In an earlier post, I referred to the fact that there are 10,000 documented religions in the world (as compiled by Barrett, Kurian, & Johnson, 2001), each of which proclaims to hold the Universal Truth. Clearly, a lot of folks must be lying and/or must be misguided, as it is obviously impossible for all 10,000 religions to be veridical.

In today's post, I wish to focus on the number of Gods that arise from such a plethora of diverse religious beliefs. In The Routledge Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons, Manfred Lurker has painstakingly listed "over 1800 of the most important gods and demons from around the world" (from the second page of the attached pdf). Clearly, humans believe in an extraordinary number of Gods, many of which are radically contradictory to one another (i.e., they cannot be reconciled under a singular and universal concept of God). Needless to say, individuals have been willing to live by the edicts of their Gods, if not die for the glory of their particular deities. It would be an understatement to point out that this is rather problematic from a rational perspective.

Let us assume that there are 1,000 distinct Gods (this undoubtedly underestimates the actual number). To repeat an insight that I believe was first enunciated by Richard Dawkins, all religious folks are atheists when it comes to the other 999 Gods (i.e., other than the God to which they pray). Hence, the extent of "unbelief" between an atheist and a fervently religious person is actually quite small...they are in agreement about their mutual disbelief of 999 Gods and they simply disagree about that one remaining God.

In my experience, religious folks are oftentimes struck by the poignancy of this point, and yet they dogmatically entrench themselves more staunchly in their beliefs: "Come on. To believe in Zeus, Buluga, Huiracocha, or Imra...well that's just silly. However, my God is real because my sacred book tells me so." Religion is indeed inoculated against the powers of reason.

I wish you all a healthy, happy, and peaceful new year.

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About the Author

Gad Saad

Gad Saad, Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at Concordia University and the author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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