The attitudes and beliefs of a given population are expressed culturally through how people actually live and how they seek to live – as idealized in the artistic representations and through the religion of the era.
My sense of history is that monotheism seems to stem from populations which are fairly homogenous with the power residing in government and households being the prevue of men – the god of all things, but referred to in the masculine, as The Father, The Creator, The God.
Power and knowledge flow from God to the male representative on earth to men, then women and then on down the social ladder.
But in a cosmopolitan world or a more egalitarian one, where no one group dominates overmuch, there is room for many gods, not only many gods within a religion, but the same vague pantheon of gods, repeated over in variable incarnations, throughout all peoples. While Gods and Goddesses had their priest or priestess classes dedicating their lives to their chosen deities, the average citizens did not need these middle people, they could make direct supplication, even maintaining shrines in their homes.
The relationship of any one human, was of general awe and supplication, with periodic observances to particular gods within their sphere of influences, such as childbirth, harvest, war and inspiration.
The Gods, male and female, carried on barely noticing mere humans, except for those fated to have destinies…and for the rest of us, we lived our lives as our observance, being the best fisher, fighter, lover, liver person we could be.
And this arrangement honored the gods, that we lived as passionately and as large as the gods, keeping always, the perspective that as good as being a VIP was, it wasn’t anywhere as good as a VIG.
The significant difference between a monotheistic god and a pantheon is the Goddesses.
A pantheon of gods of all things male were balanced with corresponding goddess for all things female; and every now and then things in between.
The roles and lives of women and men were reflected in the roles, the spheres of influences that each god and goddess had – these deities represented what was important; but most tellingly that both men and women were represented.
Not so in monotheism, where males create absent of females. Which, if you want to talk about something unnatural – there is asexual reproduction, a genderless cloning process and there is sexual reproduction – male and female – as the current monotheists like to remind everyone as if that’s an argument against same gender marriage.
There are even some species of animals that can change their gender if population stressors make this necessary and there are some species of animals, wherein a female can impregnate herself. But no males of any species can create life on their own, so the idea of a male creator of all life, absent a female is not seen in nature which seems to provide a basis for anything that is possible to be.
A male creator deity sounds a little like a bad science fiction TV show: male dweeb who has to create a universe with life in hopes of getting a date.
In any event, Monotheism is a top down ladder with each rung being the favored groups in descending order of gender, ethnicity and believer status – it is not the big tent that Pantheism is with the wider range of gods and goddesses, and something for everyone, with no group lesser than any other.
There was a time in history when all religions were pantheons and the idea of just one god seemed a bizarre and unlikely relationship given that that level of jealousy and neediness never bodes well for relationships.
But, I think that most telling is that in a monotheist system, it’s men who are inventing the gods and the rules to suit them. With a pantheon, everyone created or contributed to the gods or goddesses that they wanted or desired, men and women both created the stories and the deities out of their need for inspiration or explanations for the phenomenon they encountered before we formalized our knowledge along more orderly and scientific methods; giving rise to natural understandings of earthquakes, volcanoes and extreme weather.
Between Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, there are two peasant revolts occurring against the status quo, it’s time that the people not only take back society, but take back the ability of self determination, of having a voice and being reflected through cultural means – end the domination of the many by the few – especially the few claiming to be representatives of the god that they created in their image and seek to impose on the rest of us – because it’s not worshiping their god, it’s worshiping them as the proxy.
Believers and laborers are handing over wealth and power in exchange for being at the bottom of the status quo – and we should be using that wealth and power to bring about a better world for the most people – not offering it up to an elite on their say so.