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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE FIRST ARTICLE: "I Believe in One God."
    • SOME MOTIVES FOR BELIEF IN MANY GODS
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SOME MOTIVES FOR BELIEF IN MANY GODS

 

There are four motives which have led men to believe in a number of gods.

(1) The dullness of the human intellect. Dull men, not capable of going

beyond sensible things, did not believe anything existed except physical

bodies. Hence, they held that the world is disposed and ruled by those

bodies which to them seemed most beautiful and most valuable in this world.

And, accordingly, to things such as the sun, the moon and the stars, they

attributed and gave a divine worship. Such men are like to one who, going

to a royal court to see the king, believes that whoever is sumptuously

dressed or of official position is the king! "They have imagined either the

sun and moon or the circle of the stars . . . to be the gods that rule the

world. With whose beauty, if they being delighted, took them to be gods."7

 

(2) The second motive was human adulation. Some men, wishing to fawn upon

kings and rulers, obey and subject themselves to them and show them honor

which is due to God alone. After the death of these rulers, sometimes men

make them gods, and sometimes this is done even whilst they are living.

"That every nation may know that Nabuchodonosor is god of the earth, and

besides him there is no other."8

 

(3) The human affection for sons and relatives was a third motive. Some,

because of the excessive love which they had for their family, caused

statues of them to be erected after their death, and gradually a divine

honor was attached to these statues.9 "For men serving either their

affections or their kings, gave the incommunicable Name to stones and

wood."10

 

(4) The last motive is the malice of the devil. The devil wished from the

beginning to be equal to God, and thus he said: "I will ascend above the

height of the clouds. I will be like the Most High."11 The devil still

entertains this desire. His entire purpose is to bring about that man adore

him and offer sacrifices to him; not that he takes delight in a dog or cat

that is offered to him, he does relish the fact that thereby irreverence is

shown to God. Thus, he spoke to Christ: "All these will I give Thee, if

falling down Thou wilt adore me.12 For this reason those demons who

entered into idols said that they would be venerated as gods. "All the gods

of the Gentiles are demons."13 "The things which the heathens sacrifice,

they sacrifice to devils, and not to God."14

 

Although all this is terrible to contemplate, yet at times there are any

who fall into these above-mentioned four causes. Not by their words and

hearts, but by their actions, they show that they believe in many gods.

Thus, those who believe that the celestial bodies influence the will of man

and regulate their affairs by astrology, really make the heavenly bodies

gods, and subject themselves to them. Be not afraid of the signs of heaven

which the heathens fear. For the laws of the people are vain."15 In the

same category are all those who obey temporal rulers more than God, in that

which they ought not; such actually set these up as gods. "We ought to obey

God rather than men."16 So also those who love their sons and kinsfolk more

than God show by their actions that they believe in many gods; as likewise

do those who love food more than God: "Whose god is their belly."17

Moreover, all who take part in magic or in incantations believe that the

demons are gods, because they seek from the devil that which God alone can

give, such as revealing the future or discovering hidden things. We must,

therefore, believe that there is but one God.

 

 

 




7. Wis., xiii. 2-3.

 



8. Judith, v. 29.

 



9. All this is fully explained in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of

Wisdom, verses 15-21.

 



10. Wis., xiv. 21.

 



11. Isa., xiv. 14.

 



12. Matt., iv. 9.

 



13. Ps. cxv. 5.

 



14. I Cor., x. 20.

 



15. Jerem., x. 2-3.

 



16. Acts, v. 29.

 



17. Phil., iii. 19.




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