"belief in more gods than one," 1610s, from French polythéisme (16c.), formed from Greek polytheia "polytheism," polytheos "of or belonging to many gods," from polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + theos "god" (from PIE root *dhes-, forming words for religious concepts).
The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord. [Gibbon]
updated on August 25, 2020