Friday, July 30, 2010

Polytheism: contradiction in terms

"Consider the notion of 'polytheism'. (For the moment, let us keep etymologies of theos and such like outside the purview of our discussion.) In both commonsense and scholarly parlance it is supposed to connote multiplicity of 'gods', which contrasted to 'monotheism' that is alleged to connote a single entity 'God'. (Look at the way the words are capitalized as well.) Ask yourself this simple question: who or what can the word 'god' refer to? Within the (simplified) framework sketched in my earlier post, this notion makes perfect theological sense. The plurality of
'gods' can only refer to entities other than 'God': the 'false' gods and the
True one. If you take away this theological framework, the notion of
'polytheism' is strictly senseless and becomes a contradiction-in-terms: if
'god' is that being which created the world, the Lord of the Universe (say),
how can there be a plurality of such entities? If such a multiplicity
exists, none of them is 'god'. If none is 'god' there can be no multiplicity
of gods either. Therefore, polytheism is possible if and only if polytheism
is impossible. "

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