Polytheism is the belief in multiple gods or deities. The term is sometimes used interchangeable with paganism.

What is Polytheism?

Because polytheism is a category of religious beliefs rather than a religious belief itself, polytheistic beliefs vary greatly. People involved in polytheistic religions might worship all gods equally, place gods in hierarchical structures, or only worship some of the gods. For example, a person might choose a few particular gods that he or she identifies strongly with and then worship them.

While not always the case, the gods in polytheistic religions often have human-like traits. While monotheistic religions often focus on the perfection of their gods, polytheistic religions frequently have stories of gods and goddesses making bad decisions or behaving impulsively. The primary difference between humans and gods in these religions is often the degree of power rather than the degree of omniscience or omnibenevolence. These stories often serve as allegories for human behavior.

History of Polytheism

Monotheism is a relatively new development in human history, and anthropological evidence indicates that most societies were polytheistic until the past few thousand years. The ancient Greeks are widely known for their polytheistic practices, and Greek mythology is still popular reading material.

In contemporary times, polytheistic religions are typically indigenous groups and small tribal societies. Missionary groups sometimes attempt to convert these societies, and the spread of Christianity was fostered in part by missionaries who evangelized to small, local groups. Neopaganism in the United States is a form of polytheism that is commonly associated with new age beliefs. Contemporary U.S. Pagans frequently incorporate elements of several different polytheistic religions into their belief systems.


  1. Anthropology of religion. (n.d.). Palomar College Department of Anthropology. Retrieved from http://anthro.palomar.edu/religion/rel_2.htm
  2. Polytheism. (n.d.). Polytheism. Retrieved from http://www.polytheism.net/

Last Updated: 08-18-2015

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

  Notify me when new comments are added.

  Subscribe me to the GoodTherapy.org public newsletter.

* Indicates required field.

Therapist   Treatment Center

Advanced Search
GoodTherapy.org is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on GoodTherapy.org.