One of my guilty pleasures is reading Christian historical fiction. In the novels, I often encounter the basic assumptions that the authors make about religion. They assume a world of only One God. The main character grapples with being moral but not believing in God. The author has their Christian characters convince the moral non-religious person to embrace Christianity. Their argument usually involves being forgiven for their sins. Now, the non-religious person feels empty since they are focusing on their bad deeds. Once the main character embrace Christ, they bubble over with joy. Their life is complete with their new belief in God.
For settings in ancient times, the authors portray the main characters as frustrated with their Gods not responding to them. Usually these Gods are presented as “inert,” unless they are dealing with Hebrew-Canaanite period (when those Gods are evil (Note 1)). In dialogues between a monotheist and the polytheist, the focus is on the “deaf” Gods. The monotheist gives reasons why the Gods are either dead, fiction, or false (or all three). Then they proclaim that the Christian God is the only living God. Moreover, He is the only God who cares for people.
What shines through Christian fiction is the desire to be true to the One God. The author tries to try to keep other Gods at bay by bringing up reasons to deny their existence. No matter how many times the characters declaim the Gods, the tension still lies just below the surface. Since the Gods keep bubbling up, they have to be shunted away or declared false.
Meanwhile, the people who believe in the Sacred Feminine (Goddess) are also practicing a form of monotheism. The roots of this tradition derive from rebelling against Christian monotheism and then rewriting it. The result is still one entity but now female instead of male.
Tanishka in “Goddess Wisdom Made Easy,” writes “Just as there are a variety of life forms in nature, the Goddess path seeks to honor the divine in every facet of existence, including us. This is why it’s considered a polytheistic religion (having many deities). It recognizes the many aspects of the God and Goddess that comprise the whole.” (Note 2) From Tanishka’s statement, it seems that monotheism has become ingrained in the mind. However, she does acknowledge the propensity to have more than one God.
But as I have noted, the Gods are bubbling below the surface of people’s consciousness. The natural impulse towards polytheism always asserts itself. This is why people bat away certain entities such as angels or the Devil as false. Fandoms of pop culture engage many people with multiple powerful entities (such as Darth Vader). Meanwhile, Pop culture Paganism has made Gods of superheroes and villains. Medieval scholar Claude Lecouteux says that people’s belief in fairies, sprites and others is the genetic link that modern people have to the Dead and the Spirits of the Land.
G.B. Marian in their blog, “Desert of Set” notes that monotheism strongly enjoined against “spiritual adultery.” They writes that after the Babylonian Captivity, did “Yahwehism” become popular. The priests who wrote the Old Testament were religious exclusivists. These biases became embedded into the religions that later became Christianity and Islam. Furthermore, the priests of Yahweh claimed that the people of Israel suffered because they still followed “false” Gods like Ashtoreth.
Why only have one God? Why live in a monochromatic world of grey? Why live in the poverty of monotheism when the richness of polytheism awaits? Embrace a divine multiplicity (Note 3). Life is better than simply denying Gods or trying to disprove them.
According to Lecouteux, personal names once connected people to the Universe. He writes, “It was believed that it (the person’s name) enabled its owner to play a part in the entire cosmos, and of course it bound the person to the spirits — both of the dead and the land — and to the gods.” (Note 4). We can still be a part of the cosmos, playing our role.
Note 1. According to Christian traditions, the Canaanite Gods are child killers and must be destroyed. However, I cannot find traces of the child burning cult that is described in the Old Testament.
Note 2. Tanishka, “Goddess Wisdom Made Easy.” (pg. 56-57). Obviously the author has no idea what Polytheism is.
Note 3. Kyaza coined this term for her community blog – multiple divinities and multiple traditions. This blog is at https://divinemultiplicity.com/
Note 4. Claude Lecouteux, “The Hidden History of Elves & Dwarves.” p. 105.
Lecouteux, Claude, “The Hidden History of Elves & Dwarves.” Trans. Jon E. Graham. Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT). 2018
Tanishka, “Goddess Wisdom Made Easy.” Hay House: Carlsbad (CA). 2017.