Eros probably needs no explanation.  It is the Greek term for sexual attraction between two individuals that is undoubtedly genetically programed to produce reproduction in many living species.  It is a fundamental aspect of our identity.

Agape is another Greek term appropriated by the early Christians to indicate God’s self-sacrificing love of mankind and expectation that we should similarly love each other.  It calls for care and respect for all mankind — whether of one’s own religion or not.  It lies at the heart of any authentic religion:

However this is not the beginning of the story.  If one studies the origins of Western religion in the Hebrew and Greek sources (as I did for three years between studies in philosophy), one discovers the tensions in the ethical systems of the ancient world that have lingered into modern times and which are causing us considerable grief today.

The ancient Hebrews and their surrounding cultures were dealing with the same biological urges that are still with us — erotic drives. Many of the ancient religions channeled eros into their temples and worship practices — temple priestesses/prostitutes and such.  Needless to say the smaller and vulnerable nation of Hebrews was resistant to a nice young Jewish boy jumping ship and falling for the attractive young goy of his day.  So one discovers the anti erotic commandments that emerged in the course of time which condemned what were considered to be deviant sexual practices: prostitution, homosexuality, adultery, etc., etc.

A side feature of the ancient religions that must be mentioned here is that their respective gods were viewed as their military front line, leading their troops into battle — whether Athena for Athens or Yahweh for Israel.  As Israel was a small state caught on the trade routes between two super powers — Egypt to the west and whatever was the dominant one to the east (Babylonians and others) — it was likely to lose from time to time.  Israel’s priestly set could not allow that Yahweh was not all powerful and so the mythology emerged that when Israelis lost in war or were driven into exile, the Jewish god must be punishing his people for moral wrong doing.  Thus, morality was linked to doing battle with enemies then characterized as EVIL — raw hate religion at its most dangerous!  And so we have the source of Bush’s abominable military slogans and wars against his “axis of evil.”

Christiane Amanpour is today beginning a series on CNN — tonight at 9 p.m. and running for 3 days — on “God’s Warriors,” our hate religious of today: Jewish, Christian, Muslim.  I don’t know how much she will get into the ideological roots of these violent deviants, but shall try to watch the programs, even if the watching is painful under current circumstances:

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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