POLYTHEISM

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are regarded as monotheistic faiths. They proclaim total obedience to a single, all-powerful God.

Devils, angels, and messiahs usually don’t count. Only old-school Manichaeism gives Satan/Ahriman (and his son) divine status. Thus it denies God’s omnipotence, and is seen as a Satanic heresy. Most Christians see the Devil as junior to the omnipotent Creator, a failed servant or useful Tempter. The Son of God, the Holy Trinity, and Mother Mary are accepted as just part of God's family, or else seen as Christian heresies.

The vast accumulation of religious lore and tradition in the West is divided among the three major religions of the Holy Land. The Christian part was edited and approved under the Roman emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century. Additionally, before and after the split of Protestants from the Mother Church in the 1500s, there’ve been countless denominational differences.

Even so, the main message of Genesis in the Bible is monotheism. A single or prevailing god, a sky god responsible for the creation of the whole universe, is honored as supreme. He's all-powerful, but these days he never uses his power to defy natural law except in visions and prayers. He’s everywhere at once, omnipresent and considered loving and good. He makes Big Brother and the Thought Police look lazy, knowing your innermost urges before you do. He must be obeyed as the Father, even if His actions are sometimes jealous and vengeful to the point of destroying all Creation.

His powers are total and unlimited... Except that, as Dr. Phil says, even God can't change the past. If he could, presumably nothing bad would ever happen.

God's First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” doesn’t rule out lesser gods, but the rest of scripture tends to ignore foreign gods or dismiss them as devils, tempters or false idols. To worship them or a foreign monotheistic god is seen as punishable along with other forms of sin.

          HAPPY ISHTAR

        HAPPY ISHTAR

The same goes for goddesses, although Jesus’s Virgin Mother Mary is prayed to in some Catholic worship as a kind of super-saint, and is honored in statuary resembling idols. Catholicism also ordains many mortals as divine saints, partly to replace minor gods of foreign peoples converted to Christian belief.

The idea of a monotheistic or all-powerful Nature-god or goddess doesn’t seem to have taken hold, except possibly in tribal cultures. Much of human history has been a struggle against nature, as an adversary or, at best, a backdrop. “Nature” is just too diverse and general, independent of human aims and values. In past times, before we had a satellite view of Planet Earth, who could grasp it?

The idea of a great god Pan (which literally means “all,” as in pan-global) is just too vast and morally ambivalent. The ideas suggests pagan anarchy rather than social harmony. Pan with horns and pipes seems more suggestive of a devil or tempter than of a wise, kingly ruler. Keep in mind that in early, earthy polytheistic faiths, many gods had the forms of animals, or used them as shape-shifters, or were only partly human and part-animal. They were often seen as tricksters or menaces. Ishtar, the fertility goddess on after our sacred holiday Easter is named, had wings and feet resembling a bird’s talons.

Polytheism, as a tradition, dates from earliest times in Greek, Egyptian and most other societies. It seems to arise from belief in spirits that personify different natural elements and phenomena, or inhabit special places in the natural world. A pantheon of gods also includes “patron gods” of various occupations or pursuits, such as war gods, love goddesses, hunter or athlete gods. There was also primitive worship of inanimate things such as mountains, big rocks or whirling dust-devils.

Polytheism remained active and possibly dominant in the Roman Empire until the fourth century. It was supported in part by the Roman emperors’ habit of declaring themselves gods, through descent traced from older gods or immortalized heroes. (The emperors themselves did not claim to be immortal in this world, most likely out of fear that their mortality would be tested.) The Emperor Constantine, who first declared Christianity the official religion of Rome, may have gradually shifted to the all-powerful biblical God by first paying homage to the Roman sun god Sol Invictus.

The sun is powerful, sure. In some ways it’s the source of life and energy. But it’s just a plugin for the huge miracle of human and biological life.

As a compromise, the worship of a major god in the presence of minor ones has been called henotheism. This implies that priorities can shift. If a certain god emerges in a time of crisis, and visibly intervenes in human affairs by punishing sin, rewarding virtue, and prescribing rules and actions that will promote the survival and welfare of all creatures and the planet, then it makes sense to give heed to that entity, over a remote ideal god who remains silent and will not provide meaningful guidance or correction.

If it's true that God doesn't work any more miracles that defy nature's laws, then we should pay attention to nature. Isn't it time to recognize the Earth, our cherished habitat, as a divine entity?

It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.