I just started reading this book, and it is what people say it is - a very scholarly discussion of how polytheism is different from monotheism.
What h...moreI just started reading this book, and it is what people say it is - a very scholarly discussion of how polytheism is different from monotheism.
What he says is the truth but it is not the whole truth.
He doesn't seem to be aware of the Pagan Monotheism of classical Rome and Greece. Personally I think the recent spate of books on the subject misunderstand classical pagan monotheism.
But there is evidence that classical pagans did believe that their many gods were "representatives" of a much higher universal God. Part of the understanding the Romans had with the Jews (that gave the Jews a waiver from honoring the gods of Rome) was the idea that the Jews worshiped the one highest God, who was also the God over the Roman gods. The Romans agreed that the Jews' one God was the same universal God their gods reported to, that all gods reported too.
This is a sort of syncretism that Greer and many modern polytheist reject. Which is OK. It doesn't bother me, or God.
The distinction he makes between the characteristics of the monotheistic God and the polytheistic gods are valid.
Personally, I believe that there are two distinct ways that human beings experience divinity. One is as the universal, omniscient, ubiquitous, omnipotent, all loving presence that wants nothing and does not intervene in our lives. And the second is as the more limited powerful beings, persons, that Greer describes. The many gods and goddesses and spirits.
My main criticism of monotheism is that human beings are not well suited to worship the One God. We want intervention so we always end up worshiping the lesser beings that can actually do something for us.
Christianity fell into worshiping Jesus just a few centuries after he died. And then the Catholic church "solved" the problem of not having enough gods to meet everyone's needs by calling their many gods "saints".
Protestantism, by rejecting saints, has created a real problem for itself that seems to be only solvable by creating a new sect that worships a different version of Jesus every time they have a disagreement.
Buddhism has the same problem with worshiping The One True Reality, their many gods are called Bodhisattvas. Like Catholic saints they are officially not gods but they serve the same function and are as Greer defined gods: entities who are the proper object of human worship (or veneration).
He briefly mentions Wiccan dualism but declines to elaborate because he is not a Wiccan. As a Wiccan I guess I should write a book on that.
Wiccan dualism isn't really about gods. It comes up when we talk about gods but it has less to do with any doctrine about all gods being manifestations of one god or goddess than it does with the importance of balance. Most pagan religions aren't "about" gods. We have gods, but our religion is about life. Wiccan sophiology (the study of wisdom not the study of gods) is about maintaining the balance between complimentary forces. It has more in common with the Taoist idea of ying and yang than anything else. Wiccans are not required to believe anything in particular about the nature of the gods. But Wiccan ritual and Wiccan sophiology encourages us to try to maintain a balance.
I like to contrast the masculine/feminine duality of Wicca to the good/evil duality in Christianity. Christianity adopted the Zoroastrian belief that the world is a battleground between two opposing gods, one good the other evil. Two men fighting for possession of the world. Wiccans on the other hand like to view the world as the combination of two complimentary forces seeking union. A man and a woman having sex. The Great Rite, a central ritual action in Wicca, the union of opposites as an act of creation. (less)
I heard Margaret Atwood talking about the Children of Crake on the radio. The Children of Crake are artificially designed people from this series. The...moreI heard Margaret Atwood talking about the Children of Crake on the radio. The Children of Crake are artificially designed people from this series. They were created by a scientist who called himself Crake. I'm interested in utopian fiction so I finally picked up the book.
Unfortunately for me there is very little about the Children of Crake in this book.
This story is narrated by the Snowman, a young man who is struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic jungle full of genetically engineered creatures. Through flashbacks he tells us about his childhood as Jimmy, how he came to meet Crake and Oryx, and eventually what led up to the apocalypse that resulted in his current situation.
So this is mostly a dystopian novel about a world of elite corporate compounds and genetic engineering. It reminds me of the cyber punk novels "Snowcrash" or "Mona Lisa Overdrive", only with less computer programing and more genetic engineering.
It was very engaging at first. I dove right in. But toward the middle it began to slow down and now in the final pages everything is rushing to a conclusion.
I really wanted to know what the premise was for the Crakers. If it was Margaret Atwood's premise or Crake's premise. (You should never mistake the opinion of a character for the opinion of the author.) I finally got to the part where Crake describes the theories behind his ideal people and I think he made some basic mistakes. But I still don't know if these are Margaret Atwood's mistakes until I see how the Crakers play out in the future. Which we will not see until the third book.
p293 "War, which is to say misplaced sexual energy, which we consider to be a larger factor than the economic, racial, and religious causes often cited."
This is basically saying that war is caused by misplaced sexual energy, so the solution, in the Crakers, is a set mating period with no pair bonding and no leftover sexual energy. I believe that this theory is wrong and will fail spectacularly. War and indeed most violence is over access to resources, economics. Mates and children are sometimes the resources being fought over, and race and religion are sometimes how people know which side they are on, but the cause is economics.
The Crakers don't have racism because they "simply did not register skin color" p305 Well, they can see skin color. Their skin turns blue when they go into heat so they can see that. Being able to see something and thinking it is important are two different things. There is no gene for "registering skin color" if you can see color you can see skin color. Discrimination on the basis of appearance is not a higher brain function it is a lower brain function. Lightening bugs do it. If an animal can chose between a healthy mate and sick mate it can chose between a dark colored mate and a light colored mate.
I'm not sure about hierarchy issue. Once again I don't think you can remove "hierarchy" from the brain without removing the ability to make any distinction at all. Hierarchy is just about deciding "this is better than that". You can't live very long without that kind of distinction.
He says "They would have no need to invent any harmful symbolisms, such as kingdoms, icons, gods, or money." because they have no need for property, because they are herbivores. Two problems here. First herbivores such as horses, goats, and sheep do develop territories and fight over limited resources. And despite having limited mating cycles they do compete for mates. So, there is no reason to think the fact that they don't build houses or wear clothes will keep them from killing each other over grazing rights or access to mates. And second, I firmly believe that symbolism is part of our speech function. If they can speak they manipulate symbols. If they can manipulate symbols they will have icons.
In the little we have seen of the Crakers they seem to have developed religion in spite of Crake's best efforts. Snowman blames himself for this because he told them stories to manipulate them. But I think it was inevitable. Snowman's ideas about religion are rather simplistic and based on atheist cant about what religion is. (less)