Your God or Mine?

Posted by Felicia

After reading chapter one of Marco Polo’s The Travels I want to discuss how the way in which Marco Polo chooses to describe the various religions mentioned in his text differ in contrast with the way Homer chooses to portray Greek religion in the Odyssey.  Homer basically uses The Odyssey as well as the stories within The Odyssey to illustrate the Greek religion for his audience.  Homer’s The Odyssey especially portrays how the Greek religion is not wholly centered on just one God, while Polo’s short anecdotes either are fixated on teaching a value for one unique culture, or explaining the evolution of a certain cultures faith.

In The Odyssey as we have discussed many times in class Homer displays the characters to be either god fearing men or not.  Also leading me to the assumption that if the strangers were not god fearing men, it was implied that they did not share the same beliefs and values as one another.  In The Odyssey the Greek religion seems to be held superior in contrast to other religions or cultures such as that of the Laistrygones.  Just as it can be argued that it is immoral to eat other; from the Laistrygones perspective it is just a part of their culture.  In Marco Polo’s text, however, he seems to illustrate each unique religion equally.  In the chapter he also mentions an instance in which all each of the cultures do share a common form of celebration despite their different beliefs.  “Out of reverence to the shoe-maker and the grace vouchsafed to him, the Christians, both Nestorian and Jacobite, who regularly observe a solemn fast on the eve of the day.  But in general, since Armenians, Nestorians, and Jacobites differ in certain points of doctrine, they repudiate and abhor one another.”  (pg.57)

Another thing I noticed that we also discussed in class is the different ways in which each author chose to illustrate how each culture testifies to others about their faith or religion.   I feel that the Greeks used drawn out stories such as Odysseus’ and The Iliad to teach the important morals and beliefs shared throughout their culture.   In the instance you should meet a stranger; you always show great hospitality to him for fear that they may be a god.  “The god of guests is Zeus; for he protects the suppliant – he watches over honored visitors” (IX lines 271-273)*.  Thus the Greeks are sure to honor all guests in order to appease the gods.  In Greek society it is also a custom that both guest and host should honor one another.  The suitors abuse their rights as guests throughout the entire tale, and consequently pay for their wrong doings with their lives.  The way Homer explains this in his writing suggests that it is taught in Greek society if you do not sustain these morals and beliefs you will be punished.  In Chapter one Polo lists brief anecdotes that describe the consequences of greed as told in one culture.  Then he also lists more short stories about the birth of a new type of worship in a particular culture that worships fire.  Just like in Greek society people are taught that if they don’t uphold certain morals or values they will suffer consequences,   but the consequences are dealt more by fate not by the gods.  The Caphil was too greedy to use his precious treasure to pay for warriors to protect his empire so he was forced to die with only his treasure.

In today’s society, I believe that people from different cultures are able to teach their values in more than one way.  I also grew up in a Christian based household.  I attended Sunday school every Sunday since I was five years old. As a matter of fact most of the values and morals that have made me the young woman I am today I learned in the Christian Church.  However, just because I was raised in a from a Christian background are the morals and values I was taught any superior to the ones taught to my Catholic roommate.  If so how do people determine which morals and values are superior to any other culture?

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One response to “Your God or Mine?

  1. First of all, I would appreciate it if you could clarify the last paragraph. You’re second-to-last sentence makes no sense and Catholicism is a form of Christianity so you should be a little more specific about the differences you’re trying to present.
    As for which morals are superior, I would say that nobody can effectively answer that question (and I am not referring to Odysseus here). Everyone will have some form of bias, usually in favor of their own belief system (for if they were to admit another’s superiority it would behoove them to convert). We have no standard to compare to that everyone can agree on, and no one that everyone can agree to allowing to set a standard. This is one of the most basic causes of conflict (the other being money).
    The reason the Mongol empire did so well was because of its tolerance of peoples’ personal beliefs. As long as you followed their secular laws you were left alone. Some could argue that these laws are based on the Mongols beliefs, but those people don’t last very long. As the saying goes, history is written by the victor.

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