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How can there be more than One God?

Discussion in 'Neopagan or Revival Religions' started by Tyho, Jun 6, 2015.

  1. Tyho

    Tyho Member

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    Hi,

    I am trying to get more perspective and more information on what some Pagans refer to as 'Hard Polytheism'.

    How could there be more than One God? I can't quite wrap my head around the idea that there should be more than One divine source.

    I've come to grip with notion of 'Soft Polytheism', that All Gods are ultimately One God, as the Hindus view it and which makes sense I think but how can there be multiple divine sources, distinct form of beings and not actually part of a Whole?
     
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  2. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    Not all Hindus are 'soft' polytheists. Many are hard polytheists and have no knowledge of the idea of Brahman or believe that all deities are but manifestations of Brahman. That said, those of us who are hard polytheists do not believe in a 'divine source' or 'ground of all being'. Polytheists come in many flavors with beliefs ranging from the gods being literal individual beings to metaphors to archetypes. We (and I'm generalizing here) don't believe that the gods are omnipotent nor omniscient. They create and they sustain, but ultimately destruction will occur that they cannot control. We - gods, humans, animal, spirits and other beings - are interrelated, but we are not one entity. I would call it stuff monism... there is only one kind of stuff (matter, energy) from which all independent things arise.
     
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  3. Selinagirl

    Selinagirl Member

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    Now, the old Greek and Romans maybe asked the Jews how can there only be one god. I find it more hard to understand, how different beeings in Hinduism can be the same. Hell, i'm catholic and cant even understand how JC can be god. Polytheism seems to be more natural to mee, because the first religions gave a **** on how Earth was created. The oldest gods were the ghosts of the anchestors and the ghosts of nature and every one of those was responsible for one single aspect of life, like hunting, giving birth snd so on. If you told them that one single god can do this all alone, they would have laughed at you. And if you were catholic, like me, you knew he couldn't. Because if he could, what is the point of the Saints? And they are NOT a part of god. O. K., offically they dont do wonders for you by themselves but speak to God for you, but if we are honest, the biggest fraction in Xtianity - and this also includes not only the RCC, but also the orthodox churches, who also have Saints - still is polytheistic.
     
  4. Politesse

    Politesse Amor Vincit Omnia

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    It's one of those things where you need to change your assumptions; if you begin with the feeling that everything must have a singular source, then it will never make sense to talk about other Gods. But consider the way monotheists simply assume casually that God is the exception to the normal rules of causality, rather than an exception. Yes, everything that exists needs to have been created. But not God, God has just "always been there, ever and for eternity". If there's room in your mind to consider one exception to the rule of causality, shouldn't we be ready to wonder whether there is just one exception? The gods aren't mundane things in the universe like chairs or bunnies or galaxies, they are fundamental aspects of the universe, if you are a hard polytheist. And there is more than one way to understand the most fundamental aspects of the universe.

    Think about the material universe. We casually accept multiple Laws when talking about the sciences, don't we? Some physicists have talked about grand unifying theories that would explain all of them, but not everyone agrees that there necessarily is one. When it comes to spiritual realities, not everyone agrees that there is one unifying God - there are those who see the universe as balanced between the wills of many gods just as our physical existence is balanced between several fundamental physical forces, all of which are necessary to maintain the unique situation of our existence.
     
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  5. Nietzsche

    Nietzsche The Last Prussian
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    I could pose the same question regarding how could there possibly be only one god, given the responsibilities said god would have.

    I feel it's better to look at Gods through a lens similar to our own expectations. If you believe a deity, any deity, created humans(or at least brought the initial 'spark' to start the hundreds-millions years process) why would s/he make more than one? There is no real reason to be more than one of anything. But there is.

    Something else; pagan Gods don't get off the hook just by being divine. They aren't perfect & they aren't always right. They're more 'us'. You take this further and multiple gods start making more sense. There are many, many things in the universe. No one part can hold it together on its own. Why would Gods be any different?
     
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  6. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    Good answers here from others; I'll take a different tack. The "universe" is one thing, metaphorically like a tapestry. There are many, many threads in the tapestry, made of all different sorts of things: some are like cotton, some are like wire, others wool, others nylon, or asbestos, some are rays of light...and so on. All different, but all part of the same "experience."
     
  7. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    For me, I have trouble coming to grips with the opposite: how in the world can there be only one when scientifically speaking, this is a universe of multiple physical forces working together?

    However, one thing that might help is that the Gods aren't necessarily "divine sources". Woden/Odin, for instance, is titled Allfather (among many other things), but before Him, that title belong to Tiw/Tyr. In the surviving Norse "Creation Myth", the source of all things really seems to more or less just be random chance. For me, personally, the Mother of All Things and Sole Eternal Being is ... Death. I don't worship her as a Goddess, either, but rather treat her (and her firstborn, whom I call Weaver) similar to how one ought to treat the fictional Lady of Pain from the Planescape D&D setting. Short version, don't **** with her, and if you see her, run.

    Incidentally, the word "Tiw" (Old Norse Tyr) was effectively replaced in English by the word God for some reason. Consider Greek Zeus, Latin Deus, Irish Dia, Welsh Duw, and the Modern English word "deity", all with the proto-Germanic word *Tiwaz. (In linguistics, a * means the word is reconstructed; i.e., there's no direct attestation of it but rather it is our current best educated guess as to what the word might have been based on certain linguistic evolutionary patterns).

    The Gods aren't seen as "divine sources", but rather oversee certain domains, not all of which appear to line up at first. Woden oversees warfare, magic, poetry, death, alcohol, and wisdom. Thunor/Thor isn't first and foremost "God of Thunder"(though that is one of his domains), but is rather the Friend of Humanity before anything else. He also oversees Oak Trees (and thus would probably be a fultrui, also called a "Patron" in certain other contexts, of the Germanic equivalent of Druids), strength, companionship, fertility, loyalty, honor...

    Some Gods even share domains. Freya shares a lot with Woden, for example, but also oversees passion, sex, fun, indulgence, loss, grief, and comfort.
     
    #7 Riverwolf, Jun 6, 2015
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  8. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    I'm not so sure I'd classify that as "classical polytheism", but rather as "polytheist-like behavior". At least, in terms of the Catholic Church's official doctrine. In practice, from what I've seen, it's definitely polytheistic. Certainly many of the so-called "Saints" are actually Gods "in disguise" as I say it. ^_^ Saint Brigid, for instance, is actually a Celtic Goddess.
     
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  9. Nietzsche

    Nietzsche The Last Prussian
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    'God' itself is still Germanic, however. Gud(modern Scandinavian), Gott(German), Gudis(Gothic), God(Dutch).
     
  10. Tyho

    Tyho Member

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    But how does one know that they are 'Gods' and not advanced extraterrestrial beings or some disembodied entities living in the cosmos?

    Because a lot of pagans I talked to told me that they experienced their Gods as finite beings with distinct personalities and weakenesses (just like any living beings they are limited in their powers), and that they are not omniscient and omnipotent as the Monotheist God.

    Where would these Hard Polytheistic Gods even come from? How were they conceived?

    While I don't dismiss the existence of these entities, it seems that they are not exactly the Ultimate Reality. More likely they are some (extra)dimensional beings or Jungian archetypes. I've some great difficulties grasping the concept that they are just ''distinct'' and fundamental aspects of the Universe.
     
    #10 Tyho, Jun 6, 2015
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  11. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    Exactly--they are not "the Ultimate Reality." In many of the mythological systems, the "Gods" are inheritors of positions in a universe that they did not themselves create and they cannot greatly change. They are subject to "ultimate reality" (whatever that is) just as we are. While they might be extraterrestrial or extradimensional or psychological archetypes, or some other category we can come up with, or maybe a combination of those categories, they are not "ultimate" like the monotheistic God is supposed to be. That's something that most Western people need to unlearn when talking about polytheism.

    If I did gods, "the Earth" might be one I'd recognize, as it would encompass all the aspects of the material world I inhabit, plus any associated nonmaterial aspects. It's much larger, more powerful than me and humanity as a whole, and so on. I do recognize other spirits or powers, however, mostly smaller scale than the whole of the Earth, such as Winds, and Storms, and Rivers, as the Plains upon which I live, and so on (although the Sun, the Stars, etc., are clearly outside of and much larger than the Earth). Others might call them gods, or aspects of gods. To me, they are just different inhabitants of Earth, aspects of Earth (or the larger universe). At the appropriate level, I can interact with them (such as the winds and breezes that pass my house, the creek at the edge of my property, the trees/forest I live in, etc.), and if I am respectful they might on occasion grant a request that will benefit me. So I cultivate a relationship with them.

    "But how does one know that they are 'Gods' and not advanced extraterrestrial beings or some disembodied entities living in the cosmos?"

    The difference would be...what? No matter what they are, if they are more powerful than humans and humanity, and are capable of bestowing boons, etc., or otherwise affecting human lives, would that make them less than Gods? In most systems, being a God does not imply anything resembling the modern monotheistic deity. If the Gods are "just people" who happen to be more "advanced" or "powerful" than modern humans, it seems to me that they would be the imperfect and mortal kinds of beings that most pantheons seem to be.
     
    #11 beenherebeforeagain, Jun 6, 2015
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  12. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    Oh, I know. ^_^

    Just that before it appeared in the modern sense, its particular etymology is very foggy, with a couple of hypothesis.
     
  13. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    Well in my case, I don't regard the Gods as physical entities, for starters.

    For another, it kinda depends on how we're defining what a "God" is. I've condensed its usage down to the concise "anything that has been deified; anything that is agreed upon by a community of worshipers to be a God". Hence, plenty of fully mortal human beings have been Gods, and live today as Gods, despite not having any real supernatural abilities.

    Depends on who you ask, and which Lore you like the best.

    Beyond that, it's a simple answer: we don't really know because it's not really important.

    I think it's this focus on some singular "Ultimate Reality" that's the source of your confusion. I've personally discarded such a concept, not necessarily as something non-existent, but something not important to everyday living, and impossible for us to experience in its own form while still alive.
     
  14. Bunyip

    Bunyip pro scapegoat

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    Well, not all conceptions of God/s are a 'divine source'.
    Why not?
     
  15. Nietzsche

    Nietzsche The Last Prussian
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    Sufficiently advanced technology/abilities & all that. There is zero genuine distinction between a God and an alien who can control the weather with his thoughts. But that goes for all Gods/Deities.
     
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  16. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    We don't. But how do we know the one god monotheists worship is not an advanced extraterrestrial being, just one who made itself know to humans? Ever see the movie Stargate?
     
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  17. Politesse

    Politesse Amor Vincit Omnia

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    If anything, an entity claiming to be omnipotent and omniscient seems a lot more fishy to me. Don't you ever watch Star Trek? The arrogant ones always turn out to be not as powerful as they claim to be. Except the Q, but if they want to claim godly status it is sort of justified given their powers.
     
  18. wizanda

    wizanda One Accepts All Religious Texts
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    Imagine we are in a computer system, now there may be only one source to the reality, which would be God (CPU) to us.... Yet there could be multiple programmers (gods), who originally made the Matrix, we exist within. ;)
     
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  19. DavidMcCann

    DavidMcCann Well-Known Member

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    You and many others. Maximus of Madaura, in a letter to St Augustine, wrote "What person is there so mad and totally deprived of sense as to wish to deny that the supreme God is one?" and earlier Maximus of Tyre wrote "There is one God, the ruler and father of all things, and many gods, children of God, ruling together with him."

    The point is that the ultimate source may be one, but creation may include many beings who can be truly call gods. This is the normal view in Africa, for example. In Yoruba religion (and American offshoots like Candomble and Santeria) the Supreme Being is Olorun (or Oludumare) and his first creations are the orisha or gods, like Oshun and Ogun (whom I regard as the same as Aphrodite and Hephaistos).

    The "soft polytheist" view is actually rare: a minority of Hindus and, inspired by them, the Wiccans. For most of us, Zeus, Ganesha, Shango, Amaterasu, or Xi Wangmu are as real and distinct as you or I.
     
  20. Tyho

    Tyho Member

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    I like this idea but then where does these Aliens-Gods came from?

    But that's exactly what 'Soft Polytheism' is about to me. Multiple Gods who ultimately originate from One Source. I've no problem with this concept and as a Panentheist I may actually include it in my belief-system. That the Higher Purpose has many ways to manifest itself in this Universe makes a lot of sense.
     
    #20 Tyho, Jun 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
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