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“”The label polytheism is used where a plurality of gods are acknowledged and/or worshipped. Through the course of human history, polytheistic religions of one sort or another have been a dominant majority by far.
|—Austin Cline |
Polytheism is the belief that there is more than one god or goddess. This belief is held mostly by older religions, such as those of ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt, and survives to modern times most notably in the Hindu and Shinto faiths, neopagan religions such as Wicca, Asatru and a range of tribal religions in areas like Africa.
 The nature of polytheism
Polytheism typically involves many gods or gods/goddesses with different functions. There is division of labour among the gods/goddesses. Different gods have different functions and believers pray to the relevant god/goddess depending on what they want. The divine entities typically are seen as part of a divine community or pantheon and there may be a divine ruler who leads the other gods. Gods from other religions are treated in differing ways:
- They may be identified with an existing gods/goddess from the pantheon.
- They may be incorporated into the pantheon.
- They may be considered unworthy of worship.
Polytheistic religions are inherently flexible. 
 Abrahamic religions
The Abrahamic religions developed largely among polytheistic religions (Canaanite, Roman, and Arab belief systems preceding Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and the initial ancestor of Judaism may have been polytheistic up until the Deutoronomic reforms under King Josiah. The early books of the Old Testament make a lot more sense if one imagines that the writers believed YHWH to be just one of many limited, rival gods. Some Christian denominations, most notably Roman Catholicism, preserve a memory of polytheism in the veneration of Mary and of the Saints (many of whom are almost openly conflated with pre-christian deities). Like polytheistic gods/goddesses the various male and female saints have specific functions and Roman Catholics pray to a saint who deals with their particular issue. Syncretistic religions with Catholic roots such as Santeria and Vodoun are essentially polytheistic religions (African-derived, in the case of the above two) combined with Christian names and worship forms.
 Polytheism in literature
Numerous writers, many based on questionable historical research, others as part of a science fiction or fantasy storyline, have related the gods of ancient mythology to presumed-real alien life forms or paranormal beings. Such theories, for example, have informed the works of historian/huckster Erich von Däniken, and were the basis for the Star Trek episode Who Mourns for Adonais?, Philip K. Dick's 1954 short story, Strange Eden, and much of the storyline of Stargate.