A deity that even atheists can believe in
There is no sign of religion disappearing but, in a more secular world with competing beliefs and ideologies, the question remains open as to which god – if any – future generations will worship.
Who is likely to be the best dog, so to speak: Yahweh, Allah, or that other Abrahamic god we simply know as God? Or is there another competitor?
Advance Gaia: a god that even militant atheists can respect, if not revere. Unlike the God of the Bible, Gaia is one of those lustful, irritable and contrary gods who inhabit Greek mythology. As “Mother Earth”, she was the second element in the evolution of the cosmos after Chaos – the primordial void, according to ancient tradition.
One of his first descendants was Ouranos – the sky god – better known today as Uranus, who became his lover and later his attacker. In a gruesome twist, she encouraged her son Kronos to castrate Ouranos and throw his genitals across the sea. In short, Gaia is not a god to play with.
It has been over 2,000 years since she was first worshiped, and at the time, she was somewhat eclipsed by her granddaughter Demeter – the goddess of fertility and harvest – to whom farmers superstitious people gave gifts. Today, however, Grandma is back in full force, thanks in large part to scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock, whose Gaia Hypothesis describes how all living organisms are part of an interconnected, self-regulating ecosystem.
Some environmentalists now speak of Gaia as a real presence, similar to a universal spirit or the “soul of the world” of Plato’s metaphysics. In Green-speak, she maintains the balance of the Earth – even to the detriment of us, the only inhabitants of the planet aware of her existence.
Could she even be responsible for Covid-19?
The classic John Dillon believes it. Although “essentially a positive and nurturing force,” he says, Gaia “is not yet ready to sit idly by and allow that carefully nurtured ecological balance that she has achieved on this planet over so long. millions of years be overthrown by expansive and unbalanced recklessness. behavior of a species he gave birth to â.
Dillon, Regius Professor of Greek (Emeritus) at Trinity College Dublin, explains further as this week’s unthinkable guest.
In ancient times, the plague was considered a message from the gods. Does the current pandemic also contain a message?
John Dillon: âYes, I rather think it is. We have certainly sinned, as a civilization, but this time it is a fairly new kind of sin, the one against our environment, and part of that involves rushing all over the planet, emitting large amounts. of CO2 and distorting the economies of many countries.
âMother Gaia’s message is: Slow down. Take the time to appreciate your immediate surroundings and what you can gain from them. Smell the roses! Listen to the birds!
Did Gaia have a special status among the Greeks or was she just one god among many?
âWell, Demeter was certainly a very respected elder goddess in the Greek religion, and when she went on strike the climate stopped, the crops shriveled and people perished.
âGaia, in James Lovelock’s theory, has roughly the same role. It is not a malicious force, but it is concerned with preserving the climatic balance that it has established for many millennia, and if it identifies us, the human species, as a virus capable of disrupting or even destroying , this balance, through our reckless greed and devotion to infinite and exponential “growth”, she will take action, either to eliminate us completely or to reduce us considerably.
Do you see Gaia, however, as a true life force or just useful fiction?
âWell, as a Platonist I should place her as the lower emanation of the ‘soul of the world’, and therefore not a very exalted figure – although powerful enough to deal with us. But – a little more seriously – I’m willing to believe that Earth, as a living system, is capable of taking steps, instinctively, to preserve its balance, even at the cost of wiping out its most powerful species. Because, let’s face it, there are far too many of us now if we want to live at the high octane level that we want to live in, and that the swarming masses of Asia and Africa are eager to join us.
“If we’re not ready to shoot our horns, I think Gaia is more than ready to sort us out.”
This scourge appears to be different from others in that societies have put saving lives before economic prosperity. Does this suggest that humans are making moral progress?
“Yes, it’s a rather odd little bug, really, in that it’s not particularly harmful to the great mass of young and healthy people, but focuses on the old, the weak and to some extent. measures the poor – very unlike the first bubonic plague, or even the Spanish flu. And, as you suggest, it seems to bring out the best, and the most rational, in the populations of many countries – but not all, unfortunately.
âIf we could just stick with the mindset that – aided by good leadership – we achieved when this is all over, it looks like we’re much better at it, as a company. But we’re really going to have to embrace a pretty tough green agenda and stick to it, despite some serious drawbacks. “
Ask a wise man:
Does Mother Nature love us?
James Lovelock responds: “Sadly, we are a schizoid-prone species, and like an old lady who has to share her house with a growing and destructive group of teenagers, Gaia gets angry, and if they don’t improve. , she will kick them out. “