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The Many Faces of God

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gruvawn View Drop Down

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    Posted: 19 Feb 2010 at 15:33
I was reading through the 'atheists at x-mas' topic and this quote reminded me of something I've thought about before, and that I'd like to get your collective take on.

Flipper: "some believe than in the same way the supernatural force in Christianity has a three faced - holy triad (son, father and the holy spirit), in Greco-Roman religions you divide it by 12."

I am a christian who tends to study the Bible with the help of concordances and such, as opposed to taking for granted that everything my pastor or any other pastor states is gospel (pun intended). The Bible actually tells us to do this. Although I grew up in church, I actually read Confucius and Lao Tzu before I REALLY read the Bible, so I guess I end up being more understanding than dogmatic.

In polytheistic religions there seem to me to be two types of "gods". Gods OVER nature, and gods AS nature. This may be a false dichotomy, but for the purposes of my question it is relevant. Gods AS nature are the more primitive because they were simply the things around us beyond the ancient understanding of science. Gods OVER nature though implies a wisdom and purpose behind the actions of nature. In other words saying 'the wind IS a god', is completely different than saying 'a god CAUSES the wind'.

So my primary question is this...
Are the gods OVER nature, as in the greek or hindu pantheons merely a breaking down of the attributes of a creator God into smaller bits and given individual names but taken as a whole, constitute the fullness of the Almighty? I don't mean historically, but theologically. In the mythologies there is always a creator god, and that all other gods flow outward from the creation.

Would then the sin of idolatry in the monotheistic religions not be solely the worship of an icon or of nature itself, but worship of less than the completeness of God?

I just find it hard to believe after a reading like the section in the Baghavad Gita where Krishna shows himself to Arjuna, that the person who wrote that knew nothing of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God! Granted, it's rather gruesome but as an analogy it paints a powerful mental picture. Likewise the similarities between Buddhist and Christian doctrine can be stunning. Consider that Buddha is a canonized saint, and Jesus is I'm pretty sure considered to be a Bodhisattva! I'm no ecumenical proselytizer or one world religion kind of guy, but I do think we get caught up too much in religiocity, which is by definition "things we do on a regular basis", and neglect Theology which is the study of God to the best of our ability, His will for us, and our place in the universe.

For the Atheists, please don't be put off by my use of words like "sin". All of you here are better read than I am, so your scientifically based viewpoint is welcome. I intend this to be a Theological, or Philosophy of Theology question, not a religious one.

Edited by gruvawn - 20 Feb 2010 at 05:03
don't believe everything you think. : )
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Omar al Hashim View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Feb 2010 at 19:20
Trying to be careful here so that I don't say something I'll have to contradict in a couple of posts.

As far as I understand Hinduism, which admittable isn't that far, the idols are explicitly breaking down the attributes of God and then worshipped. One sin is definitely attributing equals or intercessors to God, but similarly worship of less than the completeleness of God is also a sin. Whether it is the same one is probably irrelevant.

As to where you've said God as nature or God over nature. I think we must be very careful with these terms because both are really just human understanding projected onto the divine. While not wishing to start a debate on the topic one example of this is creationism and evolutionism. Creationism is God over nature - click of fingers everything appears, while evolution is God as Nature - look this great system did the job. There is actually no difference in either position. Creationists believe it is the will of God while evolutionists believe it is all inshallah*. Now, why I say particularly here that God over nature is something that should be careful of is that it leads to anthropomorphising or placing attributes to God. "God is good", "God will protect us from hurricanes" etc. God is part of the system, controlling it but not separate from it.

You can also look at the way God created Islam from the pagan Arab religion. The kafir Arabs were familiar with God, but added many other deities and equals, intercessors or children. When Islam was created it took the already existing concept of God and removed the polytheism around it. I believe a similar process would've happened in early judaism assuming we had sufficient records of that (those) period(s) to study it.

PS. I don't know why I bother to write my own words in these discussions. I should just quote from the Quran 'Them' are the polytheists/disbelievers
Quote If thou wert to question them, 'Who created the heavens and the earth?' They would be sure to reply, 'they were created by (Him), the Exalted in Power, Full of Knowledge';-

(Yea, the same that) has made for you the earth (like a carpet) spread out, and has made for you roads (and channels) therein, in order that ye may find guidance (on the way);

That sends down (from time to time) rain from the sky in due measure;- and We raise to life therewith a land that is dead; even so will ye be raised (from the dead);-

That has created pairs in all things, and has made for you ships and cattle on which ye ride,

In order that ye may sit firm and square on their backs, and when so seated, ye may celebrate the (kind) favour of your Lord, and say, "Glory to Him Who has subjected these to our (use), for we could never have accomplished this (by ourselves),

"And to our Lord, surely, must we turn back!"

Yet they attribute to some of His servants a share with Him (in his godhead)! truly is man a blasphemous ingrate avowed!

What! has He taken daughters out of what He himself creates, and granted to you sons for choice?

*Assuming you're familar with basic Islamic terms here

Edited by Omar al Hashim - 19 Feb 2010 at 19:22
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gcle2003 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Feb 2010 at 21:17
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

PS. I don't know why I bother to write my own words in these discussions. I should just quote from the Quran 'Them' are the polytheists/disbelievers
[quote]If thou wert to question them, 'Who created the heavens and the earth?' They would be sure to reply, 'they were created by (Him), the Exalted in Power, Full of Knowledge';-
Shows the dangers of quoting verbatim from holy books. Unfortunately, de facto when you question them that's not what they say.
I go along with the distinction between gods of nature and gods over nature, though I'd use different terminology. We assume that other people have minds, wills, desires, etc just as we do ourselves. It is as obvious and simple, certainly to the unsophisticated mind, to assume that other living creatures also do, and indeed that creatures we today would consider non-living (volcanos, rivers,...) were both living and conscious.
Hence the hypothesisation of 'gods of nature'. In fact, apart from the lack of falsifiability, it's a quite scientific, empirical process.
The genesis of gods 'over nature' is different, arising basically from the unwillingness of the human mind to accept that things happen randomly: better even to think they are the result of evil elemenoents plotting than to believe that they are goalless; better even to think nature is ill-disposed to humans than to think it cares not a fig about them.
The process of intellectual development then leads to the diminishing of the hypothesis of gods of nature, but if anything strengthens and sophisticates the hypothesis of a caring universe. Science gives us alternatives to the gods of nature, but does nothing to help us with our inherent insecurity. 

Edited by gcle2003 - 19 Feb 2010 at 21:19
Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.

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El Pollo Loco View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote El Pollo Loco Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Feb 2010 at 14:32
I think it is relevant that the religions that have separate gods of/over nature are dying out (with the exception of Hinduism) and that newer religions have one God, either over nature/the world, as in Christianity and Islam, or as nature/the universe, as in many eastern philosophies and smaller western philosophies (some forms of deism, for example). I;ll build on this when I have thought about it more.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Jun 2012 at 01:07
I am actually a Confucian Taoist Shamanist. That means that I believe in the chinese religion of traditional practices, but my family practices are not Chinese, but manchu traditional, because I am the oldest in my family.
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