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TopicReligion of Ancient Mesopotamia
ObjectiveStudents will identify the role religion played in the everyday lives of ordinary Mesopotamians. They will recognize that Mesopotamian religion stressed ritual for the here and now as opposed to any concern for the afterlife.
- the accompanying dilemma story, "An Act of God"
PreparationMake sufficient copies of the accompanying activity sheet so that each student has one.
- As an anticipatory set preceding a lesson on Ancient Mesopotamian culture or religion, have students read and discuss "An Act of God" in cooperative teams.
- The student teams should focus on the questions that are included with the story. The entire class should discuss the situation to bring closure to the lesson.
BackgroundAncient Mesopotamian religion revolved around a mythical theme of vengeful gods and goddesses. Man was viewed as a slave to their every whim and, as such, was responsible for keeping the gods happy. From exquisitely appointed temples and shrines to the continual sacrifices of beer, grains, and fruit, Mesopotamians viewed their role on earth as one of fulfilling the needs of the gods. The better they did this. The more successful their earthly pursuits would be.
To this end, numerous methods of fortunetelling arose. Interpretation of dreams, astrology, and the reading of animal organs were necessary measures in determining the will of the gods. The present was stressed, in part, due to the dismal view the Mesopotamians had of the afterlife.
The Mesopotamian view of immortality was a mere existence in some dingy underworld. It was nothing to work toward or look forward to. Therefore, no great expense was utilized in preparing the dead for burial. One's existence in the here and now was all that really mattered. To be successful, the gods had to be placated.