All Roads Lead to Multiple Gods

nddead

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.

Notes:
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.

Works Used.
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.

9 thoughts on “All Roads Lead to Multiple Gods

  1. I’ve long been interested in whether, and how often, human sacrifice may have taken place in the ancient Mediterranean. I think it was Miranda Aldhouse-Green who said no one likes to think their ancestors were head-hunters; in a similar way, some scholars are reluctant to affirm that certain cultures might have practiced child-sacrific – possibly because it could cast unfavorable light on Biblical accounts of the almost-sacrifice of Isaac, the 10th plague of Egypt, and the death of Jesus. On the other hand, ancient peoples freely charged their enemies with child sacrifice, an accusation also made of Jews and witches in later periods. The existence of child sacrifice in the ancient Mediterranean has also been used to “prove” that polytheistic practices were innately cruel and uncivilized compared to monotheism.

    The initials m-l-k have been taken as a theonym (“Moloch”, a god whose existence is also equivocal) or perhaps a name for the ritual of sacrificing infants. Debate over whether burial sites of cremated remains of stillborn infants or babies (tophets) represent the graves of those who died shortly after birth or are “proof” of child sacrifice continues to rage among scholars, generally on sectarian lines. Meanwhile, interpretation of passages in the Old Testament as evidence for child sacrifice among the Israelites is often regarded as antisemitic.

    See: “The Tophet and Child Sacrifice in the Ancient Mediterranean” by Brian G Felushko, 2015 for an attempt (not entirely without bias) to summarize the evidence: https://www.academia.edu/32521193/The_Tophet_and_Child_Sacrifice_in_the_Ancient_Mediterranean

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    • It is difficult to suss out child and human sacrifice in the ancient world. I do know that the Romans did practice human sacrifice. I have heard of extreme occasions of child sacrifice.

      Human sacrifice does appear in the Old Testament in odd places. One is of a general who sacrifices his virgin daughter. However, since the Bible was rewritten by Yahweh Cultists, they leave out as much as they can.

      Cannibalism happened as well but people tend to shy away from that as well. Every society practiced a form of it. However, the modern West frowns upon acknowledging European practices, pointing to those primitives… So, it is probably a cultural group thing to point to those other guys as being worse than us.

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  2. Canaanites who became Phoenicians and Carthaginians later, and were also the Israelites rather than a separate group, were noted to practice human sacrifices and child sacrifice in particular according to the Greeks and Romans. This undoubtedly is from early practices. I believe they have found some archaeology to confirm on this at Carthage and parts of Phoenicia.

    I am careful about monotheism, soft monotheism is radically different than hard monotheism. (Hard monotheism is One true God and soft is closer to soft polytheism ans monism that the gods are closer to being aspects of a whole.) All of these developed independently. Hard monotheistic one god (mostly patriarchal) came from the vestiges of Babylon and Zoroastrianism. Egypt developed it independently with the cult of Akhenaten that banned worship of other gods which probably had an influence on biblical writers, I am a bit unclear on that.

    However, soft monotheism/polytheism comes about because of Platoic ideals and Hermeticism. In India this developed independently of Greece in certain sects and schools of Hinduism. From this monism was born.

    None of these things existed in a vaccum and Christianity (Judaism as well but they’re more likely to admit it.) itself came from paganism. Christians however, are unaware of this and tend to insert that in their works of fiction. However, none of it is new. As Akhenaten did this thousands of years prior to Christianity with the Sun Disk cult.

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    • I try to be careful when referring to the Monotheistic God, since there were/are so many of Them. I tend to think the default is the Christian God, who could be regarded as either three separate Gods or One with several opposing attributes.

      The problem of human sacrifice in ancient times is a complex one. I believe it depends on the era of the people studying the culture. For example, Crete was once regarded as a peaceful culture. Later it was the Mayans. In each case, the people studying the culture wanted to find certain attributes to be true in contrast to their own. I do believe that every culture practiced it. How much and why seems to be elusive.

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      • It’s less elusive looking at physical evidence. But the earlier the time period the harder it is to tell. And if we don’t know the language it is harder. With Mesoamerica it is well documented, with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, maybe even the ancient Israelites, it’s harder because it is further back. (There’s other problems like the current country could have a bad political system which makes it harder to do archaeology. Especially if they’re religious.)

        I agree though. Nearly every ancient religion practiced human sacrifice at some point. But how, why, when, and for how long are questions that cannot always be answered.

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  3. Ezekiel 20
    “25 Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live. 26 I defiled them through their very gifts, in their offering up all their firstborn, in order that I might horrify them, so that they might know that I am the Lord.”

    It does not say “gave them over to” or “allowed” in Greek or Hebrew. It straight up says that Yahweh gave them those laws. I see this as tacit admission that the child sacrifices mentioned in the prophetic books were to Yahweh. Why else would other writers(like Jeremiah) have had to deny that Yahweh commanded such sacrifices? People made them to Yahweh. I suspect that “Moloch” was a fabrication. They took a word indicating some kind of dedication and treated it like it was some separate god later on. This was to distance Yahweh from the child sacrifice that the writings were against. “Offered to Moloch” might be better read as “offered as a mlk”.

    I find the concern over child sacrifice to be disingenuous coming from the Bible. Tell me any other place where the lives of children are a concern in it. They are often threatened by Yahweh with awful things, and he torments or kills them the same as anyone else. There are several instances where Yahweh says that he will make parents eat their children. Ezekiel contains a mad rant where the speaker is instructed to kill everyone, even a child, that does not have Yahweh’s mark. Aside from this, it is undeniable that some forms of human sacrifice are commanded and approved of in the Bible. Even if the “passing children through the fire as a mlk” type is ignored, there are still other types of human sacrifice there. I will bring that up later.

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  4. The Abrahamists worship a god that is documented in their own scriptures as a child killer and accepting of human sacrifices. Their scripture directs the ritual killing of entire populations. And this had equivalents in neighboring cultures, so it was not just an Israelite thing. If I ever hear anything about “human sacrifice” from them, I throw that right back into their teeth. I have read a lot of apologetics that boil down to “it was justified because Yahweh commanded it” or “things were different back then.” Try telling them that about anything else. The Christians also conducted things that amounted to public human sacrifices until recent times, though people rarely call them that. I don’t know what else to call an auto-da-fé but a religious event that culminated in the sacrifice of some people considered undesirables or religious criminals(common targets for historical human sacrifices). If, for example, Hindus carried out something similar, Christians would not hesitate to brand it as human sacrifice(and devil worship, and evil heathen idolatry, etc rinse and repeat).

    https://www.thetorah.com/article/obliterating-cherem

    This sums up a major issue, but there are plenty of other instances that could be brought up. I don’t want to catalogue every example of this like I have before. I will admit that the issue is treated fairly enough here(better than Catholic or Protestant apologetics), though I can’t help but see a snipe at “paganism”, as usual. If anyone else did the things described here, they would be called “devil worshiping savages” or something similar by the Abrahamists. The modification of the rabbis turned cherem from a type of sacrifice into a type of religious exile. That is how it was used in medieval and later Judaism(Spinoza was a famous example). Kind of like the Roman “homo sacer”. Cherem was translated as “anathema” or “devotio” in Greek and Latin, showing that the translators understood exactly what it meant. Animals and objects were also subject to cherem, that is why the Israelites would kill all the animals too, it was part of a mass sacrifice of every living thing and valuable object. Deuteronomy even describes the cherem of a city and its destruction as a “whole burnt offering to Yahweh”.

    The story told in the article is very similar to what happened in other cultures. There are occasional references to human sacrifices in the past in other cultures, and in most instances they have a story explaining how the custom changed, and there is usually some religious justification made for why the change was acceptable. Idomeneus was exiled from Crete rather than be allowed to sacrifice his son, due to vow very similar to that of Jephthah(Idomeneus promised an offering to Poseidon of the first living thing to meet him if they made it back alive). Agamemnon was stopped from sacrificing Iphigenia. The Classical Greeks saw human sacrifice as something un-Hellenic. There are stories that Hercules(related in Macrobius, who was rather late) abolished the (based on a mistaken interpretation of a divine command) human sacrifices made in some parts of Italy. The Romans banned human sacrifices, though there is no evidence that it was a common practice among them. The Vedas contain a story where a king is demanded to sacrifice his son, but the king delays and finds a substitute. But the priests refused to carry out this human sacrifice, and the gods themselves freed the victim, showing that they do not approve of such things. In China, retainer sacrifice(at funerals) and rare cases of human sacrifice(by throwing into rivers) were banned in the Zhou period, and by the Han dynasty(over 2000 years ago) such customs were merely the study of antiquarians. The awkward way these topics were brought up in later times across cultures and looking for other justifications is very similar to the position the rabbis were in. But if any Abrahamists want to label some culture or god “evil”, then they ought to look closer to home. They worship an “evil Canaanite god”.

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  5. 2 Samuel 21
    “8 The king took the two sons of Rizpah daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Merab daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 9 he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they impaled them on the mountain before the Lord. The seven of them perished together. They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest.”

    To end a famine, David has to have the descendants of Saul “impaled” (or hung up) before Yahweh. Earlier in this story, the mountain is called “the mountain of Yahweh in Gibeon”, indicating some kind of sacred place. This is a solid example of human sacrifice, as much as that of Jephthah sacrificing his daughter. I admit that I harp on this topic whenever I see it. More polytheists need to know this information and know it well.

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