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Polytheism was a common form of religion in ancient times. People believed that different gods lived and controlled various parts of nature (ie the sun, the moon, thunderstorms), and praying to these gods gave them a sense that they had control over their lives.

In modern and scientifically advanced societies, polytheism is not regularly practiced. It seems that the most prominent religions today either circle around one omniscient god (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) or no god at all (atheism, Buddhism). My reasoning behind this is that we have scientific evidence that explains most of the natural processes to us (like the water cycle, the rotation of the earth around the sun, etc.), but the one question we can't answer is where we came from, hence the one god that created everything.

I need a reason why a scientifically advanced future society would begin to worship multiple gods again. Does anyone have any good ideas for why this would happen?


NOTE: My original idea is something that veers from the current Catholic idea of saints. Each saint is a patron of something different, and people pray to them to pray to God on their behalf. Maybe sometime in the future, this idea gets warped and people begin to pray to the saints as individual gods?

I am not completely satisfied with this idea though, and would love to hear other ideas.

NOTE 2: Kingledion pointed out that Hinduism is a modern religion that is semi-polytheistic. From my vague understanding of Hinduism, the belief is that there is one god that takes on many forms (see here). I suppose I was looking for a truly polytheistic religion and not some blend between monotheism and polytheism.

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    $\begingroup$ What does scientific advancement have to do with belief? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 11 '17 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ How would your society argue against an atheist who claims there are 0 gods? The answer to that question typically starts to suggest where the holes are in the society without religion, and one can then follow those holes to arrive at your answer regarding which religion they will use. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 11 '17 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ The simple answer is because they have been scientifically proven in your world. $\endgroup$ – Devsman Jan 11 '17 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that the current dominance of monotheism has anything to do with scientific enlightenment - after all, the dominance began over a thousand years ago when people were no more scientifically-englightened than they were in Greek and pre-Christian Roman times - in many cases less so. The two dominant religions in our contemporary world are dominant because of the cultures that practice them, and their military, economic, political and cultural power. $\endgroup$ – Matt Bowyer Jan 12 '17 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ I have a question for the mods: If this is world building, where we help people build their worlds, shouldn't philosophical discussion on said question be allowed in comments as opposed to chat, as the comments help bring out factors that help the OP determine how their world works? If so, leaving the comments in place allows for others who come to this posting see the chain of logic that leads up to a determination. $\endgroup$ – NZKshatriya Jan 15 '17 at 4:04

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So many gods or one god is a question of belief. The answer doesn't matter if there is 1 or 100 gods in your world.

Science and faith can not exist at the same time. Science is the striving to empirically prove a fact, while faith is belief in a fact without empirical evidence.

If your world can embrace this axiom then you don't have a problem.

Our world, in contrast only has a problem with God v.s. science because we feel (as a whole) that they are somehow exclusive to one another. We try to enforce a policy of "It can't be true because I can't prove it."

If your world had a policy of "It may or may not be false because I can't prove it's false." you leave enough room for faith to work.

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Let's assume that this culture is fully rational and logical naturalists as I am. And let get some people like me who ask the question, "ok but why is the universe logical? Is it logical?" as I have done and have made the argument, but generally don't discuss nor do I "believe" it, largely because it is hard to explain and there is no way to ever "prove" it, but anyways the argument goes something like...

We ask, "the universe exists and we presume to be logical, but are there any other ways for it to be?" What we mean by logical is that the truth value of a statement and syllogisms is such that A = A. So are there other ways for this to be? Yes... there are 4 configurations for what happens to truth values...

A = A
A = !A
A != A
A != !A

When I say "The Universe Exists" I am essentially saying "A = A". I don't want to get into the linguistics of it. Basically I'm not saying because I say something is the case it is the case but rather the sentence I am saying is relaying that there is a truth value property inherent in the universe and that it follows the laws of logic.

Anyways so if I say the Universe is, or A = A, all is good, the Universe Exists, yep I look around it does so this is "correct"... but then we move on...

I say now A = !A is how the Universe works... Great. Now if I say the universe exists it stops existing because the end value is always the oposite of what is percieved... On the plus side when it doesn't exist it pops into existence so there is creation for you...

A != A means that Whatever I say is the case becomes anything but that.

A != !A means that there is a cancelation of sorts.

That's the jist of it and I hardly talk about it or think on it and it's something that toys with logic and so it's hard to wrap your head around and explain. The important part is that there is this argument and this argument combined with Occam's razor combines to say that it is likely that the universe is actually not Logical, but rather that we live in a small chunk of the universe that is logical which must exist in the one other Logical law set up where by all things both exist and don't exist at the same time.

In this cosmology there would have to be gods... all the gods, and none of them, would exist and there would be every variation of our universe where each set of gods exist as well including a universe where everything looks like there are no gods, but there most certainly are, they just don't show themselves.

So to a Rational Logical Naturalistic mind this if explored deeper and expounded on would give reason to believe gods exist... because they would have to... and not at the same time. Of course then you'd have to get into the questions of what is a god and the mootness of it all because in this universal framework, whatever you come up with would exist and has always and will always... but also won't. This underminds the concept of gods while arguing that they exist.

It's a weird concept I admit, but supposing someone thought about this and made it more coherent and palatable and then started preaching it. As long as there is a sophistication level high enough to understand what is being said which we're assuming there is in the future, then this would give rise to a form of polytheism... A weird one, but still one.

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Intro

The core conflict between science and religion is that they require conflicting mindsets:

  • Scientific thinking requires believing in what evidence shows.
  • Religious thinking requires believing in dogma.

Option 1: Most people aren't scientists

Most people aren't scientists, so they're free to have non-evidence-based beliefs. The minority of scientists eventually build up high technology, while the culture is prodominantly religious.

Option 2: Civilization has been around for a long time

Everyone uses evidence-based belief to some degree or another, so even religious believers are capable of understanding and even advancing Science. They might be a lot slower, but given enough time, even a highly religious population should eventually achieve high technology.

Option 3: AI took over, and humans are a protected species

Artificial intelligence has advanced, and now human are basically a protected indigenous species. The AI see themselves as zoo keepers, while the humans see the care-taker AI's as a pantheon of deities.

This setting can even include deities granting their priests divine magic. For the AI, this would be giving trusted humans some technology to help them care of others; to the humans, these would be divine blessings from the gods.

Option 4: Religious ideals are instilled during childhood

Who believes in Santa Claus? But it seems that most parents still pass that belief on to their children.

In this setting, religion could be a youth cult. Many people end up growing out of it and adopting a more evidence-based way of thinking, going on to lead society, but others never leave the religion that they grew up in and eventually become religious elders (clergy). Even the non-religious adults still support religion because they find it endearing.

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