Most religions are polytheistic — there are lots of gods. Christianity and its variants (Zoroastrianism->Judaism->Christianity->Islam) are said to be monotheistic — there is one god. But there’s not.
People in the U.S. are, compared to most people, isolated, xenophobic and provincial. If we stop to think about it, we know languages other than English exist but they don’t *really* exist, they just kind of abstractly exist. In Europe, people are constantly confronted by people who speak other languages, eat radically different food, have radically different culture, etc. The French are surrounded by people speaking Italian, Spanish, Flemish, German and Catalan. The Germans are next to people who speak French, Dutch, Turkish and Polish. The British are near the Welsh. The idea that there are different ways to speak and live is undeniable. In contrast, with the exception of people who live in some of the big cities, we live in a white, Christian, English-speaking, hamburger-eating, homogeneous world. When people say the country is full of blacks, Spanish speakers, Asians, whatever, what they mean is those people have gone from “didn’t know they existed” to “i saw one at a grocery store last week”, which might seem like a lot to someone who’s never seen anything but for most people throughout history that’s pretty pathetic.
So it’s maybe not too surprising that we believe Christianity is monotheistic. There is one god and anyone who worships a different god either is wrong or doesn’t realize their god is the same as our god. The fact that priests relatively recently started inventing the priest stories (what i called before the P tradition) has made it worse. But these people are wrong. There isn’t one god, not in Christianity.
You might think, oh, you mean the Holy Ghost. Or maybe the Catholic saints people pray too.
i do not.
Jews, and therefore Christians, have always believed in other gods. Lots of other gods. Just like the Romans, Greeks and Vikings.
What’s different, and in reality isn’t different at all, is that we have clan gods which, with growth, became national gods. As God himself said in the 10 commandments, he is our god and we should put no other god before him. But that is NOT the same thing as saying he is the only god (if he had meant that, God is smart enough to say so). We have a god. The Canaanites have a god. The Hittites have a god. The Arameans, Cushites, Philistines and Amorites had gods. Our job, we believed prior to the Egyptian captivity, was to make our god more powerful and successful by killing the people of the other gods and taking their land and women (when Jews were low on breeding stock, they would invade other countries and take, rape and marry their women; i get the impression most groups did that back then). As a reminder, the Jews were pretty war like and imperialistic and God punished them by making them slaves of the Egyptians until they learned humility, at which point he sent Moses to forgive them and lead them out of time out.
People here don’t understand God that way anymore because we don’t have competitors, we’ve wiped them all off the face of the earth, or at least out of our eyesight. The closest we can come to understanding it is probably our new god, the national symbol. In the old days, Christians and pre-Christians (i.e., the Jews, which every Christian is just as every Muslim is a Christian) viewed their god kind of like how we view the American eagle and they viewed their wars kind of like how we imagine the American eagle fighting the Russian bear. Or how we view our Minnesota viking fighting the Wisconsin meat packer. Or our Minneapolis gopher fighting the Ohio tree (symbols apparently gets more pathetic the smaller we go). We don’t see religion like that anymore because we killed everyone. There are 2.5 billion Christians & Muslims and the alternatives, the Hindus & Buddhists, are so different from us that we don’t see them as competition anymore than the Minnesota football team sees the Massachusetts health care plan as a competitor. Totally apples and oranges.
The fact that there are other gods helps explain the utterly ridiculous Garden of Eden problem (you know, the one where adam and eve have one son and no other people exist so we’re all descended from one boy who apparently got himself pregnant). When Yaweh’s kids came out of Eden, there were lots of other people in the world, the children of other gods, and we got them preggers and made little us’es.
So there you go, an entirely different way of looking at our religion (assuming you were raised in Christian society) that also happens to be the right one. Although if we killed off the worshippers of every other god, i guess our god really is the only god.