There are No Monotheistic Religions: Educating Monotheists to Their Polytheist Beliefs, By Darrel W. Ray

This is sure to be a controversial post but it's worth considering.
In everyday life, we non-theists may find ourselves in discussions with theists. Have you noticed that these discussions often go around in circles and achieve nothing? Why is that? Let me suggest that one reason is because we are using their framework in which to discuss and argue. In this article, I will explore some practical ways to stay out of their framework. Who says they have the sole right to define the terms of engagement? For this discussion, we will focus on monotheism, but other areas might be just as interesting.

Many modern-day theists seem to consider the so-called monotheistic nature of their religions as a sign of legitimacy, at least when compared to other openly polytheistic religions. The gods of ancient Greece and Rome were many, each with their own unique powers and niches in the nether world. It is no problem to see these as polytheistic religions but interestingly it is almost as easy to identify so-called monotheistic religions as polytheistic. If we expose the propaganda of these religions by challenging this key concept, we shift the frame, and open the door for a different kind of discussion. We don’t have to acquiesce to their definitions of their invisible friends.

Let’s explore. To be a monotheistic religion, a religion must have only one god in its lexicon. Zeus may have been the highest and most powerful god in the Greek pantheon, but he was certainly joined by many other lesser gods. In Christian mythology, the gods are no less than four, sometimes more. The Father, Son, Holy Ghost and Satan are certainly gods. For whatever the Christian apologist wants to say, these four certainly function as much like individual gods as any Greek gods. The Yahweh figure may be more powerful than the Son, Satan or Holy Ghost, but so too was Zeus or Thor. All move in mysterious ways and while three are allied against one, so too were there alliances among Greek and Norse gods. In addition, Catholics have Mary, who seems to have special powers and access to the other gods in remarkable ways. Then we have all the saints of both Catholic and Orthodox traditions. How convenient that each of them seems to have special powers, not unlike the demigods and lesser gods of other polytheistic religions.

In Christianity, the Gospel of John 1:1 shows a clear duality: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The author takes great pains to convince us that his two gods are really one, but the argument falls short. Two gods are just that, two gods. No amount of hocus-pocus can make them one, yet that has been the party line in Christianity for 1,700 years. Why 1,700 years? Because the issue was quite controversial in the church for the first 200-300 years. Perfectly legitimate Christian writers had strongly differing views on the nature of their Christ. Was he a god or not? Was he made a god after he was first human? Was he always a god? These concerns had real consequences for how one went about understanding the crazy ideas being perpetrated at the time. If Jesus was a god all along, then he really could not suffer and die in the way of a true human. If he was truly human, then he was made a god upon his death. He suffered like a human and because he became a god, his followers can become gods when they die. We may scoff at these ideas now, but while that particular idea was slapped down in the third century, it has been resurrected many times in history, most recently in Mormonism.

[Omitted, the discussion of Islam and Judaism]

Whether Christian, Islamic or Judaic, the pantheon of gods looks remarkably similar to that of the Greeks, imaginary beings who have relationships with one another and with man. Over time, these imaginary beings take on more or less power in the pantheon. The Jesus god is in ascendance right now among Protestant fundamentalists. The Holy Ghost god is most influential in the Pentecostal movement. The Yahweh god is top of the Jehovah Witnesses pantheon and Mary is high on the food chain for Catholics. Satan has a lot of sway in some Islamic sects and Christian fundamentalists.

Just because a religion has a well oiled propaganda machine claiming their invisible beings have certain relationships and power doesn’t mean we have to buy into it. In fact, I think it is imperative that we non-theists openly redefine god definitions. After all, Christians couldn’t decide for a couple hundred years on the nature of their gods and some are still debating the nature of various invisible friends and enemies.

To read more click on this link.

Darrel W. Ray is author of God Virus, The: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Cultureand founder of Recovering from Religion.™
I like how Ray says that monotheism "functions" like the gods of any pantheon. Again, his point is it "functions" like a polytheism, not that it is.

The Greek gods were at war with each other, right? In Zeus's case he might not have the power that a monotheistic god is believed to have, but then why is Yahweh at war? Yahweh was originally a tribal god who rose to be the head of the Jewish pantheon and then later to be the only god, so Christians are forced to explain this cosmic war. If he was always conceived as a monotheistic god there would be no other deities or supernatural beings at war with each other. No? If you read his whole essay you cannot claim that he doesn't know monotheists will disagree.