Religion and believers #5 Transition to Monotheism

Transition to Monotheism

Indra’s iconography shows him holding a thunderbolt or Vajra and a sword. In addition he is shown on top of his elephant Airavata, which reinforces his characteristic of King of the Gods.

From the higher Polytheism an easy step leads to some form of Monotheism. The transition may be effected in various ways. Max Müller observed the Vedic poets addressing themselves to the several objects of their devotion, as if each occupied the field alone. Varuna or Indra was for the time being the only god within the worshipper’s view; and to this mode of thought he gave the name Henotheism.[Or Kathenotheism, a term which did not succeed in gaining permanent support, Hibbert Lect., p. 271.] It obviously reappears elsewhere, as it is the natural attitude of prayer, and may be seen in the pious homage of the pilgrims to the Virgin of Loretto or Einsiedeln. Pfleiderer employed the word to denote a relative monotheism like that of the early religion of Israel, whose teachers demanded that the nation should worship but one god, Yahweh or the Elohim Hashem Jehovah, but did not deny the existence of other gods for other peoples. Yet once again the term has been applied to characterize a whole group of religions, like the Indo-Germanic, which are ultimately founded on the unity of the divine nature in a plurality of divine persons. A designation of such doubtful meaning it seems better (with Chantepie de la Saussaye) to abandon. But the unifying process may advance along different lines. The deities of different local centres may be identified; many such combinations took place in Egypt, and Isis in late days served to her votaries as the unitary principle which appeared in one figure after another of whole pantheons. Again, the gods may be viewed as a collective totality, like the “All-gods” of the Vedic poets, or as at Olympia where there was a “common altar for all the gods” (cf. the frequent Roman dedication in later days, “Jovi optimo maximo caeterisque dis immortalibus”). Or the relation between the inferior deities and the most exalted may be conceived politically and explained by Tertullian‘s formula, “Imperium penes unum, officia penes multos.” One particular god may be eminent enough, like Zeus, to rise above all others, and supply cultivated thought with a name for the supreme power; and this may be strengthened by the national motive as in the case of Israel. Or philosophic theology may penetrate to an abstract conception of deity, like the Babylonian ’iluth, or the Vedic devatva and asuratva; and some seer may have the courage and insight to formulate the principle that “the great asuratva of the devas is one” (R.V. iii. 55. 1). “The One with many names” was recognized alike in India and in Greece; “πολλῶν ὀνομάτων μορφὴ μία,” says Aeschylus, almost in the words of the Vedic poet.[R.V. i. 164. 46, “Men call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni. . . . Poets name variously what is but one.”]

Polytheists versus monotheists

Historians have usually recognised only three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islām, but in Christendom we find that many consider their religion monotheistic, though they worship three gods (God the Father, god the son and God the Holy Spirit). Only the non-Trinitarian Christians can really be considered monotheists. The ridiculous part of the Christian Trinity is that those three gods have lesser qualities in common with each other than certain godheads in religions, which those followers of the Trinity have but are calling them polytheists.

There are people who say that there would be 45,000 denominations of Christianity world-wide, which makes us wonder what all the differences between those groups might be, and more important who of those denominations keeps to the Christ of the Bible, who worshipped as a Jew only One God, the God of Israel Who is One, and how many of those 45.000 denominations have gone far away from the Biblical teaching. In some of those denominations, there are even church leaders who do not believe that God exists.

Some professors and PhDs believe that God exists, and some do not. “And they’re all so smart,” you might say to yourself. “If they can’t all come to the same conclusion, what chance is there for me?” Well, just because scholars disagree doesn’t mean we can’t know what is true. After all, every worldview, and we all have one whether you actively think about it or not, has its critics, and often quite famous ones at that. Does that mean we can’t know the truth? Of course not! That’s because we don’t discover what is true by vote but by reason and the weight of the evidence. {Thoughts on God’s existence by Andrew Sveda}

It is from all times that there were people who said one has to believe in something. The apologist, Andrew Sveda, in his post, thoughts on god’s existence, argues that to ask the question “does God exist” implies or assumes that there would be a god and this even in three distinct ways.

One, that had we evolved by natural selection, we would not have developed truth seeking abilities; we would have no desire for truth and finally because our lives have meaning and purpose. {Do fronkeys exist?}

It is well known that those ‘Christians’ who went away from Christ’s teaching and took on the trinity, turned fiercely against those who wanted to keep to the One True  God. But also toward ancestral pagan customs, they were disrespectful.

Paul’s success at Ephesus provoked a riot to defend the cult of the goddess Artemis .

The Christian apologists of the 2nd century found plenty of testimony to their doctrine of the unity of God in the writings of Greek poets and philosophers; it was commonplace in the revival under the Empire, and among the group of religions embraced under the name Buddhism more than one form must be ranked as monotheistic.

Some church leaders found it appropriate to play the rules according to the worldly Roman emperors and not to tread on their feet by insisting there would only be One God. From their study of the Greek and Roman philosophers, they found enough material they could introduce in the Christian faith to please the Greco-Roman pagans. Some of those church leaders wanted to have more power and wanted also to gain more popularity. By playing on the mind of those who loved traditions, statues of deities, it was easily to introduce a similar god as their Zeus or Jupiter and as such, they changed the name of Jeshua ben Josef into Issou (Hail Zeus) which in some other languages became Jesus/Jezus.Jesu/Chesu, but worse made him into a similar three-headed god as the Greco-Roman one.

A few hundred years later the Roman Catholic Church was conscious that Christians were distinct from Jews and therefore should not keep to those laws and all those who kept to the God of Israel, their profession of Christianity was defined as a capital crime — though of a special kind, because one gained pardon by apostasy or total rejection of their faith in Jesus as the son of God who is not God.

Some early Christian emperors added civil sanctions to ecclesiastical laws regarding those who challenged those teachings of a Trinity and called those anti-Trinitarians and those who publicly dissented from the officially accepted dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, heretics and apostates, even when they had not abandoned their religious faith in the Only One True God of gods. Certain theologians of the 4th and 5th centuries considered apostasy to be as serious as adultery and murder. Over the years the church became characterized by inclusivity and continuity, signified by its adherence to baptism and historical creeds, doctrines, liturgies, and forms of organisation.  From then onwards real Christians had it difficult to stay safe in that so-called Christian world.

An illustration in a manuscript of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra from Nalanda, depicting the bodhisattva Maitreya, an important figure in Mahāyāna.

Around the time that Jeshua ben Josef or Jesus was born, in India arose within Indian Buddhism a broad group of Buddhist traditions, texts, philosophies, and practices, and became by the 9th century the dominant influence on the Buddhist cultures of Central and East Asia, which it remains today.

A bronze garden statue of Nichiren Daishonin, the militant Japanese Buddhist prophet who contributed significantly to the adaptation of Buddhism to the Japanese mentality and who remains one of the most controversial and influential figures in Japanese Buddhist history. (Honnoji Temple of Nichiren Shu in Teramachi Street, Kyoto, Japan)

The idealist philosophy of the Prajña Pāramitā, the body of sutras and their commentaries that represents the oldest of the major forms of Mahayana Buddhism, in the system of the “Great Vehicle” declared that “every phenomenon is the manifestation of mind” (Beal, Catena, p. 303). In the “Lotus of the Good Law” (S.B.E. xxi.) the Buddha is the “Father of the World,” “Self-born” or Uncreate (like the eternal Brahma of the Hindu theology), the protector of all creatures, the Healer (Saviour) of the sickness of their sins. These types have reappeared in Japan. Nichiren taught a philosophical monism in the 13th century which is the basis of a vigorous sect at the present day; and the “True Sect of the Pure Land,” founded by his older contemporary Shin-ran, and in the 20th century the most numerous, wealthy and powerful of the Buddhist denominations, has dropped the original Gotama altogether out of sight, and permits worship to Amida alone, the sublime figure of “Boundless Light,” whose saving power is appropriated by faith. Here is a monotheism of a definite and clear-cut type, arising apparently by spontaneous development apart from any external impulse.[Cf. Carpenter, “Japanese Buddhism,” in Hibbert Journal, April 1906, p. 522.] On the other hand, the monotheism of Judaism was subject to serious qualifications. An exuberant demonology admitted all kinds of interfering causes in the field of human life. Above man on earth rose rank after rank of angels in the seven heavens; These were of course created, but they were in their turn the agents of the phenomena of nature, “the angels of the spirit of fire and the angels of the spirit of the winds, and the angels of the spirits of the clouds and of darkness and of snow and of hail and of hoarfrost, and the angels of the voices and of the thunder and of the lightning, and the angels of the spirits of cold and of heat, and of winter and of spring and of autumn and of summer” (Jubilees, tr. R. H. Charles, ii. 2). These powers are of a well-marked animistic type, and correspond to the Chinese Shin, save that they were not incorporated in the cultus. Higher in rank came various mediating forms, like Wisdom, Memra (the Word) or Shekinah (the Presence), more or less definitely personalised.

Mahommedanism still recognizes innumerable jinn peopling the solitudes of the desert, and over the grave of the deceased saint a little mosque is built, and prayers are offered and miracles performed.[Cf. Goldziher, Rev. de l’Hist. des Rel. ii. 257; Weir, The Shaikhs of Morocco (1904). Christianity, or better Christendom,  has, in like manner, in the course of its long and eventful history, admitted numerous agencies within the sphere of superhuman causation. The Virgin, the angelic hierarchy, the saints, have received the believer’s homage, and answered his petitions. Theology might draw subtle distinctions between different forms of devotion; but, tried by the comparisons of the anthropologist, the monotheism even of historical Christianity cannot be strictly maintained.

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Next: Religion and believers #6

Preceding

  1. Religion and believers #1 Lots of groups to be taken interest in
  2. Religion and believers #2 Different forms of Truth
  3. Religion and believers #3 From father and mother gods to land and local gods
  4. Religion and believers #4 Order of Nature and Polytheism on the way to monotheism
  5. Already in the time of Jesus excluding real followers of Christ
  6. Christian in Christendom or in Christianity
  7. Trinitarians making their proof for existence of God look ridiculous #8
  8. Christadelphians or Messianic Christians or Messianic Jews

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Additional reading

  1. How do you define religion?
  2. Truth & doubt
  3. Archeological Findings the name of God YHWH
  4. Jehovah Yahweh Gods Name
  5. I am that I am Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh אהיה אשר אהיה
  6. God of gods – Jehovah, the Adonai, Elohim God of gods our stronghold
  7. Trinity
  8. The Trinity matter – a doctrine by man
  9. Trinity – the Truth about God
  10. History of the Trinity matter
  11. Behind a False doctrine – the Trinity
  12. God’s Self-Revelation
  13. God is one
  14. God of gods
  15. Only One God
  16. God the Father
  17. Attributes to God
  18. God is one
  19. Character of God
  20. When there is a God is it possible to relate to Him
  21. Objects around the birth and death of Jesus
  22. Germanic mythological influences up to today’s Christmas celebrations
  23. A collection of holy writings to show God and His Works
  24. Need to reject an archaic, racist inspired interpretation of the Bible and animosity against other believers
  25. Hanukkahgiving or Thanksgivvukah
  26. If we, in our prosperity, neglect religious instruction and authority
  27. Who has believed

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Related

  1. Dakhma: Towers Of Silence
  2. Philosophy of Religion Series: Zoroastrianism and The Problem of Evil
  3. Pantheism; Its Story and Significance: Now Available!
  4. Animist Existentialism
  5. Seira, transformative experiences, and spiritual materialism
  6. For Apollon, the Mousai, Mnemosyne, and Hermes
  7. False Gospels: On Blindness > Antics > Compromise
  8. Hippies and Hinduism
  9. Variations of Christianity
  10. Monotheism? No Such Thing
  11. In the Incarnation, Humanity Received a New Dignity
  12. Trinity – Trilogy – Triplet
  13. Definition of the day – Trinity
  14. Beyond Belief – What the Heck is the Trinity? Is God Three or Is He One?
  15. Why a Triune God?
  16. God Who Is—is Triune
  17. God the son – part 1
  18. Jesus Is Lord over Nature
  19. Hebrews: Superiority of the Son
  20. Arguing with God and Man
  21. Baba Yaga and the Gods | Jack Chanek
  22. Abrahamia: A new religion on the horizon? – Asad Mirza
  23. Irenaeus of Lyons – Against Heresies
  24. A Time for Heretics
  25. The Paraphrase of Shem
  26. Advent: The Philosophy of Light…
  27. Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
  28. Justin – martyr of Jesus in name only
  29. Convenient
  30. Certain measures 3b Preface – addendum
  31. The Canons on Heresy and Reception of Heretics – Theodoros Balsamon
  32. Confirmation: One Lord, One Faith… One Baptism?

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