Limitations for Worldviews of the Divine and the Universe: Monotheism and Polytheism

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The Christians believe that God is the creator of the universe and actively manages it to this day; everything within the world was designed and is sustained by God  (“Universe Spirit,” 2018). Within this definition, God is omnipotent, omnipresent and all-knowing, and created mankind within his image (Ekstrand, 2012). God provides salvation by requiring mankind to accept the death of Jesus Christ as payment for mankind's inherent sin, after which mankind can expect to be in Heaven for eternity.

Buddhists believe that a state of Nirvana – a state of a lack of suffering, desire, selfishness, and karma, known within the Buddhist faith as “dukkha” – is their ultimate reality. Reaching nirvana requires practicing a battery of “right” virtues prescribed by Buddha, in eight areas of one's life: views, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. Until one practices these virtues, they are subject to Karma, a pattern of reincarnation in which their past lives' actions dictate the quality of their new life.

Hindus perceive the ultimate reality as Brahman; the duties of the Hindu are to pursue truth and live a life of virtue to obtain closeness to Brahman. While Brahman manifests itself in a polytheistic collection of gods and goddesses, the Hindus' ultimate reality is that these figures serve their own purposes and have jurisdiction over a specific feature of the world. While the Hindus subscribe to the concept of karma, they believe that breaking the cycle of karma is not possible; karma will continue forever (Srinivasan, 2018).

Polytheism and the Worship of Nature

Religions that practice polytheism contrast from the Abrahamic religions in that they believe in a plurality of gods, each with an assigned role within the universe. Commencing with the Ancient Greeks, with the gods famously known as Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, polytheism has survived the test of time and today can be found with an emphasis on nature within the Mormon and Wicca faiths. Joseph Smith founded the Mormon faith differing from traditional Christianity in the belief that the Trinity – God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit – are separate figures, themselves constituting polytheism; Smith stated: 

I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. (“God the Eternal Father,” 2018, para. 23)

They further distinguish themselves from traditional Christianity in their belief that performing sufficient good works can result in a man becoming a god of his own universe; as multiple men have presumably attained this status, this complements the polytheistic nature of Mormonism. Wiccans practice polytheism by offering worship to both the Lord and the Lady of the Isles, commonly known as the horned god and moon goddess (Hutton, 2006). The Wicca faith places a premium on the worship of nature, believing that communication with these gods can be exercised by talking to trees, as they believe the horned god and moon goddess manifest themselves in nature (Sanders, 2002).

Monotheism

The three major world religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, better known as the Abrahamic religions – distinguish themselves from each other on a variety of levels, but find themselves united in their practicing of monotheism, or the belief in a single Supreme Being; the Jews refer to this Supreme Being as “Yahweh”, the Christians as “God”, and the Muslims as “Allah”. While the Abrahamic faiths disagree among themselves as to which of the faiths are truly monotheistic – particularly as the Christians consider God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to be one being- the practice of monotheism is worthy of review.

Within the Jewish faith, Maimonides stated that “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” (Yesode Ha-Torah 1:7). Judaism further believes that human prophets are not possible, unlike the Christian or Islamic faiths, further complementing Judaism's status as a monotheistic faith. However, the Jews do somewhat break from strict monotheism in their belief that the messiah will be a man who will end all evil in the world; the Jews strictly believe that such a messiah will indeed be a man.

Christians believe that there is only one Supreme Being, known as God, who in fact manifests in three different forms, known as the Trinity: God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. While God is the creator of the universe and the active ruler of everything within it, Jesus Christ suffered a death upon a cross to indemnify mankind and restore man's ability to receive salvation, and the Holy Spirit serves as God's channel of communication with man. Islamists believe in monotheism to such a degree that they coined a term for their belief, “Tawhid”; they believe their God (known as Allah) functions like the Jewish and Christian Supreme Beings in exercising complete control over the universe. They further believe, on a staunch basis, that nothing in the universe is entitled to worship except Allah (“Islamic Monotheism,” 2014).

References

Aburrow, Y. (2005). Polytheist Wicca. Association of Polytheist Traditions. Retrieved from https://www.manygods.org.uk/articles/traditions/Wicca.shtml.

Adiswarananda, S. (2018). Hinduism: The ultimate reality. Swami Adiswarananda Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center. Retrieved from https://www.ramakrishna.org/activities/message/weekly_message38.htm

Berlin. A and Brettler, M.Z. & Fishbane, M. (Eds.) (2004). Yesode Ha-Torah 1:7. Cited In The Jewish study Bible. Oxford University Press.

Ekstrand, D.W. (2012). Ultimate reality: The constraints of a worldview. The transformed soul. Retrieved from http://www.thetransformedsoul.com/additional-studies/spiritual-life-studies/ultimate-reality

“God the Eternal Father” (2018). In Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-2?lang=eng

“Islamic Monotheism” (2014). The religion of Islam. Retrieved from https://www.islamreligion.com/articles/10334/islamic-monotheism/

Ronald, H. (2006). The triumph of the moon: A history of modern pagan witchcraft. Oxford University Press.

Sanders, C. (2002). The hidden traps of Wicca. Focus on the Family. Retrieved from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/hidden-traps-of-wicca.

Srinivasan, A.V. (2018). Hinduism for dummies cheat sheet. Retrieved from http://www.dummies.com/religion/hinduism/hinduism-for-dummies-cheat-sheet/

 “Universe Spirit” (2018). God definition, ultimate reality: A master list of names used for the ultimate concern, God, Buddha, the great mystery etc., used both inside and outside of religion 2.0. Retrieved from http://universespirit.org/ultimate-reality-and-the-other-names-used-for-the-ultimate-concern-god-buddha-the-universe-consciousness-the-great-mystery-etc