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Monothlism

monotheism, belief, god and gods

MON'OTHLISM (from Gk. /Ann, mottos, single Be6s, Oleos, god). The belief that there is hut one God. in distinction from polytheism, belief in many gods. It has been held that monotheism was a primitive belief, and there are many references to the pure primitive belief in one God. Not only was this assumed in the ease of the Ilehrews, who with the Mohamme dans and Christians are the best type of 1110110 thd,ts, but even in the ease of India the Hindus in the works of (ally Sanskrit scholars are credited with having had and lost a primitive monotheism. The opposite view has been enforced in the last decades by the work of I;istorians, anthropologists. and philologists. Thus the Hebrews became monotheists only after re jecting. in the course of a long straggle, an ear lier belief in gods of stone, divine animals, and gods of other peoples; traces of this belief being still discoverable in the Bible itself. as well .1; historically proved by what we now know of ear lier religious affinities of the Hebrews. So. too, Mohammedanism was first of all a protest against theriolatry, litholatry, and other forms of poly theism. In India, monotheism was an evolution from pantheism, when it was not directly bor rowed from Mohammedanism or Christianity, as is the case with most of the reforming sects of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Zoroas trianism was also essentially a monotheistic re ligion. based upon an earlier polytheism; though its dualistic nature. expressed by the conflict be

tween good and evil, and its retention of the older gods as great spirits, cause it to be popu larly regarded as polytheistic. Thus also the Egyptians worked out from a chaos of hetero geneous gods the idea of one only real God; and in the highest expression of their religion they may he said to be monotheistic, though this monotheism is rather a pantheistic expression of monotheism. It is claimed by some that Chris tianity is not monotheism; that no trinitarian ism eon be a pure monotheism, but must be a tritheism—that is, a belief in three gods. Two objections to this view may be pointed out. in the first place. the corresponding trini tarianism of India in no wise invalidates the belief in the unitarian pantheistic God. of which the three-in-one are merely different expressions. Secondly, the earliest creed of Christianity, as given in I. Cor. viii. 4 f., is clearly monothe istic. Finally, it must be observed that neither in the literal meaning of the word nor in its accepted significance is there any objection to the view that monotheism may be a form of pantheism. The nature of God, whether monistic or part of a dualistic system, is not deducible from the definition, though, doubtless, in the ordinary use of the word, it is understood that the God of monotheism is a creative intelligent spirit governing the universe and not one iden tical with it.