Subject: Xenophanes: people create gods in their likeness Date: 20 Sep 90 03:43:26 GMT I p

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From: loren@tristan.llnl.gov (Loren Petrich) Subject: Xenophanes: people create gods in their likeness Date: 20 Sep 90 03:43:26 GMT I post this again because someone had asked who it was who had claimed that people tend to make gods in their own likeness. About 2500 years ago, the ancient Greek philosopher Xenophanes had the following "good thought" to say about religion (I quote from Bertrand Russell's _A History of Western Philosophy_): Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all things that are a shame and disgrace among mortals, stealings and adulteries and deceivings of one another ... Mortals deem that gods are begotten as they are, and have clothes like theirs, and voice and form ... yes, and if oxen and horses and lions had hands, and could paint with their hands, and produce works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of gods like horses, and oxen like oxen, and make their bodies in the image of their several kinds .,. The Ethiopians make their gods black and snub-nosed; the Thracians say theirs have blue eyes and red hair. In effect, he was pointing out that people have a tendency to make gods in their likeness. Everything that has happened in the history of religion since Xenophanes has been consistent with what he said. Indeed, people create gods not only in their physical likeness, but in their moral likeness as well. Christianity, for instance, has yielded some amusing examples of Xenophanes' Law in depictions of Jesus Christ. I once found out that a certain black woman had created a painting of a "black Jesus." I thought that that was deliriously funny; but it is certainly no more absurd than a Jesus Christ with blond hair and blue eyes. If there ever was a historical Jesus Christ, he would have looked like the people who currently live in the Middle East. From lots of pictures I have seen, and personal acquaintance, I put together this portrait of a typical Middle Easterner: white, with skin as pale as any white person I have ever known (myself, for example); but with straight black hair and brown eyes; also, a relatively narrow head, a long, thin nose and thin lips. So that's what Jesus Christ would have looked like. I once knew someone of Palestinian ancestry who became nicknamed "Jesus wept." I am sure all you net.people out there can come up with lots of other examples of Xenophanes' Law in action in various religions and religion-like things. Note: In ancient times, "Ethiopia" meant sub-Saharan Africa. Thrace was a territory that is now northeastern Greece and eastern Bulgaria. Xenophanes' other beliefs were also interesting. He made fun of the philosopher Pythagoras and his belief in reincarnation, once stating that he had heard someone beating a dog, only to say "Stop! I recognized it from the sound of its voice! It was the soul of a friend!" He also thought that there was a single God (or that "God is one") -- one "unlike men in shape or form", who "swayeth all things by the force of his mind". He felt that no one had the absolute, final truth in matters of religion, and that consideration of this subject was little better than guesswork. He is said to have influenced Aristotle, whose "God" was a thin shell at the edge of the Universe, which keeps everything inside in motion like some cosmic mainspring -- forever and ever and ever. Indeed, it was he who deployed the famous "first cause" argument for the existence of this prime mover, though in one place he states that there could be 47 or 55 of these entities -- 47 or 55 gods! $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Loren Petrich, the Master Blaster: loren@sunlight.llnl.gov Since this nodename is not widely known, you may have to try: loren%sunlight.llnl.gov@star.stanford.edu

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