They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. (Deuteronomy 32:17)
This 'demons that were no gods' is strange. I thought there are simply no other gods. That means, if some people believe in other gods, those other gods are just figments of their imagination. Those other gods are not demons or anything. They're nothing. That's it. That's the fundamental faith of Judeo-Christian and Islamic tradition.
I thought that one of the most fundamental aspects of monotheism is that the doctrine is atheistic when it comes to other gods.
Yet, it seems that G-d is complaining that Israelites are worshiping gods that are actually demons.
In fact, I thought Judaism doesn't believe in demons at all.
Yet here we have a bunch of beings:
- demons that were no gods
- gods they had never known
- new gods that had come recently
2 and 3 could be gods in an atheistic sense. They are real in someone's head, and that's it. God calls them gods nevertheless, perhaps in an atheistic sense.
But what about the demons?
Explanation for #2 and #3 would be great, too.
If 2 and 3 means gods in an atheistic sense (that is, they're not really gods, but they are gods in the beliefs of the Israelites), this fits standard Judeo-Christian theology. There are simply no other gods. Those other gods exist only in the believers' minds.
The demons, however do not fit the pattern.
It seems that case 1 suggests that G-d knows that Israelites think that those beings are gods but they are actually demons. But that means, in an atheistic sense those beings are gods. The Israelites think they are gods. So why does G-d call them demons?
They should be just nonsense gods that exist only in believers' minds. G-d is apparently atheistic, so to speak, when it comes to other gods.
Another way to interpret this is to see that 1, 2, and 3 are describing real beings. So, 1 are demons that Israelites think are gods. Number 2 and 3 are gods that Israelites think are gods. G-D thinks the Israelites are stupid not for worshiping non-existent gods but for worshiping gods that they had never known and that had come recently
So we do have other gods, namely demons and those that "they had never known and that they had come to know recently."
Another explanation is that when people believe in other gods, those other gods are actually demons. That means demons exist.
That does not fit common theology. Common theology says when people believe in other gods those other gods are just figments of their imagination, not actually demonic beings.
In any case, I am very confused. What are those demons anyway?