In Praise of Polytheism

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Univ of California Press, Jan 31, 2023 - Religion - 164 pages
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What ancient polytheistic religions can teach us about building inclusive and equitable futures
 
At the heart of this book is a simple comparison: monotheistic religions are exclusive, whereas ancient polytheistic religions are inclusive. In this thought-provoking book, Maurizio Bettini, one of today’s foremost classicists, uses the expansiveness of ancient polytheism to shine a bright light on a darker corner of our modern times.
 
It can be easy to see ancient religions as inferior, less free, and remote from shared visions of an inclusive world. But, as Bettini deftly shows, many ancient practices tended to produce results aligned with contemporary progressive values, like pluralism and diversity. In Praise of Polytheism does not chastise the modern world or blame monotheism for our woes but rather shows in clear, sharp prose how much we can learn from ancient religions, underscoring the limitations of how we view the world and ourselves today.
 
 

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Contents

The Gods in Exile
1
Animals Shepherds Three Kings
20
Sigilla
26
Thou Shalt Have No Other God Before
34
Translating the Gods Translating
41
Polytheism Curiosity and Knowledge
61
What If Monotheisms Were Just Polytheisms
67
Polytheism as Language
76
Giving Citizenship to the Gods
82
The Long Shadow of Words
90
The Twilight of Writing the Sunset of Scripture
101
Appendix A Religious Tolerance
113
Appendix B The Ups and Downs of Paganus
119
Bibliography
143
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About the author (2023)

Maurizio Bettini is Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Siena, where he is Director of the Center for the Anthropology of the Ancient World. He is author of more than twenty scholarly books and five novels, including winners of the Prix Bristol des Lumières and the Premio Letterario Mondello.

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