T – Gods, Technology, and the Modern World (PBP week 40)

(So far I’ve been doing these posts a few days ahead and scheduling them for Friday.  This is the first time I didn’t do that and, what do you know?  My family decided they really needed my undivided attention yesterday.  Ah well, so I’m a little late.)

There are those who believe that new Gods have been born, Gods of the information age, Gods of the Industrial Revolution.  That television is our new God.  Or the Internet.

This might be true, but when I look at these marvels of the modern age, I don’t see new deities emerging.  I see instead proof that the old Gods are still actively educating and inspiring mortals.

From a Hellenic perspective, I can’t use the Internet without thinking of Hermes.  Is there an invention out there that speaks more of Him?  I mean, worldwide instantaneous communication?  Come on.  As a God of Travel, I imagine He delights  in the automobile and the jet airplane.  I see His darker side in the spread of cyber crime.

I believe Hephaestus gave us the modern steel that supports skyscrapers, as well as the internal combustion engine.  I see the hand of Demeter in the new strains of wheat that have helped ease famine in many parts of the world.  And if Prometheus stole fire from the gods for the benefit of mankind, could he not also have stolen nuclear power from the sun itself?  I imagine Ares delights in the use of automatic weapons and patriot missiles.  Dionysos taught us to make not only wine, but I believe the modern entheogens like LSD and MDMA as well.  (I mean the drug is even called ecstasy!  Seriously.)

Just because we know the names of the historical figures who invented our modern tools, does not mean they weren’t divinely inspired.  And just because humanity has misused so many of them doesn’t make them less divine.  The holy is dangerous, almost by definition.  How may have died by Prometheus’ fire over the millenia?  How many lives ruined by wine?

In the end, I don’t believe we need new Gods.  Whatever the future brings us, the Gods we know are already on it.

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S – Science and Faith (PBP week 37)

I’ve never understood the problem people of faith have with the theory of evolution.  Or with any other well established scientific principle for that matter, but evolution is what is in the news lately.

In my understanding, science and religion are not inherently in conflict.  They cannot be – they are operating in very different spheres of thought:  a scientific theory has to be disprovable, while a religious tenet, by its very nature, cannot be disproven.  A belief in miracles allows one to argue for anything without intellectual dishonesty.  This makes them impossible to compare. 

But more importantly, there is no reason for a conflict.  It is true that science and religion both attempt to describe the nature of the universe, but they do so by asking different questions.  To perhaps oversimplify: science tells us about “how” the world works, while religion is concerned with “why.”

I can understand why someone with a purely scientific mindset would see a conflict.  Looking at religion from the outside, it is easy to dismiss the complexities of belief.

But when religious people insist on denying scientific fact because it threatens their faith or contradicts their mythology, I believe they are severely underestimating their Gods and taking their myths far too literally.  We see this all the time with Christianity, with the furor over Creationism and Intelligent Design in the US, but it arises from time to time in paganism as well.

Myths are stories told by humans to illustrate the truths we’ve learned about the Gods.  The details may vary from telling to telling, but the truth behind them remains constant.  If I believe, for example, Prometheus created mankind, it matters little or nothing to me to me if he made us from whole cloth (or clay), or if he did it by tinkering with the DNA of some apes.  If I believe Helios is responsible for the sun rising and setting every day, that shouldn’t change because I know that it is the Earth that moves and not the sun.  I shouldn’t need to see a literal flaming chariot to be grateful to him for making life on this planet possible.

The ancients imagined clay and chariots because they knew sculptors and charioteers.  Moderns think in terms of DNA and spheres of flaming gas because we have microscopes and telescopes.  These are the human details that allow the myths to fit within our understanding.  The truths they illustrate remain unchanged.  To remain adamant about the human details is to limit the Gods abilities to what we can wrap our heads around.  This is doing Them a great disservice.

The more I know about the complexities of the universe, the more I see how miraculous and mysterious it truly is.  Scientific learning adds to my sense of awe and wonder.  It takes nothing away.