Just how many gods are there? Monotheistic religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism will say that there is only one god. A Hindu would tell you that there could be as many as 320 million gods. However, another Hindu might tell you that it is really only a single god in 320 million forms. A religious encyclopedia claims that there are only 2,500 gods known throughout the world. Atheists say that there are no gods. Deists say that it doesn’t really matter, because gods only create us then go on their merry way. The gringa finds all of this incredibly frustrating because I like to “know” stuff.
Well, if I can’t get an exact head count of the head guy(s)/gal(s) in charge, then at least the gringa should know some helpful stuff about who he/she/they might be. Take, for example, 3,300 year-old Baal… Tel Burna is a 3,300 year-old archeological site thought to be where a Baal cult thrived (although there are those who want to give credit to the goddess Anat). Baal was a Canaanite storm god.
When the gringa was a little girl in Sunday school, I didn’t learn anything about Baal. However, I received quite an impression in church service with a hellfire-brimstone preacher who pounded the pulpit and claimed that Baal was the pagan god who inspired abortion. There was a scripture in the old testament that he explained as describing child sacrifice. The gringa never really thought much about this memory until the subject of Tel Burna in Israel was brought to my attention. So was Baal a storm god who demanded child sacrifice?
The encyclopedia Brittanica describes Baal as a god of fertility who was manifest in rain and dew. His “storm” nickname translates into “He Who Rides on the Clouds”. So, westerners who preferred to call their own Judeo-Christian god the “God of the Heavens” had to do a bit of rhetorical gymnastics with Baal’s title “Lord of the Heavens”, hence, “storm god”. But did Baal require child sacrifice?
It seems that ancient Baal worship did require human sacrifice, adults as well as children. Strange as it may sound, there are still worshippers today of this ancient religion, at least according to Protestant Evangelicals. Many Protestant Evangelical preachers teach that modern liberalism in U.S. society is neo-Baalism, marked by pro-choice positions on abortion, the acceptance of the LGBT community, and “radical” feminism. Gee, the gringa must be a Baal worshipper! However, once the gringa found out what has been unearthed so far at Tel Burna, and what it indicates about Baal society, she doesn’t feel so bad.
Archaeologists found jars called “pithoi” that were used to store the tithes and offerings of the people. Baal worshippers were generous, faithful givers. Religious icons from other civilizations were also present. Baal worshippers were open minded and tolerant. Chalices and art from other civilizations were found which indicate that Baal society appreciated higher learning and skilled craftsmanship. Interesting technology was discovered that originated from other civilizations. Baal was not a closed society, engaging in open trade with other communities. Baal worshippers were savvy in business and friendly neighbors.
The gringa believes that she is in good company with Baal worshippers. I’m afraid I’m just one, big, fat, heretical disappointment for my childhood pastor.
Image Credit: dragonsandseamonsters.wordpress.com