In Good Faith

Question: Is polytheism a valid religious choice?

Ahriana Platten - New Thought-Unity

Dr. Ahriana Platten is founder-executive director of In Good Faith, leads Unity Spiritual Center and speaks around the country on the topics of interfaith and intercultural understanding.

There are many ways in which the Holy is expressed through religion; god/goddess, trickster/truth, compassionate guide/strict judge. Polytheism is a belief in many gods rather than one. On some level, we may all have a bit of polytheistic influence. This polytheistic view is our way of understanding a complex concept of Source that shows up in our cultural stories with a variety of faces and purposes. When I was in India, a temple monk shared that Hindus have more than 30,000 gods and goddesses yet believe in one supreme being from which the others emerge. His explanation widened my understanding that one can be both monotheistic and polytheistic. I see polytheism as a valid step on the path of spiritual exploration. 

Jim Daly - Christian

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, an organization dedicated to helping families thrive. He and his wife are raising two boys. Visit

focusonthefamily.com.

That all depends on who’s asking the question, who’s giving the answer, and what we mean by “a valid religious choice.” There have always been people in the world who subscribe to a polytheistic worldview — people who enthusiastically embrace the worship of many different gods. Present your question to them and you can be sure of receiving an affirmative reply. But in my case, it’s going to be a very different story. I am an orthodox, Bible-believing follower of Jesus. For me, everything boils down to the scriptural affirmation that “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). From my perspective, polytheism is not “a valid religious choice.” 

Julia McKay - Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Julia McKay is the minister of High Plains Church Unitarian Universalist and a professional spiritual companion dedicated to embodied life practices that enhance our deepest ways of knowing.

I love the rich creativity that comes with different expressions of what is wildly ineffable. To me, it appears that the Source of Life is so vast and so colorful that all of the various Gods and Goddesses have been imagined to help us connect to what is ultimately beyond words. When we transcribe 99 names for God instead of one, this brings an incredible recognition of the unnameable nature of the holy. Illustrations of multiple deities help humans embody the multiplicity of godly attributes. And, we each must discover what allows us to become the various elements that make up the Source of Life: kindness, mercy, compassion, empowerment, justice — and, of course, never postpone creativity, play and joy!

Bruce Coriell - Earth-based Christian

Bruce Coriell served as an interfaith chaplain in colleges and universities for over 35 years. These days you are most likely to find him off wandering rivers and mountains.

Simple answer: Yes! Try substituting your own chosen religious tradition or even non-religious philosophy for the term “polytheism” in the above question. Now the question seems ludicrous or insulting, doesn’t it? If we support genuine freedom of religion, then we must make room for all belief structures — whether we personally approve or not. I find that searching for beauty and meaning in religions outside of my own actually deepens appreciation for my own tradition — even those beliefs that stretch my faith beyond its confines. Most beliefs described as polytheistic recognize that all of life is sacred and that the divine manifests in a rich diversity of forms. Not a bad way to live in our always expanding, immensely wondrous, often confusing and ever-changing world. 

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