Leave campaign turned Brexit into ‘new religion’, study finds

Boris Johnson has been one of the main drivers of the Brexit campaign.  Photo: Tolga Akmen / WPA Pool / Getty Images
Boris Johnson has been one of the main drivers of the Brexit campaign. Photo: Tolga Akmen / WPA Pool / Getty Images

A new report from the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick claimed the campaigns focused on aspects of Brexit centered on secularized theological concepts such as sovereignty and the concept of a nation to shy away responsibility for British issues at the feet of the ‘European Union.

The document explained that the promise to “take back control” used the NHS as the holy grail of the country that could be rescued from European forces that threatened Britain’s unique historic place in the world.

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The academics explain that this was done by highlighting the greatness of the British people and their ability to change their place in the world.

The Leave campaign has made Brexit a “new religion”, according to a study.

Co-author Dr Peter Kerr, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Birmingham, said: A shrewd political calculation.

“Presenting the NHS as the holy grail to be saved from the threat of the EU superstate and an influx of foreign migrants – symbolized by the ‘Brexit Bus’ – neatly cut into a variety of beliefs and emotions on Britain’s place in the world and its membership in the EU.

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The expanded post-Brexit support fund for the fishing industry

The researchers noted that there were clear differences in reasoning between supporters of Leave and Remain, with the former being more likely to appeal to emotion rather than political or economic reasons.

Dr Steven Kettell, associate professor of politics and international studies at the University of Warwick, explained: implications.

“This approach has effectively isolated the Brexit claims from any sort of rational criticism.

“This emotional disconnect from expert advice, along with the willingness of true believers to accept various claims, created the perfect conditions for the now famous NHS ‘lie’ on the Brexit Bus side to play a central role in the victory. of Leave. campaign. “

The report claims this has led to support for a surge in Brexit, including one without a deal.

In response to the inquiry, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said the UK was “already paying the price” for the decision.

He said: “It should come as no surprise that a nationalist movement like Vote Leave encouraged people to blindly believe in false promises before reality.

“We must learn the lessons of Brexit and not repeat them.

“There are many more nationalist prophets who want people to follow them in faith without asking questions.

“However, we can only move forward as a country if we challenge those who offer easy answers to complex problems.”

Kirsten Oswald, SNP deputy head in Westminster, has called for Scotland to be allowed to join the EU.

She said: “The Tories’ Brexit deal – imposed amid a global pandemic – has taken a heavy toll on our economy, our jobs, our businesses and people’s livelihoods.

“A Scottish government analysis estimates Boris Johnson’s deal could cut Scotland’s GDP by 6.1%, costing £ 9bn, or the equivalent of £ 1,600 for each person,” by 2030 compared to EU membership. “

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Challenge to worship multiple gods

By Robert Garland, Ph.D., Colgate University

There was a strong observance of religious rituals in ancient Greek, held in a home by the head of the family. Greek religion, like many others, was built around a fear of the gods. Was this a reason for them to worship a god and his counterpart simultaneously?

There were several rituals performed daily in a Greek house for prosperity. These also included rituals of washing a corpse to mourn it. (Image: Walters Art Museum / Public domain)

Household Rituals

Being a religious in ancient Greece also meant participating in religious observances in the home. The Greek head of the oikos, Where oikia, fulfilled the functions of a priest, carrying out daily rituals, with the various deities who protected the prosperity and security of their homes. These included Zeus Ktesios, the protector of their property; Zeus Herkeios, the protector of the sacred border which surrounded their house; and Apollo Agyieus, the protector of the entrance to their house.

The chief also performed rituals in the name of Hestia, goddess of the hearth. These rituals included the initiation ceremony of a newborn baby, a new wife or a slave. The house was where most of the Greeks died, except for those on the battlefield. The rituals of washing the corpse, spreading it out and lamenting, everything that happened inside the house.

No priest attended any of these ceremonies. In fact, being a priest was very simple; they did not have to follow any particular formation, did not have pastoral duties. A priest served strictly part-time and wore the priestly robe only when performing priestly activities, such as conducting a sacrifice. Their main task was to supervise the proper observance of rituals in a sanctuary for which they were in charge.

Beliefs in the Greek religion

The Greek religious system had fear built in. There were so many gods that identifying one to worship or appease at any time was a real challenge. The gods were also extremely jealous of each other. For example, thinking about sacrificing to Aphrodite for her help in a romantic relationship, and then sacrificing to Artemis at the same time, her exact counterpart was important. Solon, a man famous for his wisdom, is said to have told Croesus, the king of Lydia, that no man could be called happy until his death, for one could not predict what harm the gods might hold for him.

The Greeks also refrained from committing an act of godlessness: this covered a multitude of offenses against the gods, parents, the homeland and their deceased relatives. The most famous impiety trial involved the philosopher Socrates, who was accused in 399 BC.

Impiety also included acts of sacrilege, such as stealing from a sanctuary or destroying property in a sanctuary. It was a capital crime to cut down the sacred olive tree on the Acropolis, because the tree belonged to Athena. Betraying the state was also an act of godlessness because the gods were involved in the welfare of the state.

Learn about the enormous influence of Greek mythology on Western art.

To avoid pride

The Greeks were wary of not exhibiting pride, excessive pride or presumption, because pride generates Nemesis or retribution, which bought the fall. They believed that luck invited trouble, for it made the gods extremely jealous. Herodotus told a wonderful story to prove this point. A tyrant called Polycrates had it all, and knew he was in danger, so he consulted his friend, Amasis, Pharaoh of Egypt, on what to do. Amasis advised him to throw away his most precious possession.

Image of a painting by Salvator Rosa, which shows the people gathered around the tree where Polycrates is being crucified.  To be too proud was believed to result in the downfall of a person in ancient Greece.
The display of pride would have resulted in the destruction of a person’s life in Greece. It was also believed that luck invites trouble. (Image: Salvator Rosa / Public domain)

Polycrates got on a boat, took off the ring he appreciated so much and threw it into the sea. A few days later, a fisherman caught a huge fish which he presented to Polycrates who made it open and there, in his stomach, was the ring. Amasis severed all contact with Polycrates, knowing that such a lucky man was doomed to a difficult end, which of course he did in no time.

Another danger to watch out for was the ancient equivalent of a virus that only religious observance could contain. The Greek word for it was miasma, a word translated as “pollution”. If left unchecked, it could wreak havoc on livestock, crops, their family and friends. Miasma was released in various ways, all related in one way or another to bodily functions. He was the deadliest when released following intentional or involuntary manslaughter. Contact with the dead was also polluting, as was childbirth. The main disinfectants were salt water, sulfur and especially pig’s blood.

Contractual arrangement of the Greeks with the gods

The Greek religion did not have to struggle with their conscience, the gods did not encourage them to be good, since they themselves had committed all the crimes of the book. It has sometimes been argued that the Greek religion represented a purely contractual arrangement between gods and humans, and that spirituality was absent from the life of the Greeks.

Learn more about the great philosophical tradition of ancient Greece.

Famous Delphi Sanctuary

The Greeks had an extraordinary sense of the sacred, as evidenced by the intimate relationship that existed between landscape and religion. It was impossible to visit the Acropolis of Athens without feeling the presence of the divine. But Delphi was the most famous of the oracular sanctuaries, where one could seek advice from the god Apollo.

To understand what Apollo said, you had to keep your mind about them. The hall of the temple was inscribed with maxims, the most famous of which were: “Know thyself” and “Nothing excessive”.

Image of an illustration by Albert Tournaire which is a complete view of the ancient sanctuary of Delphi which was considered the sacred place to seek advice from the god Apollo.
It is believed that the oracle of the god Apollo in the sanctuary of Delphi was ruled by corrupt priests, still exploiting visitors. (Image: Albert Tournaire / Public domain)

This is a transcript of the video series The other side of the story: everyday life in the ancient world. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

Greek religion in perspective

Greek religion offered little joy, less comfort, and no consolation; it takes courage to inhabit this kind of universe. The Greeks were religious because their gods were powerful and it was extremely dangerous to get on the wrong side of them. The gods differed from us in that they were blissfully ignorant of the aging process. Apollo was forever a young man on the verge of adulthood, Aphrodite was forever a woman in the fullness of her prime, and Zeus was forever an athletic middle-aged man.

Common questions about the Greek religion

Q: What were the domestic religious rituals of ancient Greece?

The head of household of oikos Where oikia, fulfilled the functions of a priest in relation to the house, carrying out daily rituals, to the various deities who have safeguarded the prosperity and security of their homes, including Zeus Ktesios, the protector of their property; to Zeus Herkeios, the protector of the sacred border which surrounded their house; and to Apollo Agyieus, the protector of the entrance to their house.

Q: What did the ancient Greeks sacrifice?

Besides fruits, cakes, milk and honey, Ancient greeks animals sacrificed to obtain the favor of the gods.

Q: Who did the ancient Greeks worship?

The old one The Greeks worshiped several gods, and identifying one to worship or appease at any time was a real challenge. In addition to that, they also worshiped demigods.

Q: What is miasma in Greek mythology?

In ancient Greek there was an ancient equivalent of a virus that only religious observance could contain. The Greek word for this virus was miasma, a word for “pollution” or “blood guilt”. If left unchecked, it could wreak havoc on Greeks’ livestock, crops, family and friends. Miasma was released in various ways, all related to bodily functions.

Keep reading
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Turkish Students Increasingly Resist Religion, Study Finds | Turkey

Esra, 22, from Mersin, is even more bored than usual this Ramadan. Universities are closed and Turkey has taken the unusual step of putting those under 20, as well as those over 65, under a curfew, as many Turkish families live in intergenerational households.

As a result, Esra cannot see any of her friends. And a few days before the Muslim month of fasting, like many young people, she now feels even more suffocated by the religious restrictions imposed by her pious parents.

“Normally they don’t know how I dress when I’m not around, but even at home now wearing tight jeans bothers them and they comment on it,” she said. “They think I’m fasting, but I’m not. I have water in my room.

Despite more than a decade of efforts by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to shape a generation of pious Turks, the country’s youth appear to be turning away from religion.

Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk banned religion from public life, creating a secular, pro-Western republic that broke with the Ottoman past. One hundred years later, Erdoğan put Turkey back on a more religious and socially conservative path, aiming to create a “religious generation” which “will work to build a new civilization”. Some members of the opposition call him the “caliph in waiting”.

President triples number of İmam clerics Hatip high schools in the country, steady increase in funding for the Directorate of Religious Affairs of Turkey and increase in the powers of local authorities muktars, or community leaders, who are usually pious men.

Yet a study earlier this year by Sakarya University and the Ministry of Education on religious studies programs in the Turkish school system found that students “resist compulsory religion classes, the government’s plan. on the “religious generation” and the concept of religion as a whole ”.

Almost half of the teachers surveyed said their students were increasingly likely to describe themselves as atheists, deists or feminists, and to challenge the interpretation of Islam taught in school.

A 2019 Konda Agency poll also found that people aged 15 to 29 described themselves as less “religiously conservative” than older and less religious generations than the same age group a decade earlier – the respondents said they do not necessarily cover their hair, please. regularly or on an empty stomach during Ramadan.

The overall drop in the number of people who described themselves as religiously conservative was 7%, down from 32% in 2008, and those who reported fasting during Ramadan fell from 77% to 65%.

The abandonment of religion among the younger Turkish generation follows a trend observed in many industrialized countries. But some wonder if this is also a backlash of nearly two decades of the AKP’s arrogant political Islam.

The 2019 survey found only a slight drop in religiosity overall. In a country where around half of the 82 million people are under the age of 30, however, even small changes in the attitude of society could have a dramatic impact on Turkish politics in the future.


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RE should be renamed Religion, Beliefs and Values, according to report

Religious education should be renamed Religion, Beliefs and Values ​​and parents should not be allowed to remove students from these classes, a new report recommends.

The law surrounding RE in schools is “outdated” and “prevents” the topic from being a relevant and highly respected academic subject, he says.

Former education secretary Charles Clarke (pictured) and sociologist of religion Linda Woodhead followed their 2015 assessment of RE with a new report, released today, which says Ofsted should ensure that “RBV” is taught in all schools.

But laypeople criticized the report as being more “timid” than its predecessor, saying that existing denominational schools should be allowed to select students based on faith. Moreover, he does not recommend that the legally required daily act of worship – which is rarely controlled – be abolished.

Accumulating more criticism, the Catholic Church says the recommendations would reduce the study of religion to a sociological subject, instead of a properly theological subject.

The authors of the report recommend that RE be renamed Religion, Beliefs and Values, as it allows the “internal diversity” of each religion to be explored and reflects humanistic beliefs.

The current legal right of parents to remove their children from RE and any associated school trips should also be removed, the report says, as this contributes to the topic being seen as less academic.

Meanwhile, the RBV program should be determined nationally rather than locally, as is currently the case. A newly created “RBV Advisory Board” appointed by the Secretary of Education is expected to include RE professionals and define a vision for the content of the topic.

But Marcus Stock, chief bishop for religious education at the Catholic Education Service, said the proposal fell to the state “imposing” a national “reductionist” and “exclusively sociological” national education program on Catholic schools.

Catholic schools already take RE seriously as a “rigorous and theological academic subject,” he added.

The report also states that the requirement for schools to teach RE at Key Stage 4 should also be “modified” so that students must study “contemporary religious and cultural values” up to Grade 11. This step was taken, the authors say, following the publication in September of a state of the nation report which found that a quarter of all schools surveyed did not offer weekly RE classes, with high schools being the worst offenders.

The State imposes an exclusively sociological national RE program

But they refrained from calling for an end to the current legal obligation on schools to provide an act of “daily collective worship wholly or primarily of a largely Christian character.”

Instead, schools should participate in “a regular assembly” Where act of collective worship which is “in accordance with the values ​​and ethics of the school”.

This position marks a step back from the authors’ report of 2015, which called for the abolition of daily worship. Clarke and Woodhead admit that the retreat was made “after it became clear that important elements of Church of England opinion are strongly opposed to the removal of the legal requirement”.

Humanists UK, which campaigns against denominational schools, lambasted the pair for the U-turn.

Andrew Copson, Managing Director of Humanists UK, said the recommendation should not have been withdrawn just because the CofE “didn’t like it”.

The fact that the authors suggest that faith-based schools should be allowed to select students based on their religion, but then state that faith-based institutions should nonetheless seek to reduce the number of schools doing so, has been described as “bizarre.” by Copson.

“Far too many concessions are made to the vested interests of religious organizations for this to be a report we can get excited about,” he said.

Finally, Clarke and Woodhead said Ofsted should ensure that all schools fulfill their duty to teach the RBV program.

The report comes as Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, increasingly speaks out about the need to crack down on illegal religious schools and called on the Church of England and other organizations to support the Ofsted in the inspection of further out-of-school education. provision where students may be exposed to extremist ideologies.

The government also recently dealt a blow to the Catholic Church by reversing its proposal to lift the ceiling on denominational admissions to its schools.

Clarke and Woodhead’s new report, like its 2015 predecessor, is drawn from the Westminster Faith Debates series and the Religion and Society Research program funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.


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US Army List of Recognized Religions Now Includes Humanism and Druids | Politics News

A U.S. Army chaplain leads soldiers in prayer while deployed overseas. |

The US Department of Defense has expanded its list of religions recognized in the military to include Humanism and Druidism.

Previously, there were only 100 religions in the list, but with the inclusion of many new belief systems, the list has more than doubled with 221 recognized religions, World religion news reports.

The updated list of faith groups lists new Christian and non-Christian territorial groups. There are eight new Protestant groups on the list, new Jewish groups, and land-centered beliefs such as Druids, Asatrus, and Pagans.

The update was made after the Armed Forces Chaplains Council (AFCB) concluded that there is a need to add new beliefs and denominations to more fully represent religious affiliation among members of the military.

This decision means that military members and military women who belong to minority faith groups will enjoy the same level of protections, rights and privileges enjoyed by those who belong to members of larger faith groups.

Josh Heath, co-director of Open Hills Project, a group that supports land-centered and pagan religions in the military, told World Religion News that members of the newly added religions will now have an easier time keeping religious items inside their barracks as well. than to ask for a vacation.

“If you are having a communication problem regarding your religious needs, you can say it is my official religious preference and be accommodated,” he said, according to the Information service on religion.

Humanist Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers, noted that this change in the list of recognized religions is a “victory for diversity in general”.

Humanism was recognized by the military in 2014, but until this order it was not recognized by all branches of the military.

“There have been prior statements that the government or the military have recognized humanism in one way or another,” Torpy said. “But it’s different.”

While many new faith groups, such as “The Spiral Tree Church” and “Dianic Wicca” have been added to the list, some have been removed. Faith groups such as the Tioga River Christian Conference, as well as non-denominational Protestants have been removed from the list.


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India’s population growth depends on development, not religion: study

Indian women have more children than their counterparts in many Muslim countries. (Representative image)

Fertility rates in India are more closely related to education levels and socio-economic development within a state than to religious beliefs, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of government data and research evidence.

The evidence we analyze shows that wealthier families, states with better health facilities, and more literate women have lower fertility rates in India.

Globally, there is little evidence to link religion to fertility rates, with poorer and conflict-ridden states and countries with lower women’s empowerment reporting lower fertility rates. higher population growth.

When the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India released fertility rates for India’s population last year, the conversation was hijacked by the difference in population growth rates between religions.

Several newspapers pointed out that the data showed that Muslim women had higher fertility rates than non-Muslims and that the percentage of Muslims in the population was steadily increasing.

This implicit suggestion that Muslims have more children than other religious communities has lacked data that shows how population growth rates and the Total Fertility Index (TFR) vary widely among Indian states.

TFR appears to be more closely related to per capita income, health care, and other basic facilities in this state.

Development and fertility: the case of Kerala and the UP

Compare, for example, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh (UP). In 2011, Uttar Pradesh’s TFR, at 3.3, was higher than the Indian average of 2.4, and higher than Kerala’s TFR, at 1.8, according to census data.

The Muslim population of Uttar Pradesh increased by 25.19%, while the Muslim population of Kerala increased by 12.83% between 2001 and 2011. During the same period, the Hindu population increased by 18, 9% in Uttar Pradesh and 2.8% in Kerala.

The higher growth rates of Muslims in the northern states are “more or less part of a northern culture than a Muslim culture,” said NC Saxena, the former secretary of the Planning Commission. India.

The states with the highest fertility rates in India are all found in northern and central India: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan (TFR 2.9), Jharkhand (2.8) and Chhattisgarh .

These overall fertility rates seem more related to the development of the state. For example, Kerala has a literacy rate of 93.9%, compared to 69.7% in Uttar Pradesh in 2011.

In the same year, 99.7% of mothers in Kerala received medical care during childbirth, compared to 48.4% of mothers in Uttar Pradesh. In addition, 74.9% of women were over 21 in Kerala at the time of marriage, compared to only 47.6% in Uttar Pradesh.

Another way to interpret population growth rates is the difference between poor states and rich states. The Empowered Action Group (EAG) states, which include India’s poorest – Rajasthan, UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have higher population growth.

Between 2001 and 2011, the population of the EAG states increased by 21%, compared to 15% for the rest of India. Yet decadal population growth rates, even in the EAG states, have declined from the decadal growth rate of 24.99% between 1991 and 2001.

One of the reasons for higher Muslim fertility within a state could be due to factors related to wealth.

Information from the survey showed that families in the lower wealth quintiles have more children than the wealthiest families.
For example, in Bihar, women in the lowest wealth quintile have a TFR of 5.08 while women in the highest quintile have a TFR of 2.12. The same is true for a richer state, like Maharashtra, where the lowest wealth quintile has an TFR of 2.78, compared to the richest wealth quintile with a TFR of 1.74.

On average, Muslims across India are poorer than Hindus, with average monthly spending per household per capita of Rs 833, compared to Rs 888 for Hindus, Rs 1,296 for Christians and Rs 1,498 for Sikhs , according to a 2013 national survey report based on data from 2009-2010.

Indian women have more children than their counterparts in many Muslim countries

There is little international evidence of the correlation between religion and fertility rates.

For example, according to World Bank data, in 2014 Bangladesh, India’s predominantly Muslim neighbor, had an TFR of 2.2. Iran, another Muslim country, has a TFR of 1.7, below the replacement level, meaning the current population cannot be replaced at the current rate of population growth.

In India, the growth rate of Muslims is declining faster than the growth rate of Hindus.

The 10-year population growth rate of Muslims fell 4.9 percentage points from 29.5 percent in 2001 to 24.6 percent in 2011, while that of Hindus fell 3.5 percentage points from from 20.3% to 16.8%.

In 2001, 65.1% of all Hindus over the age of 7 were literate, while 59.1% of Muslims were literate, according to census data. In 2011, the percentage of literate Hindus rose to 73.3%, while that of Muslims rose to 68.5%.

The fertility rates of populations with higher fertility, such as low-income families and Muslims, decline more rapidly than other groups, as methods of contraception and education spread to these groups, said an expert.


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Atheism is as natural as religion, study finds | The independent

Atheism is as natural as religion, new research suggests, casting doubt on the notion that humans are pre-programmed to believe in gods.

A new study from the University of Cambridge has found that, contrary to popular beliefs, large swathes of the ancient world did not believe in gods

Extensively taken from history books, many atheists actually flourished in polytheistic societies – those that worshiped multiple deities – according to a new book.

The claims, made in Battling the Gods by Greek culture professor Tim Whitmarsh, cast doubt on the idea that we are wired to believe in a higher power – referring to “religious universalism.”

Professor Whitmarsh, Fellow of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, also opposes the idea that atheism is a modern phenomenon.

He said, “These early atheists were making what seem to be universal objections to the paradoxical nature of religion – that it asks you to accept things that are not intuitively there in your world.

“The fact that this happened thousands of years ago suggests that forms of unbelief can exist in all cultures, and probably always have.

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“We tend to see atheism as an idea that has only recently emerged in secular Western societies.”

He suggests that atheism was not only common in ancient Greek or Roman societies, but rather flourished then more than it does now.

The “Age of Atheism” alone came to an end, he suggests, when generally tolerant societies were replaced by imperial forces that demanded the acceptance of one true God.

He added: “The idea of ​​a priest telling you what to do was foreign to the Greek world.”

Using around a thousand years of writings to prove his theory, some of the texts he cites date back to around 570 BC.

But he concludes that this neither proves nor disproves the truth of atheism itself.


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A History of Modern Scholarship on Ancient Greek Religion

The 19th and early 20th centuries are a key period in the history of modern scholarship on ancient Greek religion. It was in 19th century Germany that the foundations for the modern academic study of Greek religion were laid and the theories formulated by German scholars as well as their British colleagues in the late 19th and early 19th centuries. 20th century exerted a profound influence on the field which would resonate until much later times.

Throughout this period, fierce debates were held on the interpretation of Greek religion: what were the origins of the Greek gods and what light did they shed on their conception in historical times? Was there a monotheistic current in Greek polytheism and if so, how to explain it? In terms of innate human tendency, or of diffusion from abroad? And if the latter, from where? How similar or different was the Greek religion to the religions of other Indo-European peoples, to the non-Indo-European religions of the ancient Near East, or to the modern polytheistic religions of Africa and Asia? In an era of increasing science and professionalization of the discipline, classical scholars in Germany and Great Britain drew inspiration from developments in philology, archeology, comparative mythology, anthropology and, later , sociology to offer surprisingly different answers to these questions.

Take, for example, the question of origins. According to a very influential tradition of comparative interpretation in the 19th century, the Greek gods, like the gods of other ancient religions, derive from the personification of natural elements and domains – Zeus of the sky, Poseidon of the sea, etc. Due to the variety of natural forces and phenomena, Ludwig Preller (1809-1861), one of the most prominent representatives of this approach, described polytheism as a weakness inherent in Greek religion.

During the second half of the 19th century, this view was strongly opposed by scholars such as Heinrich Dietrich Müller (1819-1893) and Ernst Curtius (1814-1896), who rejected the idea that the Greek religion was inherently polytheistic and whose cult of natural powers smacked of irrationality and mysticism. In their eyes, it was typical of Asian religions, but could not have provided the basis for the religion of the Greeks. Far from being personifications of different elements of the natural world, they suggested that Zeus, Poseidon, and the other Olympians were originally universal and omnipotent gods, like the God of Judaism and Christianity. Attributing a form of monotheism to the Greeks, they argued that initially each Greek community worshiped a single almighty god. Greek polytheism was the late result of historical contingencies as the separate gods of the different communities gradually came closer together and their once universal powers began to contract.

This theory was, in turn, contested in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by British anthropology and evolutionism. The concept of gods endowed with universal powers was now considered to belong to the later stages of religious development rather than to its beginnings. Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928), one of the first to apply sociological theory to the study of Greek religion, actually envisioned an early stage of totemism in ancient Greece where no gods had existed. According to her, what was essential in totemism was “the idea of ​​the unity of a group”. The gods were a “by-product” that gradually emerged from pre-existing rituals that expressed group cohesion.

These questions were far from being of simple antique interest. The interpretation of Greek religion in the 19th and early 20th centuries has been heavily influenced and closely involved in contemporary discussions of crucial questions regarding the origins and nature of religion, the roots of Western culture, and its relationship to the “East”, or the attitudes of mankind towards nature. Clashes between devout Christian scholars and supporters of “scientific atheism”, sectarian rivalries between Catholics and Protestants, and national rivalries between Germans and British were some of the factors that informed the study of religion. Greek and made it very relevant to current concerns.

Modern assumptions and agendas of past interpretations of Greek religion highlight the intersection of the history of the discipline with contemporary intellectual, cultural and religious history. They not only enlighten us on why the field evolved as it did, but also invite us to reflect on the interrelationships between current conceptions of Greek religion and their context.

Image credit: Hermes, Dionysus, Ariadne and Poseidon (Amphitrite is also pictured but cannot be seen here). Detail of the Belly of an Attic Red-Figure Hydria, c. 510 BC-500 BC. From Etruria. Photo by Jastrow. Louvre Museum. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


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