Monday, December 3, 2007

Polytheism versus Monotheism

Jonathan Kirsch presents some interesting arguments regarding polytheism and its relationship to monotheism. I think its important to remember that he's not necessarily singing the praises of polytheism, nor is he saying we should all return to a polytheistic religion right now, but he does highlight the manner in which polytheism and monotheism have related to one another over time.

His big concern is, of course, zealotry and rigorism. Those who consider themselves "soldiers" of a religion can cause a whole lot of damage to those who don't share their dedication to the faith. His use of paganism and polytheism in general are meant to highlight the zealotry that sometimes comes from monotheistic religions, and the danger to all mankind that results from that zealotry.

Overall, there are a number of important pieces from today's reading, specifically related to the manner in which God won out over the gods. Consider Christianity's position under the Roman empire: the Roman rulers considered it a cult. 300 years later, it was the most powerful religion in the world. What type of factors allow for that to happen, and how does that change the course of World History?

Most importantly, Kirsch's piece should get you thinking about a bunch of "what ifs." What if Akhenaton hadn't believed in monotheism? What if Constantine hadn't become emperor of Rome? What if Julian had succeeded in returning Roman society to a polytheistic empire? These questions should be the beginning of a much bigger discussion of the role of these religious beliefs in human history...and the way in which religion may or may not be very different in the future.


munchkinsrule said...

Julian is known as "Julian the Apostate", apostate being someone who forsake their religion. He became known as an Apostate because he was the last Roman Emperor who tried to bring back old Roman and Greek paganism to an already Christian Rome. He tried to to this because he wanted to slow the spread of Christendom.
So if he hadn't done this, Julian would have been remembered in a more "nicer" way in the books of Christianity.

Alex Rachlin said...

I think the big questions are:
What if Akhenaton hadn't believed in monotheism? What if Constantine hadn't become emperor of Rome?
If Akhenaton hadn't believed in monotheism, I think the religious world of today would be shaped much differntly, possibly not even in the realms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Akhenaton was believed to be the one who later inspired Moses to lead a monotheistic faith, through not even meeting one another. i think that eventually, if Akhenaton hadn't started the monotheistic faith, another man would have, setting up different perspective on the idea.
The big question on Constantine raises a good issue. What if Constantine hadn't been the emperor of the Roman Empire? Though it might not have been very likely, what if one of another belief became emperor instead? Would this religion have lead to a different setting for the future? It just leads to more of the what-if's questions that shape perspective in the world today.



You cannot assume these things. Nor, can you assume that if Akhenaton had not created monotheism someone else would. or if Constantine hadn't become emporer of Rome the Christians would have been saved by others or just left to die by the pagans. What you can assume, is what happened has happened. Evalute what happened and why it happened instead of creating what ifs'. Why did Akhenaton create Monotheism?
Why did Constantine save the Christians?
Maybe it was because they were impelled to or felt a need of change, i don't know, but to truly understand what happened we must talk about these questions and list our ideas.

Your Friendly Neighbor

suzanne said...

i agree with a alex when he said that if Akhenaton hadn't been the first to practice monotheism someone else would have. we can't just assume that Akhenaton was some kind of genius and thats why he knew that monotheism would catch on. it wasn't even popular during his time or directly after his death. esspecially if we believe the theories that Akhenaton was convinced to take on monotheism by a woman, or for some political gain, because there are deffinatly other people who could have had these thoughts or been persaded this way. Akhenaton really wasn't special, so if it hadn't been him it would have been someone else. The same rule applies for Constanine in my opinion.

lalalalalalallala said...

ahhhhhhhhh sorry metal farmer but im gonna have to kinda agree with rachlin. He raises a good point that states that if akenhaten hadn't started the monotheistic belief someone else would have eventually, even if it took millions and millions of years. Although, as they say :I get where youre coming from", I wholeheartedly disagree. Good Point alex!

this is andres ramirez, and im just saying

ps. hey me moran i changed my nickname from munchkins rule to "lalalalalalala" or sometin of the like. Sorry!

callie stein said...

I also agree with alex. if akhenaton hadn't discovered monotheism, or begun it, someone else would have. The question is, what would have been different? What kind of society would it have appeared in? and how long would it have taken to pop up again?

alex rachlin said...

Another image exactly like the Akhenaton one I put forward earlier is Christopher Columbus. The thing with Christopher Columbus is that if he hadn't gone out in search of a new path to the other side of Asia, someone else would have. It's quite simple actually. If Christopher Columbus hadn't gone or got lost, someone else in turn would have tried to find a new path, running into the new world. I was thinking about doing Christopher Columbus for my most important person, but it's exactly for this reason that I chose not to. If he hadn't made the discovery, someone else in turn would have done so, and they would be known all over the world today.