Friday, May 22, 2020


The Real Atheists

Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), The Decline of the West, tr. Charles Francis Atkinson, Vol. I (London: George Allen Unwin Ltd., 1926), p. 410 (footnote omitted):
What we moderns have called "Toleration" in the Classical world is an expression of the contrary of atheism. Plurality of numina and cults is inherent in the conception of Classical religion, and it was not toleration but the self-evident expression of antique piety that allowed validity to them all. Conversely, anyone who demanded exceptions showed himself ipso facto as godless. Christians and Jews counted, and necessarily counted, as atheists in the eyes of anyone whose world-picture was an aggregate of individual bodies; and when in Imperial times they ceased to be regarded in this light, the old Classical god-feeling had itself come to an end. On the other hand, respect for the form of the local cult whatever this might be, for images of the gods, for sacrifices and festivals was always expected, and anyone who mocked or profaned them very soon learned the limits of Classical toleration — witness the scandal of the Mutilation of the Hermae at Athens and trials for the desecration of the Eleusinian mysteries, that is, impious travestying of the sensuous element.

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