Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/467
IV. GREEK RELIGION
By Professor Clifford Herschel Moore
GREEK religion includes all the varied religious beliefs and practices of the peoples living in Greek lands from the beginning of history to the end of paganism. In contrast to Christianity it had no body of revealed teachings, no common dogma or fixed ritual binding at all shrines and on every worshiper, but each locality might have its own distinctive myths and practices, and the individual might believe what he pleased so long as he did not openly do violence to tradition. No priestly orders attempted to interpose their decrees upon society; local habit alone determined both ritual and belief.
The religion of the Greeks exhibited at every stage its composite character. As early as the second millennium B.C., so far as we can judge from the results of excavations in Greece proper and in Crete, the inhabitants of these lands had anthropomorphic ideas about some of their deities, that is, they thought of them and represented them in their art essentially as human beings; on the other hand, we find in the later centuries such primitive elements as the worship of sacred stones, trees, and symbols still existing. Yet it is a mistake to suppose that Greek religion had its origin in a worship of natural objects and forces; undoubtedly the worship of natural phenomena and of inanimate objects, of ancestors, and possibly of animals, all contributed to the religious sum total, but it is impossible to trace to-day all the factors which made up religion in historical times. We can only say that the Greeks worshiped a multitude of spiritual beings who filled all nature and were to be found in every field of activity. Man, therefore, was always in social relation to the gods. The ordinary Greek felt that the world was filled with divine beings of varying ranks whose favor he must seek or whose ill nature he must propitiate by offerings and prayer. Only the most enlightened ever attained to anything like monotheism.