Tuesday, October 19, 2010

THE GOD(S) OF THE RELIGIONS

Let’s return to the common interpretation of Pascal’s distinction between (1) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and (2) the God of the philosophers, as the contrast between the God of revelation and the God of reason.

It’s clear that the God of reason is aptly named; for what is that God if not a philosophical entity? What isn’t at all accurate is the interpretation of the God of the Patriarchs as being the God of revelation. If Pascal had thought in those terms, he might better have spoken of the God of Moses, Jesus, and Paul. This is to say that not all the gods “reveal” something to those who venerate them. (Yahweh, the God of the Patriarchs, appeared to all three of them, but these appearances were not revelations in the narrow sense that we say God revealed himself to the founders of Israel and Christianity.)

Better, then, to speak of the god(s) of the religions, consisting of those who worship and adore their deity. Or to speak of the mythological beings who inhabit the world of myth.

Recall my earlier definition of myth as “a story about metaphysical beings that provides a model for human behavior,” etc. A myth, whether told in Israelite, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Mormon, or other precincts, typically spells out a narrative of a God, or gods, in relation to human beings.

These myths typically assume that there are two worlds: the natural world and a supernatural world above and beyond nature. Furthermore, the supernatural realm provides the model for much of human behavior, i.e., the rituals and moral actions that occur within the visible world of nature.

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