A BRIEF HISTORICAL SURVEY OF THE MONOTHEISTIC CONCEPT IN RELIGIOUS BELIEF AND PRACTICE: INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

In its most general sense monotheism simply means one-God-ism, the concept that there is one and only one God. Neither historians nor anthropologists are of one mind, however, about when and how monotheism originated and developed. There are different theories regarding its early phases and later developments. But these do not satisfactoricaly account for the ascendency of monotheism, even with the idea of some speculations based on various archeological documents and evidence from fossils of animals and human beings found in resent times. However, some philosophers and social scientists tried their best to prove the priority of monotheism, the concept of One-God-ism in comparison with various other conceptions of God or gods in the history of human religious life. According to them, many ancient religions, such as Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Indian and Chinese and even primitive religions initially affirmed a monotheistic concept of God, but later on, due to polytheistic practices, those monotheistic beliefs became merged with polytheism.

Similarly the Abrahamic religious traditions hold that the first man of the world received this concept of monotheism through divine knowledge given to him by his Creator, and then reasserted by the later prophets. Afterwards these traditions tell us, the majority of people turned away from this original monotheism to polytheism while still leaving some people adhering to some sort of monotheism though usually being misguided away from the straight path of their earlier prophets, especially after latter had died. Then again some of them are said to have come back to monotheism by the sincere efforts of the later prophets. According to this view, the majority of people turned from monotheism to polytheism and then from polytheism a minority of them came back to monotheism. But, for a long time thereafter, most of the people remained engaged with polytheistic practices related to the concept of God or gods while some of them retained still monotheistic beliefs and practices.

However, after the establishment of such monotheistic religions as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the majority of people came back to monotheism in the course of time, while still leaving some others to polytheism. Thus, majority of people in the present world are more or less monotheists.

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