Being a hard polytheist puts one into a very hard position in American society. On one hand we have monotheists who upon hearing that one is polytheistic scoffs. They generally end up asking if "you really believe in Zeus" or things of that nature, of which I generally and calmly reply "yes." They may roll their eyes, they may debate you, they may inquire, or they may try to convert you, but most ultimately seem to end with a heave-and-a-ho and disregard it as a silly mindset. On the other hand we have Atheist and Agnostic persons, who are not (usually) so aggressive, but still often find it necessary to ask "Why?" This question lies at the heart of this, but usually they reject my explanation as being "too emotional" or "too subjective", but these subjective experiences ultimately are what color life and make it bright and worthwhile.
When explaining my outlook on things, I often have to turn to the following story. I once had an online friend who insisted that "love isn't real"(Especially Eros Love) and frequently stated that people who have claimed to felt love of any sort were merely deluding themselves (so very similar to how many people treat the Gods they don't believe in.) and that they were being tricked by "feel good chemicals." We cannot deny the existence of these feel good chemicals, no, we know for a fact that they exist and that they contribute to the feeling of Eros Love, in fact without these chemicals many aspects of Eros Love would not be present, and the feeling may not exist at all. His conclusion was that since these chemicals are not produced indefinitely that Love (in all of its forms) could not exist and is merely a trick we play on ourselves to make life easier. Unsurprisingly, he had (and still hasn't) ever felt love or been in love. and thus still refuses to "believe in it." He is missing the point though, as one of my friends put it "he is majoring on the minors." Just because we know the physical structure and make-up of something, does not mean that there is no element of it that transcends the physical plane, well the "all-consuming" part of Eros Love may fade it can become many other types of love (and it should if the relationship is healthy) and need not remain in one simple place, and it will transcend the simple Eros Love. We can feel it ourselves(if we are so lucky) and we can see its presence in other(generally older) couples, yet this is still not good enough for him. The only thing that will convince him is experiencing it for himself, yet to do that he must open himself up to the possibility, but in order to do that he must be convinced it exists.
We can certainly see the circular nature of this.
The Gods are much of the same way, if we do not open ourselves up to their presence or to their literal existence, then how can we EVER hope to feel their presence or existence. I'm not saying that one has to believe per se, but I am saying that one has to open to the possibility.
I recall a time when I was in a rather dark place in my life. I was cynical, easily angered, slightly depressed, and disgustingly apathetic. At the time I considered myself a Deist, and basically thought that no religion would ever be right for me. Slowly, and gradually, I began to get into Paganism and found it profoundly interesting. I hadn't realized that people still worshiped the Ancient Gods and I began to wonder, well perhaps there is something to this. Eventually I stumbled upon a Big Think video containing Stephen Fry speaking about his belief that God is Everywhere, I began to ponder, well what if there ARE multiple Gods? Is it logical, does it make sense to me? After thinking about it long and hard for quite a while, I wasn't sure. I did however become open to the possibility that it was, but still considered myself a Deist. I thought that maybe the Gods existed as archetypes though, or perhaps were just representative of general forces in nature
Time went by as it does, and my general mood didn't improve very much. Eventually, I got to a rather bad place in my life and felt utterly and totally alone and overwhelmed. So, I did something unexpected, I called out to Athena and prayed for comfort and relief. It surprised me that I performed something like a prayer (which was something I hadn't done since I was young) and it surprised me that shortly there after, I did feel. . .comfort for lack of a better word. I was soothed to say the least, and in my heart something told me "stop being afraid." After that, I began praying more often and I started developing a religious practice. I began to feel little sparks of recognition of the various Gods and Goddesses, Zeus, Ares, Hera, Hestia, they were beginning to know me (though, I felt like Athena has known me for quite a while) I began to get glimpses of their natures. I began to connect with them and perform offertories. Hermes has pulled through for me on a few occasions, and I have had comfort and strength afforded to me on multiple occasions as well. Interacting and praying with the Gods caused me to know them, and know that they exist. Like love, you may simply need to open up to the possibility of existence to feel it
This isn't to say that I think everyone should be a hard polytheist, nor is it saying that I'm absolutely certain that I'm right. Perhaps it is like love, perhaps it is simply a trick of the mind as my friend claims and exists merely as a brief illusion, but also like love, my experience, my feelings, and my meditation on the subject point me in another direction. I could be wrong of course, but then again, so can you.