No the more traditional Hindus do worship many different gods. Am I incorrect? I know there are different schools of thought, but the common dirt farmer in India is a polytheist. I welcome correction though.
Hindus are polytheists.
That's highly over-simplistic.
No, deusveritasest is correct, that's terribly over simplistic. I mean, someone could make the same argument about some uneducated peasants and "dirt farmers" in Orthodox countries too. I've seen some Orthodox, who I wonder at times if they really do not think Mary is in fact a goddess, or Saint George is in fact some sort of "god". I mean don't some Orthodox accuse Catholics of worshipping Mary? I know this is common on Mount Athos. I once read a book where a Catholic monk visited Athos for a summer and he kept getting asked, "is it true the Pope is going to make Mary a 4th member of the Trinity?" and "isn't that why Catholics make the sign of the cross with a flat palm, 4 fingers = trinity + mary". It's all nonsense of course but it just goes to show that some Orthodox believe really weird things about other people, why not about their own faith?
I don't say that to attack our faith, only to point out the argument you have made could be turned right back on us, as is often done by ultra Fundamentalist Protestants.
The answer to your questions depends upon what it is that you are actually asking. Are you asking what the common man of a given faith believes? Or are you asking what the theologians in a given faith believe and teach? I think there has ALWAYS been a dichotomy between these two groups. Again, I've seen Christians say, do and believe some really crazy things, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. Some of us like to joke that Protestants "worship the Bible" but I have actually seen and heard things come out of a few of my Protestant friend's mouths that made me think that they really were
Bibliolaters. I could tell stories of things I've overheard some Orthodox, including converts, not just cradles say, that made me go, "wait a minute, what are you saying exactly?" I've heard priests give crypto-Docetic sermons before. That doesn't make any of these people "bad" people, or heretics in my opinion, it's just the way things are. I'm sure if all these people really thought about what the said they'd go "no, no, um, I know I said that but I meant this"...I've done probably 100's of times myself. I think most of us can only ever get closer and closer to the truth on a personal basis I mean, (the truth proclaimed within and by the Church) none of us will ever completely "get there" in this life. I think it's like theosis and even a part of it.
Okay, as for Hindus, yes there are some Hindus that are simply raw polytheists, but generally speaking Hinduism is not polytheistic. And I believe many, many Hindus know this. I think most are familiar with the concept of the Brahman etc and how THAT is the source of all being, THAT is what we would call "God" and all the other gods are manifestations of the Brahman, the One, the well you get the picture. But since The Brahman for Hinduism, is impersonal, most people are devoted to one or more than one of the gods, and their avatars. They speak of these avatars as their gods, as though they were actually polytheists, but I think many Hindus understand what it is they are saying even if we do not. Their avatars or Incarnations are the way we view Jesus Christ. For us he is the ONLY Incarnation. For Hindus he is but one of many. In the end though it seems a lot of Hindus are at most Tri-theists, and all the other incarnations come from these three. The philosophers go even further and say those three are manifestations of The One. So if hinduism looks complicated from the outside, it's even more so from the inside, but if one is raised in that culture it's probably all second nature.
I tend to compare the way most of us see Hinduism as comparable to how an ultra Iconoclastic Protestant would view us even though we're not.
A lot of Hindu gurus see the common peasant styled Hinduism as being a sort of "first step" in Hinduism. Nothing wrong with that step or path. Totally appropriate, and may help many people achieve union with the Brahman, but those with a more "spiritual" view don't need all the pomp and circumstance of rituals, festivals, music etc.
It's all very complex and fascinating and I KNOW I haven't done Hinduism any justice in this poor attempt at explaining a religion that has been around in some form for 6000 years, but what can ya do in a few paragraphs?
It's also such a vast religion, with divergent traditions that one group or another would refute everything I just said. There is no teaching body per se, so it's hard to pin point things. However I personally do not classify Hinduism as a polytheistic religion. Not that my opinions mean a hill of beans, but I don't see it as raw polytheism even if from the outside it appears that way. Yes I'm sure many common folks don't make any such distinctions in their own minds, but that was kind of John Calvin's argument against Christian iconography. Sure he said, the theologians KNOW that statue isn't Mary, or Joseph but do you really
think the peasant bowing and scraping before that thing, praying, crying, weeping, offering flowers etc is making that distinction in their
It's an interesting question, but I think Calvin was wrong. I think most people, when pushed would recognize the distinction today. I could be wrong though, who knows. I've only studied Hinduism from the outside, not from the inside so I might have it wrong. Fascinating none the less.