The ancients had lots of ‘gods’. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Norsemen (Vikings) and other cultures had whole ‘pantheons’ of ‘gods’. The Hindus still have many ‘gods’. Yet today, many believers insist there is only ‘one true god’. Why is that? 

The early ‘gods’ were assigned specific roles. Taking all the ancient Egyptian deities together, they had the common overarching job of maintaining the universal order, while individually, Shu was supposed to look after the air, Khnum had responsibility for the Nile’s annual flood and Ra was the sun god. They even had bad gods: Apep was the force of chaos, and they deified dead Pharoahs! 

In the Norse pantheon there were 39 gods and 45 goddesses. Thor was the god of thunder and battle, Eostre the goddess of spring, Frigg the goddess of marriage, Baldur the god of beauty and Bragi the god of poetry. 

The ancient Greeks had so many gods we’ve had to put them into several categories: Primordial Deities, Titans and Titanesses, Gigantes, Sea Deities, Sky Deities, etc. Individual deities included Zeus, king of the gods, Posiedon, god of the sea, Hera, goddess of marriage, Hades, god of the underworld, Dionysus, god of wine, and Apollo, god of music, to name but a few. 

The Romans adopted and modified many of the Greek gods. So Aurora was the goddess of the dawn, Bacchus the god of wine, Ceres the goddess of the harvest, Diana the goddess of the hunt, Hercules the god of strength, and Jupiter the king of gods. 

The earliest gods were appointed to natural items or phenomena and were represented by very crude idols rather than human images but, as artistic skill improved, so it became possible to make gods more manlike. The Egyptian gods were often two dimensionally depicted as having the bodies of men and the heads of animals. The Greeks had mastered sculpture so many beautiful marble statues of gods still survive that are modeled on human anatomy. Gods are made in the image of man, not the other way round. 

Making gods look like humans enables them to have personalities that are easy to relate to. They can have characters and emotions like rage and love. They can get drunk, can dance and have tantrums. More gripping stories can be written and audience attention can be better held. Then, when the hat is passed round, the donations will reflect the quality of the entertainment. And that’s the point: it’s a business!

Now peer through the lens of a priest or pastor of long ago… Would you rather be selling your skill to influence, say Diana the huntress or Ceres the harvester? Which would drum up most income? Or would you rather try to convince people that your god was so powerful he could do anything? Claiming to have a relationship with an all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere, Jack of all trades kind of god opens up many more opportunities to earn by selling 'services'…

Monotheism is simply a better business model than polytheism…