Reading about ancient religions helps to focus the long view. I’m brushing up on ancient Egyptian gods for my Ancient Near Eastern Religions class. Seeing how various gods rose to prominence with the fortunes of their patron kings or priesthoods suddenly struck a chord for modern-day religions as well. Many of society’s most conservative like to think that this is the day of Yahweh (or, not to put too fine a point on it, Jesus). This pre-biblical god has come into his own with the rise of the Catholic Church, following on from the conversion of Constantine, into the post-Reformation development of Evangelicalism. With the superiority of numbers and fiscal wealth, there is no disputing the one true god, is there?
What happens when the ultra-selfish free market consumes itself to a point that other cultures rise above it? Already outnumbered in souls by China and India what will Americans say when Buddhism or Hinduism outstrips Christianity? Is religion proven correct purely by the numbers? Cultural dominance has become inseparable from religious truth for many brands of Christianity. If in doubt, check out Andrew Schlafly’s Conservapedia (if any state would like to take him off New Jersey’s hands, you are certainly welcome). Being the right religion means being the might religion. Somewhere along the way it seems that the message of Christianity has become equated with bullying others around. I think Jesus must have gotten pushed around quite a bit as a kid on the playground.When Amenhotep IV became king of Egypt, the priesthood of Amun had grown very strong. Probably in an effort to suppress this powerful rival, the king changed his name to Akhenaten and promulgated the sole worship of Aton. Some like to give Akenaten credit for being a monotheist. To me it seems more likely that the old pharaoh was attempting to show intolerant bullies the way to behave: use religion to political advantage. If the opposition disagrees, shut them down. Problem is, this doesn’t work well over the long term. As soon as the unpopular king died, the former religion reasserted itself and things went back to the way they had been. Tut, tut. Seems like religious bullies never learn.