If someone were to directly ask me, "What are the gods?" and expect a precise answer, I would have to respond with I don't know. I don't think anyone really knows or can say for certain. In my opinion, the divine forces, or what we perceive as the divine forces, are incomprehensible to our human minds. We tend to make it/them into something we can comprehend. That something is god/goddess(es).
I believe that what we call gods and goddesses are just aspects of the divine forces. We see them in human terms as gods and goddesses because that is the easiest way for our human minds to comprehend the divine. It is really the divine forces in different aspects. I believe in both gods and goddesses because the divine force has both masculine and feminine energies. Both are necessary in order to keep balance.
I don't believe that gods are to be feared. I think that they should be honored, but I don't think that they will "punish" a person simply because they don't believe in them. I also don't think that they punish humans for things that they do, karma is just a natural reaction, what comes around goes around.
I don't believe that the gods are favor one person over another, or a particular group of people over another. Everyone has a right to divinity, regardless of their race, income, social status, education, etc. You do not need another person to mediate for you, the gods are here for you, same as anyone else. I do not believe that humans are any more important to them than plants or animals. Plant, Animal, Human, We all have spirits and therefore are connected to them.
Groveling is not necessary, but if you are going to call upon the gods to ask their aid, you should treat them with the same respect you treat other people. While I don't necessarily believe that they "think" in human terms, I think that we must do our best to show respect, good will, and positive intentions any way we are capable.
One of my pet peeves is when someone says, "Let the gods/goddess take care of it," etc. To me, this is just shifting responsibility, pure laziness. We are given our physical, mental, and magickal abilities for a reason. We cannot lay it all on divinity and expect to get anywhere. The god/dess is not going to drop everything in your lap simply because you put your faith in them. You must utilize what they gave you to the fullest extent in order to accomplish what you want/need to accomplish. That is why they gave it to you. I think that they will help you if you ask, providing there is a genuine need, but they are not by any means a “crutch” or a cure all to everything that is wrong in your life.