realised them to be inaccurate, which led such devise new ways of "discovering" natural knowledge, which evolved into the scientific technique which triggered the Enlightenment.

So the big question is, would the various Roman cults and pagan faiths which would have presumably continued to exist after the fall of the Roman Empire have preserved this ancient knowledge as the Christian Church did? Personally i don't think they would have, because to my knowledge the pagan faiths in Europe didn't put much emphasis on reading, writing and holy texts, whereas in Christianity this was vitally important and hence why a lot of early Christians, when not copying the Bible, copied down and preserved other, secular, ancient texts as well as oral myth and legends that they heard which we today wouldn't have otherwise known about.

I do think though that without Christianity a polytheistic Europe would have been a lot more peaceful, without the Crusades, Inquisitions and religious wars which happened during and after the middle ages, because of all the numerous religions and cults that people followed. The "world view" of Europeans throughout history would be very different, but the nature of this difference is impossible to predict. Some comparisons can be suggested by looking to East Asia,for instance the blurred lines between the spiritual and secular and the lack of black and white distinctions between a believer and a gentile, but i don't think you'd have the infusion between philosophy and religion which i don't think tended to happen in a number of European pantheons (I could be wrong there).

What's interesting though is that arguably how lucky Christanity was to flourish in Europe in the first place. To a great extent i think it's down to Constantine winning a civil war and instituting Christianity in the Roman Empire after winning a civil war. If he had lost the Battle of Milivan Bridge (Which is largely down to luck when his rival, the Emperor Maxmillian attempted to lure Constantine and his bodyguards over a bridge which was set to collapse beneath them- Instead the bridge collapsed on Maxmillian) then Christanity may have ended up like one of the extinct religious cults of Europe such as the cult of Mithras or Sol Ivictus.

Silvanus:

I think you may have misunderstood. I never said that Seth was an equivalent to Satan; I'm well aware that he wasn't, and that earlier in Egyptian history his image was far lighter than his later image.

My point was purely about how our modern society would treat the figure (as I took that to be the topic of the thread). I mean, how modern society treats the Devil is far from his origins/ intentions, too.

Oh, good! Sorry about that, it's just that I've seen the Set/Satan comparison so many times (including from people who really should know better, it's just that they inhaled a bit too much Budge...) I figured that's where you were going.

Well, modern society sans Christianity wouldn't have that kind of Manichean dualism in the first place, so I doubt that devil figures would be a thing.

Y'should have noticed my reply to that other poster, too; I did not mean that he was worshipped exclusively for less violent reasons. He was also the patron of wisdom, foresight, good rule, etc.

I admit this wasn't clear, but it wasn't my intention to imply that.

That's true, but Odin's cult was especially brutal compared to that of the other Aesir (and where not brutal, pretty seriously aristocracy-focused). It just made me laugh, because if someone asked me which god to focus on for nonviolent things, my answer would probably be "anybody but Odin". (Still true in the modern age. I know people who are especially dedicated to Odin-- I don't envy their lives one little bit. He seems to use his devotees especially hard. Even more so than the ones who claim to follow Loki, although I'm disinclined to consider most of the Loki worshippers Heathen in the first place, so ymmv.)

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