Silly Keeves said, “…plural gods is as plausible as zero gods…”
As someone who practices polytheism I see no relationship between creator power and other gods powers. In various religions, the creator/father god only creates other gods. Zeus was birthed by Kronos (IIRC) and later turned against him and killed him. However, IIRC again, Kronos was the one who made the universe not Zeus. He did not have the power to create plant life or anything else like that (that was Demeter and her cronies). He did not rule over anything in the Sea, that was Poseidon. Etc. The other gods looked up to him for leadership, because he was a good leader, not because he was capable of doing everything. To me this feels significantly more plausible than a single god who does and is everything at once. In some Celtic mythologies Dagda(ie mostly Irish, sometimes he transfers to a pan-Celtic mythos) is the father god. Again he was not necessarily the one who created the universe, he was just the god who lead the other gods. This is evidenced even more in Nordic mythology where Odin (obviously the leader of the gods) was still not the creator of the universe, he was just a good leader, his leadership qualities are evidenced by the fact that the other gods followed him into battle at RAgnarok, or the battle at the end of time).
Christianity is a relatively recent religion. If one let’s their mind drift back to Ancient Egypt, their religion was around so long even their gods died of old age. This is evidenced by the fact that Ra (the sun god) was later usurped by Osiris (I believe he was originally the god of the underworld, not to be confused with Anubis <although I think Anubis was invented after Osiris usurped Ra>). There religion was around for 10-20,000 years, according to some sources (ie college literature, we only discussed mythology). Again the leader of the god is not a creator, just a good leader.
Many of the other sources of information I have read about mythological gods talk of a hypothesis that the leader of the gods were originally great leaders on Earth and after they died they were deified (well not necessarily afterwards). There leadership was such that even the gods with more power than they would later bow to their skills.
All of these ideas preface the thought that several gods are as plausible as one. In pretty much all instances I believe that man made god in his image in order to have explanations for things that are too bizarre or difficult to explain. Eventhough many of the gods had absolute power over a given element, quality, etc, it does not mean that they could work together. That is why the leader is so important. He gives everyone else limits and purpose so they can work in synergy. In addition, it gives examples of community and parables regarding bad behavior (i.e. Loki changing sides in Ragnarok to fight with the giants). If the gods give examples of how you should and should not behave it gives them relatable qualities to the relatively minor humans.
With one god, unless he is extremely unstable, you don’t get this (I won’t even go into how Jehovah made a deal with Satan to torment Job). Sure you may argue that the Bible is all parables on how one should exist, but it is much more interesting if these parables all involve supernatural powers. It makes them easier to remember. Having multiple gods with faults humanizes (is that an oxymoron, humanized gods? hehe) them and allows people to feel more on par with their abilities. (Think of Arachne and Minerva. Arachne spun wool and wover better than Minerva so Minerva turned Arachne into a spider.) Even some regular humans, Arachne in this last case, could have talents on par with the gods. It gives the sense of not feeling as awestruck when coming within the divines presence.
On a slightly unrelated thread, I believe Christianity is polytheistic as well even without considering the saints. Hear me out. Christianity has a trinity god. Everyone who knows anything about the Bible knows that there is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Unfortunately I am not as well versed on that, I guess I should talk to one of my ex boy friends (he was a Catholic priest for about 15 years). Most Christians whom I know don’t consider this three gods, but in specific instances they would pray to one specific incarnation. That sure sounds like three gods to me. If you take into consideration the saints, there goes monotheism. With all this in consideration, it seems monotheism in the form of Christianity is just veiled polytheism. (I am sorry if I am picking on Christianity, I figured the majority of the Dopers could relate to that.)
Actually, since I am on a rant about Christianity being polytheistic, I will go into the Job dilemma. As many of you know, God made a deal with Satan to torment Job. Satan basically said that if you tormented a good man enough then he will renounce God (there is a parable here). Well God tormented Job by killing off his entire family, food supply, slaves, all property, and then left Job destitute. (Sounds pretty evil to me.) This basically leaves three choices as to God’s essential qualities (others may be variations on a theme).
- God is wholly good, powerful, and all knowing, but still tormented Job to prove a point.
- God is not all powerful and all knowing, this is evidenced by the fact that God was “tricked” into tormenting Job by Satan.
- Satan is wholly evil, powerful, and all knowing that he is an inverse equivalent with God, thus making him a god too.
Reconciling one of these outcomes will put one in philosophical bind. For example 1) God torments Job, so he really is not all that good afterall. 2) God really is not all that powerful since he can be tricked rather easily. 3) God is not the only all powerful being if another individual has an equal amount of concentration of demeanor (good and evil), power, and omniscience. Thus there is more polytheism.
Well, I could go on for days, but I think I will leave it there.