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Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
Wmhoerr
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Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Wmhoerr » January 7th, 2019, 7:02 pm

The main Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, present themselves as monotheistic, but is this correct?

In Greek mythology, Gods were distinguished from ordinary people by being immortal. The Devil or Satan of the Semitic religions, whether fallen angel or not, must also be immortal. Were the Devil to die, there would be no one to tempt people into evil. Without Satan, the Semitic religions would not make sense. God and Satan is the duality of good and bad and both are needed to make the religion work.

Belief systems need dualities. Other examples could be ying and yang, light and dark, male and female, or trinities like Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Gods of creation, preservation and destruction in Hinduism. Competing ideas give richness and depth to mythologies.

Following Greek tradition (and who wouldn’t), Satan, being immortal, must also be a God, although a bad one. Archangels like Gabriel and Michael, and other lesser angels, would also be immortal and so also Gods. Are the Semitic religions beginning to sound more like polytheism than monotheism?

While science is a belief system with zero gods, religious systems can only have two or more Gods. Belief systems with one God are the only ones which won’t work.

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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Belindi » January 7th, 2019, 8:36 pm

It's true that evil is easier to discern than good. This does not mean that the evil in the world can be justified by reference to God.

God is worshipped that's to say that God is deemed worthy. But evil is not worshipped therefore evil cannot be on a par with the monotheist or Trinitarian God.

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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Eduk » January 8th, 2019, 3:50 am

Surely if I invent a religion I get to decide how many gods there are?
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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Belindi » January 8th, 2019, 7:38 am

Eduk, all inventions and artistic creations including religions if they are to be adopted into mainstream culture have to pass tests of popularity.

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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Eduk » January 8th, 2019, 7:44 am

all inventions and artistic creations including religions if they are to be adopted into mainstream culture have to pass tests of popularity.
What is your point?
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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Belindi » January 8th, 2019, 7:52 am

My point is that you may and probably can invent a religious doctrine with whatever pantheon you like but it won't become a religion until and unless it becomes somewhat popular.

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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Eduk » January 8th, 2019, 7:56 am

My point is that you may and probably can invent a religious doctrine with whatever pantheon you like but it won't become a religion until and unless it becomes somewhat popular.
It won't become a popular religion. As to whether it's a religion or not is a categorisation problem which I don't have an easy answer for (which is interesting when you think about it).
But anyway that isn't really the point I was making. The point I was trying to make is that if Christians say they believe in one God then why not take their word for it?
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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Belindi » January 8th, 2019, 8:07 am

I do take any person's word for it when they claim whatever belief they do claim, unless there is a sound reason that they may be telling a lie.

I don't accept that Christians have as much authority as do philosophers regarding what may be taken to exist. However I respect quite a few liberal Christians who are able to present pragmatic arguments for a rational form of Christian worship .

https://www.sofn.org.uk/

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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Eduk » January 8th, 2019, 8:51 am

@Belindi I was replying to @Wmhoerr. Sorry for the confusion. @Wmhoerr was stating that religions have to have more than one God or they won't work and I was disagreeing. Your initial response to @Wmhoerr about not worshipping evil is a totally reasonable answer.
However I respect quite a few liberal Christians who are able to present pragmatic arguments for a rational form of Christian worship .
Interesting link. At first glance it parses like a wholly religious site. Specifically a Christian site. If I were to simply skim read it I might assume it was Christian. But that is against the stated aims where they explicitly point out the Christian God is made up. An interesting organisation.
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ktz
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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by ktz » January 8th, 2019, 8:29 pm

I see no one has yet mentioned Exodus 20:1-3:
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.
There may be other "gods" in the Judeo-Christian tradition under the definition of immortality that the OP has provided, but you better not let that Old Testament God catch you calling them that or describing yourself as "polytheistic" or even henotheistic if you plan to worship him. This concept is reiterated in the New Testament and Q'uran as well.

I think the distinguishing characteristic of monotheism is not the lack of existence of other Gods, but the primacy of worship of one singular God over all others. The Wikipedia page on monotheism seems to have some reasonable clarification:
Monotheism has been defined as the belief in the existence of only one god that created the world, is all-powerful and intervenes in the world. A broader definition of monotheism is the belief in one god. A distinction may be made between exclusive monotheism, and both inclusive monotheism and pluriform (panentheistic) monotheism which, while recognising various distinct gods, postulate some underlying unity.

Monotheism is distinguished from henotheism, a religious system in which the believer worships one god without denying that others may worship different gods with equal validity, and monolatrism, the recognition of the existence of many gods but with the consistent worship of only one deity. The term "monolatry" was perhaps first used by Julius Wellhausen.
I'll take this opportunity to restate my position as a pragmatist -- I generally think these sorts of semantic considerations are besides the point. The value of religion I think comes from its ability to translate principled, spiritually conscious behavior into a set of actionable heuristics through the process of worship. I really think certain kinds of theology and hermeneutics that attempt to prove or disprove these sorts of things on an intellectual level are not productive endeavors.
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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Belindi » January 9th, 2019, 7:46 am

ktz wrote:
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.
There may be other "gods" in the Judeo-Christian tradition under the definition of immortality that the OP has provided, but you better not let that Old Testament God catch you calling them that or describing yourself as "polytheistic" or even henotheistic if you plan to worship him. This concept is reiterated in the New Testament and Q'uran as well.
This was at a juncture where Jahweh was in conflict with other gods that were still being actively worshipped at the same time. It was inevitable that Jahweh's people would be jealous for Jahweh's sake. Conflicting ideologies always bring some amount of bother.

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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Conodfam4 » January 9th, 2019, 1:02 pm

If God is God, the creator of all things, and the source of all things including human intellect, then he is the creator of the debate. There is another verse in scripture that reads “God brought frustration to creation so that we may all come to him“.

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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by Eduk » January 9th, 2019, 6:25 pm

“God brought frustration to creation so that we may all come to him“.
Reminds me of this
God refuses to prove that (S)He exists because proof denies faith and without faith God is nothing. Man then counters that the Babel fish is a dead giveaway because it could not have evolved by chance. ... God says that (S)He hadn't thought of that (hadn't thought of 2) and promptly disappears in a puff of logic.
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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by h_k_s » January 10th, 2019, 5:28 pm

Wmhoerr wrote:
January 7th, 2019, 7:02 pm
The main Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, present themselves as monotheistic, but is this correct?

In Greek mythology, Gods were distinguished from ordinary people by being immortal. The Devil or Satan of the Semitic religions, whether fallen angel or not, must also be immortal. Were the Devil to die, there would be no one to tempt people into evil. Without Satan, the Semitic religions would not make sense. God and Satan is the duality of good and bad and both are needed to make the religion work.

Belief systems need dualities. Other examples could be ying and yang, light and dark, male and female, or trinities like Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Gods of creation, preservation and destruction in Hinduism. Competing ideas give richness and depth to mythologies.

Following Greek tradition (and who wouldn’t), Satan, being immortal, must also be a God, although a bad one. Archangels like Gabriel and Michael, and other lesser angels, would also be immortal and so also Gods. Are the Semitic religions beginning to sound more like polytheism than monotheism?

While science is a belief system with zero gods, religious systems can only have two or more Gods. Belief systems with one God are the only ones which won’t work.
The Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and Protestants have changed Christianity so much from its Judean/Galilean roots that you cannot rightly consider it "Semitic" anymore.

Baptism, communion, transubstantiation, grace, these concepts are not Jewish.

And Islam has gone off the deep end with Jihad. Their beheadings are pagan. In Judaism you were stoned not beheaded for capital offenses.

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Re: Are the Semitic religions polytheistic?

Post by h_k_s » January 10th, 2019, 5:42 pm

Conodfam4 wrote:
January 9th, 2019, 1:02 pm
If God is God, the creator of all things, and the source of all things including human intellect, then he is the creator of the debate. There is another verse in scripture that reads “God brought frustration to creation so that we may all come to him“.
There are many different versions of "God" in literature, philosophy, and religion.

First there are the ancient Egyptian Gods; these have all essentially died out. Then the ancient Greek Gods; some modern pseudo-Christian religions still revere a Herculean Jesus and a Father Zeus with a Lord of the Underworld of Hell. Then there is the Zoroastrian fire God (the first truly monotheistic religion) who still is revered in Persia today. Then Moses introduces JHVH and Elohim and several other names of God. Then finally Muhamad comes along in the 7th Century A.D. and introduces Allah an Arabic version of one of the Names of Elohim.

During the Catholic Era of European Middle Age Christianity, Augustine introduces Plato's philosophy-God while Aquinas introduces Aristotle's Prime Mover.

I would not call these concepts all "One God". They are each completely different concepts.

The most heathen of all these today is Islam. They condone murder in the name of religion. Catholics and Protestants used to do so as well, but not today during the new era of worldwide human rights. The Muslims are therefore truly godless.

The most truly pious were and are the Jews. But history recalls them famously murdering one of Their Own in the name of blasphemy. Of course they got the Romans to do it for them. But Rome prospered for another 400 years in the West and 1400 years in the East without punishment, whereas Jerusalem was destroyed several times over within 100 years of that ancient act. The Jews have suffered at the hands of the Romans, Spaniards, Russians, Germans, and Arabs ever since.

These varied cultures cannot each have the same "God".

You can logically talk about a deist type of Philosophy God (like Aquinas taught) but not any one specific theist God with a particular name.

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