Monotheism History, Origin & Examples | What is Monotheism?
What Is Monotheism?
A common question people who study religion often ask is "What is monotheism?." and how does it differ from polytheism? The term "monotheism" is derived from two ancient Greek words: mono (one) and theos (god). Therefore, monotheism is a religious belief that maintains that there is only one god. It is the opposite of polytheism, which is the belief in many gods. This definition leads to another question: "What does monotheistic mean?". Monotheistic is an adjective that is used to describe a religion that believes in the existence of only one god. Christianity and Islam, the world's two largest religions, are both monotheistic faiths. Both of these faiths believe in the existence of a single transcendent deity that created the universe and everything else in it. Adherents of Christianity and Islam reject the existence of other gods and goddesses and even consider it sinful to worship more than one god.
History of Monotheism
Historians disagree about the origin and history of monotheism. Many scholars believe that the first recorded instance of a monotheistic religion was in Egypt circa 1350 BC under the rule of the pharaoh Akhenaten. Egyptian religion was polytheistic in nature, and Akhenaten's departure from this tradition was a radical change in Egyptian society. In ancient Egypt, the pharaoh was seen as both a god and a ruler; therefore, his beliefs and dictates carried enormous significance. The religion Akhenaten created was based on the worship of the sun god Aten. Today, Egyptologists and religious scholars call this faith Atenism, and many believe it is the first instance in the historic records of a truly monotheistic faith. However, others disagree. We know very little about how widespread Atenism was or if believers believed that Aten was the only god or simply the most powerful god. Atenism did not last long. It more or less disappeared several decades after Akhenaten's death, and the official religion of the Egyptian court returned to the previous polytheistic faith that had been practiced for centuries. There are many theories that attempt to explain why Atenism died out, but one of the most logical is that the majority of the Egyptian people simply saw this belief as heresy. In other words, it was too different from their traditional faith to be widely accepted.
Zoroastrianism, which originated in ancient Persian, was another monotheistic faith. While Zoroastrianism was once widespread in the Middle East, it has very few followers today. The religion is named after its founder, Zoroaster, about whom very little is known. Historians are not even sure which century he was born in.
Judaism is the oldest major monotheistic religion in the world today. It originated in the area that is now made up of the nation of Israel and the Palestinian territories. The Jewish people were originally polytheistic, but they eventually abandoned all their gods and goddesses except for one, Yahweh. Religious historians disagree as to the exact time that the Jewish people adopted Yahweh as their sole god, but many believe that this event occurred during the 6th century BC. The most important religious text in Judaism are the Hebrew Scriptures, which includes parts of the Old Testament in Christianity. This collection of texts contains numerous stories about how God interacted with the Jewish people and gave them a set of laws to live by.
Christianity was founded in the first century AD as a Jewish reform movement by Jesus of Nazareth in the Roman province of Judea. Christians were at first persecuted by the Romans, but the religion grew rapidly in the Mediterranean region and by the 4th century AD became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Islam, the world's second largest monotheistic faith, was founded in the 7th century AD by Mohammed. It shares many similarities to both Christianity and Judaism. In fact, these three religions are known as the Abrahamic faiths. This is because all three of them revere the Biblical figure of Abraham and can trace the lineage of their founders back to him.
The following section explores the concept of monotheism in more detail.
Monotheism in Hinduism
Hindus do not believe in monotheism. They have hundreds of different gods and goddesses. However, some Hindus practice henotheism. Henotheism exists when one god is worshipped more than the other gods in the pantheon of a religion. Within Hinduism, the worship of the god Krishna above all the others is called Krishnaism, and is considered to be a form of Henotheism. Henotheism is rooted in the concept of polytheism and is, in fact, dependent on it. Therefore, henotheism can not be considered a form of monotheism, even though it bares some similarities to it.
Monotheism in Christianity
Christianity has more adherents than any other religion in the world. However, there are many different branches of Christianity. The largest of these is Catholicism. The Roman Catholic Church is headquartered in the Vatican City in Rome and is led by a man called the Pope.
Traditionally, Christians believe that the founder of their faith, Jesus of Nazareth, was the son of God and that he was resurrected for a short time after his death circa 33 AD. Christians vary in their theological beliefs, but for the most part the teachings of Jesus Christ are the center of theology of most Christian denominations.
Despite the fact that Christianity is a monotheistic faith, most Christian denominations believe in the trinity. The trinity refers to the belief that God has three natures: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Father refers to the traditional concept of God. The Son is Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is the spirit that binds the father and son together. (Note: Different theologians have varying explanations as to the nature of the Holy Ghost. Some even believe that it is unexplainable.) This trinitarian form of monotheism acknowledges one God in three persons.
Monotheism in Islam
In Islam, Allah is the name of the one and only God, the only being that can be worshipped or called 'God." However, even in Islam there are lesser divine beings. One of these is an angel. Angels are spiritual creatures created by God to act as messengers. Christians and Jews believe in angels, as well. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was visited by the angel Gabriel, who dictated the text of the Qur'an (the holy book of Islam) to him. Mohammed is, therefore, considered to be a prophet of God. Muslims, Jews, and Christians all believe in the existence of prophets. Prophets are people who are specially chosen by God to receive his word. Muslim people believe that Mohammed was the last and greatest of Allah's prophets. However, they also believe that God sent other prophets in the past, including Jesus.
There are several different sects of Islam. The two largest are Sunni and Shi'a. The main differences in these denominations is the belief in who was the anointed successor of Mohammed. Adherents to the Sunni branch of Islam believe that Mohammed's successor was Abu Bakr, while adherents to the Shi'ite branch believe that it was Ali ibn Abi Talib.
Monotheism is the belief in a single god. This is the opposite of polytheism, which is the belief in many gods. The two largest monotheistic faiths are Christianity and Islam. Christianity is the most widespread religion on Earth. Islam is divided into many different branches, the two largest of which are Sunni and Shi'a. The main difference between these two sects of Islam lie in the belief over who Mohammed's true successor was.
Monotheism probably originated in Egypt in circa 1350 BC with the pharaoh Akhenaten. However, this particular form of monotheism quickly died out. The largest polytheistic religion in the world is Hinduism. Some Hindus practice henotheism, which is the worship of one god over other lesser gods.
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Which faith is monotheistic?
A monotheistic faith is a religion that believes in only one god. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are all monotheistic faiths.
What is monotheism in religion?
Monotheism is the belief in a single god. This is the opposite of polytheism, which is the belief in many different gods.
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