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Over at the Chronicle of Higher Education , Laurie Fendrich, professor of fine arts at Hofstra, sarcastically longs for a return to the pre-Christian, pagan past:

When all is said and done, I think we might have been better off if the great monotheistic religions—Islam, Judaism and Christianity—had never gotten off the ground. Beautifully lucid and full of solace as the idea of one, just God is, imagine for a moment if history had gone a different way, and we’d all remained pagans of, say, the Greek sort.

As modern-day pagans, we’d each be lovingly maintaining a little altar in the corner of our living room that would be dedicated to a particular god or goddess. Our closest friends and neighbors would most likely have altars honoring the same god or goddess, but not necessarily. All of us, no matter the particular deities we chose to honor in our own little homes, would honor and respect all the others because they belonged to the pantheon that expressed all of Nature . . . .

With hundreds if not thousands of deities being worshipped and a nearly infinite variety of pantheistic expressions throughout the United States and the world beyond, people would find it difficult to wage war over any particular gods. How would anyone figure out who wasn’t religiously the same, since all the gods would in one way or another be overlapping all the other gods, and honored by everyone?

Oh, yes. Let’s imagine a world without the Judeo-Christian command to love one’s neighbor. Let’s imagine a world in which every individual is not made in the image and likeness of God. Let’s imagine a world in which the gods can be even more capricious and wicked than their own worshipers. Let’s imagine a world in which wars were neither just nor unjust, but instead just a fact of life. And let’s also remember—because we don’t have to imagine—the Peloponnesian War, a war that needed no competing Gods to produce a casualty rate unimaginable today. (It would be as if 44 million Americans had been killed in the European and Japanese theaters of World War II.)

It might be interesting to imagine what the world would be like if the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob never broke into history and supplanted paganism. But it’s also helpful, because it reminds us that the reality—that God loves us, created us in his image, and wants us to love each other—is so much better than the alternative.

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