Gonna jump around Lucian’s vast corpus to try to determine which of his many works speak most to the present day. Here’s one
dialogue presents Momus, the god of blame, arguing that numerous gods and their entourages should be expelled from heaven for being fraudulent immigrants. These figures range from gods and heroes with a human parent to various “eastern” deities, whose unHellenic appearance and behavior is objectionable.
Remember, if we follow Bakhtin, this is the sort of theme people would be laughing about at the folk-festivals of old times.
Dramatic settings in Olympus are a standard motif of Menippean satire, and The Assembly is one of four Lucianic dialogues set there (the other three being Icaromenippus, Zeus Confounded, Zeus Rants).
“Olympus” is off-limits today. Jack will ban you if you “stage a play” there and make fun of the gods.
This itself, what I’m doing here, is something that should have its own department in the university- directly applying classics to contemporary politics. Good luck installing one of those.
Note that there are certain “gods” that even reactionaries tend to be too serious about to laugh at. This aligns with the Golden Dawn grades. You have to be made of ice to laugh at certain ones. For now, we could settle for a moderate reform given that geburah “POS Ancien Régime” perspectives are too much for most, and possibly enshrine that sort of laughter as an ideal for the future. The “optics god” haha. “I know nothing about the worship of that deity.” Sure you don’t. The “blowup doll god”. “SHUT YOUR MOUTH ABOUT THAT!!!!” A play where the heroine builds a set of wings and flies up to Olympus to find a god that is a giant nose. She climbs inside one of the nostrils and what does she find? I don’t know, you’re the artist here. I love how much I’ve had to suffer because I theorize about these things. “And you want me to make art like that so I suffer too?” The alternative is being a boring person.
Back to Lucian though, he was writing about 900 years after Homer wrote his epics. What we’re concerned with here is Greek theology and also the Roman adaptation of that pantheon. We can only infer that that general theology existed for centuries prior to it being written down. So Lucian parodies an old old belief-system. That he HAS to parody it is a symptom of multiple things. One, that he thought his contemporaries were idiotically superstitious for believing in it, and two, that he also found an audience of those who his parodies made laugh.
Lucian died in 180 AD. Constantine made Christianity the state-religion in 313. Julian the Apostate, who died in 363, was the last emperor to stand against Christianity. Then, another prominent figure, Justinian, closed down the Academy in 529. Separating decisively from “the pagans” was a bumpy process. Lucian not only lampooned the Greek and Roman gods, he roasted Christians, Socratics, Stoics, Eastern nature-goddesses, historians, fellow satirists, you name it. He represents a sort of clean slate time in the west when any possible divinity could emerge. This is probably one of the reasons he was influential during various “renaissances”. Remember how More’s Utopia is both an adaptation and a critique of the Republic? More loved Lucian. Peoples get set in their ways and he represents a mimesis of the festival where all values were temporarily suspended. Disney’s Hercules hides so much about the theology of antiquity.
The only thorough study apparently on Lucian and the gods is a French one from 1937 by Caster.
In this article titled Dryden’s Lucian, it’s claimed that More’s pal Erasmus is the greatest of all Lucianists. Might have to look for studies from before the 20th century. I always talk about the death of god. My focus also is how to murder the false idols that supplanted the Christian God, and thee Menippean satirist par excellence could probably help us with that. If humor is banned that means it’s dangerous, thus it seems natural to go back to those who “founded” humor to figure out how to make the most dangerous weapons.
I think it’s profound this idea of living in an in-between time where neither paganism nor Christianity were considered the Truth. We could see our progressivism as similar to paganism in this sense, if we were to be idealists. We need Lucians to destroy it to prepare the way for the “new Christianity”.