Equivalence of the Gods

Zeus, the king of the gods, and controller of ...
Zeus, the king of the gods, and controller of thunder and the sky. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Humans have worshiped so many gods through the ages that many books have been written merely attempting to catalog them (see The Book of Gods & Goddesses: A Visual Directory of Ancient and Modern Deities, Guide to the Gods, and Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Second Edition just to name three). Despite their great diversity, these gods all have something important in common besides that fact that humans have worshiped them: none has more evidence to support its existence than any other. When it comes to evidence supporting their existence, these gods are equivalent.

I suppose it would be fair to say that this equivalence is one of the reasons I generally refer to god(s) in somewhat of a generic sense unless I am writing about a particular conception of a god. In cases where I am focusing on a specific god, I'm inclined to identify it as something like "the Christian god." I see little reason to cater to monotheistic privilege by assuming there is only one god or to Christian privilege by imagining that "God" is a sufficiently specific label for the Christian god.

Another implication of this equivalence of gods and of my desire not to participate in this type of privilege is that I'll often attempt to clarify what a speaker means by "God." Which god are you referring to? I'm not going to assume I know. Not only might my assumption be incorrect and lead to a misunderstanding which could have been avoided, but once again, this is the sort of privilege I'd prefer to expose rather than reinforce.

Even among one monotheistic religious tradition (e.g., Christianity), one can expect to find great diversity in the sort of god adherents imagine. Evangelical fundamentalist Christians and liberal Christians may say that they worship the same god, but the attributes they assign to this god tend to be rather different. One could be forgiven for wondering whether such different god-concepts could possibly come from the same entity. Thus, it is often necessary to go a step beyond clarifying which god the speaker is referring to and inquire about the characteristics the speaker has assigned to this particular god.

Adherents of practically any religious tradition tend to place their god(s) above those from all other religious traditions. The modern-day Christian scoffs at Odin and Zeus, apparently without realizing that these gods were once every bit as real as the god he or she worships today. This would be little more than funny if it wasn't for all the conflict that has resulted from the notion that "my god(s) is better than yours." All this suffering, cruelty, and death over whose imaginary gods are better! Nobody's gods are better than any other gods; all gods are equivalent.