The God Page: Animism, Polytheism, and Monotheism as a Continuum
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by John T. Cullen
Description: From his study of ancient Roman topology (for creating the first virtual tour guide for lay readers, of the entire imperial capital in 150 under the Emperor Antoninus--A Walk in Ancient Rome, Revised 2nd Edition, due out early 2010), the author has learned much about the religions of ancient Rome. For thirteen centuries, from the archaic period through the end of her empire in the West, Rome served as a continuum of the three great modalities that unite all religion. This is an impartial look at the three great modalities, broadly covering all the world's religions in a new way, without taking any sectarian sides. Readers of all persuasions are welcome. Only the intolerant will be offended. Combining that understanding with his studies of human history and prehistory for these articles, the author is able to explain a new synthesis of the world's religious history. Jesus commanded: "Have faith like small children." It really is that simple, when looked at in the light of the three great modalities. For millennia, the individual has served in the social scheme of society without individual choice in faith. The individual has often been browbeaten and threatened with terrifying punishments in the afterlife for not believing or understanding some trifling scripture verse or ritual act. This article takes a detailed look at what's been right and wrong, what's been ugly and beautiful, and comes up with a Fourth Modality that does not require us to give up any cherished beliefs. If anything, it only requires us to live up to our faith's best promises. In return, we find freedom from fear, and a peace that stems from understanding.
eBook Publisher: Clocktower Books and Far Sector SFFH (magazine), 2009
Filament eBookStore Release Date: November 2009
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [102 KB]
Reading time: 48-67 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
Any history of mankind is, de facto, a history of the world's religions. With the God Page, we are able to see that three great modalities underlie the bewildering variety of religious expressions.
A remarkable continuity flows through the world's religions, across global space, as well as time both historic and prehistoric. This article offers a neutral, nonsectarian analysis of the central, defining aspects of that continuum. Without making judgments, this theme embraces all the world's great and small faiths, from animist to polytheist, from mystery religion to Christianity, from Shinto to Islam, including these faiths' various sects (e.g., Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox).
This article shows that we stand at the threshold of a new, Fourth Modality: your religion as your personal right and possession, as sacred to you as your privacy or your sexuality, which nobody--your tribe, your hunting pack, your warrior band, your neighbors, your government, or your pastor should meddle with. As long as you follow the golden rule taught by all faiths (do no harm to others, as you expect from them that they do no harm to you or each other), you have the right to think and believe as you feel appropriate for yourself. For lack of a better term, I'll call this, simply, the Fourth Modality. Each of the three modalities has marked a turning point in human history. Each of the three modalities exists now, and will continue to exist. Our age, in the broadest sense, meaning the modern era from about the 1750s forward, marks another enormous turning point in human history. The modern era, comprised of many factors, including a population explosion, an era of urbanization, sequential industrial revolutions, the blossoming of the first democracies since ancient times, and all their related factors, comprise another ongoing turn in human history. This age in which we live brings with it a new and positive potential, despite all the easy and cheap calls to stir up fear and darkness in the form of specious prophecies of doom and gloom.
The God Page helps pin down what we really mean by words like 'worship' and 'divine' and 'deity.' The God Page digs beneath the often obscure terminology and technical complexity of individual religions to seek their general unities.
There are some surprises. For example, we find that archaic Roman animism is remarkably like modern Japanese Shrine Shinto. The Romans were also ancestor venerators, much like the Confucian Chinese.
The term 'God Page' derives from three diagrams dividing up imputed powers (human, spiritual, and divine) and sets the three major religious modalities (animist, polytheist, monotheist) side by side. The resulting analysis offers some surprising and informative results. There are, in one sense, three God Pages, one for each of the three modalities (animist, polytheist, monotheist). Remarkably, when we stand them side by side as we will do here, we find that there really isn't that much difference among them.
This article is neutral of any religious partisanship. In fact, the greatest result of the God Pages exercise is to show the unity of the world's spiritualities rather than support any particular spiritual path. By learning about religious systems beyond our own, we can learn much about ourselves, mankind in general, and our own beliefs. At no time in this article do I wish to offend anyone, though it seems unavoidable that tolerance naturally offends the intolerant.
Knowledge truly is power--if nothing else, over our own lives. We can free ourselves from the manipulation of politicians and preachers by seeing the facts in their own light. An afternoon at the free public library can help the average person learn much of what they need to know about the world's religions, in order to make informed choices, rather than the blind or even frightened choices some people sadly make. The choice is not about which 'religion' you decide to 'join,' but how you feel about yourself in your personal spirituality. This may draw howls from those who want to exercise control, so just shut the window and let them flutter around outside like the Halloween spooks they are.
Again, this article takes no positions, except that the universality of mankind is a good and true thing. We look at the confusing proliferation of religious systems, and boil them down to three major modalities: animism (the natural religion), polytheism, and monotheism. With the God Page, we discover that they are really not that different from one another.
On the cover, the background is the wonderful 13th Century stained glass of the upper gallery in the Saint-Chapelle, Paris, chapel of queens of France. The three female images are, left to right, the Lady of Brassempouy, France (23,000 years ago, Gravettian, Old Stone Age, Pleistocene). In the center is Isis, mother of the baby Horus in ancient Egyptian polytheistic religion (c 6,000 to 2,000 years ago). At right is Mary holding the baby Jesus, an image of modern monotheism.