The Gods And Society

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Throughout history gods and goddesses have been an important contributor to how a society defines its laws, views, rights and wrongs, and morals. Gods are believed to have brought prosperity, good fortune, and happiness to those who serve and follow them. On the other hand, they are believed to have brought times of drought, famine, plagues, and death to those who disobey the god’s teachings and commands. Gods even promise an afterlife to those who follow them. For these reasons societies have been shaped by its people’s belief in the gods. Whether it be the gods of Ancient Greece, Native American gods, believers in Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other type of religion, it is easy to see throughout history the impact gods have had on the shaping of the world we know today.

The Amazement of the Gods (?), Hans von Aachen, probably 1590s, From the collection of: The National Gallery, London
The title itself "The Amazement of the Gods" depicts how people saw the gods. It is easy to see people why people were fearful of the gods and wanted to serve the gods. The depictions of the gods and their creatures in Gilgamesh being frightening is evident throughout the text. "Humbaba's mouth is fire; his roar the floodwater; his breathe is death" (Gilgamesh Tablet 11). Today fear of death, the afterlife, and the power of god, know matter which one someone believes in, can have impacts on how people live their life's.
Dmitri Kessel, 1947-12, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Every religion has a specific place of worship. It may be a church, synagogue, temple, ect. but all of these places are meant to for praise and worship.Temples such as this one in Greece shows the Greeks dedication to serving the gods. Building temples for the gods to dwell was an important activity for the Ancient Greeks. The gods held tremendous power and people worshiped them in the fear or death and the hope of an afterlife. Gilgamesh struggled with the meaning of life and often wondered if there was more to life than what he was told. "Gilgamesh, where are you wandering? The life you are seeking all around you will not find. When the gods created mankind they fixed Death for mankind, and held back Life in their own hands" (Gilgamesh Tablet X)
Army Demonstration, Keystone, 1979-01-01, From the collection of: Getty Images
Religion has been the source of numerous wars throughout history. The Islamic Revolution had roots in both political and religious views that led to years of fighting. In Persepolis we get to see the Islamic Revolution through the eyes of a young girl. Through her eyes we can see how religion can be the main driving force behind a war. "Everything needs to be revised to ensure that our children are not led astray from the true path of Islam" (Persepolis 10.10) We see leaders of these religious movements can force their ideas and beliefs onto others.
St. Agnes is Received into Heaven, Giovanni Battista Gaulli, after 1689, From the collection of: Kunstpalast
Whether it be consciously or subconsciously most humans make decisions based on a thought of good vs. evil in hopes that they will be rewarded for doing good after death with the reward of Heaven. What is shocking is that subconsciously we are making everyday decisions almost more often then consciously. "But human megalomania will have suffered its third and most wounding blow from the psychological research of the present time which seeks to prove to the ego that it is not even master in its own house, but must content itself with scanty information of what is going on unconsciously in its mind" -Sigmund Freud (Introductory Lectures on Pyscho-Analysis 285). We can make the connection that we are making decisions everyday with religion as a factor and not even realizing it.
The Death of Saint Peter Martyr, Probably by Bernardino da Asola, 1540s, From the collection of: The National Gallery, London
Death has come to many who believed in God or gods that were different than others. Death has also come to those who did not believe or disobeyed the laws of those gods. We are lucky to live in a country that does not persecute individuals based on their beliefs as can be scene in many parts of the world today. Socrates was put to death because of his different beliefs than that of the majority of society during his time. "The wrongdoer must be punished, but they may disagree to who the wrongdoer is" (Socrates 10).
The Death of Socrates, Jean Francois Pierre Peyron, Either 1786 or 1787, From the collection of: SMK - Statens Museum for Kunst
Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life and death, the importance of who they are, and what other beings and worlds are out there. Many found answers to these questions in religion. Different ideas than those of a society could lead to a punishment of death as scene in with Socrates. For this very reason people may have to hide their true beliefs. On the other hand they may choose to come out with their beliefs and face the consequences. Socrates did not fear death as many others do. "To fear death, gentlemen,is no other than to think of oneself wise when one is not, to think one knows what one does not know" (Socrates Apology)
Adam and Eve Driven From Paradise, James Jacques Joseph Tissot, c. 1896-1902, From the collection of: The Jewish Museum, New York
The origin of the universe and life is another question people wish to know the answer too. Some find answers in science and others in religion. Adam and Eve is a story that answers the story of the creation of the universe, life and death, and good vs. evil.(He must not be allowed to take fruit from the tree that gives life, eat it, and live forever" (Genesis 3.22). There are numerous religions all with their own story of creation, but the question is the same, where do we come from and how did we get here.
Joyful Monk Podae, Ahn Jung-sik, 1861/1904, From the collection of: Korea Data Agency
The Joyful Monk Podae shows another image of one of many different religions or belief systems in the world. The picture depicts the monk as being extremely happy, the reason why unknown. It could possibly be answered by the Tao. "Together we call them the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful" (Ta Te Ching 5).But the reason is not as important. Today people still find happiness and comfort in religion, whatever that religion may be. It shows that after thousands of years a faith can still influence millions of people.
5.22.09, Jesus Saves, 2009-05-22, From the collection of: Street Art NYC
"Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not Condemn you; forgive others and God will forgive you"(Jesus Luke 6.37) The words of Jesus Christ have been influencing people for thousands of years. All over the world you can find these influences whether it be in readings, paintings, sculptures, or in the acts of people. This painting demonstrates helps show that Jesus is not restricted to any one type of people or type of work, but his teachings have spread to all walks of life.
Pages from a Qur'an in Hijazi, Unknown, Arabia, late 7th Century, 0650/0725, From the collection of: The Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar
This image of a page from an old Qur'an followed in the world today really are. Many of the teachings and rules have stood the test of time and have been guiding people through their lives over thousands of years. Although there are plenty of religions out there, many of them share common themes. The Islamic faith shares many similarities with Catholics and Jews because all three stem from the same origin. "And we gave Mosses the Book and sent him after Messengers in succession. Then we sent Jesus, son of Mary, with clear signs and supported him with the Holy Spirit" (The Cow 87-90). If you read a Bible you would also find the story of Mosses. Although there are differences the point is people are following these religions and they shape their lives, in turn can have a major impact on society, for better or worse.
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This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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