Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/19

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9
RELIGION AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

glens, or to see the bullocks slain in honor of Jupiter Tonans, the Thunderer. In cold and temperate climes it is the enlivening and warming sun that is loved and adored; but, in the sultry air of the tropics, the sun and the sky of day become evil and destructive deities, and affection is transferred to the refreshing sky of night.

So, also, in their ideas of heaven and hell, there is a natural contrast between the faith of the man of the tropics and the man of the Arctic zone. To the first, the future home of the good is some abode of coolness, some garden of the Hesperides, or a breezy Olympian height, and the place of punishment a place of fire. To the Icelander, hell is the place of cold, worse far to him than fire, and heaven, some comfortable hall surrounded by a hedge of flame. Again, in hot climes, where the soil of the river-bottoms is deep and rich, and nature teems with productiveness, there the gods are credited with the same sensuous nature; religious ideas are apt to revolve about the mysteries of procreation, and the worship of the people is apt to include not a few impure rites and symbols.

The numerous gods of fertility among the agricultural Egyptians — Chem, Min, Chnam, Osiris — the sexual rites of Babylonia, and the numerous objectional symbols in Hindoo worship, illustrate this. On the contrary, under the clear skies and bright moon and the pure streamlets of Greece, it is the virgin goddesses of the most exacting purity, Dianas and Pallas Athenes, rather than loose-zoned and wanton mistresses, that are suggested. Aphrodite and Cybele, and Dionysos indeed, were, later, members of the Olympian court; but they came from regions farther east, where they were tinged with an earthly and sensuous dye, such as we do not find in the native worship of Hellas.

The tribes of Northern Asia, wandering amid the bleak wastes of Mongolia or the gloomy forests of the Ural, their frail shelter shaken by the riotous winds, whose mysterious sighs and howlings often make them quake with terror, come naturally to be believers in dim, mysterious, supernatural powers, with which their own lot is bound up, and readily devote themselves to whatever occult and magic rites the shaman may produce. The Shemite, on the broad plains of Chaldea or the sandy wastes of Arabia, found nothing to arrest his eyes till they rested on the glistening skies, brilliant, in that clear air, with a brilliancy beyond anything that we know: and he became thus, most naturally, a devout star-worshiper; invested the chief celestial objects with the most exalted attributes, and raised them, in his fervid adoration, to more and more absolute majesty and incomparable power, till at length the idea of the divine was exalted into monotheism.

The Aryan, on the contrary, grew up among the mountain pastures of Bactria, where the clouds are often about his feet, and the heavens are not so far away. The earliest Vedic hymns are marked by a sense of the nearness of the gods, and men are seen mingling with them, familiarly, as friends. Nature did not oppress man with dreadful