Or it was various social groups interpreting the world around them. I don't think the idea of polytheism emerged simply because of cultural exchange. It would be more fitting that polytheism emerged when people attempted to characterize the elements of their environment; for example, in Greek polytheism, Apollo is the sun personified, or in Norse mythology, Thor is thunder personified. This has some correlation with that I said about Egypt and its fascination with death. The chaos of the environment led to the adoption of death as a major theme in the Egyptian culture. So environments do have much more to do with the evolution of faith than you would think; and this is demonstrated by all those who added characteristics inherent with human nature to objects in nature; the sun, rivers, the oceans, the moon, etc.
The mere idea that they could personify the environment only contributed to ideas of faith. Each region of the world has an abundance of origin myths; like Indo-Iran's pagan religious system before it was introduced to the ideas of the "prophet" Zoroaster. Except these rudimentary interpretations we've both cited grow with the size of the civilization.
The larger the social group, the larger the collected psychology of the people is. The larger the amount of people, the harder it is to control them. The more organized the religion; taking ideas that people had lived with for centuries, and adapting them to fit the mold of the social customs that are prevalent at the time, the easier it is to unite the people under one faith. Guiding the transition of a regional pagan religious system to something more categorical or organized is simply measured by the growth of an idea of one generation, coupled with the idea that the aforementioned idea will eventually become overthrown by an idea that is more widely accepted; as was the case with monotheistic faiths versus polytheism, when monotheism overthrew it. And as is the case in our contemporary times with science dissuading religion to a degree; the more acceptable idea grows and adapts.
Edited by Drayno, 02 April 2012 - 10:19 PM.