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polytheisms

Polytheism is defined as any religion which worships more than one god. This would include pantheons and hierarchies of divine beings. Many of the traditional religions of Africa and South Asia are commonly placed in this category.

These religious traditions usually acknowledge one Supreme Being who is uncreated, self-existent, preeminent, all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign over all things and beings. The universe is, however, created and governed by numerous divine beings, each with particular specialties of power and authority.

The gods are created by, or emerge from the one Supreme Being, each manifesting and administering particular aspects of Godís infinite nature. The gods are therefore both created beings as well as the agents of the creation of the worlds and beings lower than themselves. The Supreme Being is eternal, transcendent and remote. Humans relate to God through his agents, the multitude of divine beings who administer the many attributes of God.

But the gods, like humans and all other created beings, require nourishment to thrive. Although they have immensely more power and longevity than humans, they are not inherently eternal and without nourishment the gods also diminish and lose their power. It is the worship performed by humans that sustains the gods, giving them strength to in turn bring blessings and benefits to the humans who provide for their worship.

Where the monotheistic religions have established canons of scripture, polytheistic religions often have extensive oral traditions elaborating on the lives and personal characteristics of the gods and their relationships to each other and to humans.

However the demarcation line between polytheism and monotheism is not as clearly defined as early theorists supposed. As noted, religions designated as polytheistic in fact acknowledge one Supreme Being who is uncreated and eternal; all the minor deities are, like humans and other beings, created and non-eternal.

And the monotheistic religions for their part incorporate a belief in spiritual beings such as angels and/or demons who serve God and administer his will on earth, or rebel against God and subvert his will on earth. Saints and angels can confer blessings and benefits to humans who ask them for help, in the same way that the minor deities in polytheistic religions help those who petition them.

Christianity, as the other monotheistic religions have pointed out, blurs the distinction even further with the concept of the Trinity: three divine persons in one Godhead.



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