Thursday, 20 September 2012

No Requiem For Dead Gods

H.L. Menchen
Sep 12, 1880 – Jan 29, 1956
How are the mighty fallen!

No one mourns for dead gods. Once mighty, omniscient, omnipotent, deities, feared or loved, worshipped and eulogized, are as nothing once they take their place in the trashcan of history and become just those laughably silly, mythical gods simple, ignorant people of times gone by used to believe in before they knew any better.

I read this in Christopher Hitchen's must-read collection of Atheist writings, "The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever".

Memorial Service

H. L. MENCKEN

Huitzilopochtli
Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a day when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter today? And what of Huitzilopochtli? In one year—and it is no more than five hundred years ago—fifty thousand youths and maidens were slain in sacrifice to him. Today, if he is remembered at all, it is only by some vagrant savage in the depths of the Mexican forest. Huitzilopochtli, like many other gods, had no human father; his mother was a virtuous widow; he was born of an apparently innocent flirtation that she carried on with the sun. When he frowned, his father, the sun, stood still. When he roared with rage, earthquakes engulfed whole cities. When he thirsted he was watered with ten thousand gallons of human blood. But today Huitzilopochtli is as magnificently forgotten as Alien G. Thurman. Once the peer of Allah, Buddha and Wotan, he is now the peer of General Coxey, Richmond P. Hobson, Nan Patterson, Alton B. Parker, Adelina Patti, General Weyler, and Tom Sharkey.

Tezcatilpoca
Speaking of Huitzilopochtli recalls his brother, Tezcatilpoca. Tezcatilpoca was almost as powerful: he consumed twenty-five thousand virgins a year. Lead me to his tomb: I would weep, and hang a couronne des perles. But who knows where it is? Or where the grave of Quetzalcoatl is? Or Tialoc? Or Chalchihuitlicue? Or Xiehtecutli? Or Centeotl, that sweet one? Or Tlazolteotl, the goddess of love? Or Mictlan? Or Ixtlilton? Or Omacatl? Or Yacatecutli? Or Mixcoatl? Or Xipe? Or all the host of Tzitzimitles? Where are their bones? Where is the willow on which they hung their harps? In what forlorn and unheard-of hell do they await the resurrection morn? Who enjoys their residuary estates? Or that of Dis, whom Cæsar found to be the chief god of the Celts? Or that of Tarves, the bull? Or that of Moccos, the pig? Or that of Epona, the mare? Or that of Mullo, the celestial jack-ass? There was a time when the Irish revered all these gods as violently as they now hate the English. But today even the drunkest Irishman laughs at them.

Sutekh
But they have company in oblivion: the hell of dead gods is as crowded as the Presbyterian hell for babies. Damona is there, and Esus, and Drunemeton, and Silvana, and Dervones, and Adsalluta, and Deva, and Belisama, and Axona, and Vintios, and Taranuous, and Sulis, and Cocidius, and Adsmerius, and Dumiatis, and Caletos, and Moccus, and Ollovidius, and Albiorix, and Leucitius, and Vitucadrus, and Ogmios, and Uxellimus, and Borvo, and Grannos, and Mogons. All mighty gods in their day, worshiped by millions, full of demands and impositions, able to bind and loose—all gods of the first class, not dilettanti. Men labored for generations to build vast temples to them—temples with stones as large as hay-wagons. The business of interpreting their whims occupied thousands of priests, wizards, archdeacons, evangelists, haruspices, bishops, archbishops. To doubt them was to die, usually at the stake. Armies took to the field to defend them against infidels: villages were burned, women and children were butchered, cattle were driven off. Yet in the end they all withered and died, and today there is none so poor to do them reverence. Worse, the very tombs in which they lie are lost, and so even a respectful stranger is debarred from paying them the slightest and politest homage.

What has become of Sutekh, once the high god of the whole Nile valley? What has become of:

ReshephBaalAnathAstarteAshtorethHadad
ElAdduNergalShalemNeboDagon
NinibSharrabMelekYauAhijahAmon-Re
IsisOsirisPtahSebekAnubisMolech ?

All these were once gods of the highest eminence. Many of them are mentioned with fear and trembling in the Old Testament. They ranked, five or six thousand years ago, with Jahveh himself; the worst of them stood far higher than Thor. Yet they have all gone down the chute, and with them the following:

BiléGwydionLêrManawyddanArianrodNuada Argetlam
MorriguTagdGovannonGoibniuGunfledOdin
Sokk-mimiLlaw GyffesMemetonaLleuDagdaOgma
KerridwenMiderPwyllRigantonaOgyrvanMarzin
DeaDiaMarsCerosJupiterVaticanus
CuninaEduliaPotinaAdeonaStatilinusIuno Lucina
Diana of EphesusSaturnRobigusFurrinaPlutoVediovis
OpsConsusMeditrinaCronosVestaEnki
TilmunEngurraZer-panituBelusMerodachDimmer
U-kiMu-ul-lilDaukeUbargisiGasan-abzuUbilulu
ElumGasan-lilU-Tin-dir kiU-dimmer-an-kiaMardukEnurestu
Nin-lil-laU-sab-sibNinU-MersiPersephoneTammuz
IstarVenusLagasBauU-urugalMulu-hursang
SirtumuAnuEaBeltisNirigNusku
NeboNi-zuSamasSahiMa-banba-annaAa
En-MersiAllatuAmurruSinAssurAbilAddu
AkuApsuBeltuDaganDumu-zi-abzuElali
Kuski-bandaIsumKaawanuMamiNin-azuNin-man
Lugal-AmaradaZaraquQarraduSuqamunuUra-galaZagaga
Ueras

You may think I spoof. That I invent the names. I do not. Ask the rector to lend you any good treatise on comparative religion: you will find them all listed. They were gods of the highest standing and dignity—gods of civilized peoples—worshipped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead.


Just as with those old, quaint gods of recent history, today's gods will one day join that long, un-illustrious pantheon of old dead, once immortal and indestructible, now powerless gods that no one mourns, to whom no one sings songs of praise, in whom no one now has any faith, whose grave no one can find and on which no one would bother to put any flowers.





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15 comments :

  1. But, hey, those Central and South American gods were something. No wishy-washy worship for them. They wanted your heart and soul...the former, literally. And, lookswise, they beat any other god hands down, even the Egyptians :D

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  2. Ja, sehr guter Blogpost...aber Du bist Spammer, nicht wahr?

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  3. I loved that passage. That is a fine collection Hitchens assembled. Hitchen's introduction was also quite powerful.

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  4. That Hitchens collection is great. Love your blog so much and discovered you on Twitter. Too bad critical thinking lacks so much in the world, especially of those who are fervent believers in the faith.

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  5. Another argument from ignorance attempt from Hitchens and Rosa

    "God is dead," these are the well known words of German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

    Some today believe this to be true. With the advances in technology and science, man does seem to have become god and therefore has no use for this entity. Moreover, Atheism seems to be gaining ground in regions of the world that at one point promoted Christianity. God seems to be a thing of the past - an archaic explanation for the processes of nature and its existence.

    Rosa Rubicondior on her blog... (see the rest at http://sacerdotvs.blogspot.com/2012/09/no-requiem-for-dead-gods-by-rosa.html)

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    1. Hi Manuel de Dios Agosto aka @Secerdotus

      I'll let this piece of idiocy stand as an example of your abysmally low ability to comprehend written English and of your wanton dishonesty.

      As readers can see that article is neither by Hitchens nor claims God is dead. You might have avoided making yourself look even more preposterous had you had the courage to read the blog instead of making a hurried guess from the title and just writing down the first blather that sprang to mind.

      But then you were really only spamming my blog again, hoping to scrape a few more hits for your own sad little blog, weren't you. You have obviously abandoned any attempt to convince people you have the ability or intellect to engage in any meaningful debate and are now trying to comfort yourself with the delusion that the number of hits on your little blog is somehow a measure of your importance.

      Any more gratuitous spam will be removed. Hint: Try writing an interesting blog and see if that brings in visitors - if you can.

      BTW, I see they have had to close down your Bronx high school because of low standards and poor results, with some students being practically illiterate. That probably explains your limitations.



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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    3. As I said I would, I have removed your spam, Manuel.

      I know you find it difficult but you really should try to write interesting, intelligent blogs if you want people to read them. It isn't sufficient to try to parasitise those of us who can and do by continually spamming us with your infantile drivel.

      Perhaps you could find a mature adult who could help you, maybe someone who didn't go to the failed Grace H Dodge High School in Bronx and so received a decent education.

      Delete
    4. I have also removed you latest spam. I'm sorry you don't have any other way of attracting people to your infantile blog.

      Delete
  6. is a god truly dead if it is still remembered? even if remembered by folk tales and flawed local names or by dry historians digging them up and wondering? That is not dead can eternal lie, yet with strange eons even death may die... (sorry DAGON was on the list)

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    1. If a god needs to be remembered in a human brain to be alive, was it ever really alive?

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  7. In recent events in recent days, it seems to my mind that humanity has fallen into love - a dangerous, abusive love - with the concept of a binary. Stagnation, rather than critical analysis is encouraged at all levels of society and using arguments verbatim (on all sides of an issue, which {of course} may number more than two) has become rote.

    I found this page randomly, or perhaps in the fashion of fate - or just fatedly random, while boolean searching the phrase "I mourn the dead gods". It seems of course, that no one does - or those of us who do are few and very far between. I am not sure why I am writing this, or what it may do; I have no real point to sell, save that I disagree, and since I feel that (through a cursory examination, admittedly - something I hope to change) of your log we might agree on many points - I hope you might be inclined to listen, even if only for your own amusement.

    First, to the point of binaries and why I brought up. I notice much of your, and the usually respected Mencken's analysis of throwing all gods, and beliefs, and faiths into one monotheistic camp - this has been encouraged by philosophers like Campbell, who have done a great deal to illuminate and popularize older theology, but similar to the 'reconstructionist' groups of the early nineteenth century, often introduced monotheistic, and specifically Christian, imagery into very non-Christian ethos. I feel that, given the many problems of Christianity, it has become an acceptable binary to see as Religion versus Atheism - where the only religion in most people's minds is Christianity, so it really become Christianity versus Atheism.

    Any other points of view (where do philosophical schools like Confucism and Confucist Legalism, the latter of which are fairly atheistic - or at the very most theogonistic) are simply ignored while two young usurpers - to express my point of view, though all who think like I *will* be dead soon, so take it with a grain of salt - shout increasingly loudly at one another. In general, I think I like one group better of course - but it does seem a bit simplistic...

    Simplistic, like the belief that - if I may quote - "No one mourns for dead gods... Silly, mythical gods simple, ignorant people of times gone by used to believe in before they knew any better." I am not sure where you arrive at this conclusion, but agnosticism, atheism, and thegonism/thegony (the belief that if gods/spirits exist they are worthy of contempt) have been around since recorded history. Such skepticism flourished in the courts of the early Persian Zoroastrian philosophers, southern China before the establishment of Confucianism as the largely dominant sociopolitical philosophy (which again, could be considered encouraging towards atheism if nothing else) and the pre-classical Greek city-states - indeed, atheists were considered interesting if not often misguided. But generally they were left to their own devices - in the days were many gods were common, why worry about those who had no gods?

    [My apologies, but this will be three-parters. It is actually somewhat cohesive, but please read all three before de-approving, or however it works over here at blogspot!]

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  8. Indeed, many of the Sophists (the actual philosophers, not the term used to demean someone in argument) were atheists. Their arguments reached great appeal, and the factor that shut them down was not their disbelief, but the fact they desired to make their teachings free. Why do I mention all this?

    Because in that very first sentence quoted, I sense a tinge of someone hurt by faith using the same methods they were hurt to attack all religions - and unfortunately, without logic. Specifically - the phrase, "...Before they knew better..." Smacks to me of the educated evangelist of the 19th century, smiling as they find a faux-national pride in the great old religion and myths of their country, but writing out all the objectionable heathen bits, as none knew better; of course. Not only is this blatantly untrue, but a much better point would be to attack how many of the most organized of these religions - the Imperial Cult of equally Imperial Rome, the pre-Ptolemaid mystery cults in Egypt, and... Well, those are the two big ones, really - used force to encourage or coerce worship from those who did in fact 'know better'. And even in those cases, there were many times were this was not so...


    Mencken dismisses those gods that came before, specifically and unpleasantly mentioning that if anyone is to remember Huitzilopochtli, it is some vagrant in the Mexican forest. This very phrase reeks with condescension - the same kind that the intolerant Christians used to purge the many diverse religions, heresies, heathenries and philosophies from their realms, and what I am worried we are seeing done in reverse now. Mencken also uses the phrase "All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal." which is once again, merely his assumption that all beliefs are similar to, and therefore interchangeable with, the Abrahamic god.



    Before I began, I will not pretend that the pre-Classical, Classical, or Dark ages were magical times full of wonder, where everything was pristine and perfect. Pre-Classical Greece and China had some of the most amazing philosophers of all time; but in the latter, this lead to a civil war of philosophy that lasted for years on end, and in the former to the calcifying city-states that established the patriarchial model that became the standard in the western world. The Zoroastrians viewed men and women as equal, and women served as scientists, mathematicians, and military tacticians(!) in the classical world. But they tolerated other faiths too hard and were taken first by the Manichaeans and then the spread of Islam.

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  9. However, I will say that the final reach of monotheism in the forms of Christianity, Islam, and Mahayana Buddhism (which is technically not monotheism, but... Well, I don't want to ramble too much) spreading throughout Eurasia curtailed most societal progress and brought an epidemic of persecution and lack of tolerance to the land. Not because I feel these religions are innately evil or persecuting; but with homogeny comes the desire to maintain homogeny, and that desire is never good nor true. And what then of this new world, where all the laughable and silly gods are gone, and we may now turn to the last big challenge?

    Either the Christians will 'win', lending ever more credence to the wave of obscurantism, technologicaly-abetted apathy, and reaction against progress we have seen, or the forces of Atheism will win... And I believe much the same will happen. For just because someone does not believe in any gods, does not mean they do not believe in masters - do not believe in control. Instead, there should be more religions; more gods, more schisms, more schools of thought - new energy explored vividly to encourage the detached lost generation of today. But that will not be so.

    In closing, I guess I merely see this as proof that stasis, not change, is the order of the day. I do not see the growth of tolerance or knowledge or wisdom, but the growth of self-mindedness, and xenophobia while claiming the guise of innovation, and a sort of personal tragedy. Nothing I say is really important, however; nor likely to change your mind, but thank you for reading this far all the same. Hopefully it's been a little interesting, even if you arrive or remain at a far different conclusion than I.

    To quote your reply to someone else* "If a god needs to be remembered in a human brain, to be alive, was it ever really alive?", I would ask the same question of humanity.

    That is - When we are dead, our efforts will only live on for a time, perhaps longer or shorter than all those myriad dead and dying gods of old. Were we ever truly alive, or perhaps only alive for the moment we can perceive ourselves as so..?

    And so long as there is life in my bones I will hold the bonfires the way I was taught and consider the passing of time, and continue to mourn - in song, and in prose, in writing, and in imagery - the dead gods whom it seems none else may mourn. My faith will remain white-hot and undying, at least for as long as I remain so - and though I cannot find their graves, perhaps I will find them in the flowers. And when I die, perhaps I will be taken to a great hall with great fields - or perhaps my body will molder dreamlessly, and feed the flowers.

    Both are a kind of immortality enough for me.





    *(Robin: That Dagon is actually a god of fisheries, good harvests, and sailing. Considerably less Innsmouth-look wearing than the other Dagon, alas. ;) )

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