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Monotheism vs. Polytheism: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 7, 2024
Monotheism refers to belief in one single, all-powerful deity. Polytheism refers to belief in multiple gods, each with distinct attributes and domains.

Key Differences

Monotheism centers on the worship of a singular, supreme deity who is often omnipotent and omnipresent. In contrast, polytheism encompasses belief in a pantheon of gods, each with specific powers and responsibilities.
Monotheistic religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, emphasize a single divine authority. Polytheistic beliefs, found in religions like Hinduism and ancient Greek religion, feature a diverse array of gods and goddesses.
In monotheism, the lone deity is usually seen as the creator and sustainer of the universe. Polytheism, however, often portrays gods as part of a larger cosmic order, each ruling different aspects of nature and human life.
Ethical and moral guidelines in monotheistic faiths are typically derived from the decrees of the one god. Polytheistic religions may derive their moral teachings from the varied myths and stories of multiple gods.
The concept of afterlife in monotheism is generally uniform, guided by the will of the single deity. In polytheistic traditions, afterlife beliefs can be varied, influenced by different gods and their realms.

Comparison Chart

Number of Deities

One deity
Multiple deities

Nature of Deity

Omnipotent and universal
Distinct powers and domains

Religious Examples

Christianity, Islam, Judaism
Hinduism, Ancient Greek religion

Source of Moral Authority

Decrees of the single deity
Varied myths of multiple gods

Afterlife Beliefs

Generally uniform
Diverse, depending on different gods

Monotheism and Polytheism Definitions


Monotheism is the belief in a single, all-powerful god.
Judaism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions.


In polytheism, gods are often associated with natural elements.
Polytheism includes gods of the sea, sky, and earth.


Monotheism sometimes features a prophet or messenger of the one god.
In monotheism, prophets like Moses communicate the deity's will.


Polytheism involves the belief in and worship of multiple gods.
Ancient Greek religion is a well-known polytheistic system.


Monotheism entails worshiping and following the teachings of one deity.
In monotheism, prayer is often directed to the singular god.


Polytheism can include a hierarchy among gods.
In some polytheistic beliefs, certain gods are more powerful than others.


Monotheistic faiths usually have a central religious text.
The Quran is the holy book in the monotheistic religion of Islam.


Polytheism often involves diverse forms of worship and rituals.
Polytheistic practices may include festivals dedicated to different gods.


Monotheism often includes the concept of a personal god.
Many monotheists view their deity as a personal protector.


Polytheistic religions often have rich mythologies.
Hinduism, a polytheistic religion, has a vast array of godly stories.


The doctrine or belief that there is only one God.


The worship of or belief in more than one god.


(obsolete) Belief in the One True God, defined by Moore as personal, immaterial and trinitarian.


The belief in the existence of multiple gods.


The belief in a single deity (one god or goddess); especially within an organized religion.


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.


The belief that God is one person (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), not three persons (Trinitarianism, Hinduism)


Belief in multiple Gods


The doctrine or belief that there is but one God.


Belief in a single God


How do monotheists view God?

Monotheists often see God as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

What are some examples of polytheistic religions?

Hinduism and ancient Greek religion are classic examples.

What is the main feature of polytheism?

Polytheism entails the belief in multiple gods.

What defines monotheism?

Monotheism is the belief in a single, supreme deity.

Do polytheistic religions have a unified doctrine?

Polytheistic beliefs can vary widely, often without a single unified doctrine.

Is the concept of sin common in monotheism?

Yes, monotheism often includes concepts of sin and moral law.

What role do prophets play in monotheism?

Prophets often serve as messengers or representatives of the one god.

How does polytheism address the creation of the universe?

Creation myths in polytheism can vary, often involving multiple gods.

Can monotheism and polytheism coexist?

Typically, they are distinct belief systems, though some cultures may incorporate elements of both.

Are polytheistic gods anthropomorphic?

Often, yes, they are depicted with human traits and emotions.

Do polytheistic religions have sacred texts?

Some do, but texts can vary in authority and content.

How does monotheism influence culture?

It can shape laws, ethics, and social norms based on the teachings of the one god.

How does polytheism view the relationship between gods and humans?

This relationship can vary, but often gods are seen as directly influencing human affairs.

How does polytheism interpret the concept of divinity?

Divinity in polytheism is often diverse, with gods embodying various aspects of life and nature.

How do monotheistic religions view the afterlife?

The afterlife is typically seen as determined by the singular deity's judgment.

Can monotheism be traced to a specific origin?

It's difficult to trace a singular origin, as monotheism developed in various cultures.

Are festivals common in polytheistic religions?

Yes, many polytheistic religions celebrate various gods with festivals.

Does monotheism have a central religious authority?

This varies by religion; some have central authorities, while others are more decentralized.

Are there ethical differences between monotheism and polytheism?

Ethical teachings can vary greatly between the two, depending on specific beliefs and practices.

Is monotheism more prevalent than polytheism?

In terms of global followers, monotheistic religions are more prevalent.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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