What is Polytheism? PolytheismJune 29, 2021
Polytheism is the intellectual view that argues that there is more than one God. The belief that adopts the idea of the existence of many Gods is called polytheism.
Polytheism literally means “believing and worshiping more than one god”. Etymologically, the word derives from the Greek words poly (many) and theoi (god).
Polytheism, which accepts the existence of many gods, is clearly indicated by the estimate that three thousand years ago people believed in a total of about thirty-five thousand gods. For example, in ancient Egypt, each city had its own god. These deities are remnants of primitive totem thought.
The Age of Idols also accepted the existence of many human-like gods, as seen in Greek and Latin mythologies. Another God was worshiped for the protection of the fields, another for the easy birth, and another for the sea voyage.
Poseidon is the god of the sea in Ancient Greek culture.
In ancient societies the multiplicity of gods corresponded to the multiplicity of totems and fetishes. For it was these totems and fetishes themselves that were deified.
Polytheism, which emerged during the collapse of the primitive communal society, turned into monotheism upon the establishment of the slave society. Because it was necessary to establish a slave-god relationship similar to the slave-master relationship. The only god was the monarchical head of the slave-owning order.
Many ancient religions were polytheistic, with pantheons of traditional deities. These pantheons and different gods have developed over a long period of time, kneading with cultural exchange and experience.
Many ancient societies were polytheistic. An important point in polytheism is that the worship of many gods may also involve belief in an omniscient and all-powerful deity. Indeed, in most polytheistic religions, at the head of the pantheon is the figure of a chief god, who is powerful and wise over everything and everyone, including other gods.
In polytheistic belief systems, gods appear as complex personalities with individual abilities, needs, stories, desires, and characteristics. Often these gods do not have unlimited power and knowledge, instead they are portrayed as having human-like personal characteristics, in addition to some individual (supernatural) power, talent and knowledge.
In a polytheistic pantheon, gods may have multiple names, and each name may refer to a particular role or story of the god. Among the general principles of polytheism are the indefinite number of gods and each god having their own specific duties.
The religions of the Hittites and Phrygians from the ancient Anatolian civilizations, the religions of Ancient Greece and Rome, paganism, the religion of the pre-Islamic Arab society, and Hinduism, one of the religions that have survived, are examples of polytheistic religions.
According to polytheism, there is more than one god and the number of gods is uncertain. In addition, in polytheism, gods have different duties and each god has a specific task.
Those who adopt this belief accept that Allah is creative and powerful. However, they also ascribe extraordinary powers to others from Allah and seek help from them. They deify the forces of nature, the dead, some animals, and celestial bodies such as the moon, sun, and stars. It is a very common form of belief in ancient Greek mythologies.
While people initially believed in a supreme creator, they moved away from monotheism under the influence of different social and cultural conditions over time. This situation caused them to associate some other beings with the supreme creator, thus polytheism or idolatry emerged.
Polytheism was very hot in the Arabian Peninsula before ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome and Islam. In today’s world religions, Shintoism and Hinduism, there is a belief in polytheism.
Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Year 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Year 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook