The Hindus believe many varieties of gods and half-gods, many (I think most - and perhaps all, even) are above earthly creatures according to their religious views. Isn't this tending to be as religious as Christianity's belief in saints, etc., that also tend to stand very clearly above the ordinary earthly creatures? ...
The belief in saints doesn't include them being "above" anyone else. They are only considered to be believers who, through their pious dedication to the faith, are ahead of the rest of the crowd in getting into heaven. There are allegedly signs given to show this. However, they are only ahead of the line for what the rest of the faithful will get as their heavenly reward...and not above them.
Buddhists have their own pantheons of gods, which may or may not be distinct from the Hindu deities. Most often, when a culture accepted Buddhism, they usually assimilated their local gods into the Buddhist faith. One vehicle for doing this was to say that the Buddha taught the gods the Middle Way and they converted to Buddhism. In this way, the ancient gods of a certain culture became Buddhist gods. Depending on the school of Buddhism, there are also gods who exist in the bardo of gods. Essentially, anyone with built-up merit can enter this bardo and be one of the gods for a while. Of course, all gods eventually pass on in the same wheel we experience and must, themselves, work to attain nirvana. These gods may have a better realm of existence, but they are still subject to karma.
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