Uncommon Sense

August 9, 2020

Monotheism was Inevitable, Right? Wrong.

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:07 am
Tags: , , ,

I wrote a rather long answer to a question on Quora and I decided to share that argument here in a post. The question was asking about the numbers of gods in the existing religions. Plus, it is Sunday and this is usually time for a religious post.

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That the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) have only one god is a political outcome, not a theological one. The theology was created to support the political outcome.

Historically, religions threw in their lot with kings to acquire state power. I know more of Christianity, so I draw my examples from it. Christianity sucked up mightily to the Roman Empire early in the first millennium to acquire the power of that state. (It worked, the Romans spread Christianity widely.) But, weren’t the Romans the ones that crucified their god? Apparently that little fact didn’t deter the lust for state power. Rome had the most state power, so suck up to Rome was the plan.

At the same time, secular rulers realized that religion was a more effective tool in getting people to obey than soldiers were. Plus. if they got in a contest with religion, there would be winners and losers, but if they formed a coalition, instead, they would both be winners.

Now consider a king with many gods, many priests, and many visionaries/prophets/etc. When a decision had to be made, which would the king rather do: negotiate with many god’s representatives as to what to do or negotiate with just one such representative, a representative the king could treat well (bribe) and with suitable arguments (bribes) get the recommendation the king desired. (God is on our side in the coming conflict—quick, send this message to the troops.)

We ended up with large monotheistic religions primarily because of politics.

Think about it! If there really were only one god, would that god have allowed his creation, mankind, to create such a large number of imaginary gods (thousands of them!). No, the one and only True God™ would have nipped that in the bud and everyone would have acknowledged that there was but one god from the beginning.

In the Bible the evidence therein shows that it took over a thousand years for the Hebrews to go from polytheism, to monolatry (the worship of one god without denial of the existence of other gods), to monotheism. Mostly monotheism was forced on the people by the priests and kings (Hint: the elites!). There was no public support for such a concept and scripture didn’t demand it . . . until it became secular policy and then scripture was “adjusted.” (Look up King Josiah if you are dubious.)



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    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by sandomina — August 9, 2020 @ 11:16 am | Reply

  2. Statements about inevitability in history should, I think, be viewed with suspicion. But it does seem like we see a trend, from animistic religion in hunter gathers, to the divine hierarchy with the high gods of polytheism over the old animist spirits, and with the top of that hierarchy increasingly being seen as the supreme authority.

    I do think these developments can be tied to politics. The high gods probably started out as local patron deities that became high after their hometown had conquered a lot of other territory. And the first recorded case of monotheism, Akhenaten, seems like a very political event.

    But denying all the other gods is a pretty jarring event. And it hasn’t happened everywhere. Hinduism, for instance, remains fairly polytheistic. And even traditional Christianity left a hierarchy in place, with angels and saints forming a heavenly bureaucracy.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by SelfAwarePatterns — August 9, 2020 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

    • I think Chrsitianity is far from montheistic. Satan seems to have the power that is god like. He can hide things from Yahweh, for example, and Yahweh is all-knowing.

      The point, though, if a religion becomes montheistic. look to political motivations, not that it is inevitable.

      The inevitability of monotheism was written into scripture to justify the elimination of the other gods or at least their suppression. ANd it isn’t that these people gave up magic, ghosts, curses, spells, witches, etc.

      On Sun, Aug 9, 2020 at 2:27 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 9, 2020 @ 9:59 pm | Reply

      • I agree that Christianity isn’t actually monotheistic. At the very least there is the trinity, the father, the son and the holy spirit, three individual “gods” that are, somehow, supposedly a single entity, but each with their own unique aspect. In Roman Catholicism some variations would include Jesus’ mother as well, giving her virtually god-like status. And then there are the saints. Granted, catholic dogma is that saints are venerated, not worshipped, but in actual practice saints pretty much are worshipped and are also attributed god-like powers as well.

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by grouchyfarmer — August 9, 2020 @ 10:32 pm | Reply

        • This is all part of having one’s cake and eating it too. They say saints are not worshipped, just venerated. Please show how the veneration and the worship are different in any substantial way.

          I think this “we are now monotheistic” movement was for political reasons in the Abrahamic religions, but they kept almost everything around for when needed. The Catholics say “you shall worship no graven images” which stems from the time when the little statues were stand-ins for the gods they represented. So, you go to the Vatican and it is filled with statues, graven from marble and other stones. What are those for? They also claim Jesus said that a rich man will never get into Heaven, but the Pope is dressed up to appear like a rich man to gain respect from other world leaders. They say the Vatican’s riches are to create awe in visitors. So, appearance over substance is the rule of the day?

          On Sun, Aug 9, 2020 at 10:32 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — August 10, 2020 @ 11:46 am | Reply

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