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What Is Astrotheology?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

Astrotheology is a field of study that explores the role that the stars, sun, moon, and other “heavenly bodies” have played in the formation of various religious systems. This field can study anything from ancient mythological systems utilized by Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Sumerians to more modern religions and the origins of various traditions and practices. Astrotheology can bring up numerous points of contention, however, as the commonalities among religions may be seen as an affront to modern belief systems. Researchers may also try to determine a “first” or “true” religious system based on astronomical bodies, though this is often seen as a less scholarly effort.

The basic purpose of astrotheology is to study various religious concepts with regard to astronomical objects and how they have influenced religions and mythological systems. Some of the most basic studies in this field involve ancient mythological systems that often ascribed divine origin or identities to various objects in the sky. In these systems, the moon was often described as a feminine figure and the sun was frequently given masculine traits. Various gods and goddesses in different systems were connected to different astronomical bodies, such as the names of nearby planets, and through astrotheology these practices can be better understood.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

One potential area of criticism for astrotheology is when efforts are made to draw connections between religious systems. This commonly occurs in non-Christian studies of Christianity based on similarities between religious systems and the practices and beliefs behind many Christian traditions. Many Christians find these types of statements offensive, as they are often used to argue that Christianity is a belief system without historical precedent or fact behind it. Such arguments ultimately become pointless without definitive evidence for either side, however, and so research in astrotheology is often focused on exploring different ideas in various religions, rather than challenging those ideas and beliefs.

There are some people who study astrotheology in an effort to establish and practice an “original” or “true” religion, rather than for purely scholastic pursuits. Such efforts may be no more or less flawed than any other attempt to understand the mystical and the divine, but utilize the visible objects in the sky as a starting point for construction of religious practices and ideas. Many of these beliefs build upon past beliefs and practices as well, to create historical precedent for new ideas or religious systems. This has led to conflict between some of the ideas in certain aspects of astrotheology and other religious systems; most scholarly findings are meant purely for education and intellectual development, not for worship.

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