Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The agony of Achilles

Achilles starts out as a reasonable man: Why is Apollos against us?  Does anyone know? Let’s find out if we can and appease him so we can defeat the Trojans.  Chalcas comes forward and says he knows.  Well, out with it man, what is it?  Chalcas tells him that Agamemnon has spurned his priest and refused to return his daughter.

Being a typical unreasonable fellow, Agamemnon drew his own conclusions about what was going on.  Chalcas never gave Agamemnon any good prophecies.  Furthermore, Achilles had it in for him. 

Things don’t go well for Achilles.  His prize, Briseis is taken from him by Agamemnon; so Achilles goes to his mother, Thetis, and begs her to beg Zeus to let the Trojans win until Agamemnon must come to Achilles and beg him to return and help defeat the Trojans.  Thetis waits for a good opportunity to importune Zeus.  While Achilles is in the process of getting his way, Chryses, the priest who got his daughter back goes to Apollos and asks him to rescind his curse.  The priest had convinced Apollos to let the Trojans win until he got his daughter back.  His daughter is back, so now he wants the Trojans to lose.

So the gods are receiving conflicting requests.  Achilles wants the Trojans to win.  Chryses wants them to lose.  Since Zeus is more powerful than Apollos we may know how that is going to turn out, but we can see that there are two requests before the gods.  They both have merit.  If one request wins out over the other those who believe in the gods will at least understand that the winner had a more powerful advocate on Olympus.

Monotheists don’t have that luxury.  During World Wars One and Two for example, civilians and soldiers on both sides prayed to the one God believing their cause was righteous. 

How does a theologian resolve this problem?  Deists believed that God had bigger things to worry about than petty requests like those made by Achilles and Chryses.  People were on their own.

In modern times Process Theology proposed that while God would like to help and do the right thing, he just wasn’t powerful enough.  He was sort of like Gaia, except more universal.  He was growing and mankind, homo sapiens, was helping him – as opposed to his helping us. 

More traditionally Christians on either side of whatever issue tend to believe that their cause is righteous and their enemies is not. 

Another monotheism, Islam, believes not only that their cause is righteous and all other causes are not but that Allah will give them victory in whatever war they fight.  So what happens if they lose as Saddam Hussein did for example: character flaws – not religious enough, in fact a thug and not religious at all.

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