Belief in many gods. Though Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic (see monotheism), most other religions throughout history have been polytheistic. The numerous gods may be dominated by a supreme god or by a small group of powerful gods. The gods originated as abstractions of the forces of nature such as the sky or the sea and of human and social functions such as love, war, marriage, or the arts. In many religions the sky god is powerful and all-knowing (e.g., Dievs), and the earth goddess is maternal and associated with fertility. Gods of death and the underworld (e.g., Osiris and Hel) are also important. In addition to many gods, polytheistic religions generally also include malevolent or benevolent spiritual forces or powers. See also god and goddess.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on polytheism, visit Britannica.com.

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