I thought of this topic as an adequate introduction to many others to follow. Before polytheism is considered and discussed in itself, it ought to be first distinguished from monotheism. The truth is, the word polytheist (as well as pagan and heathen) was actually invented by the ambitious monotheists in the time of Rome to set themselves apart from usual people who follow the ways of their ancestors. But now since we have unfortunately been reduced to a small minority, after many centuries of persecution and cruelty, we are forced to continue to use a term that almost acknowledges the victory of monotheism. At least polytheist is far superior to pagan, the latter a name of contempt levelled at polytheists (not much different from infidel); it is derived from paganus, a Latin word which means country dweller. Nevertheless, in the end, it is things, rather than words, that we must look to understand and comprehend, and to that end, I present the differences between polytheism and monotheism below, some of which are known and others sometimes overlooked. In my future writings, I will take up or allude this essential topic again.
*Monotheism began with persons who alleged they were prophets divinely guided and sent to guide others.
i.e., Abraham, Akhenaten, Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus, Buddha (to some degree), etc.
*Polytheism grew gradually out of the collective culture and views of a certain people. No single person claimed to be a sole mediator.
*Monotheism acknowledges only one god to exist, who rejects all others and demands submission from all the world. Therefore, there is only one truth and one way.
*Polytheism acknowledges many Gods to exist, even in other cultures. There are many truths and many ways.
*Monotheism preaches a firm and unchanging dualism in matters of morality. Thus, there is good and evil, heaven and hell, etc. based on moral absolutism.
*Polytheism acknowledges the obvious distinction between the good and the bad. But instead of preaching it, polytheists follow the customs of their ancestors, which are based on moral relativism.
*Monotheists often experience fear and guilt in spiritual matters, which is a sign of piety to them.
*Polytheists experience awe in ritual matters, and may go through shame within difficult situations regarding customs, which is natural.
*In Monotheism, the earth belongs to believers, who are allowed by their god to use it for themselves and against the forces of “evil” represented in the “infidels”.
*In Polytheism, the Earth belongs to the Gods collectively, and its use is regulated by custom and ritual practices.
*In Monotheism, proselytes, or converted followers, are always searched for to gain rewards from their god and increase their power.
*In Polytheism, people belong to native cultures with distinct customs and distinct ancestries, which are respected and maintained. However, one may be initiated into a new neighboring cult, to worship a foreign God, by means of a fee, or through marriage within a foreign culture. Ethnic Gods constantly worshipped by foreigners is discouraged and suspected.
*Monotheism preaches equality and egalitarianism, but maintains a religious hierarchy.
*Polytheism acknowledges the value and efforts of all social classes as well as the distinctions between the sexes. The essence is community and society, not equality.
*In Monotheism, the soul is more valuable than the body. Thus, the body is to be subjected to spiritual dominance.
*In Polytheism, the soul and the body are inseparable and of equal importance in ritual.
*In Monotheism, people often pursue individualism, like their “prophets”. They seek a personal connection with the divine or lead a holy life distant from society. Society may also be theocratic in nature, or such a government is very often desired.
*In Polytheism, there is no individualism in ritual practice. Community (collectivism) is more important than individualism. Society is political in its nature and government.
*In Monotheism, theology, a mixture of philosophy and faith, is used to justify and glorify holy texts or “revelation”.
*In Polytheism, there is no theology, but only mythologies or epic poems. Holy texts are usually hymns and ritual tradition, not commentary on “revelation” by priests.