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Monotheism

From Academic Kids

Monotheism (in Greek monon = single and Theos = God) is the belief in a single, universal, all-encompassing deity.

Contents

Types

Various forms of monotheism exist, including:

  • Theism, a term that can refer to the belief in a 'personal' god, that is, a single god with a distinctive personality, rather than just a divine force.
  • Deism is a form of monotheism in which it is believed that one god exists. However, a deist rejects the idea that this god intervenes in the world. Hence any notion of special revelation is impossible, and the nature of god can only be known through reason and observation from nature. A deist thus rejects the miraculous, and the claim to knowledge made for religious groups and texts.
  • Monistic Theism is the type of monotheism found in Hinduism. Such type of theism is different from the Semitic religions as it encompasses panentheism, monism, and at the same time includes the concept of a personal God as an universal, omnipotent supreme being. The other types of monotheism are qualified monism, the school of Ramanuja or Vishishtadvaita, which admits that the universe is part of God, or Narayana, a type of panentheism, but there is a plurality of souls within this supreme Being and Dvaita, which differs in that it is dualistic, as God is separate and not panentheistic.
  • Pantheism holds that the Universe itself is God. The existence of a transcendent supreme extraneous to nature is denied. Depending on how this is understood, such a view may be presented as tantamount to atheism, deism or theism.
  • Panentheism is a form of theism that holds that god contains, but is not identical to, the Universe. The universe is part of god. This is also the view of Process theology and also Hinduism. According to Hinduism, the universe is part of God but God is not equal to the universe but in fact transcends it as well. However, unlike Process theology, God in Hinduism is omnipotent. Panentheism is thought of as "God is within the universe as the soul is within the body". By some accounts, panentheism is also called monistic theism in Hinduism. But since process theology is also included in the broad definition of panenetheism and does not accept an omnipotent supreme being, the Hindu view would be called monistic theism.
  • Substance monotheism, found e.g. in some indigenous African religions, holds that the many gods are different forms of a single underlying substance, and that this underlying substance is God. This view has some similarities to the Christian trinitarian view of three persons sharing one nature.

Comparison to Polytheism

In contrast, see Polytheism, which holds that there are many gods. Dualism teaches that there are two independent divine beings or eternal principles, the one good, and the other evil, as set forth especially in early Zoroastrianism (modern Zoroastrianism is strictly monotheistic), but more fully in its later offshoots in Gnostic systems, such as Manichaeism.

Most monotheists would say that, by definition, monotheism is incompatible with polytheism. However, devotees within polytheistic religious traditions often behave like monotheists. This is because a belief in multiple gods does not imply the worship of multiple gods. Historically, many polytheists believe in the existence of many gods, but worship only one, considered by the devotee to be the supreme God. This practice is termed henotheism. There are also monotheistic theologies in Hinduism which teach that the many forms of God, i.e., Vishnu, Shiva, or Devi merely represent aspects of a single or underlying divine power or Brahman (see articles on Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman). Some claim that Hinduism never taught polytheism [1] (http://www.hinduism-today.com/archives/2003/10-12/44-49_four_sects.shtml), and such claim can be correct as one view of Hinduism, the Smarta view, is an inclusive monotheistic view of monotheism, as discussed later. This Smarta view dominates the view of Hinduism in the West and has confused all Hindus to be seemingly polytheistic. The Smarta division is the only branch of Hinduism that strictly follows this view. After all, Swami Vivekananda, a follower of Ramakrishna, along with many others, who brought Hindu beliefs to the West, were all Smarta in belief. Only a Smartist would have no problem worshiping Shiva or Vishnu together as he views the different aspects of God as leading to the same One God. God, thus, according to Smarta theology, can have a multitude of aspects and thus, according to this belief, they hold that Vishnu and Shiva are one and the same God. The Smarta theologians, have cited many references to support this view. For example, they interpret verses in both the Shri Rudram, the most sacred mantra in Shaivism, and the Vishnu sahasranama, one of the most sacred prayers in Vaishnavism, to show this belief. By contrast, a Vaishnavite considers Vishnu as the only one true God, worthy of worship and other worship of other forms as subordinate or simply incorrect.

Monotheism can be divided into different types on the basis of its attitude to polytheism: inclusive monotheism claims that all polytheistic deities are just different names for the single monotheistic God; Smartism, a denomination of Hinduism, follows this belief and its beliefs dominate the view of Hinduism in the West; exclusive monotheism, on the other hand, claims that these deities are false and distinct from the monotheistic God, either invented, demonic, or simply incorrect, as Vaishnavism, a denomination of Hinduism, regards the worship of anyone other than Vishnu. Exclusive monotheism is a well-known tenet in the beliefs of the Abrahamic religions.

Origins of Abrahamic religions

Worship of a single god within a pantheon and the abolition of all others may be monotheism, as in the case of the Aten cult in the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, under the wifely influence of the Eastern-originating Nefertiti. Iconoclasm during this pharaoh's rule is considered a chief origin for Abrahamic destruction of idols, holding no other God before the preferred deity (dually and subtly acknowledging the existence of the other gods, but only as foes to be destroyed for their drawing of attention away from the primary diety). The monotheism as inherited by the Israelites in Exodus by Moses, is supposed, by those who hold that the Israelites are the Hyksos, to be an inheritance of Akhenaten's religious policies, as the jews were formerly polytheist like the Egyptians. Other issues like the Divine Right of Kings also stems from pharaohic laws on the ruler being the demigod or representative of the Creator on Earth. The massive tombs in the Egyptian pyramids which aligned with astronomical observations, exemplifies this relationship between the pharaoh and the heavens and was subsequently adopted by Christian royalty by claiming a direct lease on ruling by God.

Zoroastrianism is considered by some to be the earliest monotheistic belief to have evolved among humanity, though some derivatives of it are not fully so, as the chief god in derivatives such as Zurvanism is not the sole creator. It has been theorised that Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism, mostly during the babylonian captivity, after which the many parts of the Old Testament were written and redacted. Earlier Judaism is assumed to have claimed only that YHVH was a tribal deity (possibly related to Yaw) who was the patron of the descendants of Abraham, or that there were many gods but that theirs was the most powerful. This view is not compatible with the modern self-understanding of the Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity, Islam - which traditionally insist that exclusive monotheism is the original religion of all mankind, all other gods being viewed as idols and creatures which wrongly came to be worshipped as deities.

Several professors of archaeology have made the controversial claim that many stories in the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, including important chronicles about Moses, Solomon, and others, were actually initially developed by scribes employed by King Josiah (7th century BC) to rationalize monotheistic belief in YHVH. This theory observes that the neighbouring countries, such as Egypt, Persia etc, although keeping written records, have no writings about the stories of the Bible or its main characters before 650 BC. Such claims are detailed in Who Were the Early Israelites? by William G. Dever, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI (2003). Another such book is The Bible Unearthed by Neil A. Silberman and colleagues, Simon and Schuster, New York (2001).

Although Christians believe in one God, they profess that this god is, in fact, three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (collectively called the Trinity), Christians insist that their faith is monotheistic. Typically, Christian theology holds that these three persons are not independent but are 'homoousios', that is sharing the same essence or substance of divinity. However, some have suggested that Christianity is a form of Tritheism. Moreover, some minority sects of Christianity, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, deny the idea of Trinity, while others, such as some sects of Mormonism, worship only one god, but are open to the existence of others. Rastafarians, like many Christians, hold that God is both a unity and a trinity, in their case God being Haile Selassie. Rastas see themselves, and possibly all individuals, as the Holy Spirit element of the Trinity, with Haile Selassie as an incarnation of both God the Father and God the Son. Haile selassie is also seen as the head, and the Rastafarians of the body.

Islam and The Bah' Faith have a simple expression of monotheism. The (salaat) in Islam and the obligatory prayers in the Bah' Faith, for example, involve explicit monotheistic testimony. Both religions declare the "Unity of God" as their primary teaching. Both Islam and Bah' consider Christianity's Trinity as a distortion of Jesus's original teaching after the fact, and the Bah's see earlier non-monotheisms as less mature versions of truth.

The Bah' Faith also accepts the authenticity of the founders of faiths with "weaker" monotheism such as Krishnaism, or even what are sometimes interpreted as atheistic teachings, such as Buddhism.

In Hinduism

In Hinduism, views are broad and range from monism, dualism, pantheism, panentheism, alternatively called monistic theism by some scholars, and strict monotheism, but are not polytheistic as outsiders perceive the religion to be. Hinduism has often been confused to be polytheistic as many of Hinduism's adherents, i.e., Smartas, who follow Advaita philsophy, are monists, and view multiple manifestations of the one God or source of being. Hindu monists see one unity, with the personal Gods, different aspects of only One Supreme Being, like a single beam of light separated into colours by a prism, and are valid to worship. Some of the Hindu aspects of God include Devi, Vishnu, Ganesh, and Siva. It is the Smarta view that dominates the view of Hinduism in the West. After all, Swami Vivekananda, a follower of Ramakrishna, along with many others, who brought Hindu beliefs to the West, were all Smarta in belief. Other denominations of Hinduism, as described later, don't hold this belief strictly and more closely adhere to a Western perception of what a monotheistic faith is. Additionally, like Judaeo-Christian religions which believe in angels, Hindus also believe in less powerful entities, such as devas.

Contemporary Hinduism is now divided into four major divisions, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Just as Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in one God but differ in their conceptions of him, Hindus all believe in one God but differ in their conceptions. The two primary form of differences are between the two monotheistic religions of Vaishnavism which conceives God as Vishnu and Shaivism, which conceives God as Shiva. Other aspects of God are in fact aspects of Vishnu or Shiva; see Smartism for more information. Only a Smartist would have no problem worshiping Shiva or Vishnu together as he views the different aspects of God as leading to the same One God. It is the Smarta view that dominates the view of Hinduism in the West. By contrast, a Vaishnavite considers Vishnu as the one true God, worthy of worship and other forms as subordinate. See for example, an illustration of the Vaishnavite view of Vishnu as the one true God, at this link (http://www.dvaita.org/docs/srv_faq.html#othergods). Accordingly, many Vaishnavites, for example, believe that only Vishnu can grant the ultimate aim for mankind, moksha. See for example, this link (http://www.dvaita.org/docs/srv_faq.html#hell). Similarly, many Shaivites also hold similar beliefs, as illustrated at at this link (http://www.sroutasaivasiddhanta.org/2-1.htm) and at this link (http://www.sroutasaivasiddhanta.org/2-11.htm).

However, even Vaisnavites, like other Hindus, have tolerance for other beliefs because Lord Krishna, avatar of Vishnu, said so in the Gita. Few views illustrate this view of tolerance: Krishna said: "Whatever deity or form a devotee worships, I make his faith steady. However, their wishes are only granted by Me." (Gita: 7:21-22) Another quote in the Gita states: "O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship other lesser deities (e.g., Devas, for example) with faith, they also worship Me, but in an improper way because I am the Supreme Being. I alone am the enjoyer of all sacrificial services (Seva, Yajna) and Lord of the universe." (Gita: 9:23) Even a Vedic verse illustrates this theme of tolerance. The Vedas are revered in Hinduism, regardless of denomination. For example, a well-known Rig Vedic hymn stemming from Hinduism states that "Truth is One, though the sages know it variously." This is in contrast with some beliefs of other religious traditions, where one must believe in God being one aspect and to totally reject or disdain other beliefs.

See also

da:Monoteisme de:Monotheismus et:Monoteism es:Monotesmo eo:Monoteismo fa:یکتاپرستی fr:Monothisme id:Monoteisme is:Eingyistr he:מונותאיזם lv:Monoteisms nl:Monothesme ja:一神教 no:Monoteisme pl:Monoteizm pt:Monotesmo ro:Monoteism ru:Монотеизм sl:Monoteizem fi:Monoteismi sv:Monoteism uk:Монотеїзм zh:一神教

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