Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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The Greatest advantage of Polytheism.

Vw the dividual to set up his own ideal and derive from his laws, his pleasures and his rights - that may well have been considered as the most monstrous of all human aberrations, and as idolatry in itself.  The few who have ventured to do this always needed to apologise to themselves, usually by saying: "It wasn't me!  not me!  but a God, through me!"  It was in the marvellous art and capacity for creating Gods in polytheism that this impulse was permitted to discharge itself, it was here that it became purified, perfected, and ennobled; for it was originally a commonplace and unimportant impulse, akin to stubbornness, disobedience and envy.  To be hostile to this impulse towards the individual ideal, that was formerly the law of every morality.  There was then only one norm, "the man" and every people believed that it had this one and ultimate norm.  But above himself, and outside of himself, in a distant over- world, a person could see a multitude of norms: the one God was not the denial or blasphemy of the other Gods!  It was here that individuals were first permitted, it was here that the right of individuals was first respected.  The inventing of Gods, heroes, and supermen of all kinds, as well as co-ordinate men and undermen dwarfs, fairies, centaurs, satyrs, demons, devils was the inestimable preliminary to the justification of the selfishness and sovereignty of the individual: the freedom which was granted to one God in respect to other Gods, was at last given to the individual himself in respect to laws, customs and neighbours.  Monotheism, on the contrary, the rigid consequence of the doctrine of one normal human being consequently the belief in a normal God, beside whom there are only false, spurious Gods has perhaps been the greatest danger of mankind in the past: man was then threatened by that premature state of inertia, which, so far as we can see, most of the other species have long ago.  For all of them believe in one normal type and ideal for their species and they have translated their morality into their own flesh and blood.  In polytheism the free spiriting and poly-spiritism of manaheived its preliminary form - the strength to create for ourselves new eyes - and again new eyes that are even more our own.  Hence, man alone, of all the animals, has no eternal horizons and perspectives.  
 

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