Monday, November 7, 2011

random thought

I was reading the blurbs and reviews of different books on Amazon, as you do, and I came across this book:

The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology by Jordan D. Paper

I obviously haven't read the book itself, but the first review mentions that the author makes the case that polytheism is natural to humans.

And I was wondering about that. Is any 'theism' more natural to all humanity than any other? Certainly all of the cultures that I'm aware of (which is not all of them by any stretch) were all polytheistic before the advent of monotheism. Does that make it more natural to our way of thinking and now we've imposed monotheism on ourselves and made things more difficult?

Or are all theologies equally native to humans and it's just that different theologies will speak to one person and not the other due to our diversity?


  1. No.

    :D Just kidding. I actually have no idea, and I haven't read the book so I don't know what case the author makes. It's been on my wishlist for awhile, but never high enough to actually buy it yet, and no library near me has it.

    My best guess would be that he means polytheism comes naturally in primitive cultures, where "gods" almost always start as simply anthropomorphized versions of what they see in nature. The sun is a god, the moon is a god, the earth is a god, etc. So it's "natural" to assume there are many, because you see them everywhere.

    On the other hand, this also "naturally" leads into monotheism. When the tendency to call everything a god gets taken to the extreme, such as when you have a god of the doorway and gods of ideas (truth, justice, etc) and they all must be propitiated, it gets a little overwhelming and people start to sort of downsize. At that point, it's easy to say something like "well, those are minor gods, but everything is really a manifestation of the supreme god." That happened in ancient Egypt and Greece, and seems to maybe be at the core of Eastern religion too.

    So neither is more or less natural than the other, they just serve different needs at different times for different people.

  2. I haven't read the book either, so I don't know what case he makes. I added it to my wish list because it looks very interesting. But it'll be awhile before I get to it, I know. So we'll have to live in ignorance of his argument for a while.

    I agree with you, actually. I think the most you can argue is that *belief* is natural to human beings. But that belief could be in many gods, one god or no god (atheists believe in things, just not gods).

  3. what Sanil said

    and you

    Can't wait 'til you read this and tell us more of what he says!


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