(Q) How can there be one god if there are also many gods?
(A) Easy: all the rest are phonies!
(1) There's potentially 2 kinds of Gods: wild & civilized.
Wild Gods are basically an attempt to put a human face on uncontrollable forces and then reason with them. People come preprogrammed to recognize the pattern of a face and to respond to emotional messages that a face might convey. To observe an event as "God produced" requires putting an imaginary face (with continuity implied, or supplied by memory) on the emotions produced by the event. Wild Gods are emotionally perceived forces of nature.
Civilized Gods are a conscious effort of the state to employ basic fear & psychopathology as agents of social manipulation. The Jewish model of one god is/was a political convenience, enforced by the state, till enough people are on the same side that they can form a defensible perimeter for the god. This is like probably before Abraham. The Christian model is pretty much that too. First developed as a state religion by Constantine, he cleverly decided that it's easier to manage a nation under one god than the whole Roman pantheon plus all the gods of the conquered tribes, so he gave tax breaks and preferred employment to pacifist Christians till everyone who was getting ahead was a Christian and folks could see an advantage to finding out how to be that way. This later became known as the Republican Method.
Wild and civilized gods all have a group of people in common and the people have to benefit from the god for the god to survive. Wild gods by definition don't care if their people benefit. Evil gods tend to eat up their believers or piss off the neighbors till they incite a rebellion an then there's no one to make sacrifices. It may be a divine survival of the fittest, but it's the society that fails or prospers (get a copy of Black & White). Claiming divine inspiration in the old days was a cheap way to get rumor exposure (there were no press releases then), and like today, one had to back it up to be taken seriously (Mr. Bush..). The point being that a god needs some kind of continuity, and the social matrix that created the god, has to continue with support. For example: the Native Son hits his head and has a blinding flash: in it, a space alien with a golden hat says "THE TIME HAS COME" & then shows the native many things that cannot be told. The only people who will believe the Native Son, also share the belief in gold hatted aliens that have deadlines & secrets. But then he reveals a way to get rich selling soap using tiered marketing, and everybody converts because he then appeals to a broader social base. (& everyone has to eat). OK, that covers the basic god.
Now the Native Son is rich, famous, and revered, but a new philosophy emerges that interprets "time is money" to mean that if time is money, & time is infinite, then the value of goods & services have to be equal to the supply.. That's serious inflation. (The age of the universe is like 20 billion years & guess were half way, so say 40 billion x 365 (days per yr.) x 24 (hr. per day) : so all goods & services since 72000 BC (beginning of trade +2000 = 74000 yrs) are equal to 175.2 trillion units x minimum wage. Round it off to $200,000,000,000,000,000,000.00 per hr. + overtime) Right away the economy reels. Smirking lawyers march toward his mountaintop retreat. Something must be done! The options are: live in a hole & eat grubs or kill the bastards. What would GW Bush do? Hah!~ the Native Son assumes his mantle and quotes the Gold Hatted One saying that time is NOT infinite or even 100 bn yrs old, for it is written "THE TIME HAS COME" (+ some small print) & anyone caught wasting time will be burned at the stake, so get back to work. And thus the evil destruction is averted.
Mind Police and Souls are an innovative but more insidious form of social control than public burnings, and there is no paper trail. Each has a definition that applies to a recogniseable character of society. Mind Police (what a concept!) = internalized repression & conformity. The soul is a persons fragile vessel of existence that is somehow separate but not independent of the body, and can only be properly protected by representatives of the True God. These were strokes of genius to insure authoritarian control over an individuals wandering aspirations, both enlist the efforts of the individual by promoting self doubt and restricting options. Other innovative forms are conscious evil and conscious good as a force. All of these are products of ones own hormonal plumbing, and together define the ideal social control: an individuals self imposed guilt.
Before we go there however, lets to shake out these two forms of social control: Good & Evil as conscious forces. These are basic conflicts left over from Wild Gods, ie. the "recognition" of some kind of overwhelming situation itself as an emotion. Consider these 3 scenarios as serious business: (#1) we're in Atalan & a troop of Conquistadors have just sacked our town, as survivors, we have an opportunity to become slaves & religious converts. Compared to being hacked to pieces, it seems like a bargain. The Padre claims to be an emissary of God & nobody argues because he's real as can be & his side has the swords. (#2) Ok now you're on a freighter in the Atlantic, in a hurricane at night, The wind is blowing 90 knots and 100 foot waves roar by like freight trains, Your 350 foot ship bobs like a rubber duck. You wonder what it all means and if somebody is out there, do they give a fig for you or not. Prior experience says they do, because you lived this long, and you only have to die once. One quickly considers that perhaps prior events that one took for granted were really divine blessings, just because God doesn't show you his angry side may mean he only tolerates your otherwise completely unacceptable nature. At times like these it seems prudent to make personal commitments of a religious nature. At any other time though, it would be an expression of paranoid schizophrenia to organize ones life around the possibility that an external unseen force is attempting to manipulate ones life. (the Republican Party excepted of course). (#3) Now you were just born and you don't know where you are, you're as terrified as your hormones will allow. It's cold, something is happening, blurry things move, someone is yelling, everything that used to be you is somehow inverted and different. You have no prior experience to go by. Then you get snuggled against something warm, & something covers your head. You raged at it and became "it" again. What a relief (now shut up).
The point here is that nobody's going to believe in an unseen omniscient master unless they feel that survival depends on it. We learned that trick when we were born, it's not inherent in the world, but it is in society, and for all practical purposes we are society because there is no fact that wasn't formulated through discussion, or one opinion on anything that you did NOT get from somebody else. The development and exploitation of unseen threats, provable or not, is the main force of the concept of Conscious Good and Evil. Institutions that admonish one to plan for the hereafter or the second coming or even to pray to an external entity, set the foundation for exploitable insanity.
(2) Social Interaction.
To give gods credit for directing events is wrong. They are themselves a result of (heh-heh) evolution. God works in mysterious ways? Yes indeed: Whatever situation is best adapted to survive, regardless of how cute or massive. This could be a justification for ecumenical excess, but only if the fear-o-god is allowed to wane, or other naturally occurring democratic balances are allowed to proliferate unchecked. "O where is the Grand Inquisitor when you need him? O Who can defend the Bastion of Righteousness against the mocking tongue of the slandering heathen? This lost soul? This..."
"Me! Me! I can do it! Pick me!"
"I ah ....?"
"See, the Church is solid, but it's become preoccupied with loosing social control, it's lack of credibility is the problem, not the civic plan. Fire & brimstone just doesn't cut it (unless you get off on that sort of thing). Some critical percentage of serious church goers are disenfranchised by the requirement that they must not lie, but still claim to believe that stuff in spite of everything, including scientific proof. The social institution of churches is superior, but the notion of "The Faithful" just asks for trouble. There's no exchange rate between faith and reality. Faith is subjective, getting people to say false things as a testament to faith doesn't make it real or objective. It causes the testifiers to distrust the church. So a congregations evolution selects in favor of churchgoing hypocrites, liars, blind followers, and the insane. Hardly a way to appear credible."
"Bailiffs, would you..."
"..and-and someone required to "believe" something obviously false, and who's forgiven for it, will be naturally tolerant of their own social indiscretion, (look at Jerry Falwell) but not necessarily those of others who aren't in on the game, and ... but.. uh... Ok, I'm going!"
Objective, verifiable, "hard" information depends on another persons agreement. We look to other people to see what's true, because the value of information is in its usefulness. Everyone sees UFOs, some see Elvis, a few see the Blessed Virgin, nobody admits seeing J. Edgar Hoover. (I've never seen him!) And the fact remains that no one has ever seen the Boogie Man and lived to tell.
Evil: (an ingenious way to allocate responsibility!) any aversion with an external motivation. A coherent external distructive force, and not necessairly chaotic. evil is assumed to be outside ones self unless the observer is possessed by evil. An evil person exploits evil by infecting others.
Well OK, so here's a twist (remember we're doing all this on the strength of rumor): How about something that supports the existence of god, the location of heaven, where good vs evil is a workable concept. Since heaven isn't someplace one can point to, it has to be hypothetical, like it's one of those multiple dimensions that are rolled up inside themselves with quantum hinges or something. Since everything we know pretty much exists in a field of social interaction (like finance, it's virtual & not real), that's where god is. eh? eh? sound good? So if the things we wish for maybe are like prayers, in my next life I'll probably have to contend with nasty old men... uh, but I hope not. O, MY SUBJECTS: Objectivity is unproveable by it's own definition.
Every one wants the real world to be like heaven. How does it happen? A person asks someone for a clue to reality. Objectivity is established, social relationships produce hormones, ones friends manipulate the votes and bestow presidency in return for favors, 72 virgins await the martyr in heaven. SO DON'T ASK. If it exists, you're already there. (break a leg, sucker)