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Author Topic: Hard-Polytheism/Soft-Polytheism and attitudes to other religions  (Read 22066 times)
Therapon
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« Topic Start: October 03, 2007, 03:55:34 am »

I've noticed this coming up on other threads and though it worth exploring in a new thread.

What I'd like to look at is the views of the Hellenic community both past and present.

Theres been much said about Hard & Soft-Polytheism and I've noticed it's now being related to the pracices of syncretism and ecclecticism as well as relationships with other religions.

Hard-Polytheism is the belief that the Gods are real divine beings and are not archetypes of a collective consciousness, personifications of natural forces nor aspects of a single God.

Soft-Polytheism is the reverse, in one way or another.

Trying to relate these beliefs with the ancient practices of Syncretism and ecclecticism is problematic. Syncretism and ecclecticism was practiced by the Hellenes in Egypt and the far East as well as at home.

Syncretism is often thought to imply Soft-Polytheism however some Hard-Polytheistic Syncretists say that a syncretised deity is another God, so in the case of Zeus-Ammon, a Hard-Polytheist Syncretist would say theat Zeus, Zeus-Ammon and Ammon are three different Gods. Conversely a Soft-polytheist ecclectic may in the case of the cult of Isis in Hellas say that he is worshipping Demeter in another form.

Also reading in attitudes to other religions from hard-and soft-polythism is difficult. A hard-poytheist may say that the Gods of other religions are also real whereas a soft-polytheism would say that there is really only one pantheon.

Realating this to attitudes towards other religions is problematic beacuse, a Hard-polytheist may want to take a more qualitative view and say that because he/she beleives the Gods are real divine persons, that rules out the Gods of other pantheons being real. Conversely a Soft-Polytheist may want to admit that the existence of the local Gods unique to other religions are actually real.

In antiquity we can see different attitudes to other religions. I've seen no manifestation of religious relativism, I woudn't deny it may have existed but pluralism, inculsivism and exclusivism are well represented.

According to the myths when Typhon lead his assault on Olympus the Gods fled to all parts of the world taking different forms is this an example of an exclusivism or inclusivism in the sacred-texts?

What are we to make of the equation of Jehovah with Typon in antiquity, exclusivism?

The attitudes to other religions especially Buddhism and Hinduism in the Greco-Bactria and Indo-Greek Kingdoms reveals a pluralism. Whereas the Hellenism of Antiochus Epiphanes in Israel was radically exclusivist, to the point of fundamentalism.

In the final analysis the broad spectrum of attitudes in contemporary Hellenistmos reflects, attitudes in antiquity, were a broad church theres room enoUgh for all IMHO.

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« Reply #1: October 03, 2007, 06:07:33 am »


Hard-Polytheism is the belief that the Gods are real divine beings and are not archetypes of a collective consciousness, personifications of natural forces nor aspects of a single God.

This is basically what I personally believe, that the Hellenic deities are real divine beings.

Quote
Also reading in attitudes to other religions from hard-and soft-polytheism is difficult. A hard-polytheist may say that the Gods of other religions are also real whereas a soft-polytheism would say that there is really only one pantheon.

If I'm totally honest I don't know exactly what I think on this or where I stand.  I have believed in and worshiped the Hellenic deities for over thirty years and still haven't worked this one out.  I don't think I can personally accept that there are any other gods besides the Hellenic ones. (Sorry!)

Quote
Relating this to attitudes towards other religions is problematic because, a Hard-polytheist may want to take a more qualitative view and say that because he/she believes the Gods are real divine persons, that rules out the Gods of other pantheons being real.

This is what I personally believe.


Quote
According to the myths when Typhon lead his assault on Olympus the Gods fled to all parts of the world taking different forms

Reading this myth as a child is what I think led to tentatively believe that maybe the other deities other faiths and cultures believe in are really just the Olympians in other forms.

If someone were to ask me if I am a hard polytheist or a soft polytheist I would in all honesty have to say that I just don't know - I don't even really fully understand the boundaries of which is which!  And I have a certificate of achievement from MENSA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Huh Huh Huh
« Last Edit: October 03, 2007, 09:21:09 am by Star, Reason: Correcting quote code » Logged
Therapon
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« Reply #2: October 03, 2007, 07:46:10 am »

I think that Hard-Polytheism stands or falls on the belief in the reality of divine beings, full-stop! It has nothing to do with whether one should practice syncretism or ecclecticism, neither does it imply any particular attitude to other religions, or their Gods.

That being said I would consider you an exclusive Hard-Polytheist?
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« Reply #3: October 03, 2007, 09:22:28 am »



Quick note, Therapon...  Please don't forget to quote the post you're replying to.  Thanks!  Smiley
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« Reply #4: October 03, 2007, 09:58:40 am »

I think that Hard-Polytheism stands or falls on the belief in the reality of divine beings, full-stop! It has nothing to do with whether one should practice syncretism or ecclecticism, neither does it imply any particular attitude to other religions, or their Gods.


Therapon,

I can't agree with your definition as it stands. If you add "individual" in there, I'm fine, but without it, I don't think it grasps hard polytheism well at all.
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« Reply #5: October 03, 2007, 10:25:10 am »

I can't agree with your definition as it stands. If you add "individual" in there, I'm fine, but without it, I don't think it grasps hard polytheism well at all.

Yes quite right, distinct and separate individual divine beings would be more appropriate  Grin
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« Reply #6: October 03, 2007, 10:27:30 am »

I think that Hard-Polytheism stands or falls on the belief in the reality of divine beings, full-stop! It has nothing to do with whether one should practice syncretism or ecclecticism, neither does it imply any particular attitude to other religions, or their Gods.


That would imply that those who are not hard polytheists don't believe in the reality of divine beings, and that's simply untrue. 

And being a hard polytheist vs. a soft polytheist *does* carry with it certain attitudes towards other religions -- whether you believe that people on a different religious path are worshiping gods that are completely separate from yours, have some things in common with yours, or are identical to yours is one of the key ways to articulate hard vs. soft polytheism.
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« Reply #7: October 03, 2007, 01:05:51 pm »

Also reading in attitudes to other religions from hard-and soft-polythism is difficult. A hard-poytheist may say that the Gods of other religions are also real whereas a soft-polytheism would say that there is really only one pantheon.

Is there a medium-polytheist? Because that is probably where I stand.
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« Reply #8: October 03, 2007, 02:17:27 pm »

Is there a medium-polytheist? Because that is probably where I stand.

I think were in the same boat.

I believe that the gods are all individual beings and I believe that the gods of other cultures exist.  But I like keeping an open mind on the possibility that God A from one culture is the same as God B from another.
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« Reply #9: October 03, 2007, 02:19:06 pm »

Is there a medium-polytheist? Because that is probably where I stand.

I've always thought of "hard polytheism" and "soft polytheism" to be the endpoints on a continuum, not absolute discrete categories.  For example, while I'm generally a hard polytheist, I think there are some gods -- UPG alert! -- that are not as distinct from one another as others, if that makes sense.  For example, while Mars and Ares come across as entirely different entities to me -- and not just me, the myths tend to back this up --  Mercury and Hermes are... less different.  While I don't think they're necessarily the same being, I don't think there's AS big a difference as between Mars and Ares.  Clear as mud?   Smiley 

Some beings seem perfectly happy to accept offerings made in the name of a deity that's commonly elided with them, while others not so much.  Sticking with the Hermes theme, I think he and Mercury are pretty willing to share with each other, but not with, say Odin (the Romans elided Odin with Mercury).  But then, on the German frontier shrines to the syncretized Odin-Mercury, there doesn't seem to be any recorded problems.  Maybe Odin-Mercury is an entirely different entity, maybe not -- keeping with the contnuum theme, i think how "separate" Odin-Mercury is depends a lot on the time and place; I'm imagining some kind of cosmic Venn diagram, with Roman worship of Odin-Mercury taking a bigger bite out of the "Mercury" circle, but then, maybe several generations down the road, there's more Odin, and then, maybe a few generations after that, there's an entirely new being. 

As a folklorist, if I'm thinking about "other people's stuff," I think hard-er polytheism is a somewhat more... I don't want to say "ethical" (I don't think soft polytheists are unethical), but "safe" might be a better word.  I'm wary of any narrative that seeks to subsume discrete cultures under an overarching rubric when it comes to scholarly issues, and for better or for worse, I tend to apply that to my religious beliefs, even though they're not really the same issue.  I just really like specificity and infinite diversity in infinite combinations, and, lacking any evidence to the contrary, i'll tend to treat entities with different names being worshipped in different cultures as separate beings until evidence (mythic, folkloric, UPG, etc.) comes along to suggest otherwise.   
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« Reply #10: October 03, 2007, 05:05:19 pm »

I think that Hard-Polytheism stands or falls on the belief in the reality of divine beings, full-stop! It has nothing to do with whether one should practice syncretism or ecclecticism, neither does it imply any particular attitude to other religions, or their Gods.

That being said I would consider you an exclusive Hard-Polytheist?

I was under the impression that hard polytheism meant that an individual believed that the gods were all seperate entities (semi-including gods like Amun-Ra, as far as I know, that its a bit of a Mystery to understand how that works), not that all the gods were merely other forms of Zeus, Poseidon, etc. The latter I would view as a form of soft polytheism as I come to understand it-- that the gods are aspects of another god or figure (similar to most forms of Neo-Wicca).

I identify as a hard polytheist, in that the gods are their own in their own right; they are individuals that are not the same as other gods (Zeus and Jupiter, for example). Archetypes I'm still a little sketchy on, although my own UPG right now is that the gods are the archetype, and they also promote those archetypes, but they are still individuals. I suppose kind of like how I'm the "quiet, moody, bookworm" archetype to my friends, yet I am still me. ... I'm not sure if I even made sense to myself! Cheesy
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« Reply #11: October 03, 2007, 09:11:37 pm »

That would imply that those who are not hard polytheists don't believe in the reality of divine beings, and that's simply untrue. 

And being a hard polytheist vs. a soft polytheist *does* carry with it certain attitudes towards other religions -- whether you believe that people on a different religious path are worshiping gods that are completely separate from yours, have some things in common with yours, or are identical to yours is one of the key ways to articulate hard vs. soft polytheism.


I don't agree. This statement:
Quote
I think that Hard-Polytheism stands or falls on the belief in the reality of divine beings, full-stop! It has nothing to do with whether one should practice syncretism or ecclecticism, neither does it imply any particular attitude to other religions, or their Gods.

Only comments on what hard polytheists do believe, it does not comment on what anyone else does or does not, therefore does not imply that others do not believe in the reality of divine beings.
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« Reply #12: October 04, 2007, 03:21:09 am »

...being a hard polytheist vs. a soft polytheist *does* carry with it certain attitudes towards other religions -- whether you believe that people on a different religious path are worshiping gods that are completely separate from yours, have some things in common with yours, or are identical to yours is one of the key ways to articulate hard vs. soft polytheism.

It's a common misconception, people have tried to tie pluralism or relativism in with hard-polytheism but it doesn't gel. They're beliefs about different things, polytheism about Gods, pluralism about religions.

It also flies in the face of historical accuracy with regards Hellenismos, which whilst some may have been pluralists and believed that the Gods of other religions were real, there are many examples of exclusivism which may equally be linked with Hard-polytheism.
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« Reply #13: October 04, 2007, 06:52:47 am »

That would imply that those who are not hard polytheists don't believe in the reality of divine beings, and that's simply untrue. 

Well not neccessarily but if you believe that the Gods are just archetypes of a collective unconscious or personifications of natural forces, then clearly you don't believe that the Gods are real divine beings.
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« Reply #14: October 04, 2007, 08:26:41 am »

Well not neccessarily but if you believe that the Gods are just archetypes of a collective unconscious or personifications of natural forces, then clearly you don't believe that the Gods are real divine beings.

I know people who believe that the Gods are archetypes -- but real beings. It doesn't work for me as it still as all sun deities (or whatever) as faces of the one archetypal sun deity,
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