Polytheism & Polytheistic Themes In Religions

carole

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It strikes me that, as a monotheistic religion, Christianity (or certain branches of it) uses saints in a similar way to a polytheistic pantheon. Thus you have a saint of lost causes, one for travellers, one for doctors, etc, etc.

Carole
 

dandare29

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i know that many people say that the cult of the saints in Christianity helped the religion's acceptance by peoples -- say in Europe -- that recognized many different gods.

it seems to me that the popular Catholicism practiced -- at least until recently -- by the broad masses in the USA had a lot in common with polytheism. i suspect the same is true of some of the Catholic European countries.

i have read quite a bit about the history of Orthodox Christianity in Russia, and the association of saints with pre-Christian gods existed there too (i'm thinking of what i have read about the cult of St Nicholas, associated for some reason with Veles, a cattle god).

i think that one could look at the cult of the Virgin Mary too -- isn't she like the Catholic or Orthodox goddess?

it's interesting to me that some of the Afro-Christian syncretic religions associate certain saints with certain African gods. for example, in the Afro-Cuban religion Santeria, Chango, who is (among other things) a war god, is associated with Saint Barbara. (i'm not sure why.) Chango also has other names and personalities (Babalu ---spelling?), but they are associated with Santa Barbara. Santeria has spread to other Caribbean islands, and so it is present in North America wherever there are large populations of Spanish-speakers from the Caribbean islands.

they didn't take to Christianity because it has many saints; it seems to me they kept the somewhat polytheistic structure of their own religion(s) and adapted Christian saints to it.

(in the supermarkets where i live they always sell alot of foods and brands that Latin people like, and on the same shelves they sell big candles in tall cylindrical glass jars that have painted on them pictures of saints popular among Santeria believers, including Saint Barbara. one they always have shows Christ crucified, but it has symbols on it i don't recognize and the legend "Los Siete Potencias Africanas" -- the seven African powers.)

there are other Afro-Christian syncretic religions that i don't know much about. somehow Haitian Voudun is one, but i don't quite understand all of it -- saints and African gods do play a role in it, i am told.
 

carole

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I suppose one omniscient, omnipresent God is a pretty difficult concept for the human mind. It's perhaps easier for people to 'compartmentalise' their worship . . . Mind you, one God has advantages, you don't have to go around sarificing goats or virgins here there and everywhere for different things . . .:)

Carole
 
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Anonymous

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Hello Everyone,

I have a friend who is a neo-pagan. She believes there are a multitude of Gods. I have always entertained the idea, but never fully admitted to it. However, we had a lot of rain about a month ago and I remember looking up toward the sky and I swear I saw a Zeus-like deity, sitting on a thrown! All this was made of clouds and so obvious that I couldn't move. It was the weirdest and the coolest thing I have ever seen, so since that day, I have been delving into the origins of other gods and I am just curious as to whether anyone here believes in multiple Gods and if so, how did you come to that conclusion?

WW

I know...I am always posting a question of something or another, but I have noone around me to ask these questions, since everyone I know thinks I am off my rocker.

Thanks.
 

MrRING

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For some reason the idea just appeals to me, it makes more sense. There are plenty of arguments about a single god who rules all, and how and why bad things happen, but it seems too unknowable to me on a personal level. When I read the old myths of various nations & their concept of failible, mortal-esq gods who don't hold dominion over all but who exist on another plane that occasionally bisects our own and who have many human frailities along with mighty powers, that makes more sense.

No proof though.
 
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Anonymous

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Acts of nature (rain, wind etc.) are gods in that they can alter and define human behaviour and it makes a lot more sense to me to worship them than a judeo-christian god.

I too, like the idea of having different gods for different things (maybe it's part of my semi-catholic upbringing and having different saints for different needs).

To me, the whole female element is the most interesting, women as givers of life worshipping a goddess is immensely appealing.
 
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Anonymous

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Zeus-like deity?

I don't know for sure but near as I can figure from images I'vce seen my whole life, Christian god looks very much like Zeus - hairy thunderer sitting on a throne.

Why do you think "Zeus-like" and not "[Christian]god-like" or Odin-like?
 
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Anonymous

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"Acts of nature (rain, wind etc.) are gods in that they can alter and define human behaviour "

It is raining right now where I am. How does that necessarily alter or define human behavior?
 
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Anonymous

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Hello Rube,

You are so right. Especially the Michealangelo depiction of Adam and God...so Roman God-ish.
Even Jesus resembles some roman archetype.
I have seen many religious paintings and depictions of God and he always looks Zeus -like with a long white beard and hard, linear musculature, etc...

Funny but true.

I don't know why though.

WW
 
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Anonymous

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Maybe because God is considered "Our Father" and therefore depicted as such. By the way the bible never said that there aren't other gods, just not to worship them. Why be forbidden to worship them if they don't exist? Just my opinion and interpretation of things so feel free to ignore.
 
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Anonymous

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I don't think worship of other gods is prohibited, you just have to acknowledge Judeo-Christian god as the top cat.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
 
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Anonymous

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Hello gl5210,

You are correct.
The mention of other gods is made a few times in the bible. Especially the 'Let us make man in our own image.' Now, why would God say this to a band of Angels??? That is like the President of a fortune 500 company saying the same to a Janitor.
But anyhoo...yeah, there is more than one, but I wonder why they are forgotten, discarded and condemned. What did they do? Who were they? DO we really wanna open up this can of worms? I think this question is older than dirt!

WW
 

NilesCalder

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Rube said:
"Acts of nature (rain, wind etc.) are gods in that they can alter and define human behaviour "

It is raining right now where I am. How does that necessarily alter or define human behavior?
:rolleyes: Well if you went outside without a brolly, hat or hood you'd get wet. If you didn't like the idea of getting even vaguely damp and have no reason to go out you might decide to stay indoors. Ergo the rain alters and defines your behaviour... ;)
 
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Anonymous

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Rube said:
It is raining right now where I am. How does that necessarily alter or define human behavior?
I think I worded it wrongly :) . What i meant is that extreme weather conditions floods, typhoons etc have the almost god-like power of disrupting homan life. No rain , no harvest, so starvation. It just makes more sense to me to fear, worship and seek to appease a force that can do this.
 

Alexius4

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Or you could take the view of a single deity whose attributes, upon manifesting, are seen as seperate.

Along those lines, it is not at all difficult to reconcile polytheism with monotheism. :)
 

Jerry_B

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Gods seem to be a personification of either human attributes and/or forces of nature, in broadly speaking terms. As far as belief systems go, they've only gone away because the ones that supported them are no longer there. Or at least are much diminished. That said, we don't have a clear idea about how some gods were worshipped, so it's tricky to backtrack and re-invoke them.

The idea of a single god is something more dominant in Western culture. This doesn't mean that this god is any more real or 'right' than any others. It's just one out of a pantheon of thousands. And lets not forget that there still religions out there that are still being practised by a great many people that have more than one god - Hinduism, for example.

God or gods, whichever belief you subscribe to, are what you make of them. Some modern pagans do tend to ascribe too much to 'old' deities we know little about, so to a certain extent they're creating their own deities out of the whole cloth. I'm not sure this is really productive, but that's just MHO ;)
 

Alexius4

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Neo-Paganism is in the process of formulating it's theology, which makes it a fascinating thing to watch. I look forward to the day when writers like Rae Beth are taken seriously in by the mainstream.

Up to a point, we have tryed to describe the world around us in terms of our own attributes; however, developed theologies have tended to stress that this interpretation in our own terms is a veil between ourselves and the divine. Hence the common injunction to suspend judgement & try to simply experience the numinous without expectation, and then to beware projecting ones insights as fact.

Whether one goes for a monotheistic, polytheistic or pantheistic interpretation I guess comes down to a matter of personal experience, reading & taste. In anycase, the divine transcends our aptitude for labelling, and is I suppose indifferent to it.
 

giantrobot1

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In Buddhism (wot I practice) there are many, many, many gods. These are called 'devas' and are usually more like nature spirits or faeries. There are some that are just minor beings that aren't very powerful or smart or they may be incredibly powerful deities. However - gods are mortal and after a time die, although this may take eons. There's no creator deity either, although Brahma mistakenly thinks he is.


See the section of the Kevatta Sutta called "Conversations with the Gods"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/digha/dn11.html
 

Jerry_B

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I'm not a fan of neo-paganism rewriting certain gods to fit their own pantheon. I think some things are best left in their original packaging ;) I like the way that Hinduism can create new gods - there was the case about 10 years ago, IIRC from India, where there was a push by office workers to have the man who invented shorthand deified :)
 
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Anonymous

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Well, like many other Neo Pagans, I regard the Deities as male and female, simply because in general all life needs a male and female (yes, yes, I know there are exceptions).

Personally I see the Earth as the female, 'Mother', as we are made of the same stuff as her.

I see the Sun as the male, 'Father' because without him, all life on the planet would die (ok, maybe not the life around black smokers or those things that evolved in a romanian cave).

I don't actually think of these heavenly bodies as Deities, though - an animanistic terms, I think the spirits of these heavenly bodies can be regarded as Deities, though on a local, not Universal scale.

I choose to anthropomorphise these spirits as the Green man and Green Lady, it helps me to focus and visualise.

It doesn't suit me to think of any more than two 'Gods' but as spirituality is a personal thing, everyone is free to percieve the existence or non existence of a Deity in whatever form they wish.

I love the Hindu Pantheon which has multiple facets of the one Godhead, but when it comes to believing in them, thats another story......
 
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Anonymous

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re: the rain as godlike

I thought you may have mispoke.

If it is raining and I get wet, it has not altered my behavior at all. try it sometime - just walk out in the rain like it isn't happening. Come in wet. Wait 'til you dry. There you go.
 

monster_magnet

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Rube

In a modern world with the practicle assistance we have from umberellas, waterproofs, cars, tumble dryers and all manner of weather beating devices our behaviour is not altered that much (other than the use of these devices in such occasions), Although, the odd 'don't sit on my new couch with your wet jeans on' type of comment will lead us to amend our behaviour acoordingly.

The most obvious alteration of behaviour and susequest adoption of rituals and ceremonies would be most evident in a historical context. When yours and you families/villages survival depends on rain, sun or the migration of livestock; alteration of behavior and lifestyle is more than obvious.

Primarily in an expansion of understanding into the realms of the unknown, Gods were created to explain the most trivial of occurances. Hopi Rain Dance anyone?
 

Alexius4

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I guess post Enlightenment folk have a tendency to see natural phenomena having a bearing on our lives as 'happening' whereas others see them as 'being given'.

Both perspectives work, and neither necessarily implies a lack of sophistication - only a difference in the attribution of significance.
 

monster_magnet

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Indeed, this poses another route for discussion maybe? - The evolutionary distancing of god from man.
God(s) were once integral to all (unexplainable) things happening. As we evolve, understand and explain, god(s) are perceived to have less and less involvement in our world. To a point, in current times, where his/their role has been deminished to merely creator. Considering the advnces of science over the last 100 years his/their role could eventually be explained as random interference billions of years ago. Nods from Steven Hawkins in this direction have already been expressed.
 
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Anonymous

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"In a modern world with the practicle assistance we have from umberellas, waterproofs, cars, tumble dryers and all manner of weather beating devices our behaviour is not altered that much"

I'm sorry - you must have missed the part where I said without using an umbrella, waterproof, car or tumble dryer my behavior wasn't altered.

Certainly if I drown in a flash fllood my life is altered - if I get hit by a bus the same is true. Do you support automobiles as gods? How about firearms? Steel?
 

monster_magnet

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Rube - I'm sorry too,

If it is raining and I get wet, it has not altered my behavior at all. try it sometime - just walk out in the rain like it isn't happening. Come in wet. Wait 'til you dry. There you go.
your point was?
 
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Anonymous

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Call me stoopid...but what does the weather have to do with the idea of multiple Gods? Come again?

WW
 

Alexius4

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Back to what Edward was talking about - and I guess the thread - I don't think the move towards monotheisim in some parts of the world has necessarily disengaged God from Creation.

For instance, Islam contains schools favouring the model of a God intimately involved in the workings of the world, having created and sustaining it, while others go with the primum mobile model - a God who winds the mechanism and sits back to observe.

Again, I guess it comes down to taste, upbringing, reading and experience.

Both models seem to work fine, just as whether you employ a Ptolemaic or helio centric paradigm to tell the time from the stars doesn't really matter. Likewise, whether you account for the consciousness apparent in nature by evoking the presense of many Gods or one omni present God doesn't seem to make that much difference.
 

Yithian

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The problems come when some people become exercised about other people's choices about poly v mono theism.
 
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