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The core of his argument is, in fact, that there are probably many gods. In the first part of the book, he lays out many of the common explanations or theologies of monotheism— why there must be only one God, what that God must do or be in the world, and how that God's power, knowledge and good-will must be infinite. In a twist on traditional, classical monotheistic theology, though, Greer proceeds to explain why these arguments don't really hold water. In the second part of the book, Greer lays out the classical model of polytheism, and demonstrates with a variety of evidence—from cultural anthropology, from accounts of mystical experiences, and from history—why it is that a polytheistic world-view actually fits lived human experience more effectively than classical monotheism. In the third section, Greer lays out how this shift in world-view, from a monotheist to a polytheist standpoint, helps human beings deal more honestly and fairly with people of other religious traditions. He covers ethics and justice, miraculous events, cosmology, eschatology(end times), and even the idea of communication between gods and mortals in the present time. In all his work, he makes place and time for the faith and miracles of many different spiritual traditions, for their mysticism and sacred experiences. I was awed. Reading the book itself was almost a mystical revelation.
Classical polytheism is to be distinguished from neo-Platonic polytheism (PP) in that CP, unlike PP, does not claim that all of the gods are simply different forms or faces of one God or divine being; rather, for CP, the gods are separate and distinct from each other. In addition, there is no omnipotent God under whose authority the Gods and Goddesses operate.
The book seems to take a threefold approach. The first strategy is to show that classical monotheism (CM) is no better served by the classical arguments for God's existence than CP is--the arguments support CP at least as well as CM, and even sometimes better (as in the case of the teleological argument). The second strategy is to show that the classical atheistic arguments (such as the argument from evil) are more of a problem for CM than for CP. The third strategy is to suggest that CP is a better explanation for the diversity of religious experience than is CM or naturalism.
Regarding the first strategy, I believe that Greer's treatment of the theistic arguments is generally uneven. Some of the critiques are not entirely persuasive, but he often makes perceptive points. I won't get into the details of it all here. It would become tedious!
Regarding the second strategy, I generally agree with Greer. I think that the theist could respond successfully to some of Greer's claims about the argument from evil's force against theism, but his general point remains safe.
Regarding the third strategy, I find this to be the special contribution of his book. I am delighted to see that Greer does not fall into the common yet confused view that all of the religions are "saying the same thing", which they are not, and Greer is clear on this point. In fact, his bold recognition of the incompatibilities of the religious experiences in different religions inspires him to suggest that there really are many Gods and Goddesses, and that they are communing with humans in different ways. There is not one mountain with many paths to the top--there are many mountains. He even goes so far as to say that there may be different afterlives for different people.
The idea is that CP is the best explanation for the diversity of religious experience. I think this idea is worth some serious thought and this is the most interesting thing that Greer does. I believe that philosophers of religion should discuss this idea with some rigor. I'm not here to say whether he is right or not, but I would maintain that there are other explanations that are good enough that they would certainly disqualify CP as the only reasonable explanation. For instance, CM could claim that some people are deluded by Satan or an evil force. Naturalism could claim that it is all self-fulfilling prophecy. Even CM could have an element of self-fulfilling prophecy in its explanation in addition to the idea of being misguided by a malevolent force. Perhaps the diversity can be explained by having contact with angels or metaphysical beings who are servants of the one God. I can't say which one one must accept. I encourage a discussion about all of the possibilities.
Greer goes on to give an excellent discussion about CP and its attitudes about a variety of issues including ethics, religious practice, and spirituality. This book has given me insight into CP that I never had prior to reading this book, and this discussion is well worth your time if you have any interest in religions that emphasize CP strongly (as opposed to PP) such as Druidism and Asatru.
Thank you, Mr. Greer, for opening up a fruitful and interesting discussion in the philosophy of religion.
For centuries, polytheists have been looked down on for their supposedly primitive beliefs. However, John Michael Greer does an excellent job of smashing the theoretical underpinnings of monotheism to pieces. He makes a very convincing argument that, despite what monotheists have been saying for the last few millennium or so, polytheism really does make more sense.
I'd recommend A World Full of Gods to any pagan that is interested in developing their conceptual understanding of their belief system concerning deity.