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 Epochal Changes in Religion   

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In Brief:

Each civilization has its own characteristic type of religion. Each religion is associated with certain beliefs and models of attractive personality, sometimes called "heroes".

Personal example is needed to attract a popular following. In the successive epochs of world history, some models of attractive personality have been: the warrior-king, the philosopher or religious prophet, the genius artist or musician, and the movie star or rock 'n roll superstar. Will the "computer nerd" be next?

Personality is an important ingredient of human cultures; for humanity cannot live on ideas alone. Therefore, a culture too much into systems of abstract ideas must be fortified by injections of personality. This element, too, has changed in the successive epochs of civilization. 


Civilization I:   

        The gods were originally a personification of nature; in this epoch, they become communal personalities. Pallas Athena was both patroness of olive cultivation and protector of the city of Athens. Each city-state was thus represented by a goddess or god. The person of the emperor provided personality for large states; his likeness appeared on coins.

We continue to let personalities represent nations as, for instance, when Uncle Sam symbolizes the United States of America. President George W. Bush is its personal representative at the present time. 


Civilization II:   

        In this epoch, God, while anthropomorphic, became abstract and unknowable. God, therefore, ceased to be the main focus of personality.  Instead, the founders of the world religions furnished the personal element.  They became known as characters in written narratives. What we know of Jesus, for instance, comes primarily from the Gospels.

However, visual representations are also important in religious culture, especially in Buddhism. The Crucifix presents a visual image of the suffering Jesus.

Each religion also has a host of lesser personalities - prophets, saints, ascetics, theologians, and church officials.

The religion of Islam is the most austere; yet it has memorable poets, warriors, scholars, and caliphs, in addition to the prophet Mohammed, whose personalities infuse its culture.

Hinduism, a polytheistic religion, is filled with personal gods, some half human.


Civilization III:   

        The choice here may surprise you; for neither the rich financiers or men of commerce, nor the scientists, nor the educators have inspired much of a following.  Instead, the engaging models of personality in this epoch were supplied by the creative arts, both by the artist and by his works. 

In this culture, creative artists, writers, and musicians were considered persons of genius" endowed with extraordinary vision and creative talent. Some led colorful, interesting lives. As models of attractive personality, they impressed themselves upon their national culture.

So the ability to produce a Shakespeare made England great; Germans were blessed with the legacy of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Goethe, and Schiller. Educated people learned to appreciate their aesthetic styles. Their creative personalities were staples of high culture.


Civilization IV:    

        Personality here appears in a more sensuous form. Images of beautiful men and women, with their unique sensuous appeal, are distributed to numerous listeners or viewers in phonograph recordings or tapes, celluloid films, radio and television broadcasts. Through such media, the performers appear directly before their audiences, as if personally. Their qualities of personality are captured and packaged as cultural commodities.

Thus, the performer becomes the focus of personality in this epoch rather than the artist who created the work. Such personality is expressed in the image of persons; it is not merely suggested.


Civilization V:   

         It may be too soon to tell how personality will be manifested in this culture.  Computers are, after all, machines.

           A more detailed and complete discussion of these topics appears in Chapter 3 of Five Epochs of Civilization by William McGaughey.

See Geeks and Nerds, personality types of the new civilization .


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