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In theology, monotheism (Greek μόνος(monos) = single and θεός(theos) = God) is the belief in the existence of one deity or God, or in the oneness of God. In Western context, the concept of "monotheism" tends to be dominated by the concept of the God of the Abrahamic religions and the Platonic concept of God as put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.
The concept of monotheism has largely been defined in contrast with earlier polytheistic religions, and monotheism tends to overlap with other Unitary concepts, such as monism.
Ostensibly monotheistic religions may still include concepts of a plurality of the divine, for example the Christian Trinity, or the veneration of Saints, as well as the belief in "lesser spirits" such as angels or demons.
Historically, monotheism emerges from the Late Bronze Age in a gradual process comprising henotheistic and panentheistic notions. Monotheism only became historically widespread as a belief system during the Axial Age, and is associated with the philosophical and moral revolution of that age.
- 1 Abrahamic religions
- 2 Dharmic religions
- 3 Other religions
- 4 The development of monotheism
- 5 Other types of monotheism
- 6 Further reading
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 External links
- 10 References
- Main article: Abrahamic religion
Source of Abrahamic religions
Although the major source of both Christianity and Judaism is the Hebrew Bible, Judaism and Christianity may have received influences from various non-biblical religions present in Egypt and Syria. This can be seen by the Torah's reference to Egyptian culture in Genesis and the story of Moses, as well as the mention of Hittite and Hurrian cultures of Syria in the Genesis story of Abraham. The Hebrews are a group of the Canaanite peoples who prior to the development of monotheism practised a polytheistic religion.
- Main article: Judaism
Judaism is one of the oldest known monotheistic faiths. The best-known Jewish statements of monotheism occur in the Shema prayer, the Ten Commandments and Maimonides' 13 Principles of faith, Second Principle:
"[God], the Cause of all, is one. This does not mean one as in one of a pair, nor one like a species (which encompasses many individuals), nor one as in an object that is made up of many elements, nor as a single simple object that is infinitely divisible. Rather, God is a unity unlike any other possible unity. This is referred to in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4): "Hear Israel, the LORD
is our God, the LORD is one."
There has historically been disagreement between the understanding of monotheism among Hasidic and the original perspective of the Mitnagdim Jews on this issue. A similar situation of opposing views on monotheism is seen in modern times among Dor Daim, students of the Rambam, segments of Lithuanian Jewry, and portions of the Modern Orthodox world toward Jewish communities that are more thoroughly influenced by Lurianic Kabbalistic teachings such as Hasidism and large segments of the Sepharadi and Mizrahi communities. This dispute is likely rooted in the differences between what are popularly referred to as the "philosophically inclinded" sources and the "kabbalistic sources;" the "philosophic sources" include such Rabbis as Saadia Gaon, Rabenu Bahya ibn Paquda, Abraham ibn Ezra, and Maimonides. The "kabbalistic sources" include Rabbis such as Nahmanides, Bahya ben Asher, Rabbi Yitzhak Saggi Nehor, and Azriel. The Vilna Gaon is usually granted great respect in modern times by those who side with both views; by the more kabbalistic segments of Judaism he is regarded as a great kabbalist; those who take the other side of the issue regard him as a strict advocate of the people of Israel's historical monotheism.
- Main article: Christianity
Christians profess belief in one God. Historically, most Christian churches have taught that the nature of God is something of a mystery: while being a unity, God also manifests as three entities: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (collectively called the Trinity), the classic Christian "three becomes one" formula. Typically, Christian orthodoxy holds that these three entities are not independent but are homoousios (a Hellenistic Greek transliteration), meaning sharing the same essence or substance of divinity. The true nature of the Trinity is held to be an inexplicable mystery, deduced from New Testament but developmentally is the result of theological debate in the Council of Nicea in 325, codified in 381, and reached its full development through the work of the Cappadocian Fathers.
However, some critics consider that Christianity is a form of Tritheism. While this might be true in some instances, Christianity is properly understood as Tripartite monotheism.  For Jews and Muslims, the idea of God as a trinity is heretical - it is considered akin to polytheism.
Christians overwhelmingly assert that monotheism is central to the Christian faith; "I believe in one God" is a key statement in the most widely used Christian creeds. Moreover, some Christian groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals, do not teach the doctrine of the Trinity at all, while many individual Christians formulate their own opinions on the matter which may or may not follow the doctrine of their tradition. Other small Christian groups have their own unique viewpoint. For example, the Rastafarians, like many Christians, hold that God is both a unity and a trinity, in their case God being Haile Selassie. Some Christian denominations, such as the Roman Catholic Church practice Veneration of Saints, which critics claim is a form of polytheism. However, Roman Catholic teaching regards veneration of saints and prayers to saints as no different from petitioning a living person to pray to God on behalf of the petitioner.
- Main article: Tawhīd
Islam means "submission to God". In Islam monotheism is unambigiously absolute, not relative or pluralistic in any sense of the word, as emphasized for example in surah Al-Ikhlas. Islam accepts as its fundamental tenet the oneness and uniqueness of God, the Arabic word for monotheism is Tawhīd which means 'being one', i.e. alone, only one in number.
The Shahadah (الشهادة) (meaning testimony, declaration), or the Islamic creed, is the declaration of belief in the oneness of God (Allah in Arabic) and the prophethood of Muhammad. It goes as follows (Transliteration): "Ash-hadu an la-ilaha illa Allah, Wa Ashhadu Anna Muhammad Rasoolu Allah", Its translation: I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship (in truth) but God, and I testify that Muhammad is God's messenger. Its declaration and belief is considered the first of the Five Pillars of Islam by Muslims. To become a Muslim one just has to sincerely believe in the above statement inwardly and outwardly state this shahadah. The salaat (five daily prayers) in Islam, for example, involve explicit Abrahamic monotheistic testimony.
According to Islam the "oneness of God" is the primary teaching of all prophets and messengers of God (including Jesus and Moses) sent to humanity for guidance. Furthermore, Islam considers Christianity's Trinity polytheism and a distortion of Jesus's original message of oneness of God.
- Main article: Bahá'í concept of God
The Oneness of God is one of the core teachings of the Bahá'í Faith. Bahá'ís believe that there is one supernatural being, God, who has created all the creatures and forces in the universe. God is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty."  Bahá'ís believe that although people have different concepts of God and His nature, and call Him by different names, everyone is speaking of the same one Being. God is taught to be a personal God in that God is conscious of His creation, has a mind, will and purpose. At the same time the Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully understand Him or to create a complete and accurate image of Him. Bahá'u'lláh attributed titles to God such as the All-Powerful, and the All-Loving, which are derived from the limited human experiences of power, love, or justice. Bahá'u'lláh teaches that human knowledge of God is limited to those attributes and qualities which are perceptible to us, and thus direct knowledge about the essence of God is not possible. Bahá'ís believe, thus, that through daily prayer, meditation and study they can grow closer to God. The obligatory prayers in the Bahá'í Faith involve explicit monotheistic testimony.
Furthermore Bahá'u'lláh states that the knowledge of the attributes of God is revealed to humanity through the messengers he sends to humanity. The Bahá'í Faith accepts the authenticity of the founders of monotheistic faiths such as Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad, et cetera. Given Bahá'í beliefs in the unity of religion and that revelation is progressive, some non-Abrahamanic religions are accepted and seen as providing an earlier or partial understanding of the unity of God. This is not only true of seemingly polytheistic traditions such as popular Hinduism, which follows Smarta tradition, for the most part but even of what are sometimes interpreted as atheistic teachings, such as Buddhism.
- Main article: Dharmic religions
- Main article: Hinduism
Contemporary Hinduism is divided into four major divisions, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism [How to reference and link to summary or text]. The denominations all believe in one God but differ in their conceptions. The two primary form of differences are between the two monotheistic denominations 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. Smartas, who follow Advaita philosophy, 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 Smarta aspects of God include Devi, Vishnu, Ganesh, and Siva. It is the Smarta view that dominates the view of Hinduism in the West. By contrast with Smarta/Advaita belief, Vaishnavism and Shaivism follows a singular concept of God, or panentheistic monotheism or panentheistic monism. For more on Vaishnava monism, see Krishnology.
The Vedas are the most sacred texts (śruti) in Hinduism. The oldest of them, the Rigveda, at more than 3000 years old, contains evidence for emerging monotheistic thought. Often quoted are pada 1.164.46c,
- ékam sád víprā́ bahudhā́ vadanti
- "To what is One, sages give many a title" (trans. Griffith)
and hymns 10.129 and 10.130, dealing with a creator deity, especially verse 10.129.7:
- iyám vísṛṣṭiḥ yátaḥ ābabhûva / yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná / yáḥ asya ádhyakṣaḥ paramé vyóman / sáḥ aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda
- "He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, / Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not." (trans. Griffith)
Ékam sát in 1.164.46c means "One Being" or "One Truth".
Many Hindus believe that God has six attributes. However, the actual number of auspicious qualities of God, are countless, with the following six qualities being the most important.
- The number six is invariably given, but the individual attributes listed vary. One set of attributes (and their common interpretations) are:
- Jñāna (Omniscience), defined as the power to know about all beings simultaneously;
- Aishvarya (Sovereignty, derived from the word Ishvara), which consists in unchallenged rule over all;
- Shakti (Energy), or power, which is the capacity to make the impossible possible;
- Bala (Strength), which is the capacity to support everything by will and without any fatigue;
- Vīrya (Vigor), or valour which indicates the power to retain immateriality as the supreme being in spite of being the material cause of mutable creations; and
- Tejas (Splendor), which expresses his self-sufficiency and the capacity to overpower everything by his spiritual effulgence.; (cited from Bhakti Schools of Vedanta, by Swami Tapasyānanda.)
Additionally, many Hindus, including Smartas, believe in God having three aspects as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the Trimurti (also called the Hindu trinity.) and these different aspects are part of the one and the same God.
- Further information: Hindu views on monotheism
Sri Krishna said: "Amongst those who worship a particular demigod which represents a potency of Lord Krishna then He as paramatma the Supreme Soul within all sentient beings monitoring every thought and action, makes such devotees faith steady and stable. Of others who worship illusory gods, His external potency known as Maya the deluding illusory energy keeps them steadily following the illusion of their erroneous philosophies and speculative theosophies that have no validity not being verified as bonafide in the Vedic scriptures." Gita: 7:21-22)
"They call It (Him) Indra, Varuna, Agni; and He is the heavenly Nobly-winged Garuthman ! Truth is One, Sages give It many a title; Agni,Yama, Matharisvan, they call It (Him)!!" (Rig Veda - - I -164 - 46).
Monotheism in Hinduism is known as "Ekanyana" and God Almighty is Ekam (One.)
In Hinduism, a Hindu who follows the Smarta Advaita tradition can select their "Ishta-deva" (God that one prays to most.) This is not true of other faiths such as Vaishnavism.
- Main article: Sikhism
Sikhism is a distinctly monotheistic faith that rose in northern India during the 16th and 17th centuries. Sikhs believe in one, timeless, omnipresent, supreme creator. The opening verse of the Guru Granth Sahib, known as the Mool Mantra signifies this:
- Punjabi: ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
- Transliteration: Ik ōaṅkār sat nām karatā purakh nirabha'u niravair akāl mūrat ajūnī saibhaṁ gur prasād.
- English: One Universal Creator God. The Name Is Truth. Creative Being Personified. No Fear. No Hatred. Image Of The Undying, Beyond Birth, Self-Existent. By Guru's Grace ~
The word "ੴ" is pronounced "Ik ōaṅkār" and is comprised to two parts. The first part is simply: "੧" - This is simply the digit "1" in Gurmukhi signifying the singularity of the Creator. Together the word means: "There is only one Creator God"
It is often said that the 1430 pages of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib are all expansions on the Mool Mantra. Although the Sikhs have many names for God, they all refer to the same supreme being.
The Sikh holy scriptures refer to the One God who pervades the whole of Space and is the creator of all beings in the whole Universe. The following quotation from the SGGS highlights this point:
"Chant, and meditate on the One God, who permeates and pervades the many beings of the whole Universe. God created it, and God spreads through it everywhere. Everywhere I look, I see God. The Perfect Lord is perfectly pervading and permeating the water, the land and the sky; there is no place without Him."SGGS Page 782
The Sikhs believe that Allah - The name of God used by Muslim is a valid name to use. Similarly, the name Hari, Raam, Paarbrahm, Krishan which are names of God used by Hindus are frequently mentioned in the Sikh holy scriptures. The same God of the Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc is the Akal Purakh, the primal being of the Sikhs.
In ancient Egypt
Ancient Middle-Eastern religions may have worshipped a single god within a pantheon and the abolition of all others, as in the case of the Aten cult in the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, under the chiefly influence of the Eastern-originating Nefertiti. Iconoclasm during this pharaoh's rule is considered a chief origin for the subsequent destruction by some groups of idols, holding that 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 deity).
Other issues such as Divine Right of Kings may possibly also stem from pharaonic 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, perhaps exemplify this relationship between the pharaoh and the heavens.
Zoroastrianism is considered to be one of the earliest monotheistic beliefs, but the Zoroastrian definition of monotheism is neither comparable nor compatible with the monotheism of other religions that - in addition to being monotheistic - are also monist.
In Zoroaster's revelation, Ahura Mazda is a transcendental and universal God, the one uncreated Creator (standard appellation) and to whom all worship is ultimately directed. However, Zoroaster also perceives Mazda to be wholly good, and that His creation is wholly good. In conflict with creation is anti-creation, evident in the created world as decay and disorder. Since anti-creation is purely destructive it cannot have been created (otherwise it would self-destruct) and hence must - like the Creator himself - be uncreated.
In the Gathas, Zoroaster does not acknowledge any divinity other than Ahura Mazda. However, the hymns of Indo-Iranian religious tradition (of which the Gathas are a part) are always addressed to a specific divinity and those closely associated with Him, and in this sense the Gathas are not (necessarily) a denial of the other divinities, but the exhaltation of a specific one. Although not mentioned by name (in the Gathas, [Ahura] Mazda is itself an epithet, not yet a proper name), Zoroaster implicitely acknowledges the existance of other Ahuras "Lords", as in "thou who art the mightiest Ahura and the Wise (Mazda) One" (Yasna 33.11). In addition to these lords that are "worthy of worship" (yazata), Zoroaster also refers to the daevas as the 'wrong' gods, or 'false' gods, or gods 'that should not be worshipped' and whose followers are to be brought onto the path of righteousness. In later Zoroastrian tradition, the daevas are demons, but this is not yet evident in the prophet's own poetry.
Zoroastrianism is thus monotheistic inasfar as all worship is untimately directed to Ahura Mazda. However, unlike Zurvanite Zoroastrianism, neither revealed nor present-day Zoroastrianism is monist. At no time did Zoroastrianism preclude the existence or worship of other divinities, which are today considered to be aspects or evidence of creation and hence of the Creator. The invocation of divinities besides Ahura Mazda is however common practice in Zoroastrian tradition, and is not necessarily either a sign of henotheism (the one extreme interpretation) or the worship of pure abstractions (the other extreme): In the past it was common for an individual, household or clan to adopt a patron divinity and although several attempts have been made to define ancient Zoroastrianism on the evidence of such adoptions - for instance, in inscriptions or in theophoric names - these are inherently unsuitable for that purpose.
The development of monotheism
History in Abrahamic religions
The word "monotheism" is Greek, “mon” meaning alone, and “theos” meaning God. The belief in the existence of one God, or in the oneness of God. Monotheism characterises Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism having the earliest origins of these three shows an interesting development of the concept. In Genesis chapter one, God is put in the singular context. He is unambiguously singular, and therefore Genesis chapter one could be said to be a Monotheistic. (Gen 1:1) However, if we look at God’s interaction with Abraham, the evidence is less compelling. According to the book of Judith, the Patriarchs (starting with Abraham), left the gods of their fathers. (Jdt 5:7) God is later to reveal Himself not as the only God, but rather as the god whom Abraham knows. (Gen 15:17) In such a respect, God is not God alone, but the god who was worshipped by Abraham’s clan. In such a context, it is a type of tribal deity, that although was worshipped alone, did not explicitly exclude the existence of other gods, who were not relevant to them.
In the early Mosaic era, the possibility of other gods is left an open question, although by this stage Israel claims that their God is greater. (Ex 18:11) This same subtle shift is shown in 2 Chr 2:5, and could indicate that Israel understood that the God they recognised was God alone, and other gods were therefore false. This would be Monotheism in the proper sense of the word. By the time of the prophet Isaiah, Monotheism is solidly and explicitly accepted. “Thus says the LORD , the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD
of hosts: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” (Is 44:6) Thus, the development of the people of Israel to a true Monotheism, appears to be a gradual process, with the exception of Gen 1:1. It is therefore likely that Gen 1:1 was redacted later than the other examples supplied, and so, the development of Monotheism comes firstly on a tribal level, and gradually advances to recognition that the God of Israel is the only God. It is into this context that Christianity emerges, and thus Christianity was from the outset Monotheistic. (John 1:1)
Likewise, Islam claims Abrahamic origins, and is also instructed there is one God in the Koran: “And your God is one God! There is no god but He; He is the Beneficent, the Merciful.” (Surah 2:163). Thus, Islam is considered foundationally Monotheistic.
- For Muslim critiques, see Allah Almighty's Response to pagan and trinitarian polytheism; Miller, Dr. Gary, A concise reply to Christianity.
- (Bhagavad-gita: 7:21-22)
- ‘ Merriam-Webster Dictionary’; http://www.m-w.com/; retrieved 25 March 2006.
- “Monotheism”, in Britannica, 15th ed. (1986), 8:266.
- “Monotheism”, in Britannica, 15th ed. (1986), 8:266.
- R.G.Vincent, “Monotheism (in the Bible)” in New Catholic Encyclopedia, (1967), 9:1066.
Monotheism, polytheism or monism?
|Hebrew||שמע ישראל יי אלהנו יי אחד|
|Common transliteration||Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad|
|English||Hear, O Israel! The LORD
is our God! The LORD is One!
The literal word meanings are roughly as follows:
- Shema — 'listen' or 'hear.' The word also implies comprehension.
- Yisrael — 'Israel', in the sense of the people or congregation of Israel
- Adonai — often translated as 'Lord', it is used in place of the Tetragrammaton
- Eloheinu — 'our God', a plural noun (said to imply majesty rather than plural number) with a pronominal suffix ('our')
- Echad — 'one'
In this case, Elohim is used in the plural as a form of respect and not polytheism.
Gen.1:26 And Elohim said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Elohim is morphologically plural in form in Hebrew, but generally takes singular agreement when it refers to the God of Israel (so the verb meaning "said" in this verse is vayyomer ויאמר with singular inflection, and not vayyomru ויאמרו with plural inflection), and yet in this case the "our" and "us" seems to create a presumption of plurality, though it may just be God talking to angels and not another god.
Judaism, however, insists that the "LORD
is One," as in the Shema, and at least two interpretations exist to explain the Torah's use of the plural form. The first is that the plural form "Elohim" is analogous to the royal plural as used in English. The second is that, in order to set an example for human kings, Elohim consulted with his court (the angels, just created) before making a major decision (creating man).
In the west, the Hebrew Bible has been the primary source describing how and when Monotheism was introduced into the Middle East and the west. As believed by followers of some of the Abrahamic religions, it teaches that when Abraham discovered God (Genesis 12:1-9  ; 13:14-18  ; 15  18  ; and 22 ), he thus became the world's first Monotheist. According to these, until then, in ancient history all cultures believed in a variety of multiple deities such as in idolatry, forces and creatures of nature as in animism, or in celestial bodies as in astrology, but did not know the one and only true God.
However, the Hebrew Bible teaches that, at Creation, Adam and Eve knew God (and so did their descendants) but that over the ages, God and his name were forgotten. This is how one of the most important Jewish sages, Maimonides describes the process in his work the Mishneh Torah:
- In the days of Enosh mankind made a huge error...they reasoned that since the Lord created the stars and the heavenly spheres and placed them in the skies giving them great significance, and they serve before Him, it is therefore fitting to praise and elevate them and give them honor believing this to be the Lord's will to honor that which He makes great and honorable...The people then built altars to worship the stars and to praise and bow down to them...and this was the essence of idol worship (avoda zara)...After a few generations false prophets arose and said that the Lord had actually commanded people to worship the stars...and they built images in their honor...spreading these false images by building them in gathering places, under trees, on tops of hills, and in valleys, gathering people who bowed down to them declaring: 'Such and such an image brings good or bad luck and therefore fear it'...after a number of generations, the Divine Name was completely forgotten...until the mighty one (Abraham), began to question this in his mind and asked 'How could it be that the heavenly sphere moves without a Mover behind it? because it is impossible that it moves itself', and he had no teacher and no-one to inform him for he lived in Ur of the Chaldees surrounded by foolish idol worshippers...He (Abraham) subsequently arose and made it known to the people that there is only one Lord in the entire world and that only He should be worshipped, gathering people from city to city and kingdom to kingdom until he came to the land of Canaan calling out as it says: '[Abraham] planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called in the name of God, Lord of the Universe (El olam). (Genesis 21:33)' (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Sefer Mada ("Book of Knowledge"), Chapter 1, Hilchos Avodah Zarah ("Laws of [forbidden] idol worship"). Hebrew text)
Judaism claims to have an important advantage over all other religions because its earliest history, beliefs, laws, and practices are preserved and taught in the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) which provides the clearest textual source for the rise and development of what is named Judaism's ethical monotheism which means that:
- (1) There is one God from whom emanates one morality for all humanity. (2) God's primary demand of people is that they act decently toward one another...The God of ethical monotheism is the God first revealed to the world in the Hebrew Bible. Through it, we can establish God's four primary characteristics:
- God is supernatural.
- God is personal.
- God is good.
- God is holy.
- ...in the study of Hebrew history: Israel's monotheism was an ethical monotheism. Dennis Prager
When Moses returned with the Ten Commandments, the second of those stated that "you shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3), right after the first, which affirmed the existence of God. Furthermore, Israelites recite the Shema Yisrael ("Hear O' Israel") which partly says, "Hear, O' Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." Monotheism was and is the central tenet of the Israelite and the Jewish religion.
Other types of monotheism
- Main article: Comparative religion
Some argue that there are various forms of monotheism, including:
- Theism a term that refers to the belief in the existence of a God or divine being.
- 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 and in the scriptures of the semitic religions. The long time Monistic interpretation of Hindu scriptures is different from the interpretation of Semitic scriptures which claim exclusive monotheism as it encompasses pantheism, 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 well be presented as tantamount to atheism, deism or panentheism.
- Panentheism, or Monistic Monotheism, is a form of theism that holds that God contains, but is not identical to, the Universe. The One God is omnipotent and all-pervading, the universe is part of God, and God is both Immanent and Transcendent. This is also the view of Process theology and also Vishistadvaita Vedanta Hinduism. According to this school, from Ramanuja, 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 Vishistadvaita Vedanta Hinduism is omnipotent. Panentheism is thought of as "God is within the universe as the soul is within the body".
- Substance monotheism, found 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 vague similarities to the Christian trinitarian view of three persons sharing one nature.
- Henotheism involves devotion to a single God while accepting the existence of other gods.
On the surface, monotheism is in contrast with polytheism, which believes in worship of many gods/divinities. In actuality there are many faiths that hold both beliefs. For instance, Inclusive monotheism claims that all deities are just different names/forms for the single monotheistic God; Smartism, a major denomination of Hinduism, adheres to this belief in the oneness of God (Brahman/Ishwar) who can be envisioned with different aspects and can be called by different names. Exclusive monotheism, on the other hand, claims that worship of divinities such as angels and gods that are other than the one God is incorrect or demonic, though they may believe in their existence. Vaishnavism, a denomination of Hinduism, regards the worship of anyone other than Vishnu (without acknowledgement of Vishnu as the ultimate source) as misguided, or even incorrect. Exclusive monotheism is a well-known tenet in the beliefs of the Abrahamic religions.
Monotheism is often contrasted with dualism, which is simply two of anything - not just divinities and not necessarily in opposition. This contrast is an accidental confusion of dualism (an ism) with ditheism (a theism) resulting from a parallel confusion of monism (again, an ism) with [exclusive] monotheism (the theism). A ditheistic religion would be one that promoted the worship of two divinities (not just concepts), both of which are are of equal status but in polar opposition to each other. Unlike the term "ditheism", the term "dualism" does not by itself indicate what the duality is in respect to. It could be good and evil but is not necessarily so. Even when the opposition is between good and evil, these are not necessarily represented as divinities. Even when they are represented as divinities, they are not necessarily of equal rank, but if so, these two are then a ditheistic pair. This still does not however preclude the two from being part of a greater monist or even monotheistic system unless the monotheism in question is of the exclusive type.
- Dever, William G.; (2003). Who Were the Early Israelites?, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI.
- Silberman, Neil A.; and colleagues, Simon and Schuster; (2001) The Bible Unearthed New York.
- Whitelam, Keith; (1997). The Invention of Ancient Israel, Routledge, New York.
- Hans Köchler, The Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity. Vienna: Braumüller, 1982. ISBN 3-7003-0339-4 (Google Print)
- Abrahamic religion
- Hindu views on monotheism
- Monistic theism
- The People of Monotheism
- Psychology of religion