After meeting my friend Edward Butler, I’ve come to learn that a degree of pragmatism is necessary for polytheism. Not only is it proper to accept the existence of all Gods, but it is more effective than the attempt to discount religious experience by monotheists.
The positivity of experience means no experience can invalidate another. One can experience but only one God and one God alone, but if you infer from this that there is no other God and that this is “the only God,” then you’ve hit a stump. By doing this, you’ve invalidated the experiences of others and made a negative inference. The negativity of the inference makes it ontologically inferior to the positive experience of myself or another. You can’t discount someone else’s religious experience while still putting forth a claim that your own is real.
When you deny the existence of other people’s Gods, you weaken the case for your own. If you suddenly decide to call another person’s religious experience fake, especially if from a set of long-standing religions, then what value are your own? The existence of your own Gods is reduced to subjective choice, merely based on your own experience as if it were the only experience, instead of affirmation over the existence of Gods. Theism, properly understood, is just polytheim. In the words of Edward Butler, “deny any divinity, and you deny all divinity.”
As such, a polytheist can use the theory of pragmatic truth and can see all religious experience as true, as a polytheist can believe in a potentially infinite amount of Gods and is thus able to accept all religious experience as true. That is not to say “worship every God,” as you can ignore Gods (and polytheists do it all the time), but rather I am saying accept the existence of all divinity.
Due to that, a pragmatic approach can be taken when tackling monotheism, as monotheism needs special bargaining since it just invalidates all other religious experience as “false” but puts forth a claim that its own religious experience is true. This, funny enough, shows doctrines such as monotheism, which is the worship of one God which involves a distinct denial of all other Gods, can be deemed a form of atheism that merely flirts with religious experience based on its denial of all divinity except one based on religious experience that is only with that particular.
Butler, Edward P., Dr. Essays on a Polytheistic Philosophy of Religion. New York: Phaidra Editions, 2014.
Butler, Edward P., Dr. “ Monotheism is Atheism, and some thoughts on Vedanta · EPButler.” Storify. Accessed May 19, 2017. https://storify.com/EPButler/monotheism-is-atheism-and-some-thoughts-on-vedanta
James, William. The varieties of religious experience: a study in human nature: being the Gifford Lectures on natural religion delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902. United States: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
James, William. Pluralistic universe. Place of publication not identified: Hardpress Publishing, 2012.