- Series: Suny Series in Religious Studies
- Paperback: 170 pages
- Publisher: State University of New York Press (March 17, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0791463885
- ISBN-13: 978-0791463888
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,328,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology (S U N Y Series in Religious Studies)
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
About the Author
Jordan Paper is Professor Emeritus of Humanities (Religious Studies, East Asian Studies) at York University. He is also an Associate Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society and Adjunct Professor in the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria. He is the author of several books, including The Mystic Experience: A Descriptive and Comparative Analysis and The Spirits Are Drunk: Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion, both published by SUNY Press, as well as Through the Earth Darkly: Female Spirituality in Comparative Perspective and Offering Smoke: The Sacred Pipe and Native American Religion.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Prof. Paper's critiques of Abrahamic, patriarchal religions are succinct and to the mark but he did not sufficiently underscore similar tendencies in 'polytheistic' religions of patriarchal civilisations like ancient Greece. Alas, he did not follow his own conclusions in writing the book, ex. gr. to use 'thealogy' instead of or with 'theology' and by referring to "A Polytheistic Theology" in the title whilst stating explicitly in the text that 'polytheism' is a pejorative label invented and applied to all forms of Heathenism by proponents of Abrahamic religions.
Prof. Paper emphasised the experiential, 'subjective' nature of religions in general and non-Abrahamic ones in particular. He weaved his own experiences - and biases - into the text. Frequent amongst North Americans who have never lived in Europe, this north-western peninsula of Eurasia appears in the book like a large Christian mass much like North American, in spite of its very high degree of differentiation into some 40 officially recognised languages, many climates, countries, regions, cultures and ethnic groups. Prof. Paper forgot to mention that Christendom's victory over Heathenism required several centuries of bitter warfare and was not essentially accomplished until the conquest of Saxony by Charlemagne's Frankish alliance at the end of the 8th century CE.
The author mentions some bridges like The One - The Many and Unity - Multiplicity being indispensable to each other as shown by Angels and sometimes Saints in Abrahamic religions, although their adherents usually display little to no interest in such bridges to Heathenism. Another bridge is the direct divine inspiration claimed by many heathen authors for some of their writings, ex. gr. by Three Female Muses for Hesiod's "Theogony". Could Greek Heathens rightly claim to be a 'people of the book'?
The author often illustrates the extreme imbalance of Abrahamic religions in their preference, clearly confirmed by the masculine linguistic genders, names and attributes of their 'God', for the Active-Male over the Passive-Female, both in principle and in manifestation. This tendency, however, was already marked by paternalistic civilisations like ancient Greece and Aryan India. One can indeed scarcely imagine Christians praying to "Our Mother Who is in the Earth" or Muslims to "Allat", even if She were not considered part of an all-female Trinity.
Prof. Paper deserves special credit for his explicit critiques of New-Age and feminist exaggerations, ex. gr. of parts of Wicca, that are indeed often contrary to the self-understanding and practices of traditional forms of Heathenism. Hardly surprising in view of Wicca's establishment almost exclusively by white Anglo-Saxons of Christian protestant origin.
The author frequently referred to traditional Chinese religions to which he has direct family links. Alas, he did not mention by what portion of the population such religions, including for example family alters for Ancestresses, Ancestors and other Divinities, are currently practised in China.
Prof. Paper's 'thealogy' remains somewhat ambiguous in respect of 'good-bad' (rather than 'good-evil'). His attribution of 'bad' (defined apparently according to conventional human mundane well-being) at least in part to hazardous events indicates perhaps a reluctance to directly comprehend forces known in some traditions as 'malefic', represented chiefly by Mars and Saturn.
The author begins by explaining what he means by "theology." Theology to him can mean "to theorize from within a particular tradition." But that does not suffice to define the term to me.
We find out that the Goddesses and Gods are fairly diverse. My favorites are the perfections of attributes (such as strength, honesty, wisdom, cooperation, adventure, and so on). But others are simply representatives of non-humans (such as trees, earth, sky, or the entire planet). And some are specific to given locales, so that your Goddess may have no jurisdiction over the valley on the other side of the mountain where your neighbors live.
The author discusses many of the North American and Chinese Deities and explains their natures as well as how they are hailed. There are sections on ancestral spirits, and divine ghosts.
Paper explains that polytheism is natural to humans. And that the Gods and Goddesses tend to be hailed or adored, not feared. While the term "worshipper" may be appropriate for many monotheists, the more common term for polytheists is "devotee." Paper explains that the polytheistic deities "tend to be more companionable than a single, absolute, monarchial deity."
The author explains that for polytheists, there is no concept of "heresy." There simply is no single religious dogma to be denied. That's not true for monotheists, who often confuse their dogmas with empirical truths. And that can lead to a very destructive fanaticism among monotheists. In addition, we can see that the major monotheistic religions tend to favor Men over Women, and can favor one race over another as well.
In my opinion, we humans are varied and fickle and thus need to worship a big bunch of Goddesses and Gods. And Paper seems to imply this as well: he points out that if our prayers to one deity are not answered, it is normal to consider switching to some other deity.
One obvious aspect of modern monotheism is its stultifying authoritarianism. And Paper does explain that polytheism is useful, enjoyable, and exhilarating. Still, I would have appreciated more of a discussion about the lack of authoritarianism in some forms of polytheism.
Since Paper does discuss the problems of monotheism in leading us humans into conflict, I was hoping he would draw some conclusions about the future of polytheism. One possibility is that the future will be much like the past: the polytheistic religions that correspond to the human spirit will be defeated by a few monotheists at gunpoint. But I think it is more likely that such impositions of the religions of others will eventually be rejected by society, that we'll return to the Gods and Goddesses, and that They will return to us.