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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
polytheism
noun
EXAMPLES FROM CORPUS
▪ As a young man he had a prophetic revelation that led him to preach a new faith in place of the prevailing polytheism.
▪ But for much else in polytheism and monotheism it is of more limited value.
▪ There are passages of the Bible which are compatible with polytheism.
▪ There was some reversion to polytheism and the religion became more magical and ritualistic than ethical.
The Collaborative International Dictionary
Polytheism

Polytheism \Pol"y*the*ism\, n. [Poly- + Gr. ? cf. F. polyth['e]isme.] The doctrine of, or belief in, a plurality of gods.

In the Old Testament, the gradual development of polytheism from the primitive monotheism may be learned.
--Shaff-Herzog.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
polytheism

1610s, from French polythéisme (16c.), formed from Greek polytheia "polytheism," polytheos "of many gods," from polys "many" (see poly-) + theos "god" (see theo-).

Wiktionary
polytheism

n. The belief in the existence of multiple gods.

WordNet
polytheism

n. belief in multiple Gods [ant: monotheism]

Wikipedia
Polytheism

Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own religions and rituals. In most religions which accept polytheism, the different gods and goddesses are representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles, and can be viewed either as autonomous or as aspects or emanations of a creator God or transcendental absolute principle ( monistic theologies), which manifests immanently in nature ( panentheistic and pantheistic theologies).

It is a type of theism. Within theism, it contrasts with monotheism, the belief in a singular God, in most cases transcendent. Polytheists do not always worship all the gods equally, but can be henotheists, specializing in the worship of one particular deity. Other polytheists can be kathenotheists, worshiping different deities at different times.

Polytheism was the typical form of religion during the Bronze Age and Iron Age, up to the Axial Age and the development of Abrahamic religions which enforced strict monotheism. It is well documented in historical religions of Classical antiquity, especially ancient Greek religion and ancient Roman religion, and after the decline of Greco-Roman polytheism in tribal religions such as Germanic paganism or Slavic paganism. Important polytheistic religions practiced today include Chinese traditional religion, Hinduism, Japanese Shinto, and various neopagan faiths.

Usage examples of "polytheism".

The philosopher, who considered the system of polytheism as a composition of human fraud and error, could disguise a smile of contempt under the mask of devotion, without apprehending that either the mockery, or the compliance, would expose him to the resentment of any invisible, or, as he conceived them, imaginary powers.

If, on the other hand, we recollect the universal toleration of Polytheism, as it was invariably maintained by the faith of the people, the incredulity of philosophers, and the policy of the Roman senate and emperors, we are at a loss to discover what new offence the Christians had committed, what new provocation could exasperate the mild indifference of antiquity, and what new motives could urge the Roman princes, who beheld without concern a thousand forms of religion subsisting in peace under their gentle sway, to inflict a severe punishment on any part of their subjects, who had chosen for themselves a singular but an inoffensive mode of faith and worship.

If we would, therefore, indulge our curiosity, in enquiring concerning the origin of religion, we must turn our thoughts towards polytheism, the primitive religion of uninstructed mankind.

If, on the other hand, we recollect the universal toleration of Polytheism, as it was invariably maintained by the faith of the people, the incredulity of philosophers, and the policy of the Roman senate and emperors, we are at a loss to discover what new offence the Christians had committed, what new provocation could exasperate the mild indifference of antiquity, and what new motives could urge the Roman princes, who beheld without concern a thousand forms of religion subsisting in peace under their gentle sway, to inflict a severe punishment on any part of their subjects, who had chosen for themselves a singular but an inoffensive mode of faith and worship.

Polytheism conducts its deluded votaries, through the paths of error, to the abyss of eternal perdition.

Israel, and especially during their struggles for the conquest of Palestine, and at last gave place to the conception of Jahveh, a national God conceived after the fashion of the gods of polytheism, essentially anthropomorphic, the God of Israel in conflict with the gods of the surrounding nations.

The Jewish converts, or, as they were afterwards called, the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundations of the church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes, that from all the various religions of polytheism enlisted under the banner of Christ: and the Gentiles, who, with the approbation of their peculiar apostle, had rejected the intolerable weight of the Mosaic ceremonies, at length refused to their more scrupulous brethren the same toleration which at first they had humbly solicited for their own practice.

In the various religions of Polytheism, some wandering fanatics of Egypt and Syria, who addressed themselves to the credulous superstition of the populace, were perhaps the only order of priests that derived their whole support and credit from their sacerdotal profession, and were very deeply affected by a personal concern for the safety or prosperity of their tutelar deities.

Whichever side of this dilemma we take, it must appear impossible, that theism could, from reasoning, have been the primary religion of human race, and have afterwards, by its corruption, given birth to polytheism and to all the various superstitions of the heathen world.

  The Jewish converts, or, as they were afterwards called, the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundations of the church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes, that from all the various religions of polytheism enlisted under the banner of Christ: and the Gentiles, who, with the approbation of their peculiar apostle, had rejected the intolerable weight of the Mosaic ceremonies, at length refused to their more scrupulous brethren the same toleration which at first they had humbly solicited for their own practice.

  In this mitigated persecution we may still discover the indulgent spirit of Rome and of Polytheism, which so readily admitted every excuse in favor of those who practised the religious ceremonies of their fathers.

  According to the loose and complying notions of Polytheism, he might acknowledge the God of the Christians as one of the many deities who compose the hierarchy of heaven.

It was also clear from the chronicle that their religion was part of their scheme of living, and we could reasonably guess that it was a conventional form of polytheism, with leading male and female godheads, Baal and Astarte.

Julian had reason to expect that, in the space of a few years, the church would relapse into its primaeval simplicity, and that the theologians, who possessed an adequate share of the learning and eloquence of the age, would be succeeded by a generation of blind and ignorant fanatics, incapable of defending the truth of their own principles, or of exposing the various follies of Polytheism.