Apparently this is a difficult concept for many people to grasp. I blame the strong influence of monotheism on our culture (to the point where most people aren’t even aware there are any other options when it comes to religion).
I don’t worship the Germanic gods because I think they are superior to any other gods. Other people’s gods are just as good as mine. All the various pantheons of the world seem to “work” just fine. They seem equally capable of granting blessings and inspiration to their worshippers. They all have interesting mythologies that reveal insightful truths about human nature and the nature of the universe. You know, the only reason why I don’t worship any Celtic or Greek gods is because when I tried, I didn’t feel anything, like they were ignoring me. The Germanic gods didn’t ignore me. I have no idea why. (Can’t be due to blood, because I’m sure I’ve got some Celtic blood in there somewhere, at least.) So no, I didn’t pick the Germanic gods because I thought they were the best.
The idea of some gods being “false gods” comes from monotheism, where only one god is the True God, and you had better worship only the correct god and not any of those other gods or else you’re in big trouble.
Before the idea of monotheism came along, most people were polytheists, and accepted that some people worshipped some gods, other people worshipped others, and that’s all perfectly fine. Even people worshipping gods from the same pantheon have their various favorites among them. Some people may prefer Freya, others Odin, others Thor, etc. Even among the worshippers of one god, such as Odin, there are various acceptable ways of following him, from berserkers, to poets, to community college biology professors (I hope, anyway).
Of course monotheists have trouble with this idea, because they were brought up to believe that there is only one god, and only one correct way to worship this one god, and you had better do it right or you’ll be punished. They even fight amongst themselves over whether Judaism, Christianity, or Islam is the religion that is worshipping this supposedly shared god correctly.
This shouldn’t be an issue for modern polytheists, but apparently it still is sometimes. I once read a Hellenistic site that claimed the Greek gods were the True Gods, and all other gods were either false gods, or misunderstandings of the Greek gods (equating Freya with Aphrodite, for example). The latter isn’t quite as bad as the former (and has a long history), but still, if you get to know both Freya and Aphrodite well enough they turn out to be quite different. I could be wrong, and they could really be the same goddess somehow, but even then, why is the Greek “interpretation” of this universal Love Goddess automatically superior to the Norse? It ends up being just like how the Jews, Christians, and Muslims always accuse each other of misunderstanding their shared god.
Among Heathens, it can be even worse, because of that ugly racist contingent. When I first got into Heathenry, online there was a lot of hate being spewed at Wiccans for mixing gods of different pantheons together in rituals. I didn’t think it was such a good idea myself (and still don’t, or at least I think it needs to be done with care), but it didn’t take long for me to notice that many of the Heathens complaining about this seemed to be objecting mainly because we need to keep ourselves “pure” and free from being tainted by those icky other cultures. I really get the sense that some Heathens feel that the Norse gods (and therefore the Nordic people) are superior to all others.
At least the superiority of Asatru over all other religions isn’t actually codified into our religion like it is with the monotheists. Any attitudes modern Heathens have like that were probably picked up from monotheism, not from our pre-Christian ancestors. That’s ironic, since the most xenophobic Heathens also seem to be the ones that claim they’re the most authentic. But our pre-Christian ancestors weren’t xenophobic. Quite the opposite, from what I’ve heard.
I’m not a history expert, so I could be wrong. But even if I am wrong, even if our ancestors were racist and xenophobic, that doesn’t mean we should be today anyway. It’s like those stupid discussions that keep coming up on how the ancient Norse viewed homosexuality. In the end, does it matter? They could have been the most homophobic people who ever lived, and it still doesn’t mean we should be. The ancestors weren’t right about everything.
But I digress. I live in a diverse and pluralistic society. I think that polytheism has a lot of potential to encourage tolerance between different cultures of people. If all gods are equally valid, then you don’t have to look down on people who worship different gods than you do. You could even take it further and say that since no one is required to worship any particular god, then people also aren’t required to worship any god at all, if they aren’t into that sort of thing. Take my husband, for example. He has spiritual feelings about Nature, but he’s not interested in worshipping any particular personified deity. And I don’t see any harm in that. I figure if any gods want his worship, they’re perfectly capable of contacting him themselves.
There is potential here, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t screw it up. Which is why it really annoys me when polytheists who should know better start acting like their ways are so superior to the ways of those “foreign” cultures.
If we want to survive for generations to come, we need to quit that. Traditional monotheism is on the decline anyway. We could fill some of that void, if we don’t turn people away first by being jerks.