“I knew I couldn’t believe in God, because I was fundamentally Hellenic in my outlook.” – Stephen Fry.
“Fry has repeatedly expressed opposition to organised religion and has identified himself as an atheist, while declaring some sympathy for ancient Greek belief in capricious gods.”
I may not completely reject that some divine form may exist, as my recent study of the philosophy of religion, and some of Graham Hancock’s work, has shown me that it can not be proven just yet. I personally believe Atheism is almost as bad as theism, as neither one can be proven entirely. That is the exact reason why I consider myself to be Agnostic, I will believe in a divine form when facts have been made visible to me. Where I am going with the statement made above is to look at his “fundamentally Hellenic outlook” on the Gods, and why I can not help but like it.
I admire the old Polytheist/Pagan religions due to how their morals and beliefs were based on the world, the notion that the Gods were in the trees, sky, rivers etcetera meant their aim was always to please them and thus please the world. Of course the likelihood of Athena, Aries, Aphrodite and all the rest existing in the forms they were depicted as is not exactly probable, but this feeling of spirit and energy in the world is not a ludicrous way of thinking. It makes total sense, especially in the industrial chaos we live in today. You would not polute a river if you believed a sea nymph would seek council from the Gods and punish you for your crime. As much as I dislike religion, I believe we began to mistreat this planet once we moved away from it. Why should we look after it, if it is all about here and now? We will not go to hell, hades, or be reincarnated into donkey as a punishment – so why should it even matter?
Looking after the world, whether to please the Gods or not, makes a lot of sense to me. What harm could it do? People understood that the Graeco-Roman Gods were not omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolence etcetera; they were not expected to be. This did of course bring about their eventual downfall, as they were Polytheistic it meant they left room for a ‘unknown’ God (the God whom St. Paul nicely placed the one of Classical-theism), but also the promise of all the Omni’s in one source would, of course, appeal to the majority. The God of monotheism was the equivalent to the iPhone 4 today, why carry a phone, mp3, novel and laptop around with you when you can have all that, combined into one?
However, in its prime it did make a lot of sense, you could pray to an individual on certain matters and if what you had hoped for did not go through, you tried to better yourself rather than blaming someone, or something, else for it. We have all seen the problems associated with snazzy smart phones, they break easily, they often are not nearly as good as each individual device, a classic on the iPad does not compare to the ‘niceness’ of having that book in your hand. It looks good when advertised, good in theory should I say, it makes Mackintosh billions of dollars a year – sounds a lot like the Catholic Church to me! No wonder the Americans are such good entrepreneurs, if the majority follow some strand of Christian faith, every sunday they are given an indirect business lesson for crying out loud!
Look at Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. Yes the countries that hold these faiths have many flaws (eg, I do not believe trafficking in India could ever be good) but there are smiles on their faces. Even the poorest of nations manage to pull more smiles than we do. They have faith, they have fun! Some of the festivals they hold are extraordinary, they look far more fun than any music festival held here in England. It is all in the name of their Gods, and before you think “What about Science?”, Medicine in that corner of the world has been thriving for centuries. There are many doctors, that work in the NHS, which come from that direction. They don’t reject science, unlike a lot of Christianity.
Emphasis should be put on giving guidance, not rules and laws written in stone. The Ten Commandments are a clear example that these threats can not work in all situations. “Thou shalt not kill”, what about the crusades? What about capital punishment? What about dictators like Stalin? What about Euthanasia? The list goes on. I am certainly a fan of Teleological thinking, though I do understand the complications that can come with it, it appears to be a much better way to live. At least always have this aim in mind, R.M Hares Two level Utilitarianism is what I try and follow.
Once monotheism was adopted and polytheism rejected; the world went into decline. Then once we questioned religion again, we went into recline; piecing together what we had previously lost. We flourished, but maybe some of what we came to gain is not all good. Maybe we need to piece back some of what we had before. Natalie Hayne writes in her “The Ancient Guide to Modern Life” that we must remember religion was also a social thing. Sure people believed in Dionysus, but the Dionysia was ultimately a fun way to worship, a place where people could socialise and enjoy themselves once a year. In her own words (more of less) it is the tea parties held after church that people look forward to the most, it is that innocent enjoyment which is what really matters. Community, trust, innocent laughter, discussion, we lack so much of this these days and we need it back. When a stranger starts a conversation now, we jump to conclusions they must be looking for something, a pervert, a freak or just some looser. That’s not very nice is it? What happened to Xenia ey! What benefits do we gain from jumping to those conclusions? What is wrong with some harmless chit-chat?
What on earth is wrong with us?
More on my views on religion:
Have a look at Stephen Fry: