Too many cultists

Coroc

Adventurer
But that is @Tonguez's point. Gods that we may deem malevolent or evil from our current perspective might not have been thought of as evil gods in their day - they were still revered.
OR feared. And therefore the need arose to appease them = rever them, although they were evil.
 
Cultists in D&D, and the "Evil High Priest" of OD&D derive at least in part from the pulps. They're a prominent feature in Lovecraft - The Call of Cthulhu, The Horror at Red Hook - and RE Howard's Conan.

Satanic cultists were a thing in late 60s and 70s movies also - Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Devil Rides Out (1968, based on Dennis Wheatley's 1934 novel), Omen (1976).
 

Celebrim

Legend
But that is @Tonguez's point. Gods that we may deem malevolent or evil from our current perspective might not have been thought of as evil gods in their day - they were still revered.
Depends on what you mean by 'revered'. That's one of the problems importing a post-Christian mindset into polytheism. Most belief systems did not have a notion of piety such as we have, which involves a reverencing a deity with love and faith, which is returned by that deity toward the worshiper. So in Egyptian practice for example, there were many deities with temples whose priesthood's job was to continually pray spells of impotence and defeat against that deity so that it would not be able to harm the populace. In that case, piety was continuing offering up curses against the deity. In Sparta, the patrons of the city were Apollo and Athena. They dealt with the problem of Ares by building a temple to him, then binding his idol in chains. The idea was very similar, a chained Ares would lack the power to aid the enemies of Sparta in battle. But this sort of worship doesn't look like reverence like we think of it. It's a sort of deep respect sure, but it's not what we might be first thinking of when we think of having deep respect for something. It's more like the deep respect you might have for a bottle of nitroglycerin, biohazardous sharps, or radioactive waste.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
Depends on what you mean by 'revered'. That's one of the problems importing a post-Christian mindset into polytheism. Most belief systems did not have a notion of piety such as we have, which involves a reverencing a deity with love and faith, which is returned by that deity toward the worshiper.
One can assert precisely nothing about the subjective psychological experiences of people 2000 years ago.

But the lens you are using to formulate your opinion is quite apparent.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
Depends on what you mean by 'revered'. That's one of the problems importing a post-Christian mindset into polytheism. Most belief systems did not have a notion of piety such as we have, which involves a reverencing a deity with love and faith, which is returned by that deity toward the worshiper. So in Egyptian practice for example, there were many deities with temples whose priesthood's job was to continually pray spells of impotence and defeat against that deity so that it would not be able to harm the populace. In that case, piety was continuing offering up curses against the deity. In Sparta, the patrons of the city were Apollo and Athena. They dealt with the problem of Ares by building a temple to him, then binding his idol in chains. The idea was very similar, a chained Ares would lack the power to aid the enemies of Sparta in battle. But this sort of worship doesn't look like reverence like we think of it. It's a sort of deep respect sure, but it's not what we might be first thinking of when we think of having deep respect for something. It's more like the deep respect you might have for a bottle of nitroglycerin, biohazardous sharps, or radioactive waste.
Well, it depends on what you mean by "depends".

[Humor, not being serious]
 

Celebrim

Legend
One can assert precisely nothing about the subjective psychological experiences of people 2000 years ago.
You would be right if in fact the people of 2000 or more years ago had not left us a record of their thoughts and beliefs in their writing. And while it's not as robust of a record as we might like, it's still a record. For example, I invite you to reread Euthyphro and remind yourself how this dialogue - which, whether it is a true account or not - I think tells us a very great deal about what people thousands of years ago felt and believed about the topic of piety and reverence for the gods and how to practice right religion in their time as they understood it.

It's on the basis of that and similar writings that I'm asserting things about the subjective psychological experiences of people "2000 years ago", and not for example on the basis of pottery shards and (as my daughter affectionately calls it) "piles of rubble".

But the lens you are using to formulate your opinion is quite apparent.
Is it that clear? I wish you would tell me then what it is, because evidently you didn't believe it to be something like Euthyphro.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
Is it that clear? I wish you would tell me then what it is, because evidently you didn't believe it to be something like Euthyphro.
Do you think it's reasonable to extrapolate from the rhetorical musings of one writer - Plato, no less - and generalize in the way you have about the religious experience of all pre-Christians?

Plato tells us a lot about what Plato thought. It doesn't tell us a lot about the religious experience of ancient Sumerians

It's on the basis of that and similar writings
.
Emphasis mine. What similar writings?

Is it that clear? I wish you would tell me then what it is
Well, if I have to spell it out...

That's one of the problems importing a post-Christian mindset into polytheism.
Why is the defining criterion for a "mindset" pre-Christian and post-Christian?

Most belief systems did not have a notion of piety such as we have
This is apologetics.

which involves a reverencing a deity with love and faith
And so is this.

which is returned by that deity toward the worshiper.
And so is this.

It's more like the deep respect you might have for a bottle of nitroglycerin, biohazardous sharps, or radioactive waste.
And this is polemical.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Do you think it's reasonable to extrapolate from the rhetorical musings of one writer - Plato, no less - and generalize in the way you have about the religious experience of all pre-Christians?
I don't think I did.

Plato tells us a lot about what Plato thought. It doesn't tell us a lot about the religious experience of ancient Sumerians
Sure, but they left writing as well.

Emphasis mine. What similar writings?
I was giving a single example in refutation of the claim that "One can assert precisely nothing about the subjective psychological experiences of people 2000 years ago." Contrary to where you are now heading, I wasn't the one that made an overbroad absolute generalization. You did. My single example refutes your overbroad claim in itself, and it was selected on the basis of its clear relevance to the topic because it involves introspection and reflection upon religious belief and not merely recitation. But I put it you that so far as your claim goes, even recitation in the form of spells, prayers, hymns, or sacred stories so forth tell us something about the subjective psychological experiences of people 2000 years ago.

Why is the defining criterion for a "mindset" pre-Christian and post-Christian?
Do you mean a single defining criterion? I don't think there is a single defining criterion, but if you really want to go out on this tangent, I do think we can show that there is a body of ideals associated with Christianity which have been highly and broadly influential, such that it is reasonable to assert that everyone who has lived in the wake of these ideas has been influenced by them.

This is apologetics...
No, it is not. Apologetics is "the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse". This, sir, is comparative religion, which is an entirely different discipline.

And this is polemical.
No, it's funny and apt. It shows Ares was the sort of raw insanity that even the Spartans - a nation that turned itself into a ruthless merciless weapon - feared. If you believed Ares was real, you'd want to chain him up as well.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
Celebrim said:
I do think we can show that there is a body of ideals associated with Christianity which have been highly and broadly influential, such that it is reasonable to assert that everyone who has lived in the wake of these ideas has been influenced by them.
Yes. I agree.

How many of us interpret religious practices in other times and places has been influenced by 1500 years of Christian cultural hegemony.
 

uzirath

Adventurer
So the people there didn't worship Set because they thought of him as an evil god. Quite the contrary, he was their god.
Even my most stereotypically "evil" cultists always have some sort of internal rationale for their behavior. "We kidnap and sacrifice babies because Zagthulmash has revealed that this reality is an illusion and in order to achieve harmonious divine synergy, we must destroy all that is sacred in this false prison! All hail Zagthulmash the Revealer!" They don't think of themselves or their patron as evil; rather, they are enlightened or chosen or otherwise special.

I do agree that it wouldn't make sense for most normal cities to have temples to Zagthulmash in their temple district if it is known that he/she/it supports the kidnapping and sacrificing of the population's babies.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Yes. I agree.

How many of us interpret religious practices in other times and places has been influenced by 1500 years of Christian cultural hegemony.
Well, I'm glad to get even this much agreement. Now, since you seem to have a bee in your bonnet, do you actually have a position on how this 1500 years of "Christian cultural hegemony" has thoroughly misinformed me with respect to say Greek, Egyptian, or ancient Sumerian religious practice, so that I have been misleading myself and the boards regarding how it is done? Or do you just engage in drive by attacks like, "One can assert precisely nothing about the subjective psychological experiences of people 2000 years ago." or "And this is polemical." without first having thought out some defensible intellectual position you plan to stake out? Because it seems strange to me at least (for example) to first try to dispute that there is a Christian mindset that you'd like me to define for you as if I've introduced some alien concept, and then immediately flip flop from to boldly proclaiming your belief in 1500 years of Christian cultural hegemony.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Slavers have been used a lot, but they only work if they are in a place where slavery is illegal, and they have a market where it is illegal. If slavery is legal, then the PCs will have a serious problem.
I have always wanted to run a campaign with a mature group of players, where they engage with the fantasy world both as it in it's anachronistic hodge-podge historically inspired muddle, but also with respect to how they as the players would want the world to be. After all, for me killing dragons is only metaphorical for changing the world for the better, and I'd like to see a bit more of the changing the world for the better in more relateable ways and not only just slaying the dragons so that peace and justice may prevail. If peace and justice as the PC's perceive it is not prevailing, then I'd love to see them attempt to remake the game world - a far bigger challenge than just slaying a dragon.

In fact, my very first homebrew game was intended to have this as a major climax of the story. The real conflict I intended to resolve was the unjustly uneven manner which suffrage was implemented in the Republic that the game was set in, and involved a divine conspiracy to remedy this and a group of Robin Hood style outlaws whose real crime was advocating for equal representation. Unfortunately, I moved away before I got a chance to even try to implement this, and I'm not sure either the 16 year old me or my players would have been up to the RP challenge.

But although I doubt a campaign with as subtle of themes as this is publishable, I'd love to see a campaign driven by Abolitionist sentiment in a fantasy world were slavery and serfdom were so common place few thought to question the ideas. I would totally be on board with that sort of grand scope of the players gradually becoming outlaws, and then reshaping the world according to their beliefs in such a way that they came out of the other side heroes.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
Do you actually have a position on how this 1500 years of "Christian cultural hegemony" has thoroughly misinformed me with respect to say Greek, Egyptian, or ancient Sumerian religious practice.
Yes. We shouldn't accept at face value the accounts given by religious group (A) about the beliefs and practices of religious group (B), because history suggests that people who are religious misrepresent rival beliefs.

When we only have accounts from religious group A about group B - as is the case with much pre-Christian and early heterodox Christian practice - then we should admit our relative ignorance.

To suggest that the proper notions of piety, love and faith only obtain in a post-Christian environment - something which you asserted in #63, above - is an article of faith, nothing more.

.
...it seems strange to me at least (for example) to first try to dispute that there is a Christian mindset that you'd like me to define for you as if I've introduced some alien concept, and then immediately flip flop from to boldly proclaiming your belief in 1500 years of Christian cultural hegemony.
I see no contradiction here - I'm not disputing the ascendancy of Christianity in Western culture. And I didn't ask you to define a Christian mindset.

My question is why should the criterion of a pre-Christian vs. post-Christian mindset be important to you, when assessing the relative experience of piety, reverence, love and faith? How do you measure these things?

How do you know what the supplicant felt when the Pythia pronounced her oracles?

You don't.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
I see no contradiction here - I'm not disputing the ascendancy of Christianity in Western culture. And I didn't ask you to define a Christian mindset.

My question is why should the criterion of a pre-Christian vs. post-Christian mindset be important to you, when assessing the relative experience of piety, reverence, love and faith? How do you measure these things?

How do you know what the supplicant felt when the Pythia pronounced her oracles?

You don't.
It's not that one must consider a pre-Christian versus post-Christian mindset should be important to consider (although it can be in certain contexts), it's that the consideration is utterly irrelevant to what we surmise to be true about worship in the ancient world from ancient texts, poems, and works.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Yes. We shouldn't accept at face value the accounts given by religious group (A) about the beliefs and practices of religious group (B), because history suggests that people who are religious misrepresent rival beliefs.
Granted. The Greeks themselves were certainly suspect in this practice.

When we only have accounts from religious group A about group B - as is the case with much pre-Christian and early heterodox Christian practice - then we should admit our relative ignorance.
While I'm happy to admit to "relative ignorance", let me remind you that the claim I'm responding to is the claim of absolute ignorance - "One can assert precisely nothing about the subjective psychological experiences of people 2000 years ago." But I dissent further that we do not only have accounts from religious group A about group B, and in any event you qualify even this claim yourself by using the word "much". So if you are only going to defend assertions about "relative ignorance" and not absolute ignorance, then I can say we are in close agreement since I've already asserted, "it's not as robust of a record as we might like..."

To suggest that the proper notions of piety, love and faith only obtain in a post-Christian environment - something which you asserted in #63, above - is an article of faith, nothing more.
And here I again ask you to reread the Euthyphro, and ask you what are the proper notions of piety, love and faith? I said nothing about what I thought was proper, and only that the definition of piety that pertains to a particular religious practice today does not pertain to every manner of religious belief. I said nothing about what was proper, superior, or anything of the sort.

And I didn't ask you to define a Christian mindset.
My apologies then, but if you didn't ask me to define a Christian mindset, what did you mean by "Why is the defining criterion for a "mindset" pre-Christian and post-Christian?" That "defining" there misled me to think you were asking for some sort of definition.

My question is why should the criterion of a pre-Christian vs. post-Christian mindset be important to you, when assessing the relative experience of piety, reverence, love and faith?
Your question is tangential to the topic as I see it, which has nothing to do with asssessing the relative experience of piety, reverence, love, and faith, but instead has to do with imagining what the experience of piety, reverence, love, and faith are likely to be given the normal cosmology of a D&D game which is as I said polytheistic, pluralistic, and animistic. All I have said is that these features are highly unlikely to generate anything like, for example, the otherwise superbly written "Bastion of Faith" book by Bruce Cordell, where he took features particular to Medieval Catholicism and wielded them haphazardly to a cosmology and a theology wholly unlike Medieval Catholicism. In the context of the thread, I was suggesting this view of what a 'cult' is, which is grounded in Catholic views of heterodoxy, heracy, and it's view regarding other religious practice, is probably not one that makes sense in the setting.

How do you measure these things?
I'd be happy to just describe them, much less measure them.

How do you know what the supplicant felt when the Pythia pronounced her oracles?

You don't.
Well, unless we get some description by that supplicant themselves or someone close to them.

But even if we lack such personal accounts, it's not hard to imagine how a person might have felt in response to this pronouncement, "Now your statues are standing and pouring sweat. They shiver with dread. The black blood drips from the highest rooftops. They have seen the necessity of evil. Get out, get out of my sanctum and drown your spirits in woe."
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
But even if we lack such personal accounts, it's not hard to imagine how a person might have felt in response to this pronouncement, "Now your statues are standing and pouring sweat. They shiver with dread. The black blood drips from the highest rooftops. They have seen the necessity of evil. Get out, get out of my sanctum and drown your spirits in woe."
I agree that we can imagine what it felt like. But we're missing an awful lot of context, we haven't been initiated into the mysteries, and it's hard to claim an understanding of what it might mean with regard to a particular individual's faith, piety, reverence etc.

As an aside, I'd like to recommend The Treasures of Darkness by Thorkild Jacobsen as an investigation into early Mesopotamian spirituality.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
I have always wanted to run a campaign with a mature group of players
So have I. But I've lost all hope in that happening. :cool:

But although I doubt a campaign with as subtle of themes as this is publishable, I'd love to see a campaign driven by Abolitionist sentiment in a fantasy world were slavery and serfdom were so common place few thought to question the ideas. I would totally be on board with that sort of grand scope of the players gradually becoming outlaws, and then reshaping the world according to their beliefs in such a way that they came out of the other side heroes.
Except that outlaws don't create change. The RL abolitionist movement made its most significant achievements, limited as they were, through good old-fashioned political lobbying, and in doing so had to make compromises.

John Brown, however well-intentioned, made things worse with his final raid; on an ironic level, the first person his followers killed in his ill-conceived raid was a free former slave.

And keep in mind that slavery as both an institution and a business model is flourishing today, much more s that it was in the mid-1800s.
 
So have I. But I've lost all hope in that happening. :cool:



Except that outlaws don't create change. The RL abolitionist movement made its most significant achievements, limited as they were, through good old-fashioned political lobbying, and in doing so had to make compromises.

John Brown, however well-intentioned, made things worse with his final raid; on an ironic level, the first person his followers killed in his ill-conceived raid was a free former slave.

And keep in mind that slavery as both an institution and a business model is flourishing today, much more s that it was in the mid-1800s.
Out of curiousity i wonder which nations are the current top 5 producers of slaves and the the top 5 consumers of slaves.

Also which are the top 5 producers of child slaves and the top 5 consumers of child slaves.

I'll bet these lists would put a lot in perspective.
 

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