Monday, June 10, 2024

Wisdom in polytheism or agnosticism?

(Yes, I'm still here, I've just been busy with other things. I might return to blogging regularly again, you never know...)

I was in church yesterday and the sermon was on 1st Kings 11,  the passage where Solomon gets old, has lots of wives & concubines and starts to worship other gods. The sermon was basically on the same theme as all other sermons and talks I've heard on this passage before, in essence: don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers, it will only lead to you falling away from the faith.

There's lots I could offer on that topic, but I'll leave that for another time.

What I found myself thinking about was how this episode in Solomon's life squares with him being the 'wisest man who ever lived' (as I think the preacher said, mid sermon). The passage doesn't say that Solomon's wisdom left him or diminished as he got older. It just says that "his heart had turned away from the Lord"

What if that actually was a wise course of action? 

The bible (and following it, Christians) can't contemplate the possibility that changing your beliefs could be a wise thing to do? Especially finding value in other worldviews or finding faults in your own. But even the bible doesn't claim that Solomon suffered in any way as a consequence of this course of action - nothing bad happened to Solomon in his lifetime. The judgement of God for these actions was poured out on Solomon's descendants, not on the man himself. (Which, of course, makes no sense in any sensible system of crime and punishment, but that is also for discussion another time.)

Maybe, for Solomon, introducing diversity of religion into his nation was a very sensible and wise thing to do? 

Maybe he weighed up the evidence and concluded that he couldn't be sure that the God of Israel was the only real god, and that the others were false or lesser gods? 

These days, a great many people who carefully consider the evidence come out concluding that there probably is no god. In the 21st century, atheism and agnosticism are options. Such belief systems weren't available to Solomon in about 950 BC. Maybe putting all religions on an equal footing (equally true or equally false?) was the most wise and enlightened thing he could do? 

Of course, all this presupposes that Solomon was a real historical king, and that the book of Kings is an accurate record of his reign, neither of which I am fully convinced by, but I figured it was worthy of thinking about a little. 

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