Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Conversations over time ...

... one of the fascinating things about online groups and communities is that conversations have so many extra parameters to them. Unlike the real world. virtual conversations are unconstrained by location, or even by time. Tonight, a very pithy response to a statement I made weeks ago, and its an interesting converstion, so I wanted to share it :).

On Feb 23, 2006, at 7:19 PM, Elron Steele wrote:
Christians have one 'name' too ... God. Mary isn't divine in ANY Christian sect I've heard of, and neither is Satan. Mary is the human mother of Jesus, and Satan is a fallen angel ... neither is EVER confused with God, or the Trinity.

On 3/28/06, Ronald Pine <ronpine@mac.com> wrote:
The supposed monotheism of Christianity is a bit diluted by Christians' acceptance of numerous other supernatural entities with various powers of their own and by other considerations. Although it is true that Christians often refer to the SUPREME supernatural entity, in their pantheon of supernatural entities, by the English word/name "God," this does not serve to disqualify the other entities in their pantheon from being "gods" of sorts as well. An anthropologist from another planet might well classify Christianity as a polytheistic religion, with one of the deities, Yahweh (or whatever you want to call Him), being the creator god who chose the Jews as his particular concern and Who is by far the most powerful god. (The pagan and polytheistic Romans also had a most powerful god named Jupiter.) Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer or whatever you want to call him, would be the next most powerful god--the "evil" god, with evil being defined as that which Yahweh finds distasteful. Lesser gods would be the non-fallen angels of various rank making up the heavenly host, at least in part, and the devils or demons at the beck and call of Satan. The tripartite, triune, trinitarian nature of the major deity usually called, simply, "God" in English also tends to dilute the idea of unadulterated monotheism somewhat, especially the Jesus person "aspect" of the particular god called "God." In Catholicism and certain other branches of Christianity, Mary would certainly seem to qualify as a demigod, at least, with de facto divinity. The saints have various powers too; one prays to/through them and they could perform miracles when alive and can bring them about now after death. Even icons and various representations of Mary and the saints have divine power by any definition of the word "divine" that would make sense to me. This same perception is what led to the Reformation's claim that Catholicism is idolatrous. Catholic priests and the Pope also have special powers not possessed by ordinary mortals. To say that the REAL power always resides in the particular god usually simply called "God" in English seems like mere quibbling to me. If this is so, then why not just eliminate the middle man? I remember the last time that I went to a Catholic wedding and the bride and groom had to walk halfway back in the big church to bow before and "introduce themselves" to the "holy family," a statue of Mary and the baby Jesus. One must not forget that although today we tend to keep mortals and gods separate in our categorical perspective, the ancients didn't do this. Recall that that certain Roman emperors, Caligula at least, had themselves proclaimed as gods. I've gotten the impression that the Antichrist is sometimes thought of as a person/entity with supernatural powers but I know of no unequivocal scriptural basis for this.
It is of interest, by the way, that the Old Testament's most common appelation for the supreme deity, also called Jehovah and Yahweh, is Elohim, which is the PLURAL for the Hebrew word for god = Eloah (the singular form)
Another point is that when I read scripture, it seems to me in places that the Hebrews didn't necessarily always deny the actual existence of various rival pagan gods, they merely claimed that THEIR god Yahweh was more powerful than the (apparently presumed to be actually existing) gods of neighboring pagan ethnic groups and that it was THEIR god Yahweh who had accomplished actual creation rather than the rival gods' having managed to do so.
In short, we can say that Christianity has obvious polytheistic elements to it. We can certainly posit a much more monotheistic religion than Christianity--one with one god, period, and with no Satan, no demons, no angels, no (miraculously conceived or not) Mary, no Christ, no saints, or anything like those entities. I suppose that there may well be such religions. Can somebody out there tell me of any in particular? If there isn't any, maybe someone should found one. I think that it might get lots of adherents and maybe its originator would become fabulously wealthy like L. Ron Hubbard did by coming up with Scientology. Hmmm. Is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (see www.venganza.org) maybe completely monotheistic?

Anyhow, from what I know of Islam, it seems considerably more monotheistic than Christianity, although it does have its Satan, its angels, its djinn, and its houris. In particular, its prophets, including Mohammed, were mere people, not divine or semidivine. Ron Pine

Nice analysis Ron ... but I think Islam regards Muhammed in much the same way as Christians regard Jesus, despite the inevitable protests from BOTH sides at that statement. really, it all comes fromt he same source, and I must admit that I chuckled reading your description of the pantheon of Christian Gods (Satan as God of War is a natural, lol). Think I am gonna copy this to my blog if you don't mind ... nice bit of analysis.



At 7:18 p.m., Blogger Anitsirhc said...

WOW! what a phenomenal post!!!!


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