The old gods…who pays their respects anymore?

Posted: June 18, 2010 in Religion
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In his book Prejudices: A Selection (also here in an older edition), in the chapter “Memorial Service”), H. L. Mencken asks…

“Where is the grave-yard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a day when Jupiter was the king of gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter today? And what of Huitzilopochtli? In one year…50,000 youths and maidens were slain in sacrifice to him. Today, if he is remembered at all, it is only by some vagrant savage in the depths of the Mexican forest.”

And as far as dead gods go, that’s just for starters. After all, Mencken asks, whatever happened to Resheph, Anath, Ashtoreth, Baal, Astarte, Hsdad, El, Nergal, Nebo, Ninib, Melek, Ahijah, Isis, Ptah, Anubis, Addu, Shalem, Dagon, Sharrab, Yau, Amon-Re, Osiris, Sebek, Molech? Mencken goes on to list a few dozen more. Remember too, that these gods were once held in the highest esteem. “Many of them are mentioned with fear and trembling in the Old Testament. They ranked, five or six thousand years ago, with Jahveh himself; the worst of them stood far higher than Thor. Yet they have all gone down the chute…”

Hopefully, some Mencken writing in the future will add the sky lords of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the graveyard of gods.

  1. They were personifications, through which the ancients continue to talk to us about their world-view of triumphs and disasters which we can still understand ancient peoples and what we inherited from them. The idea of democracy, tragedy, comedy. Parables. Legends. Tales. Creation stories. Outside our religions, civilizations, governments. You mean to tell me we cannot learn from them? They may still have some relevance for explaining hubris, justice, and so on. Their stories were filledt with models of weaknesses and strengths. You judge too quickly.

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