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Is Monotheism A Step Toward Atheism?

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#1 CraigD

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Posted 29 August 2015 - 07:11 AM

I encountered a take on the history of religion I’d not before, in this Feb 2015 Lightspeed magazine transcript of a Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy interview of recent Hugo and Nebula award-winning writer Ann Leckie:

Of course, I went looking in history, which I do very frequently. One of the narratives that is common in our culture, for historical reasons, but that is massively oversimplified, is the Roman pagan relationship to Christianity and to Judaism. To a lot of ancient European pagans, they considered them — Christians in particular — to be atheists. If you think about it, if you’re a polytheist, the idea that one god exists and the rest don’t just doesn’t make sense. Particularly if you’re the sort of polytheist who, as has been the case for the majority of human religious history, if it’s obvious to you that you have your gods in your place and if you go to someplace else, well, your gods are real, their gods are real. It’s pretty obvious that your god of war is basically their god of war under a different name. That only makes sense. So it becomes really easy to accept a lot of different models for what god is. I think in the ancient world, the idea that there was one overarching god was pretty uncontroversial. At the same time, all the other gods were considered to be part of that, aspects of that, so the idea that our god exists and your gods don’t exist was just weird and strange. It was tantamount to saying that God did not exist because that’s as if you’re saying, “Okay, God, yes, and all these other gods are part of God,” and then these other people say, “No, your god doesn’t exist,” basically they’re saying there are no gods. It’s essentially a kind of atheism from that point of view. That was actually a real, historical situation. I was looking into Rome and I wanted to play with that. I wanted to get away from the exclusive monotheist default. I wanted to get away from preconceptions about what religion is, what faith is, and how it works. So I just flipped that and I looked at historical examples of exactly that kind of interface between a culture that’s polytheistic and a culture that is exclusively monotheistic.

Taking a long view of history – one including human prehistory, before the invention and widespread adoption of writing – Leckie's view suggests that the domination of collective human culture by mono-theistic religions, to which most humans currently subscribe, is a major step in a progression toward its domination by nihil -theistic religions, better known as atheism?

Should people who see theism of nearly all kinds to be superstition that reduces the quality of human life and retards the progress of science, technology, and civilization (eg notables in this list) take heart in this long-term view? Rather than viewing monotheists as atavistic hold-outs of more superstitious times, should we view them as heralds and harbingers of more rational times?
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#2 HydrogenBond

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Posted 29 August 2015 - 04:07 PM

The atheist idea of relative morality is a form of rational polytheism, not rational monotheism. Atheist is similar to  paganism, where different gods; celebrity, can influence the situation and impact new parameters; relative. Monotheism gets rid of all these competing and conflicting whims of the gods in favor of one sets of potentials. This becomes more predictable and less relative. 

 

If you look at psychology, which is the science analogy of religion; both help the soul and spirit (heart and mind), there is no one orientation, but rather this is based on rational polytheism, with Freud sort of like Zeus. The monotheism religions had this relative problem early and advanced to the next level. 



#3 Turtle

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Posted 29 August 2015 - 04:44 PM

...Should people who see theism of nearly all kinds to be superstition that reduces the quality of human life and retards the progress of science, technology, and civilization (eg notables in this list) take heart in this long-term view? Rather than viewing monotheists as atavistic hold-outs of more superstitious times, should we view them as heralds and harbingers of more rational times?

We should take no more heart than we do that a scab may herald a scar.





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