Whenever I have told people I am an ex Christain but still believe in different deities, people look at me funny. Not because of the word “polytheist”, but because they find it so bizarre that people who claim they are “ex Christians” are somehow still believing in some kind of god.
Growing up, we are often taught in school that things like “Roman Gods” and “Egyptian Gods” are things of stories/mythos and that no one actually believes in these deities like they did in the “ye old days”. They are wrong. The Pagan community in particular (especially when you consider Hellenism, the belief/following of the ancient Greek pantheon traditions and the like) has these different communities thriving. Hinduism is still a very strong belief system as well and is one of the few beliefs in today’s world that remains polytheistic.
Having studied a lot of different religious beliefs over the years, it is fascinating to see humanity go from a polytheistic society (so many different communities and cultures had pantheons throughout the world involving different deities for different beliefs such as — Aztec, Norse, Hinduism, Greek, just to name a few). If you look at the science, we can somewhat see a correlation. For example, the ancient Greeks didn’t have the science to truly understand things like thunderstorms, oceans, or fire. This is why they created deities to represent them (theoretically speaking of course). They didn’t understand quite how or why loved and lust worked the way they did, so they created deities to represent these ideals. Humans by nature have always been curious creatures. We strive to better understand the world around us. If we don’t have the science to “believe in” so to speak, we create things to help us better understand things. Things must be divine if we can’t understand the physicality of it.
As our understanding of science grew, our pantheons seemed to shrink. For example, in today’s world, Christianity is a huge religion. What’s the “one” thing they seem to find mystifying? Death and what lies beyond the grave. We still don’t have the science to definitively say what happens after we breathe that last breath. Do we go into never-ending darkness? Do we go to some kind of paradise? Do we get reincarnated? Who knows! A large part of humanity’s religious beliefs as stated earlier is just our attempt to make better sense of the world we live in.
So, how can I still be a polytheist even though I have removed myself from the Christain community? For me, I believe there will be things that science can never truly explain. For example, my matron goddess is the deity Kali from the Hindu pantheon. Kali, herself represents destruction, time, and paradox. All in all, these are pretty abstract concepts. Many people who are not Christian but believe in some other type of deity, it seems to correlate with more “abstract” concepts (water, love, fire, lust, time, color, death, destruction, afterlife, etc.). Sure, some of these we might understand the very basic properties (for example — we know that water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen), but beyond that? It is still very much a mystery to us.
Watching humanity try to learn more about the world we live in is a beautiful and fascinating discovery process. I am sure in 100 years the different “otherworldly” or “mystical” beings will be completely different. It will be fascinating to see, in particular, how Christianity is viewed as time changes (will it be one day called “mythos” like how we refer to the Greek beliefs for example?).