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Post Monotheism and Polytheism in History; on a "Chosen People"
Created by John Eipper on 01/24/15 3:11 PM

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Monotheism and Polytheism in History; on a "Chosen People" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 01/24/15 3:11 pm)

I am a fan of Luciano Dondero, whose thinking and writing always intrigued me, especially since we start from a markedly different worldview.  For instance, I am a believer and Luciano is an atheist. He is also a wonderful person, which contradicts the idea that only religion can make people better.

His WAIS post of 24 January is fascinating, especially where he states that we may have inherited religious tolerance from the polytheistic religions of the Greeks and Romans.

However, I would like to add some personal perspectives. I strongly believe that God cannot have a "chosen people," because this fact is inconceivable with a God Father of all Humanity.

When history has seen a "chosen people," such as ancient (and present-day?) Israel or, for some, the US now, it is only nationalist propaganda from preachers and politicians.

About the Crusades, I have an almost Marxist (!) point of view. They were a religious movement only on the surface. In the larger sense, the Crusades were the normal expansion of an expanding mercantile society which needed to control the markets of the Eastern Mediterranean through which expensive merchandise from the Far East was arriving. It was the attempt to recover and dominate territories that were once part of the Eastern Roman Empire which had fallen under the dominance of the Arabs, who themselves were motivated by a thirst of dominance and not out of a desire to peacefully spread the Word of God.

Luciano stated: "For sure a virulent and violent Christianity probably also played a role in crystalizing Islam." I fully agree, but I will add that even worse were the colonial and the silly wars "to bring democracy."

Frankly I would not stress too much the Islamic contribution to preserving and transmitting classical works to the Europeans. The monks of Saint Benedict of Nursia (and others) as far back as 543 were saving and copying the manuscripts of the classical Greeks and Romans. By the way, in 883 the Abbey of Montecassino with all its cultural treasures was sacked and burned by the Muslim Saracens. Were they motivated by a thirst for loot or by the word of God?

Of course, there were also many episodes of killing of Christians because they did not want to change their religion, but this can be also considered a way to insure loyalty to the the ruler.

For instance, on 14 July 1480, during the conquest of Otranto (Italy) by the conqueror of Constantinople, Mehmed II, 800 men were decapitated because they refused to become Muslim. Here the ruler wanted to create a loyal town as part of his unrealized goal of conquering Italy.

In the end we need an ecumenical agreement of all religions, by which anyone should be free to worship God as he or she wishes, but always respecting all other believers and their way of worshiping. Let God be the final judge.

By the way if God exists, I may have the chance to meet Luciano and tell him I was right, but if He does not exist, how can Luciano tell me that he was right?

JE comments: Eugenio's final paragraph sums up millennia of religious debate. Of course, the WAISly ideal is to admit to the other person that s/he is right.

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