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Author Topic: "No Other Gods Before Me"  (Read 2736 times)

Karhunvatukka

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #45 on: October 15, 2019, 02:27:51 am »
Catholicism has always struck me as being rather polytheistic in practice, even though it claims to be otherwise in theory, what with people praying to various saints and setting up shrines to the Virgin Mary and so on.

This seems like the appropriate place to mention, too, how in Brazil and the Caribbean, people draw one-to-one correspondences between Catholic saints and African deities.

I guess what I'm trying to say, Donal, is that you're onto something.

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #46 on: October 15, 2019, 04:23:21 pm »

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Donal2018

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #47 on: November 22, 2019, 03:48:29 pm »
So the Commandment states that "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me". This seems to admit that there ARE other Gods, just that the Israelites should not worship them by command of Yahweh, their National God. Since this was part of the Covenant between Yahweh and the Tribes of Israel, does it actually apply to peoples and gods who are not Israelites and outside of this Covenant?

It seems to admit a polytheistic reality, but demands monotheistic worship. Since there are "other gods" in this view, then who are they and where do they come from? If One God created these beings, then what is their purpose? It has been said by some Irish Folk that the Tuatha De Danann, the Irish Pagan deities, were later viewed by some Irish as Angels that were not Fallen, but not Celestial either. They were viewed as sort of midway between the two worlds, Spirits not of Heaven or an Infernal Realm. Rather, they were viewed as Spirits of this World and Earth. Nature Deities/Spirits. This seems to me to be some Irish trying to reconcile old Pagan realities with the newer Judeo-Christian reality.

I am acting a bit as devil's advocate here, but if these beings were created by the Judeo-Christian God, then what did He create them for in the first place? I am sorry if this line of thinking is a bit strange, but this issue has been bothering me since I was a kid, and I have never seen it dealt with effectively anywhere, online or in books. The implication in the Old Testament is that there are, in fact, other Gods, but that they are at best subordinate to Yahweh.

I have in recent weeks come across some information that seems relevant to this topic. I have found that prior to the Babylonian Captivity around 586 BCE, the Jewish people were polytheists. A monotheistic view of the national Jewish God Yahweh developed during the time of the Exile and after. Prior to that, there seems to have been a variety of deities and widespread polytheism.

A key one that I have found is a Canaanite Goddess named Asherah who was known as the Queen of Heaven. It has been speculated that she might have been considered the wife or consort of Yahweh/El. The name Asherah is mentioned some forty times in the Hebrew Bible. So, there seems to have been Jewish polytheism and a significant Jewish Goddess figure. This might have implications for someone like myself who is Christian Pagan.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article on Asherah. Of special note is the section called "In Israel and Judah" which addresses Asherah and Jewish polytheism- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asherah
« Last Edit: November 22, 2019, 03:50:30 pm by Donal2018 »

Donal2018

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #48 on: November 22, 2019, 04:48:25 pm »
I have in recent weeks come across some information that seems relevant to this topic. I have found that prior to the Babylonian Captivity around 586 BCE, the Jewish people were polytheists. A monotheistic view of the national Jewish God Yahweh developed during the time of the Exile and after. Prior to that, there seems to have been a variety of deities and widespread polytheism.

A key one that I have found is a Canaanite Goddess named Asherah who was known as the Queen of Heaven. It has been speculated that she might have been considered the wife or consort of Yahweh/El. The name Asherah is mentioned some forty times in the Hebrew Bible. So, there seems to have been Jewish polytheism and a significant Jewish Goddess figure. This might have implications for someone like myself who is Christian Pagan.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article on Asherah. Of special note is the section called "In Israel and Judah" which addresses Asherah and Jewish polytheism- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asherah

I would also note that Asherah and the idea of a Hebrew Goddess were mentioned earlier in the Thread by Failivrin and Eastling, but I really did not understand or absorb that information until I found out more about Asherah online, on Wikipedia and other sources. So, I am still learning.

One key idea seems to be that the Jewish Bible was written after the fact of old Jewish religion and polytheism. Failivrin addresses this in their earlier comment. So polytheism is the older reality, and might have some legitimacy in itself. I have been looking for a basis for polytheism in my own Christian Paganism, and it is encouraging to me that there used to be an established polytheism prior to the Bible's monotheism.

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #49 on: November 22, 2019, 05:49:29 pm »
One key idea seems to be that the Jewish Bible was written after the fact of old Jewish religion and polytheism. So polytheism is the older reality, and might have some legitimacy in itself. I have been looking for a basis for polytheism in my own Christian Paganism, and it is encouraging to me that there used to be an established polytheism prior to the Bible's monotheism.

First I will mention that I have been reevaluating my own sense of faith and have concluded that I am going to have to measure that identification with faith in terms of what I actually practice and put into action instead of my fluctuating subjective feelings of certainty or uncertainty.  I have also been reflecting on my relationship to faith as it relates to other traditions and ideas I have engaged with intellectually and in practice.

Since I am primarily rooted in a Catholic spirituality -- I have as mentioned before wavered between Anglo-Catholicism and Roman Catholicism and still do to some extent -- I have some reflections I've been pondering that might be helpful for you.  The bulk of these ideas have been worked out by me in consultation with a good and very traditional Catholic friend in addition to other reading and study.

As I understand these matters, God with a capital "G" is the transcendent source and ground of all being.  From a Catholic viewpoint, there can only be one God in this sense.  This God is Nothing.  "He" is not gendered.  "He" is not a being among other beings.  "He" is not a thing.  "He" is both transcendent and immanent.  There are various philosophical arguments that have been devised for this viewpoint that you might explore, though being uncertain myself about such matters in the abstract, I do not comment on them here.

In this sense, Catholicism is monotheistic, when referring to the big "G" God.

However, as we know, the term "god" is used in different senses.  It is not always used to refer to a transcendent ground of all being beyond all beings and things, but to actual beings among other beings.  Christians do not usually use the word "god" in this sense, but some do.

The saints have been divinized.  They are participants in the divine nature, having been conformed thereto.  They are not traditionally referred to as gods by Christians, but due to our evaluation of how language is and can be used, I have concurred with a couple of friends that the saints may be referred to as gods in a sense.  They are not the transcendent ground of being, they are not God, but they are gods in another sense, with a small "g."  They are gods by grace.  "Ye are gods," as my Pentecostal grandmother taught me.

Typically, the term "veneration" is used when referring to how we honor the saints, but the term "worship" has had diverse applications as well, as in the old Latin marriage rite: "with my body I thee worship."  The saints cannot be given the same manner of worship as the transcendent ultimate reality because that is not what they are.  But they can be afforded worship in another sense, and we usually call this veneration.

We bless God "in his angels and in his saints."  That is, each holy one, each angel and each saint, is an individual being conformed to and participating in the divine nature in a way that is utterly unique to that said individual.  And each one reflects a ray of the light of God in hir own way.  They are not one in essence with the Godhead, and yet I would argue that they provide a glimpse into God in an individual and unique manner, similar to God having many facets, so long as we don't confuse participation in the divine nature with an identification with Its essence.

Therefore we can bless and honor God "in" each of those individuals that are participants in "his" nature.

Now, you seem to be interested in pagan gods as such, and many Christians can be very intolerant of such notions!  But as someone who values tradition, I turn to it at all levels to evaluate what my sense of tradition as a whole is.  I have worked out a consensus with three friends of mine who are theologians, two of them trained theologians and one self-trained.  I mention that because it is just as important to me in regard to tradition to consult my fellow neighbors as it is the official sources whether that be the magisterium, the Bible, or what have you.

Sometimes it is even more important to observe and learn tradition at the ground level, especially when coming from say, a beloved grandmother, because these sources of tradition can be very conservative, whereas many traditions have been repressed at official levels in some churches.

That said, there are some possibilities we put on the table.  One is that the various gods of various cultures may be angelic entities, in a good and positive way.  I am sure many neo-pagans will beg to differ with this identification of gods with angels, but remember, when different religious traditions encounter gods of other traditions, they tend to put their own spin on things, and this is one particular spin that some Christians have on the matter.

As I understand these matters, some early Christians may have viewed pagan gods as existent, but demonic.  The viewpoint my friends are speculating on is very similar, but they put a more positive twist on it.  The pagan gods are existent, but angelic in a non-demonic sense.

At least one of my theologian friends, a progressive Calvinist, considers the opinion that there might even be beings that are neither angelic nor demonic, but something else altogether, and that this is what pagan gods may be.  He holds this opinion because his sense of scripture does not rule out such possibilities.

Now, I am still in the process of uncovering more folk tradition in Christianity.  I cannot for the life of me track it down right now, but I believe in some varieties of folk Orthodoxy there is a concept of "outsiders" that might be similar to the ideas my Protestant friend is entertaining.  Perhaps someone will come along who is more knowledgeable than me on that topic.

All of that said, hopefully these reflections on God verses gods will be useful to you in evaluating where you stand in regard to tradition both Christian and pagan.
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EclecticWheel

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #50 on: November 22, 2019, 06:45:59 pm »
However, as we know, the term "god" is used in different senses.  It is not always used to refer to a transcendent ground of all being beyond all beings and things, but to actual beings among other beings.  Christians do not usually use the word "god" in this sense, but some do.

As a further note on this point, you may explore the writings of the Anglican C.S. Lewis, who did employ terms like "god" and "goddess" in reference to human potential of unity with God through grace.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Donal2018

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #51 on: November 23, 2019, 01:32:43 pm »
As a further note on this point, you may explore the writings of the Anglican C.S. Lewis, who did employ terms like "god" and "goddess" in reference to human potential of unity with God through grace.

Thanks for your two comments. I am still absorbing what you wrote, and it is good. I especially like the idea of an impersonal God as the ground of reality. It seems to me to be a sort of Pantheist view, which I subscribe to. I am glad that it jibes with Catholicism.

I am kind of a Pantheist myself, but believe in gods and goddesses as emanations of that sacred Source. Personified gods for me are archetypes or manifestations of that higher power or Source. One Source, many Gods.

For me Pantheism is a sort of Western Tao, and shares some similarities with that philosophy and religion. Anyway, I really appreciate your comments. They have given me a lot to think about. I will also look into C.S. Lewis.

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #52 on: November 23, 2019, 02:38:57 pm »
Thanks for your two comments. I am still absorbing what you wrote, and it is good. I especially like the idea of an impersonal God as the ground of reality. It seems to me to be a sort of Pantheist view, which I subscribe to. I am glad that it jibes with Catholicism.

Catholicism maintains that God is personal.  What that means exactly I am still working out.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Donal2018

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #53 on: November 23, 2019, 02:40:51 pm »
Thanks for your two comments. I am still absorbing what you wrote, and it is good. I especially like the idea of an impersonal God as the ground of reality. It seems to me to be a sort of Pantheist view, which I subscribe to. I am glad that it jibes with Catholicism.

I am kind of a Pantheist myself, but believe in gods and goddesses as emanations of that sacred Source. Personified gods for me are archetypes or manifestations of that higher power or Source. One Source, many Gods.

For me Pantheism is a sort of Western Tao, and shares some similarities with that philosophy and religion. Anyway, I really appreciate your comments. They have given me a lot to think about. I will also look into C.S. Lewis.

Also, your idea about some saints maybe being described as "small g" gods and goddesses resonates with me. God as the transcendent ground of all being, impersonal, non gendered makes sense to me as well. I tend not to use the term "God" so much, since that seems to imply a person. I use the term "Source", but I can also see myself using the term "God" more based upon your description. So, kind of a monotheism that does not have a personified God, and also allows for smaller beings, lower case "g" gods. Polytheism that emanates from one Source. A reconciliation of the two, I think. A kind of Monotheism that contains Polytheism. This is the only kind of Monotheism that I might entertain.

I am a polytheist, but this description of God works for me. It is when some Christians go on about there being only one God, and that God is a person, Jesus, that I kind of check out. I view Jesus as an incarnation of that Source, that higher power, the transcendent ground of all being, God. That said, I can also view Hermes, Isis, and Thor in the same way- as individual manifestations and personifications of God or the Source. Personally, I place Jesus as the first amongst many gods and goddesses. But I also believe in lesser gods and goddesses like Hermes, Isis, and Thor. And they are great gods. I just personally place Jesus first. I am not at all evangelical about my beliefs, and I am happy that others have their own personal views regardless of how different they are, particularly Pagans.

Donal2018

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #54 on: November 23, 2019, 03:10:20 pm »
Catholicism maintains that God is personal.  What that means exactly I am still working out.

Yes, I am not too sure myself. By "impersonal" I meant "not personified". I have a problem with the idea of a monotheistic God that is also a person. Just does not work for me. My experience is that there are many gods and goddesses and that they ARE persons. The Source for me is not personal, but I can relate to it through various gods as personified facets of that one Source, or God.

The Catholic view is about having a personal relationship with Jesus, I think, which is more understandable as Jesus is a person to me. Whereas the sacred Cosmos, God, or the Source is not a person to me, but rather a vast phenomenon which gives rise to reality and everything in it, including humans and gods/goddesses.

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #55 on: November 23, 2019, 03:21:25 pm »
God as the transcendent ground of all being, impersonal, non gendered makes sense to me as well. I tend not to use the term "God" so much, since that seems to imply a person. I use the term "Source", but I can also see myself using the term "God" more based upon your description. So, kind of a monotheism that does not have a personified God, and also allows for smaller beings, lower case "g" gods. Polytheism that emanates from one Source. A reconciliation of the two, I think. A kind of Monotheism that contains Polytheism. This is the only kind of Monotheism that I might entertain.

I understand your position and am not herein debating it, but I want to clarify that Catholicism maintains that God is personal.

This is not the same necessarily as to say that God is a person writ large, another type of being, only bigger and better.

Below are some reflections on the matter from an Eastern Orthodox theologian and philosopher, David Bentley Hart.  I have my differences with him of course, and I don't always like his manner toward his intellectual rivals, but that is neither here nor there, really, as concerns this topic.

But in this video he endeavors, hopefully in a clear manner, to distinguish between an ultimate transcendent God which is personal as opposed to being merely one being among others.

My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Donal2018

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #56 on: November 23, 2019, 03:26:55 pm »
I understand your position and am not herein debating it, but I want to clarify that Catholicism maintains that God is personal.

This is not the same necessarily as to say that God is a person writ large, another type of being, only bigger and better.

Below are some reflections on the matter from an Eastern Orthodox theologian and philosopher, David Bentley Hart.  I have my differences with him of course, and I don't always like his manner toward his intellectual rivals, but that is neither here nor there, really, as concerns this topic.

But in this video he endeavors, hopefully in a clear manner, to distinguish between an ultimate transcendent God which is personal as opposed to being merely one being among others.



Yes, thank you for your posts. I am not trying to debate or disagree. I am just writing my reactions to your comments. I particularly agree with the idea that God is not a person writ large, as you point out. [I am also running out of internet time, so I will maybe comment on the attached video later. Thanks for posting it.]

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Re: "No Other Gods Before Me"
« Reply #57 on: December 03, 2019, 04:33:29 pm »
Both of these are legitimate ways of approaching the issue of legacy thought, but it's worth consciously thinking about which work is necessary and which work is productive.

This point struck me as interesting and potentially relevant to me, as I think  (no, I know) I've a bit of "legacy thought" going on, to do with my birth religion of Christianity.  I might make a thread in due course but the reflections are not coherent enough yet.  Not sure it's necessarily the same sort of legacy thought being referred to here, but legacy thought is definitely good terminology for it nevertheless.

By the way, I think that's the second time in recent weeks I've contemplated making a new thread for something and I now can't recall what the first one was, so if there's anyone reading with a eidetic memory it'd be really helpful if you could pipe up right about now (I mean, you'd think that as i've got 13 threads in my drafts I'd be keeping track of these things reasonably okay, but apparently not...)
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