Today I made the drive back home after finishing my freshman year of college! Pray that my GPA was high enough to keep my scholarship. College was amazing and I miss it, but I’m happy to be home. I always visit my best friend from high school, Eliza, when I come home and her college best friend, Kelsey. Today we did the normal catch up on drama in our lives, visit taco bell, and talk about boys, but after we caught up our conversation found its way to religion. Eliza and I went to the same private Christian high school. Now, Eliza and Kelsey attend a Christian college and I’m at a public college, so we’ve all been involved in religion courses. We started off just talking about how professors we took all taught from different perspectives. For example, we discussed Martin Luther and how some professors taught that his nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church was fact and others taught that depending on how you look at the evidence it can be debated whether or not Martin Luther was the one who posted them. It was interesting to me mainly because both professors were people I considered to be highly intelligent, but why did they not agree if they were both “experts” in their field? It got me thinking about religion in a general sense.
I have never met two people who agree on absolutely everything. Ever. I do not think it’s possible to find two people who have the same values, beliefs, morals, political views, etc. There are just too many options for people to decide on. Someone once described modern religion to me to be similar to a buffet line. Imagine the buffet line is all different religions: Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Mormon, Protestant, Sunni, Shiite, and all the ones you can think of. Then as you go down the buffet line, you pick out each thing you like about the different religions. If you like to have your sins forgiven through confession, then you choose that from Catholicism. If you believe in karma and meditation to channel the God within then you choose to have that from Hinduism. You continue down the table until you reach the end and you have your plate which is now your own personalized religion. Society has caused this mindset of “I do what is best for me and what works for me” and I’m not saying that is right or wrong. That isn’t the point of this post. I just think it’s interesting compared to religion over the past several centuries.
I’ll start with the Egyptians (because for those of you who don’t know I have a slight obsession with Egypt and I have a lot of useless knowledge about it). The Egyptians were polytheistic, meaning they believed in more than one God. They actually believed in MANY gods and they were constantly changing depending on who was Pharaoh. The gods only communicated to the Egyptian people through the Pharaoh, which basically gave him all the power because who would know if he/she was lying? The regular townspeople of Egypt were not even allowed inside of the temples because they were the “dwelling places” of the gods. Egyptian history had different phases: The Dynastic Period, and Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. Before the Old Kingdom in the Dynastic Period, the gods were very often portrayed in animal form along with human form. In the Old and Middle Kingdoms the focus shifted from animal and human forms of the gods to the sun god Ra. Ra had temples built to him along with a small pyramid. While the other were still an important part of religion, it was the first time that a non-animal or human was the focus. Then in the New Kingdom, the Pharaoh Akhenaten decided to do away with polytheism and make Egypt a monotheistic society. However, this decision was not so popular and after Akhenaten’s death polytheism was immediately brought back. Tradition dies hard. I find it interesting because Egypt prospered for about 3000 years and their religion changed and shaped itself throughout that time and has now (to my knowledge) died out. So, what about all those people throughout the 3000 year period who devoted their lives to worshipping these gods that don’t exist in the modern world? Were their efforts in vain?
Another, more current, example is the Zoroastrians. Zoroastrianism is the pre-Islamic religion of Persia that has been around for 3500 years and is still being practiced today. I do not know as much about this religion as I do about the Egyptians, but I do know that they are having a problem because they are dying out. Traditionally, Zoroastrians only marry other Zoroastrians and they do not consider converts appropriate for marriage. From the information I could find there are only about 190,000 left around the globe. Considering there’s 7.125 billion people in the world (give or take a few) and we are constantly growing, 190,000 is not a lot. They have had to make to make changes to their strict rules in order for their religion to survive. The more traditional Zoroastrians are upset by the change in this ancient religion, similar to the anger felt by the Egyptians in the change from polytheism to monotheism. My question is will this religion die out like Egypt’s?
What happens to the people who dedicate their lives to worshipping gods, but then their religion dies out. Civilizations like the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians whose gods are no longer worshipped and only mentioned in history lectures. Was it all for nothing?
I’m not necessarily looking for answers. This was mostly just food for thought to get the gears spinning in your head. I’m not trying to offend anyone or make light of anyone’s beliefs. I highly respect what people choose to consider the truth and I have my own things that I believe. I just wanted to write about how religions have changed and morphed in different societies over the centuries.
I love you all. Be adventurous. Chérir la vie.
P.S. If you’re interested in what I talked about, here’s places where I’ve learned information from.
I also have several Egyptology textbooks that I’ve bought off of Amazon.
Zoroastrianism picture: https://thenoblequranofallah.wordpress.com
Egyptian picture: http://cultureblogmrbz.weebly.com/