I don't think it's fair to consider non-Christian religions as 'non-moralizing'. Indeed, a great deal of Greek mythology may be regarded as didactic moral teaching, albeit teaching of a different sort of morality from Christianity. The Greeks generally got on fine with worshippers of other gods, or of their own gods in other names, but at many times and places they executed atheists, precisely because theism and morality were so strongly linked in their minds.Pabappa wrote: ↑19 Apr 2020 02:11
The other thing I wanted to say is just speculation ... I wonder if there's any correlation between moralizing gods and religious warfare. It is well known that the ancient Greeks didnt fight religious wars .... it's not like they invaded Rome and said "there's no Jupiter! It's ZEUS!" ... no, they actually said that Jupiter *is* Zeus, and they did the same with Middle Eastern religions. There was even an attempt to add Yahweh to the Greek pantheon as if Yahweh was just another one of the many gods they already knew.
But I dont know how it goes beyond that .... there are many, many other religions in the world, and many many more throughout history that we remember very little about. It's possible that the rise of religious warfare in Europe is not related to Christianity, or to the different beliefs in the gods' morality that happened between then and now.
This is also why they tried to incorporate Jehovah. They did understand the existence of monotheism, but they regarded it as a form of atheism (because, logically speaking, believing in one god and believing in zero gods are the same thing...). Treating Jehovah as part of the pantheon allowed Jews to be rehabilitated, as it were, and saved from the accusation of atheism.
[as with most polytheists, Greeks often believed in a single universal deity - either on a personal level (as in the case of Socrates) or in a systematic way, as in the case of the Stoics (the Word) and Academics (the One). But this was considered separate from religion, and only really of philosophical interest. Indeed, when Christianity was adopted widely, it was largely only by reinterpreting it as a form of Academic philosophy (with some Stoic trappings - I mean, that whole "in the beginning was the Word" thing is clearly filched from Stoic dogma). In effect, rather than being, as it were, a moral conquest from without, the rise of Christianity (taking a slot that several other monotheistic faiths - Mithraism in particular, and Cybelism, and the cult of Sol Invictus, etc - also competed for) can be seen as the triumph of Greek/Roman philosophers over Greek/Roman priests...]
In terms of later European warfare, I think what we really see is post-Imperial warfare. Strong monotheistic religions are closely associated with imperialism - emperors favour religions that share their ideology of centrism, totalitarianism and unitary control (as below, so above...). This is what we see with Rome - as emperors attempted to restore central authority, they increasingly imposed centralised religion.
However, in the West, this failed. Rome fell, and only Byzantium survived. But the religion had already been put in place. Consequently, the West had to grapple with a number of political legacy questions arising from the imperial religion:
- given that the Empire no longer has absolute power, and the barbarians are now dominating Imperials, does that mean that the barbarian version of the religion now takes precedence over the old Imperial version? [i.e. Arianism vs Homoousianism]
- given that only a 'secondary' city was now in charge of the remaining Empire, does that mean that the priests in that city now have independence, and even dominance, or should the original imperial priesthood retain religious authority, even though their city has lost political dominance? [i.e. Orthodoxy vs Catholicism]
- given that there is now no political unity in the west, and what imperial power there is (the Frankish HRE) has little connexion to the legacy religious authority, does that religious administration still have absolute religious authority, or should local political organisations control their own religion? [Catholicism vs Taborism/Protestantism/Erastrianism]
From the mere fact of the fall of Rome, these three great "religious" struggles (Rome vs Barbarians, Rome vs Byzantium, and Rome vs Germany] arise as political necessities (well, sort of - if the Arians had won the first fight, there might not have needed to be the third, as Catholicism could have been extinguished. Then again, Ottakar could simply have erected an Arian pope in Rome and the same sort of disputes could still have arisen. So it's not all pre-destined exactly...). The actual theological debates are very much of secondary importance!
As I often do, I urge people to look at history not in terms of rival groups, but in terms of tensions and contradictions within the system...
[and then of course there's also been a further dispute: Christianity vs Islam. Or "the people who used to be outside the empire now have just as much money and manpower as the people inside it!" - this was essentially 'round 2' of the Arianism dispute (a heretical 'barbarian' branch of the religion suddenly has more power. Islam happens to be more divergent than Arianism... but then again, if Arianism had survived and continued to fight against Homoousianism, who's to say what it might have ended up looking like?).
That's not something most humans would agree with, though. After all, monotheist gods are often compared to traditional authority figures - kings, judges, fathers. And we all know that (and particularly back then!) kings, judges and fathers could often act against seemingly innocent people (even killing them!) for no reason that ordinary people understood. And yet obedience to kings, judges and fathers was agreed by all to be a moral absolute. Early christianity was relatively soft on the "do what god tells you because you'll get nice things from him!" side, and much more hardline on the "do what god tells you because he is your one true master" front.In my own writing, though, the most sensible option to me is to have my people believe in a primitive religion (i.e. the gods sometimes help you and sometimes hurt you) and to not fight wars over religion. If nothing else, it seems that weak, fragile humans do not owe the gods anything if the gods regularly kill defenseless humans with no immediately apparent moral reason.
The difference is that the Christian god was much more closely associated with centralised political authority, and hence much more authoritative. Greek gods were, at best, patrons rather than emperors - they helped out your city, and in return you honoured them, but they weren't seen as directly in charge of things. Largely because religious authorities didn't line up with political ones...
Leaving aside all the political stuff I mention above, I think another key feature here is that Christianity is a doctrinal religion. This, rather than monotheism, is probably its key innovation: it attempts to impose doctrinal unity. [the fact it has only one god, and hence only one ultimate authority, simply helps prevent disputes over doctrine, as well as symbolically mirroring the unitary authority within the religion, and within the government].But there may be more to it .... I wonder if primitive religions may be more likely to syncretize their gods with those of their neighbors, and to see each tribe around them as actually belonging to the same religion after all, even if their customs and maybe even some of the names of the gods are different.
Greek religion*, on the other hand, was cultic. Your participation in the religion was a matter of being engaged in certain cultic rituals, groups and practices - theology existed, but was, as it were, an afterthought. What 'god' was invoked in your rituals, what that god was like, how that god related to other gods, was all in effect just after-dinner speculation. The real cult was a cultural (no pun intended) practice, like language or clothing or cuisine. When you heard about foreigners who dressed differently, ate different, spoke differently, or sacrificed differently, you naturally compared and contrasted. These people have abominable, barbarian rituals; those people have incomprehensible ablaut system; so-and-sos eat locusts; those weirdoes walk around half naked. But as you get to know these people better, you start saying things like "hey, although this language is weird, it's actually just as meaningful as ours!" and "their goddess actually sounds like it's just Demeter, if you think about it..."
Religion as a cultural practice is inherently local, and hence inherently pluralist. Greeks sometimes had strong ideas about good and bad language, clothing, and food, but even they didn't believe everyone should eat, speak and dress identically across the world. And it's easy to recognise a continuum of shared features and differences in cultural practices.
Whereas in a doctrinal religion, the religion is defined by "do they follow this centralised authoritative doctrine, yes or no?" - and then everyone can be divided immediately into believers, heretics (who get the doctrine wrong) and heathens (who ignore it).
[the great innovation of Roman monotheism was to weld together traditional cultic practices (a great way to form strong communities) with abstract philosophy (a great way to bridge the differences between communities) in the form of an authoritative central doctrine that included its own cultic practices, creating something that had the universalism of philosophy, but also the personal power of cultic religion.]
*I'd rather not label non-Christianity simply "primitive". I think it misses the point, as well as being offensive.