According to Catholicism, our god is the only True God and our religion is the only true interpretation of that God’s Will (or at least the closest to it).
You would think this would automatically mean that all the pagan gods are false (“Jesus is a Real God, Baal is just imaginary”), but while researching history I learned that during the classical and middle ages Christian Theologians would teach that the pagan gods were demons (“Jesus is a real God, and Baal is real too but he’s one of Lucifer’s Demons instead of being a God”).
So are pagan Gods demons, or are they just imaginary?
The pagan gods are non-existent. However, the fallen spirits often make use of their names and evocations in order to work evil and, to attempt, to rob the one, true God of the glory due Him. This is the opinion of Tertullian, for example. Therefore, they are non-existent but they are employed, through cult and veneration, by the fallen spirits to deceive the nations. There are numerous examples of demons, during an exorcism, giving the name of a pagan god; this means, at least, that they are aware of these names and employ them etc.
All traditional religions have a portion of truth in them. Pagan gods are often the bleak images of the true God or His angels, but the identification of deity with created things (sun, rivers, sea) has prevented the pagan peoples from reqching the Truth. And, yes, sometimes the mantle of a pagan god may be ezploited by the devil.
I agree, this has been my theory as well. I think all ancient civilizations recognized that there is something greater than themselves, but God chose to reveal himself to only a specific people, namely the Hebrews.
St Paul said:
What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. (1 Corinthians 10:19-20)
But Jeshurun * waxed fat, and kicked;
you waxed fat, you grew thick, you became sleek;
then he forsook God who made him,
and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.
They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods;
with abominable practices they provoked him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons which were no gods,
to gods they had never known,
to new gods that had come in of late,
whom your fathers had never dreaded. (Deuteronomy 32:15-17)
So, there seems to be some Scriptural support for equating pagan gods with demons.*
That’s a bit more complicated a question than is apparent.
All false belief systems have been inspired by Satan to a greater or lesser extent. They all are composed of lies and lead away from the truth.
Whether an actual demon posed as the “god” or not is up to opinion.
Astarte was portrayed by a devil (whose name I will not post)
also Baal, Mammon, Cernunnos, the Sabbath Goat, and the Wiccan god of winter.
Both, and a third possibility: True, at least for one god in the pagan pantheons.
Even pagan civilizations had a notion of a supreme, or at least, unknown or catch-all god. Both El and YHWH, for example were part of the pagan Canaanite pantheons, and were separate gods. Only over time did these two gods become fused into Israel’s national god, but Canaanite polytheism still had its influence on pre-exilic Israel and Judah where they recognized the need to worship their god only, without denying the existence of others.
We know that the One True God revealed himself gradually and identified as the national god whom the Israelites worshipped, such that Judaism emerged as a purely monotheistic religion by the time the Second Temple was built.
Even for the Greeks, this was somewhat true; the Athenians worshipped an unknown god, “just to be safe.” This god was the One whom St. Paul preached.
So yes, some pagan gods were false/nonexistent (say, the Canaanite Baals or the Greek Olympians). Some where probably demons in disguise (how, for example, can the child sacrifice of Moloch and the human sacrifice of the Mesoamericans be anything outside of diabolical?). But in many cases, one god of the pagan pantheons was in fact the One True God.
A part of me also wonders if some were gradual schisms from Judaism. If Christianity has developed so many branches in 2,000 years, I think it’s quite reasonable to say differing interpretations of God over an eve longer period of time could diverge over time to create some of the pagan religions.
Imagine there was a pond, and every time somebody drank from it he or she died. Finding out exactly what mineral makes it so poisonous won’t make it less so, but it will teach us more about the world and about how it works.
Well, there are plenty of videos of statues of Jesus or Mary smiling or moving their eyes. But these are just auto focus digital artifacts, not that the very devout are convinced by science.
Weeping statues are more of a conundrum for science.
If we accept that some wonders are not human trickery then we likely have to accept they are not limited to Catholicism. Then other well intentioned religions do seem to have wonders that cannot be explained. They have their incorrupted holy men too.
It is probably somewhat arrogant to believe God only does wonders for Catholics and the rest are demonic. Why cannot there be angelic wonders as well?
There is so much we do not actually know but only guess, hypothesize or spin for our own purposes.