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Key People:Aedesius...(Show more)Related Topics:pluralism and also monismhenotheismnature religiongod...(Show more)

polytheism, the belief in plenty of gods. Polytheism characterizes practically all religions other than Judaism, Christianity, and also Islam, i m sorry share a common tradition the monotheism, the id in one God.

Sometimes over the numerous gods a polytheistic faith will have a can be fried creator and also focus of devotion, as in specific phases that Hinduism (there is likewise the propensity to determine the plenty of gods together so many aspects of the supreme Being); occasionally the gods are thought about as less important than some higher goal, state, or saviour, together in Buddhism; periodically one god will prove more dominant 보다 the rather without attaining overall supremacy, together Zeus in Greek religion. Typically, polytheistic cultures include belief in countless demonic and ghostly pressures in enhancement to the gods, and some mythological beings will certainly be malevolent; even in monotheistic religions there deserve to be id in countless demons, as in brand-new Testament Christianity.


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Zeus hurling a thunderbolt, bronze statuette indigenous Dodona, Greece, early 5th century bce; in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Polytheism can bear various relationships to various other beliefs. It have the right to be incompatible v some develops of theism, as in the Semitic religions; it deserve to coexist through theism, together in Vaishnavism; it have the right to exist in ~ a lower level that understanding, ultimately to be transcended, together in Mahayana Buddhism; and it have the right to exist as a tolerated adjunct to id in transcendental liberation, as in Theravada Buddhism.

The nature of polytheism

In the course of examining and recording miscellaneous beliefs linked with the gods, historians of religions have actually used specific categories to recognize different attitudes toward the gods. Thus, in the latter part of the 19th century the terms henotheism and kathenotheism were used to refer to the exalting the a details god as specifically the highest within the framework of a details hymn or ritual—e.g., in the hymns the the Vedas (the old sacred messages of India). This procedure often consist of in loading various other gods’ qualities on the selected emphasis of worship. Within the framework of another part of the same routine tradition, one more god might be selected as supreme focus. Kathenotheism literally way belief in one god at a time. The ax monolatry has actually a linked but various sense; it refers to the worship of one god as supreme and also sole object of the prayer of a group while no denying the presence of divine beings belonging to other groups. The hatchet henotheism is additionally used come cover this case or, much more generally, to mean id in the prominence of a solitary god there is no denying others. This seems to have actually been the situation for a period in ancient Israel in regard come the cult the Yahweh.


The ax animism has actually been applied to a belief in numerous animae (“spirits”) and is often used fairly crudely to characterize so-called primitive religions. In evolution hypotheses about the development of religious beliefs that were an especially fashionable amongst Western scholars in the latter fifty percent of the 19th century, animism was related to as a stage in i m sorry the forces roughly human us were much less personalized 보다 in the polytheistic stage. In yes, really instances of spiritual belief, however, no such system is possible: an individual and impersonal aspects of divine forces room interwoven; e.g., Agni, the fire god of the Rigveda (the foremost collection of Vedic hymns), not just is personified as an item of worship but likewise is the mysterious force within the sacrificial fire.

Belief in plenty of divine beings, who generally have to be venerated or, if malevolent, warded turn off with proper rituals, has actually been extensive in human cultures. Though a solitary evolutionary process cannot it is in postulated, there has actually been a drift in various legacies toward the unification of sacred pressures under a solitary head, which, in a variety of nonliterate “primal” societies, has end up being embedded in a supreme being. Periodically this being is a deus otiosus (an “indifferent god”), regarded as having withdrawn native immediate problem with men and also thought of sometimes as too exalted for men to petition. This observation led Wilhelm Schmidt, one Austrian anthropologist, to postulate in the early on 20th century an Urmonotheismus, or “original monotheism,” which later came to be overlaid by polytheism. Favor all other theories of religious origins, this theory is speculative and also unverifiable. Much more promising room attempts through sociologists and social anthropologists to permeate to the uses and significance that the god in details societies.

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Besides the drift toward some unification, there have actually been other tendencies in human culture that entail a rather innovative approach to supernatural material—e.g., giving the gods mental significance, as in the works of the Greek dramatists Aeschylus and Euripides and, similarly but from a diverse angle, in Buddhism. In ~ the famous level there has actually been, because that instance, the reinterpretation of the gods as Christian saints, together in mexican Catholicism. A completely articulate theory, however, that the methods in which polytheism serves symbolic, social, and also other functions in human society requires clear up of the function of myth, a much-debated object in modern-day anthropology and also comparative religion.