I wrote this blog as a contribution to recent discussions of polytheism vs. monotheism on PaganSquare when I noticed several people asserting that "most pagans" are "polytheists." I do not call myself a polytheist because while I affirm a multiplicity of images, for me they all point to a single divine presence in the world. I offer the below musings in a spirit of dialogue. I am interested to hear from those who call themselves "polytheists" whether they are speaking of a plurality of images and stories pointing to a "unity of being" or whether they are also saying that there are a "plurality of (sometimes) conflicting forces" that they would call "divinities."
In Rebirth of the Goddess I noted that monotheists were the ones who defined the term polytheism and wondered if in fact there really were any polytheists in the history of the world. I posed this question because monotheists assert that polytheists not only worship or honor a "diversity of images," but also insist that polytheists believe that there are a "diversity of conflicting and competing powers" in the world. Monotheists might even go so far as to say that polytheists deny that there is a "unity of being" underlying all of the diversity and difference in the world.
For me the notion that "the world is the body of Goddess" (or divinity) is more primary than multiply elaborated images, names, and stories about divine beings. I am less moved by myths of Goddesses and Gods than I am by images of the Goddess that incorporate plant and animal as well as human qualities. In one sense I am closer to animism than polytheism. It is the beauty of the world that moves me to reverence.
In recent years monotheism has been attacked as a “totalizing discourse” that justifies the domination of others in the name of a universal truth. In addition, from the Bible to the present day some have used their own definitions of “exclusive monotheism” to disparage the religions of others. Moreover, feminists have come to recognize that monotheism as we know it has been a “male monotheism” that for the most part excludes female symbols and metaphors for God. With all of this going against monotheism, who would want to affirm it?