Deism presumes that the clockwork of the universe was set in motion by a demiurge, who at some point later vacated the premises. Apparently, polydeism is a thing, which is pretty amazing. The notion that a succession of gods have come along, messed around with what passed for the natural order at the time, and then wandered off makes more sense to me than monodeism does, but I still find it kinda depressing. In fact, it depresses me more to think that the universe has been a passing fancy to multiple gods than if it had been just that one time. Is it that boring here?
Accepting the possibility of polydeism also opens new doors. Could it be that some gods just stop by, but others choose to stick around? That’s not an option under monodeism, because it presumes just one deity. There’s nothing in polytheist belief that suggests that all the many gods have much in common with one another, and it stands to reason that some might move in for the long haul once they are born here or happen upon the place. What I’m not sure about is if that would still count as polydeism at all. I think of my ninth-grade social studies teacher’s definition of [mono]deism: “God made the universe, then split.” If it was actually multiple gods, and they split on whether or not to split, does that dilute the -deism part of the word? It certainly doesn’t satisfy people who use deism simply as a way to pay lip service to divine powers while still completely ignoring them, which may have something to do with why it’s not super fashionable to be a polydeist.
There’s a deranged part of my mind that thinks about what this concept means to theological debates within the Pagan and polytheist spheres: were they separate and distinct gods who abandoned the universe, or facets of a single being? On the other hand, maybe these former resident gods were archetypes. Could the universe now be devoid of archetypes? Did those gods all hang out together and bolt when the party was over, or was it a revolving door of holy powers? Revisiting the monist “all gods are one” mindset, could there be a succession of different faces to the same god[s] passing through, giving the polydeist the mistaken impression that there’s been a bunch when it was only a few, or one, deadbeat deity?
Moreover, what if deism is just one more idea which isn’t entirely correct or incorrect? Could it be that some gods have left for parts unknown, but others remain? Perhaps deistic abandonment is inevitable, but still unfolding. How do I know if my gods are going to leave, or when? The very thought could drive some devotees into a bitter form of agnosticism, I’d venture. If we can’t have faith in gods, does the word have any meaning?
If nothing else, a cycle of deism helps me imagine that non-believers such as atheists aren’t precisely wrong, but (like many of the rest of us) simply drawing conclusions based upon only that very small portion of the evidence which is known to human beings. I remain confident that not everything is even knowable to we jelly-brained types, and try mightily not to assume I have a better handle on the big picture than anybody else. I fail in that, regularly, but that’s the fun of being human in the first place. We are a self-centered, arrogant bunch of primates, after all. If some or all of the gods have moved on to better things, I certainly can’t blame them from tiring of our antics.
For me, there is something reassuring about knowing that there’s a lot we don’t know.