Forms of polytheistic powers, gods, and demons, Germanic, Scandinavian, Celtic, and Slavic mythologies, Modern ethnic religions in Africa and elsewhere, https://www.britannica.com/topic/polytheism. Another word expressing the same idea is monolatry, which is based on the Greek roots monos (one), and latreia (service or religious worship). Please select which sections you would like to print: Corrections? It can be incompatible with some forms of theism, as in the Semitic religions; it can coexist with theism, as in Vaishnavism; it can exist at a lower level of understanding, ultimately to be transcended, as in Mahayana Buddhism; and it can exist as a tolerated adjunct to belief in transcendental liberation, as in Theravada Buddhism. Polytheism characterizes virtually all religions other than Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which share a common tradition of monotheism, the belief in one god. Polytheism characterizes virtually all religions other than Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which share a common tradition of monotheism, the belief in one God. At the popular level there has been, for instance, the reinterpretation of the gods as Christian saints, as in Mexican Catholicism. Save 50% off a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Another word for polytheist. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. The term appears to have been first used by Julius Wellhausen to described a type of polytheism in which just a single god is worshiped but where other gods are accepted as existing elsewhere. To many outside Christianity, this looks a bit like polytheism! Zeus hurling a thunderbolt, bronze statuette from Dodona, Greece, early 5th century. The term henotheism is also used to cover this case or, more generally, to mean belief in the supremacy of a single god without denying others. Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020, Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition (From left to right) Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma, the three Hindu gods of the Trimurti. Does Pope Francis Believe Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. In the course of analyzing and recording various beliefs connected with the gods, historians of religions have used certain categories to identify different attitudes toward the gods. Polytheism, the belief in many gods. Belief in many divine beings, who typically have to be worshipped or, if malevolent, warded off with appropriate rituals, has been widespread in human cultures. Typically, polytheistic cultures include belief in many demonic and ghostly forces in addition to the gods, and some supernatural beings will be malevolent; even in monotheistic religions there can be belief in many demons, as in New Testament Christianity. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religions, University of California, Santa Barbara. Polytheism consists of the worship that people perform to a series of different gods which are characterized and distinguished by their particular and unique functions, which generally have human characteristics, but are full of powersand are responsible for protecting human beings. The ancient Greeks, for example, were polytheists; their gods included Apollo, Athena, Dionysus, and Zeus. Black Friday Sale! With advancing thought the ideas of polytheism later gave place to the nobler conception of monotheism. Premium Membership is now 50% off! polytheism: 1 n belief in multiple gods Antonyms: monotheism belief in a single God Types: tritheism (Christianity) the heretical belief that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate gods Type of: theism the doctrine or belief in the existence of a God or gods Learn more about polytheism, including such religions as Hinduism.
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