This is why Polytheism makes sense over Monotheism

I started thinking about polytheism as a consequence of a discussion I had with someone I once met at the University I was studying in, in USA. He was a follower of a monotheistic religion and was unable to understand how people could believe in many gods.

For very long, the discussion used to come back to me, but I could never derive a proper justification, nor did I truly feel the need for a justification. Sometime back, I had a discussion with a friend that led to the crystallization of my idea of god. To me, god is a collection of attributes I value. If that collection or a sufficient part of collection exists in a human or animal or symbol, that entity or symbol to me is god.

Symbolism has been much reviled and become a word that people do not want to associate with. This is because symbolism has been hijacked by tokenism. Tokenism and symbolism are not the same. For instance, a piece of stone in the shape of Shiva is worshiped. Unfortunately, people worship the piece of stone itself rather than what it symbolizes. They believe that offering fruits, leaves, devotion etc. to the stone itself would bring them benefits. This is also disturbing at a different level. Because you see, Shiva is just a means to an end for them.

What I believe should instead be worshiped is as follows. The snake around Shiva’s neck indicates a person who is able to meditate even with a snake (also seen as the desires and temptations and distractions) hissing in his ear. The deer held firmly in his hand indicates a mind that is steady, a mind that does not hop about like a deer. The third eye indicates wisdom and penetration. The burning of the god of love, Kama, by opening the third eye is not a story of external manifestation of power, but a story of the power to see through the illusion of lust and to burn it at its source. There are of course other symbols, the interpretations of which I am not aware of. But the point I wish to make is we should learn to understand symbols and not blindly worship them devoid of understanding.

Coming back to the original topic, polytheism is important because different people value different attributes and may wish to develop each to a different measure. Polytheism allows each person to select a set of beliefs that are most dear to that person. For one, it may be education, for another compassion and empathy. I think it does not matter too much what it is, as long as it is good. Polytheism grants so much more freedom. The only condition being that it be properly understood.

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