Pagan and Monotheistic Violence
Interesting. I’ve never been a fan of Jan Assman’s work. I certainly think that he has the equation flipped with respect to religion and violence. After all, one doesn’t see the type of colonization and conquest specifically in the name of ‘god’ until the advent of monotheism. This article however, takes this discussion further and highlights the inherent hypocrisy in the monotheistic argument. it’s a long article, but nuanced and worth reading.
This essay is a meditation on the second chapter of Jan Assmann’s Of God and Gods, titled ‘Seth the Iconoclast: Polytheism and the Language of Violence.’
Polytheistic societies were not peaceful, tolerant or non-violent but the nature of their warfare, intolerance and violence was political and not religious. It was required for maintaining the political order.
We have noted in a previous blog that polytheism distinguished between justice and cult while monotheism merged them and projected justice itself as the true cult. Assmann claims – a point that is not fully clear to me – that monotheism marked a separation between religion and state while they remained indistinct under polytheism. In the Egyptian case, the Pharaoh acted as god’s deputy on earth. Assuming a distinction between heaven and earth, the Pharaoh maintained order on earth, on behalf of the gods in heaven. The state thus assumes religious authority and…
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