While reading Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson, I learned that some early followers of the Northern Gods of War – Odin, Wodan/Woden, and Teiwaz/Tyr – paid homage to their deities in some gruesome ways. For example, the conquerors would offer thanks to the Gods for their victory by hanging the conquered from trees and spearing them.
I often greet the morning by standing at the sliding glass door in my kitchen and surveying the towering trees in my back yard. As I did this today, I remembered the above and visualized myself 1500 years in the past and surrounded by Swedish countryside, bodies hanging from the trees my eyes were fixed on. To call this vision disturbing would be an understatement.
I then began thinking about what the followers of the new Roman God may have thought and said if they’d come upon this bizarre fruit hanging from a blood-stained tree. “Barbaric” would undoubtedly be one of many words they’d have used to describe it.
A sobering thought then jolted me back to the present. We’ve progressed so little between then and now! As recently as 50 years ago, African Americans in the South were lynched by white mobs and strung up in magnolia trees to rot – simply because their skin was a different color. It’s ironic that the perpetrators would likely have called themselves “God-fearing religious folk.”
These are just two examples of one of humanity’s biggest faults – using religion to justify unspeakable acts of horror. There are many (many) more examples to be found throughout history – two as recent as 9/11/01 and its cause, the ongoing struggles in the Middle East. Pagans, Christians, Jews, and Muslims – followers of every creed are guilty.
How many years must pass before we decide to stop using religion as a weapon?