Is It Part Of Hellenic Polytheism To Be Against Science And Medicine?

Is It Part Of Hellenic Polytheism To Be Against Science And Medicine? December 19, 2018
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Short answer: no.

Longer answer: no, and it’s actually about as un-Hellenic as you can get.

Ancient Greek history is filled to the brim with science, mathematics, and medicine not only being integral to society and respected, but seen as sacred as well. If current research and science are failing then sure, by all means pray to Apollo Iatros and his son Asklepios to help turn the tides, but to turn to them in lieu of actual medicine and science was never seen as a virtue. Ever.

Nor should it be viewed as such today, but apparently there are Hellenists out there who come from either a background in Christianity and/or other religious cultures that are wholly unlike and deeply incompatible with Hellenism who are deeply confused and think that there is an “either/or” that does not and did not exist. Namely those who have it posted to a particular Greek polytheistic organization’s website that to honor Asklepios, you should “be open to questioning and investigating the claims of modern medicine”.

Which is incredibly ironic to claim, given that Asklepios is a god of medicine and doctors. The practice of medicine was intimately connected with religion. This is not a deity nor a faith that would tell you to shun medicine, science, and everything that would help you and turn to the gods instead. If you were dying of cancer and medicine couldn’t help you, that’s a whole other issue. If we were discussing prayer in addition to medicine, that would be yet another thing entirely. But to “question modern medicine” in “the spirit of Asklepios” is not remotely in the spirit of the god at all and has a whiff of anti-vaxx, aka pro-death and baby coffin industry, about it.

Given that we have deities who are deeply associated with science, math, and technology as being sacred to them (Apollo, Asklepios, and Hephaistos to name a few), I honestly can’t think of anything more un-Hellenic than advocating for prayer over medicine. “Questioning and investigating the claims of modern medicine” should not be a thing in Hellenism, and anyone stating that this is somehow in the “spirit of Asklepios” does not know anything about the god and his history, let alone that of Hellenic religious history. While it’s true that we are a vast network of religions versus any single, unified belief system, the false dichotomy between science and religion was not something that existed for ancient Greeks, nor should it exist for modern Hellenists today.

Science is sacred; the gods gave it to us to figure out how the universe works. Mathematics was seen by the ancient Greeks, Pythagoras in general, as being the language of the gods. And Pythagoras was a mystic who studied with priests. We know him today mostly through the Pythagorean Theorem, but he was also an initiate of the mysteries and an entire mystery school was started due to him. He was not uncommon; the interconnection of science and religion was a thing back in ancient Greece. I am painfully aware of the fact that we currently live in a culture that has coded religion to mean Christianity and Christian-like religions, and that there are some fanatical adherents of said faith who take things literally to the point of denying history and science–and that this is where much of the anti-religious sentiment frequently comes from. But Christianity is not a template for religion and should be not viewed as such. Our own religion is extremely different in many respects, and this is one of them.

You cannot be against science and modern medicine and be a Hellenist. Such a mindset is against everything the ancients believed. Any group, organization, or tradition claiming that you should toss out modern medicine and do prayer instead is not one you should be a part of for honoring the Greek gods or learning about Greek religion.

As I’ve said before, we need to rethink our attitudes about religion and many, many other things when coming into a faith as different as Hellenism.

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  • Chris Aldridge

    That’s a ridiculous question. The ancient Greeks were the founders of modern sciences and medicines. We still use the Hippocratic Oath to this day, which is a religious oath of the ancient Greeks as well. They did not see the need to separate science and religion, because the Gods were in everything and there was nothing inherently anti-science about their theology.

  • I know it’s a ridiculous question but sadly there appear to be some who think otherwise.

  • Helmsman Of-Inepu

    The same thing is true for Kemetics, though the loss of the ability to read hieroglyphs minimized their influence on later civilizations. The major exception would be chemistry and metallurgy, which eventually morphed into Arabic and medieval alchemy.

  • Lindsy Fish

    I read the article you refer to, and I really don’t think it’s saying what you think it is.

    To me, it’s suggesting we research the diagnoses and treatments we’re given (something I do as a rule anyway) and consider adding other modalities to the medical treatment prescribed.

    “Question” does not mean “reject”. “Question”, especially in this instance given the context of the article and the religion it comments on, means “research and confirm this makes sense”. And that’s an integral part of being an informed patient and an active participant in one’s own care.

    I “question” every suggestion every doctor has made to me as an adult, and I have never refused medical treatment as a result. Even if I knew it was going to be a bit rough, the potential benefits outweighed the risks. And my life is much better for me being an informed patient active in my own care.

    Critical thinking is an important part of living for everyone, not just Hellenic Polytheists. Part of critical thinking is examining things that affect you, including medical care. Part of examination is questioning.

    So I think this article may have been interpreted a bit too narrowly and critically.

  • herbprof

    There are scientific studies that give us plenty of reasons to question the value of modern medicine? The Australian Cancer Study, rating the value of Chemotherapy is just one example, see references below! Anyone not questioning their prescribed Chemotherapy treatment would be foolhardy, knowing their survival rate at 5 years is just a little over 2 out of 100…
    Note From Study: (see Study Reference Below)
    RESULTS: The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.

    All the Scientific Study Authors Are Oncologists, (See Reference)
    All three of the paper’s authors are oncologists. Lead author Associate Professor Graeme Morgan is a radiation oncologist at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney; Professor Robyn Ward is a medical oncologist at University of New South Wales/St. Vincent’s Hospital. The third author, Dr. Michael Barton, is a radiation oncologist and a member of the Collaboration for Cancer Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Liverpool Health Service, Sydney. Prof. Ward is also a member of the Therapeutic Goods Authority of the Australian Federal Department of Health and Aging, the official body that advises the Australian government on the suitability and efficacy of drugs to be listed on the national Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) — roughly the equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration.

    I. Is Chemotherapy Effective? – ICNR
    Survival data were drawn from the Australian cancer registries and the US … Even so, the study concluded that overall, chemotherapy contributes just over 2

    Study Reference:
    The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult …
    by G Morgan – ‎2004 – ‎Cited by 268 – ‎Related articles
    The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies. Morgan G(1), Ward R, Barton M. Author information: (1)Department of …