During the fifth century B.C., philosophers began applying the rules of logic to religion. The gods appeared to be human men and women with all the faults of humanity. They had greater powers than mere humans, but even the greatest of the gods, father Zeus, must bow to Fate. The gods did not seem to take any interest in human affairs, except when people worshiped them and gave them offerings, or failed to do so. For example, according to Homer, the Greeks lost many of their soldiers to arrow attacks during the Trojan War because they were holding hostage the daughter of a priest of Apollo. And the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) spent twenty years trying to get home from the Trojan War because the sea god Poseidon (Neptune) opposed him. Odysseus had departed in his ships without first making an offering to Poseidon.
By the fourth century B.C., the conflict between religion and science had become the most prominent feature of Greek philosophy. By the third century B.C., skeptical philosophers concluded that the myths of many gods had come from the north, from tribes that the Greeks had conquered. They advised turning away from such superstition and embracing the monotheistic idea of one creator God. Although this was not the God of the Bible, the Greeks were prepared to embrace Christianity when it arose.
A major flaw in the Greek polytheistic religion was that they offered little hope beyond death. Even the greatest hero, Akhilleus (Achilles), said that he would rather be a dirt farmer on Earth than a king in Hades, the shadowy underworld of the dead. The Greek Hades is not necessarily the Hell of Christian doctrine. Most of its inhabitants are not punished, but none of them is happy. Even the god Hades (Pluto) who rules the underworld, finds little to enjoy in the dark, gray, shadowy underworld, which lies literally under the Earth. Dante Alighieri would draw upon descriptions of Hades for his “Inferno”, part of his Divine Comedy, which he composed between 1308 and his death in 1321.
2012 and Beyond: Ancient Secrets and Mysteries
by Tessa B. Dick
available at Amazon