I’ve said before that (roughly speaking) atheism is how I think and pantheism is how I feel. That’s describes my intellectual and sentimental positions, but I thought of a third one: pragmatic (and a fourth – see below).
It seems to me that, in practice, I am a polytheist, as we all must be. I don’t mean to say that there is a pantheon of metaphysical or elemental beings controlling or influencing our lives. What I mean is we are surrounded by multiple forces that we must constantly navigate and negotiate with. There are of course the natural or non-human ones embodied in the powers of sky land and sea, and the flora and fauna that inhabit them. There are also the psychological forces that embody themselves in the mass psychology of humanity, influencing and structuring our choices and behaviour. Then there are the cultural, social and economic forces we must contend with, embodied in a multitude of institutions, organisations, corporations, moral values, abstract principles, symbols, rules and laws, traditions, trades, industries, arts, sciences and technologies.
There are multiple “tendencies” in the world that have, or seem to have, a life of there own. With all that, can anyone honestly call themselves a monotheist or atheist? I must say, I have my doubts. It seems futile and impractical to reduce the many powers in our lives to one or nothing. We are naturally polytheistic, whether we call it that or not. We don’t have to take the myths of ancient polytheistic religions literally to understand that the complexities that they represent are very real.
So that’s pragmatically, so how about spiritually? I would say that all theology, from monotheism to polytheism, from pantheism to atheism are all inadequate in representing what we might call the divine, sacred or numinous. Maybe there’s “something” and maybe there’s not, we’re just playing with concepts that can’t reach that far.