Is polytheism dead?

By Leca
@lecanis (16664)
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
January 21, 2007 10:50am CST
In almost every religious discussion I've read on this site, I've heard at least one person state that all gods, from all religions, are really just one god. That they are various faces of the same higher power, and that all religions should be able to be ONE religion because there's really only ONE higher power no matter what you call it. I've heard a lot of people voicing similar opinions offline too. Even people who follow traditions that were originally polytheist often express the belief that all of their gods or goddesses are really just different aspects of a Supreme Being. So is polytheism dead? Obviously monotheism in the norm these days, considering most people are members of Abrahamic religions, but I hadn't realized that many others are also now essentially monotheistic until very recently. Anyone else have any opinions on this?
3 people like this
13 responses
• India
16 Jan 08
Hi Lecanis, A year-old discussion but something that I found interesting enough. I think people are suddenly turning monotheist with a vengeance because of the total world scenario. More and more people are fighting with each other on religion and its supremacy but at the same time, even the religions leaders are understanding that such mindless confrontation will ultimately lead to WWIII and destruction of all our children. So if there are no people, who will follow religion??? It is these leaders who are gradually moulding people into thinking that maybe your religion is the best, but other religions speak and teach the same…basically they are trying to forge a human bondage which religion takes away. Also many people are becoming more aware these days, they are themselves reading the religions books of other religions, trying to connect, trying to come out of the clutches of religious ‘scholars’, trying to understand each other better. And the more they communicate, the better they bond, they better they understand the similarities of all religions and the miniscule nature of human existence in comparison to this universe.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
16 Jan 08
I'm not really sure I understand how an increased interest in getting along with people of other religions causes polytheists to become monotheists. Just because you can find the similarities between religions or bond with people of other religions doesn't mean you have to change yours. I just don't understand why so many people are abandoning polytheism even within religions that are traditionally polytheist. As a hard polytheist myself (someone who believes in Gods as separate entities and not just parts of one whole), I don't see why it should be necessary to abandon or redefine your Gods in order to bond with people of other religions.
• India
17 Jan 08
No, I don’t think polytheist are actually converting to monotheism, but more and more polytheist are acknowledging monotheism than before. Personally speaking, I am a born Hindu so I have been brought up among polytheism. I could never insult any idol of my religion (and we Hindus have many of them) but with age and a certain inclination towards spirituality, I have come to believe that all these idols and pictures are a mere interpretation of what different people would like to see their God as, but finally its one supreme power which makes the universe move. I am a great believer in the words of Thakur Sri Ramkrishna Dev (the guru of Swami Vivekananda) who said “as many beliefs, as many paths” meaning that as individuals, our paths may differ according to our belief but finally we all are striving to connect to the One Supreme Being. I think more and more people are realizing this and while they do not give up their religious upbringing, they also try to see something beyond it, something more profound.
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@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
17 Jan 08
Thanks for sharing your view! I like what you said about many paths. I guess for me it's sometimes hard to understand how other people could look at the many Gods in various pantheons and say "These are all the same" because I do see my own Gods as such individual beings, each with their own personalities. There are some Gods I am very close to because of the roles they have played in my life, and I really can't imagine them being the same, just as I can't imagine each human being I know as being the same as another. So it's just something I can't grasp personally... and since I'm such an inquisitive person, that makes it more interesting to me in a way. Thanks so much for sharing with me!
@owlwings (39218)
• Cambridge, England
21 Jan 07
My beliefs sprang from a monotheistic religion which appeared to think that all other gods were false. This is the way Christianity was taught to me as a child. For a long time all religion was, to me, a set of things one believed IN, some of them rather puzzling and unbelievable. I explored other religions and mythologies and began to realise that they had some elements of truth and that the set of beliefs I had learned seemed, if anything, to be the more narrow-minded ones. Then, I can only suppose it was at a time when I was ready for it, I called out into the darkness "Is there anyone there?" (It was more complicated than that but that was the gist of it.) Not immediately but after a few minutes, I was answered and in the following month my 'belief in' became knowledge. It was, of course, a very personal experience and I have no way of proving that it was not simply a mental trick. However, for what it's worth, I can say with certainty that those who truly seek the truth (and are not merely satisfied with an image of it) will perceive it in many different ways because the human mind is not capable at the moment of understanding it completely. It is a natural tendency of the human mind to make images that represent our experience in order to communicate that experience to others. We draw pictures of houses, trees, the sun as representations; we tell stories that are parables, illustrations; we love metaphors and similes. It is also the way that we handle our experience of the communication we have with our Creator. You may have heard the story of the six blind men when they first encountered an elephant. It is worth reading if you don't know it. Take some time out to do so: http://www.jainworld.com/education/juniors/junles19.htm
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@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
21 Jan 07
I totally understand what you are saying about the differences between beliefs and knowledge. It can be very hard to share personal religious experience when there is no way to prove it, as usually people just wind up thinking you are nuts. Thanks for sharing! That's a lovely story! I have heard it before, and I've always thought it very interesting.
@owlwings (39218)
• Cambridge, England
21 Jan 07
Then the link is there for anyone who cares to read it. You see how powerful stories are to us? People should realise that, when anyone has a direct experience of 'The One-Who-Is-There' it is impossible to convey (or even, really, to contemplate privately) without making some kind of image. 'TOWIT' does understand this - we were made that way, we are part of it, how hard it is to see the whole!
1 person likes this
• United States
22 Jan 07
Let mee answer this from an intellectual view from the Bible. Genisis 1:26 (God said "Let US make man in OUR image and after OUR likness...") The actual meaning of Us and Our would be plural in nature thus there was a conversation going on among more than just one, thus POLYTHEISM. The aspect of there being only one God is a falicy that has been taught through the generations and as such people felt fine in this belief (ignorance is bliss so why mess with a blissful state?!?). So they blindly believe what they are told (sheep mantality) since it made them happy and they did not desire to seek out the truth on their own. The true God is a multiple and thus a Godhead, the Christians believe this as the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). This in essence would be POLYTHEISM but they say that all three are ONE. If all three individual beings are truely one being them God must be suffering from schizophrenia since God was actually talking to himself. But if as I believe there are many Gods then that would be the conversation of them. Trust mee on this you do not want to delve into my beliefs so I will leave it at this. Thank you for a great discussion and have a great day!!
• United States
22 Jan 07
Most people, even christians, don't understand "trinity" a word that's not even in the bible. First there was a prime element, one substance, unindifferentiated God (commonly called the father) then the first which 'came out' from the one.. thus this second was and is always closest to the one, being of the same essence and substance. Then all else proceeded through the second... they are one, but they are also two. Kind of like, we have an animal kingdom, of which there are many, but in the god kingdom, there are two. Yet they are so close that both administer the life force, the spirit of god, commonly known as the holy ghost or the holy spirit, the spark of life, life itself, and in order to remain alive and living, it can only be excellent/utterly perfect.. and thus only the best 'end' result of all this (human history) is possible.
2 people like this
• United States
24 Jan 07
true there is no trinity in the bible, and none of its passages support that. as of genesis 1:26 "Let US make man in OUR image" God was talking to someone else that is Jesus, the first(born) of the creation (Colossians 1:15) and the "master worker" of God (Jesus was identified as the personification of knowledge here on Proberbs 8:30). in ancient history, God chose Israel, and Israel is widely known as Monothiestic, worshipping only One God and Jesus did not disagree with or deny that, as a matter of fact he often teach and preach about the Kingdom of Only One True God trhough his ministry on earth. true, even the bible admit that there are lots of gods & lords out there, but it declares only one true God and Lord.
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@Galena (9123)
7 Jan 08
old topic here, but hello. I think people now seem more inclined to what I would call "soft" polytheism. the idea that deities are different faces of the same being. others are "hard" polytheists. each deity as separate and individual as each person. I would say I sort of fall between the two. I would consider it deeply disrespectful to, for example, claim that Freja is the same being as Morrigan. and I wouldn't like to be the person that claimed that if either of them found out, hehe. but I do think that they are all the forces of nature. and each of us interacts with that force differently. which results in separate and distinct beings, as avatars to that force. each real and distinct and separate. each a key to the same mystery.
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@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
I tend to fall in the "hard" polytheist category, but I can see what you're saying about all being keys to the same mystery, or part of the same force. I would also consider it deeply disrespectful to say that Freja is the same being as Morrigan, and wouldn't like to see the kind of trouble I could get into for it either! :P
@misskatonic (3727)
• United States
14 Feb 07
Even though I personally follow a monotheistic set of beliefs, I acknowledge that it's very possible that there are other gods out there. I'm more inclined to believe there are other gods - even the Bible says there are other gods, just not to worship them. I can't claim to know, and I don't think any human can truly claim to know, the mysteries of religion. I have a few friends who follow polytheistic paths - one's a follower of Shinto and one's Asatru. It's an interesting thing to think about, though.
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@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
14 Feb 07
Thanks for replying! As I said to someone else, I follow a polytheistic path myself. I really started this discussion because I noticed a trend (even among people who followed the same gods I do) for people to say that all the gods were facets of just one god. I don't claim to know either. In fact, I believe much as you do that there could easily be gods from faiths other than my own, or from no human faith at all, out there. I simply worship the gods I worship, and figure any other ones out there will take care of their own people. I'm glad you pointed that out about the Bible. I have known a lot of Christians that were quick to claim that everyone else's gods don't exist, even though the Bible does say there are other gods. Great to know someone so well-educated in their own religion.
• Brazil
14 Feb 07
If we look at many religions, it seems easy to understand that view, for example, the Muslim god has 99 facets (aka adjectives/names), the Christian god has 3 different entities, each taking care of a part of faith, so its not far fetched that over time, other religions with took their differenct aspects of the same god and turned each into a deity.
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@FrancyDafne (2048)
• Italy
5 Feb 07
The fact that I exist is the demonstration that Polytheism is still alive. I believe in Potnia, for instance, the Great Mother Nature, but the fact that everything comes from a prime cause, does not destroy the multiform reality around us. If you were right, Induism, Shintoism etc. would be all monotheistic religions, and instead it isn't true. And yet, Catholics believe in saints, Madonna, etc., don't you think it's a form of Polytheism?
@arahul (41)
• India
22 Jan 07
There is atleast one polytheist tradition left and that is Hinduism. However it is suffering tremendous onslaught by the Abrahmanical Faiths, which by virtue of their monotheist fervor are engaged against the only surviving pagan polytheist tradition.
• United States
22 Jan 07
Wow I learned alot from this discussion! Thanks! Time to do more reading and learning before I can really reply an answer or my opinion to your question.
1 person likes this
@moonmage (148)
• United States
22 Jan 07
Nope, you're not alone. But... I don't necessarily agree that seeing them as aspects turns polytheism into monotheism. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Hinduism say essentially the same thing? And yet, it's still a polytheistic religion.
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@stephcjh (32328)
• United States
22 Jan 07
Hi. I'm not sure exactly how to respond to this, but I do believe there is a God, but each person knows their God as they perceive it though themselves. There is so many outlooks and beliefs and religions but I do think that they everyone has their own views of what God is and stands for. Hard to really pinpoint it.
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• Philippines
22 Jan 07
I am a Christian and I follow the Christian religion in the Holy Bible which I believe as the Word of God and it is the truth. In the Holy Bible, there are many gods but there is only one true God and that is the creator of heaven and earth and everything. There is only one true God but there are many religions because many people do not follow the Holy Bible. Many just pick up the teachings they want and develop or add or subtract from the Holy Bible which should not be the case. There are also many people who do not believe in the God in the Holy Bible. The Greek word for God is "theos" where the English words atheist, monotheism, polytheism, etc. come.
• United States
22 Jan 07
I've heard that Hindus follow polytheism
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