Kirsch may have a sweet spot for polytheism, but he is no Pollyanna. He fully acknowledges that polytheists--including pre-Christian Romans--can be as brutish as fervent monotheists (his preferred term for fanatical fundamentalists). The only difference between violent polytheists and violent monotheists is that the former kill to gain political control and the latter kill to assert theological dominance.

The difference is subtle, said Kirsch, but important. Polytheists sought control over the public sphere alone; monotheists sought control over private thoughts as well.

Kirsch noted that traditional monotheists generally dismiss his writing out of hand as uninformed and anti-faith. Yet he insists that he is a "Jewish monotheist."

"I recite the Sh'ma (Judaism's creedal statement of monotheistic orthodoxy), but I also entertain the idea that there are many ways that people perceive the one, true God. My beliefs are not threatened by dissenting views."

Kirsch recounted a Buddhist aphorism to sum up his religious beliefs: "One moon, many pools. Many pools, one moon." The point, he explained, is that light from a single source can be reflected in many ways.