In reading the Homeric Hymns earlier this semester, I noticed a key difference in the religion of the early Greeks and the dominant religions of contemporary society (Christianity, Islam, Judaism). It seemed to me that the Greeks created a god for every distinct human emotion that they observed, with the importance of the god depending on the importance of the value or emotion which that god represented. This had significant implications in the fact that humans were socially able to express their appreciation for ALL of their naturally inherent feelings. Intoxication and sex included, the Greeks acknowledged many if not all of the features of human consciousness through their metaphorical descriptions of various gods. Mischief-making, intoxication, and sex were represented by the gods Hermes, Bacchus, and Dionysus. To me, the fact that these naturally occuring emotions were so accepted in Greek culture was difficult to grasp. I realized that this surprise stemmed from the fact that religion serves an entirely different purpose these days than the days of ancient Greece.
Popular modern religions seem to be a strict set of rules that stress the importance of living in such a way as to achieve the vague goal of spiritual perfection and thus gain admitance into heaven. Unlike the Greeks, western religions restrict the acceptable range of human behavior. Instead of celebrating each aspect of individual persona, Christianity provides a brief list of feelings deemed to be acceptable, with everything else cast aside as sin.
I guess what I'm getting at with all of this is that the Greeks celebrated themselves as humans while relgions these days seem to hold the human condition as one of weakness and inferiority under God's rule.