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Halloween reading: Diary of an American Exorcist

What if the pagan gods are real?

I've had to do a bunch of driving over the last couple of weeks and I returned to my faithful companion on the road, the Lord of Spirits podcast.  I like to download these to an MP3 player and listen to them all at once.  I had several episodes to work through, which was great.

Even if one isn't Eastern Orthodox, it makes a lot of great points and (for the most part) aligns with Catholic theology, so I find it very educational.

One item the presenters stress is that there is actually zero conflict between the Christian conception of God and its pagan rivals.  They are in complete agreement on the fundamental structure, they merely differ in the details.

Thank about it.  All of the other pantheons - Babylonian, Assyrian, Canaanite, Greek, Egyptian, Roman, etc. - may conceive of a singular Creator, but actual day-to-day operations are pretty rigidly divided between various deities.

In fact, they often work at cross-purposes to one another, using humans as pawns for their endless intrigues. 

This dovetails perfectly with the Old Testament's statements regarding God dividing the world into various "dominions" under the protection of angels.  As the name suggests, these "dominions" had set limits, either physical boundaries or a specific element (storms, crafts, love) that they could call their own.

These angels rebelled against God when they accepted worship, something that they knew was wrong.  The degree of their fall varied, and that's why some of the pagan gods seems reasonably decent while others are downright depraved.  They warred on each other because - having set themselves against God, they also destroyed any bonds of trust between themselves.

Also of note is the fact that none of the 'reigning' (that is current) pagan gods made the world or people.  That came from some older, far more powerful Creator who was subsequently deposed.

At least that's their story.  The guys on Lord of Spirits seem to take a particular joy in smashing Baal's pretensions to ruling the skies.

To put it another way, the myths of their followers assert their greatness and dominance, but the fact remains that all of them - even the mighty Zeus - have serious constraints on their power.  They are (as they themselves acknowledged) sometimes thwarted by trickery or a coalition of their rivals.

And of course they are fickle.  You screw up a tiny bit of the sacrificial procedure and they might just strike you dead.  Not nice people, not at all.

Now I'm sure some Christians (particularly Protestants) will claim that either none of these "gods" exist or that they are creatures of the Devil.   All I can say is that the former argument can also be used against their faith and the latter one isn't much different from the one I'm making.

J.R.R. Tolkien essentially took this concept and ran with it.  Morgoth and Sauron were angelic creatures who abandoned the Divine Council and set themselves up as gods.   The Balrogs were likewise spirits of fire who turned against Eru, The One.

Saruman was sent to stop them, and he too, fell.  Fans of Unfinished Tales know that Gandalf was actually one of five "wizards" sent as messengers and ended up being the only one to remain true to his mission.  Radagast the Brown was distracted by animals and the two "Blue Wizards" were rumored to have set up cults of their own.

It's interesting to note that in some of the few direct references to worship in Lord of the Rings, it is in fact Eru, not Manwe, who is so honored.  The Elves' songs about Elbereth are pleas for her intercession, a prefigurement of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Tolkien wasn't a theologian but he certainly knew his theology.  What he is describing is exactly the same arrangement - the angels entrusted to watch over the world instead covet it.

I'm still wrapping my head around the concept, but its a fascinating thing to think about.


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