July 16, 2009
Questions about Greek Mythology
Did the Greek gods die out with the Ancient Greeks? Can a god die, or are Zeus and Hera and all the others trapped in some silent oblivion, waiting to be brought back to relevant existence? Does a god only exist as long as someone believes in it, or is a god larger than the human imagination? At some point in history, people believed in Aphrodite, Poseidon, Hermes. Were these gods infallible? Immortal? And if so, are they, as real gods, now trapped in some nameless, invisible space by modern culture, even as their stories are widely known and studied in literature? Can they see us? Do they know our opinions of them? Do they experience sadness or loneliness or anger when they think about their irrelevance in today's world? Or maybe they are gone, completely and forever.
Posted by jujio at July 16, 2009 5:52 PM
Well, if you believe in a monotheistic view of the world, these gods never really existed. They were no more real figures that Oliver Twist or Clifford the Big Red Dog. So in that case, they would exist only in our collective cultural consciousness, they way other fictional characters do.
At some point in history, they weren't just fictional characters to the people at the time. (As opposed to something like Clifford, who was created from the beginning as a fictional character.)
Do we know who "invented" the ancient gods? To the ancient Greeks, weren't their gods just as powerful and immortal as a modern god in the popular monotheistic view?
I suppose my main question is: if believing in something can make it true, can make it real, then does the extinction of the people who believe in a god lead to the extinction of the diety? Does the action of believing itself create the god, or is the god there first and the believing keeps it relevant to us? In a non-human-centric kind of way, it makes sense that a god could exist before, during, and after the existence of believers.
The logical disconnect people can have between past dead religions and current active religions is confusing- I think that's what you're alluding to. The Greek deities are OBVIOUSLY as fictional as Clifford the Big Red Dog.
> I suppose my main question is: if believing in something can make it true, can make it real,
I've found your problem right here. Believing in something in no way contributes to whether or not it is true/exists.
So you really really need to read the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It doesn't deal with the greek gods all that much, but it gives a picture of what has happened to the forgotten gods that people brought when they immigrated to America. It's really an interesting way of looking at things. I have a copy, I'll let you borrow it if you want when I eventually get back to Champaign.
Thanks, that sounds really interesting! I've also heard that the book The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is vaguely related to this topic, and I plan to read it soon.
In response to DK's comment, believing in something is the only way that it is true or it exists. Haven't you seen The Matrix? Lol. But seriously, everything humans experience, every sense, feeling, and thought, are completely regulated by the brain. So what makes something true? Something is true because someone believes it is. For example, it is possible that without brain perception of colors, there would be no colors. How else do we know color exists besides the collective agreement that our brains say it is there? So my question is, without human belief in gods, would there be no gods?
Well, light would still exist without a single human perceiving it. Is the vast majority of the electromagnetic spectrum not real just because we can't see all of it with our eyes? Of course not. Before we knew about X-rays or Gamma rays, they still existed. But you could say that we can perceive them other ways, which is how we know the rest of the spectrum is there. For example, you know the radio region of the EM spectrum is real because you turn on your radio and music comes out. Or that Gamma rays, X-rays, etc exist because scientists can observe them. And going that direction, I'd agree with you. Observing something is the only way to know that it exists. But scientific observation and belief are not the same thing.
But as per your gods question, I think you can phrase it much less ambiguously, and then the answer will be obvious: if humans didn't invent gods to believe in, would there be no gods to believe in?
Might you be interested in moving this to boardix? The blog comment system kinda slows down discussion due to comment moderation.
Excellent idea, sir. Let's make the move to boardix and get some fresh insights.
Oddly enough I read the book The Lightening Thief recently. It's okay, but defintely somewhat of a teenager book. American Gods is darker and much more intriguing.
As a youth librarian in training, "teenager books" are what I do. ;)