For thousands of years people lived in a world they experienced as populated by a multitude of spiritual forces. Apparently they did not think of them as being subordinate to some central divine king, if for no other reason than because they were acquainted with no such concept. Today many scholars see this primordial awareness of spiritual multiplicity as a first step towards more sophisticated spiritual understandings, a spiritual journey culminating in monotheism. To them, we contemporary Pagans seem a kind of romantic throwback or perhaps even a evolutionary degeneration.
This dismissive attitude towards polytheism affects more than Fundamentalists and other conservative monotheists, although among other critics smug superiority often substitutes for venom. Liberal Christians and Jews, and tolerant secular scholars of religion are often friendly to non-European Pagans, such as practicing Hindus or traditional Native Americans, but very often have a hard time taking Western NeoPagans seriously. They cannot understand how an atavistic polytheism could flourish among Euro-Americans.
But the vision of spiritual, intellectual, and cultural “progress” towards monotheism is a fable.
This essay in full is posted at Patheos.