Tis the Christmas/Winter Solstice season and I'm feeling rather warm despite the outside cold. I've been reading the papers on the Vatican Views on Golden Compass and its Atheistic ideas. And I recall the papers saying something like "when man tries to eliminate God from his horizon, everything is reduced, made sad, cold and inhumane," and I think I remember something like personal saviour or personal salvation which forced my mind into a funny train of thought!
Personal Saviours =) Is Jesus the only personal saviour? Are there better options? Take the 330 million gods of Hinduism. How do we end up with a number like 330 million? Here is how I think it goes. You have regional gods which are either symbols of divinity representing certain aspects of nature, like the river, the wind, forest, land or holy people of antiquity elevated to the level of gods by the passage of history, the same way a magic trick becomes a miracle with time (western/middle eastern religion is not exempt, lol! ). Then you have incarnations of certain "main gods" like Vishnu in the region like Vitthal in Karnataka and Maharasthra. And as far as I am aware, I think that covers most things.
Now, we have around 850 million hindus. Lets say a few hundreds/thousands are atheists like me. Then you have another group of agnostic hindus whose pantheon has been eroded away by contact with western religion (you know it), questions like "why so many gods?, I bet they don't exist, unlike mine! haha" These might consist of a few million. Then there is another group of Advaita Vedanti's who believe in a formless/attribute-less divinity. So you probably have about say 200 million who do not have gods.
Puting those aside, we'll consider the worshippers. Now you probably have a huge number of people worshipping either Bramha, Vishnu or Shiva, though very few Bramha worshippers. Cosequently, these may also worship their consorts, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga. Perhaps we could include Vishnu's ten avatars, and related characters so lets assume a ration of two other gods per avatar of Vishnu, eg Radha and Balaram with Krishna and Sita and Hanuman with Ram. Also include the all important Ganesha and say another ten incarnations of the Goddess. So we could safely assume that a few hundred million more worship (3 + 3 + 10 + 20 + 10 + 1) 47 deities. Considering these populations, we have accounted for roughly 600 million people (consider the Hare Krishnas, Agnostic/Monotheistic Hindus in the West)
There is another case. You might have realised that we have not seriously accounted for the tribal gods yet. I am waiting for my openoffice to download completely so I can give you decent statistics. In the meanwhile I'll write out the conclusions.
So I finally got my OpenOffice Calc (a counterpart of Excel) working and according to the Joshua project there are about 2046 unreached groups. Lets assume, conservatively that each group corresponds to a village and has say ten different gods so that gives us 20460 more gods which are worshipped. Add that to our previous 47 and we have 20507 worshipped deities. I ve also done my sums and the Hindu/Ethnic Religion population adds up to roughly a million in their unreached list. Lets use 2 million as a more liberal estimate. Joshua project has done the most wonderful job of rededicating souls to one particular saviour and thus leaving more options for us who want to have more choices to choose how ever their passionate efforts are likely to freak out any secular minded individual.
So finally, we are left with 330,000,000 - 20507 = 329,979,493 gods and an approximate population of 248 million. Ill get to this point once again while we consider another scenario.
So let us consider the great (large) monotheistic religions, like Christianity. I do not want to analyse the other example. I could lose my life ! So lets consider catholicism not for any random reason but a quote from Dawkin's God Delusion stands out "but it is especially the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity that pushes its recurrent flirtation with polytheism towards runaway inflation." Noting especially its 5000+ saints and 1.07 billion population lets come up with some proportions. In catholicism, if you consider the saints, you probably have a Saviour to individual ratio of 1: 214,000 if you do not consider the saints (and include the other denominations) we have something like 1: 2,100,000,000.
Now if we take into account the figures we came up with previously (and mind you , I did not pull them out of my ass! ) we have a Saviour to individual ratio in Hinduism we get 1.33:1. Do you get that, 1 and a third saviours to each Hindu. If this remaining group of Hindus decided to choose their own saviour you would still have 81979493 left too choose from and lets say if all the Hindus around the world decided to change their mind you would still have 1:2.42 which is probably like the highest you can ever think of. It never gets more personal than this. Way to go!