The Instigator
Truth_seeker
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
YaHey
Con (against)
Winning
3 Points

Monotheism came before polytheism

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
YaHey
Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/11/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,272 times Debate No: 60327
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)

 

Truth_seeker

Pro

I argue that the concept of monotheism was first and polytheism copied from it.

My opening statement is that if monotheism did indeed come before polytheism, it would confirm Paul's statement in Romans 1:20-23

" 20 For since the creation of the world God"s invisible qualities"his eternal power and divine nature"have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles."

First round acceptance
YaHey

Con

Note, the burden of proof is on you to show that monotheism came before monotheism. It is to my understanding that your opening statement, that monotheism coming before polytheism would confirm the Bible quote, isn't the focus of this debate. However, if it is, then I can adjust accordingly.

Thanks, and good luck.
Debate Round No. 1
Truth_seeker

Pro

Dr. Arthur C. Custance who is an Anthropologist, scientist, and specialist in Christianity and science wrote "the doorway papers." In paper 34, he writes about the evidence for monotheism coming first before polytheism:

"... found themselves dealing with a tremendous number of gods and goddesses and other spiritual powers of a lesser sort which seemed to be always at war with one another and, much of the time, highly destructive. As earlier and earlier tablets, however, began to be excavated and brought to light, and skill in deciphering them increased, the first picture of gross polytheism began to be replaced by something more nearly approaching a hierarchy of spiritual beings organized into a kind of court with one Supreme Being over all."

Scholar Samuel Zwemer wrote of a monotheistic God in the Pygmies of Africa, the Tierra del Fuegians, Indians of North America, central Australian tribes, and primitive Bushmen, as well as people in arctic cultures. He noted that this being had the same attributes and was everywhere. He spoke of the war-like Zulus who quoted a bishop claiming to have contact with "The Almighty" or "first essence." Madagascarian beliefs also speak of this God in proverbs like "Do not consider the secret valley, for God is overhead." Another is "The willfullness of man can be born of a Creator, for God alone bears rule."

Anthropologist James E.O says:

" Thus, it is impossible to maintain a unilateral evolution in religious thought and practice in the manner suggested by the rationalistic classifications of Tylor and Frazer following along the line of the "Law of the Three Stages" enunciated by Comte. Nevertheless, neither the Euhemeran speculation that the idea of God arose in ancestor worship, revived by Herbert Spencer, nor the Frazerian evolution of monotheism from polytheism and animism as a result of a process of the unification of ideas, can be reconciled with the shadowy figure of a tribal Supreme Being now known to have been a recurrent feature of the primitive conception of Deity." (1)

There are several polytheistic religions which also have the concept of monotheism:

Stepehen Langdon, an Assyriologist says of the Sumerian religion in "the scotsman":

" The history of Sumerian religion, which was the most powerful cultural influence in the ancient world, could be traced by means of pictographic inscriptions almost to the earliest religious concepts of man. The evidence points unmistakeably to an original monotheism, the inscriptions and literary remains of the oldest Semitic peoples also indicate a primitive monotheism, and the totemistic origin of Hebrew and other Semitic religions is now entirely discredited."

From ancient tablets regarding the Sumerian and Babylonian gods, it's been noted the following:

" In addition to their more tangible results, our excavations have established a novel fact, which the student of Babylonian religions will have henceforth to take into account. We have obtained, to the best of our knowledge for the first time, religious material complete in its social setting.We possess a coherent mass of evidence, derived in almost equal quantity from a temple and from the houses inhabited by those who worshiped in that temple. We are thus able to draw conclusions, which the finds studied by themselves would not have made possible. For instance, we discover that the representations on cylinder seals, which are usually connected with various gods, can all be fitted into a consistent picture in which a single god worshiped in this temple forms the central figure. It seems, therefore, that at this early period his various aspects were not considered separate deities in the Sumero-Accadian pantheon."

In other words, polytheistic people were describing attributes of the same monotheistic God, just slightly different versions. Friederich Delitzsch's book "Babel and Bible" refers to a tablet reported by T.G Pinches saying that the Babylonians mostly worshiped the highest deity of the Babylonian Pantheon: Marduk meaning "possessor of power." There were many names in the Babylonian language to describe one God.

Egypt has the same elements. Renouf in his Hibbert lectures quotes M. de Rouge. He says that Egypt phased through Sabeism which states that the sun is a manifestation of one God. He writes:

" It is incontestably true that the sublimer portions of the Egyptian religion are not the comparatively late result of a process of development or elimination from the grosser. The sublimer portions are demonstrably ancient; and the last stage of the Egyptian religion, that known to the Greek and Latin writers, heathen or Christian, was by far the grossest and the most corrupt. M. de Rouge is no doubt correct in his assertion that in the several local (centres of) worship, one and the same deity re-appears under different names and symbols. . . .He infers from the course of history that since polytheism was constantly on the increase, the monotheistic doctrines must have preceded it."

Gradually, people mistook natural objects as manifestations of divine beings :

Flinders Pete, pioneer of archaeology wrote this:

" There are in ancient religions and theologies very different classes of gods. Some races, as the modern Hindu, revel in a profusion of gods and godlings which continually increase. Others . . . do not attempt to worship great gods, but deal with a host of animistic spirits, devils, or whatever we may call them. . . . But all our knowledge of the early positions and nature of the great gods shows them to stand on an entirely different footing to these varied spirits. Were the conception of a god only an evolution from such spirit worship we should find the worship of many gods preceding the worship of one god. . . . What we actually find is the contrary of this, monotheism is the first stage traceable in theology. . . . Wherever we can trace back polytheism to its earliest stages, we find that it results from combinations of monotheism. In Egypt even Osiris, Isis, and Horus, so familiar as a triad, are found at first as separate units in different places: Isis as a virgin goddess, and Horus as a self-existent God. Each city appears to have had but one god belonging to it, to whom others were in time added. Similarly Babylonian cities each had their supreme god, and the combinations of these and their transformations in order to form them into groups when their homes were politically united show how essentially they were solitary deities at first. " (Religion of Ancient Egypt) (2)

With all the evidence presented, it's clear that in the beginning, there was only one all -powerful, all-knowing, loving, and infinite one God.

Sources:

1. ( James, E. O., "Religion and Reality," Journal of the Royal Archaeological Institute, vol.70, 1950, p.28.)

2. http://www.amazon.com...
YaHey

Con

You didn't set up some sort of format, so I am just going to do my rebuttals.

R1: If anything, you just confirmed polytheism. Look at America's hierarchy of courts. There are trial courts, appelate courts, and one Supreme Court, but one would not be justified in calling a trial court not a trial court. Greek mythology had this sort of hierarchy, the Pagan Romans also had this hierarchy, and Hinduism has it too, but Zeus is a god just like Chaos was a starting force.

R2: "He noted that this being had the same attributes and was everywhere." Are you saying these people all worshipped the same god? This being certainly wasn't worshipped everywhere, if that is what you would suggest. I can just point you again to Greek myths. I don't doubt that some faiths had monotheistic beliefs, I am contesting that monotheism necessarily came first, and polytheistic religions copied it.

R3: " can all be fitted into a consistent picture in which a single god worshiped in this temple forms the central figure". The next statement is that these people had one god that splintered into many aspects of this being. My question is, how do you figure that? It may be logical to speculate, but that's all it would be: speculation. What I see here is that these Sumerians had multiple gods, and if you arrange them in a way they fit into one single god. Another question, how were these arranged to fit into one god?

R4 "Polytheism with a touch of monotheism": There are different types of polythesim. Some gods are more powerful, some gods are more loved, but there are more than just one god present. This is also a problem that Christianity has. Four gods: Jesus, Yahweh, the Holy Spirit, and Lucifer. "He infers". I hear speculation. "from the course of history that since polytheism was constantly on the increase, the monotheistic doctrines must have preceded it." Well why in the hell would you infer that? Just because polythiesm is increasing, this does not mean monotheism must have come after? Even if there is some Sun god above all. Monotheism has increased, so obviously polytheism came before.

R5: Polytheistic religions grow. That is actually a part of some polytheistic religions. They don't deny a god's existence, sometimes, and may even bring it into their own religion. Egyptian cities had patron deities. This doesn't mean that they all had only one deity and in time created their pantheon.

R6: "With all the evidence presented, it's clear that in the beginning, there was only one all -powerful, all-knowing, loving, and infinite one God." WOah woah woah woah woah. Hold up. Excuse me, maybe we are reading two different debates, but this wild assertion out of left field certainly doesn't come from the evidence you provided. Maybe you misspoke, and meant to say "in the beginning people believed in one god with contradictory capabilities". I've harped on this society enough, but what about Greek mythology? What about Norse mythology?

C1: Let me specify my position. I am not stating that polytheism necessarily came before monotheism, but that with the evidence we have, no clear answer can be determined. I really just accepted this debate because you said this would confirm that ridiculous Bible quote, that all people worshipped your God and then turned away from him. I'm not sure if you take the Bible literally, but when did these people break off from God?
Debate Round No. 2
Truth_seeker

Pro

In the republic of Plato book 2,he refers to "God ", not any other Greek god. This hints that even Greek religions had a concept of monotheism. Odin also has characteristics of a monotheistic God in Norse mythology

R4:What separates Christianity from polytheism is that Jesus, the father, and the Holy Spirit all work as one. the other polytheistic gods do not, but have their own desires and will.not really understanding rebuttal 4.

R5:that's what the evidence shows. The Egyptians once had a monotheistic concept of God.

You appear to commit the fallacy of using personal attacks evidence by calling that Bible quote ridiculous.if you don't necessarily think that polytheism came before monotheism, that implies you surrender. We don't know when this happened, all we know is that based on what the evidence shows, polytheism came from monotheism.
YaHey

Con

I was talking about Greek mythology, not necessarily Greek society. Greece was a society of diversity, and many were monotheists. I was talking about Greek mythology, such as Zeus, Artemis, etc. You don't seem to understand a hierarchy. Just because something is deemed more powerful, or is worshipped more, does not mean it is a singular, all powerful God. Nowhere in the definition of polytheism does it state all gods must be worshipped equally.

Actually, while some polytheistic gods do have seperate will and desires, they can work together. In example, gods in Greek mythology were said to pick sides in wars.

While some Egyptian cities may have only worshipped one god, they did not deny the gods of others and attributed polytheistic qualities such as accepting and absorbing other deities.

I wasn't calling you ridiculous, so I don't see how this is a personal attack? That quote says that everyone in history has had your concept of God but denied him (which removes free will from the response of the problem of evil. Not on topic but I wanted to point that out). While some societies may have had the concept of one God that branched off into others, these singular Gods definitely do not confirm such a bold and insulting statement. It implies that all those who were not Christian were evil and dishonest.

If anyone is committing a fallacy, it would be you; the false dichotomy fallacy. You say there are only two possibilities, polytheism came first, or monotheism. When in actuality, there are three. Polytheism became monotheism, monotheism became polytheism, or they both originated without relation to the other. Then you state there are only two positions to make, that polytheism came first, or monotheism came first. In actuality, there are around four. Polytheism came first, monotheism came first, they both originated without relation to each other, or I don't know. I would say that I don't know for sure, which certainly isn't a concession on my part.
Debate Round No. 3
Truth_seeker

Pro

"I was talking about Greek mythology, not necessarily Greek society. Greece was a society of diversity, and many were monotheists. I was talking about Greek mythology, such as Zeus, Artemis, etc. You don't seem to understand a hierarchy. Just because something is deemed more powerful, or is worshipped more, does not mean it is a singular, all powerful God. Nowhere in the definition of polytheism does it state all gods must be worshipped equally. "

Like i said, according to my 1st source, Plato stated that there was an all-powerful supreme "God."

"Actually, while some polytheistic gods do have seperate will and desires, they can work together. In example, gods in Greek mythology were said to pick sides in wars. "

Con gave no sources to back his claim and plus, just because they picked sides, doesn't mean they worked together constantly as the holy trinity.

"While some Egyptian cities may have only worshipped one god, they did not deny the gods of others and attributed polytheistic qualities such as accepting and absorbing other deities. "

The source says they had a monotheistic concept of one God.

"While some societies may have had the concept of one God that branched off into others, these singular Gods definitely do not confirm such a bold and insulting statement. It implies that all those who were not Christian were evil and dishonest."

This is the fallacy of non sequitur.

". I would say that I don't know for sure, which certainly isn't a concession on my part."

You would say you don't know, but your position in this debate is to disprove the claim that "monotheism came before polytheism." While yes, there are more explanations, these are the ones that have been noted by experts.
YaHey

Con

I'm sorry. I didn't realize Plato represented the entire population of Greece from all times. I admitted some Greeks were monotheists, I was specifically talking about the Greek myths that had a hierarchy of gods. Around 1200 BCE [1], many Greeks believed in the mythology. Plato was born around 428 BCE [2]. Plato may have held the concept that there was a singular God, but he came after.

Sorry, I assumed that was common knowledge. Take the Iliad for example, where the Greeks under Agamemnon went to war with Troy to get back the "captured" Helen of Troy. Source number three is about the role the gods had in the war, especially what side they chose.

Yes, the Greek gods did not work together as oftenly as the Trinity (doesn't change the fact that three God characters are worshipped in your religion). However, if we dive into the Bible, we do not see such constant consistency on the part of the Trinity. Matthew 27:46 "About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")."[4] Obviously Jesus changed his mind when it came to that whole crucifixion thing.

Mate, are you not even reading the things I say? I said that Egyptian cities may have had only one, monotheistic god, but they had polytheistic attributes, such as not deny other people's gods and even absorbing them.

No, that wasn't a non-sequitor! I was talking about your Bible verse and how ridiculous it was. To quote from YOU, "21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles." Not only is this ridiculous to state that everyone's heart that wasn't a Christian turned dark, it is also insulting/ridiculous to state that every person that has ever lived had not only a concept of a monotheistic god, but your monotheistic god. If anything, that verse is just trying to find an answer to what happens to the people that never heard of your God, and the answer is burn them. I'm also going to throw in how it is also insulting to other people's religions to call them fools, and especially arrogant to suggest you are wise for believing in something that has yet to be demonstrated.

You seem to think that for me to deny that monotheism came before, and necessarily evolved into, polytheism I must take the side that polytheism came first and started monotheism. No. The Burden of Proof is on you to show that you are correct. I do not have to show that the opposite is correct, just that you're reasonings and arguments are flawed enough to be dismissed. You also haven't shown that the polytheistic religion of the Nordic people were once monotheists, which would show that monotheism wasn't a universal concept that evolved into polytheism... That evolved once more into monotheism?

Sources:
[1] http://messagenetcommresearch.com...
[2] http://www.ancientgreece.com...
[3] http://www.booksie.com...
[4] http://biblehub.com...;
Debate Round No. 4
Truth_seeker

Pro

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize Plato represented the entire population of Greece from all times. I admitted some Greeks were monotheists, I was specifically talking about the Greek myths that had a hierarchy of gods. Around 1200 BCE [1], many Greeks believed in the mythology. Plato was born around 428 BCE [2]. Plato may have held the concept that there was a singular God, but he came after."

All Greek gods can be traced back to a single monotheistic god: chaos (1).

"Matthew 27:46 "About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")."[4] Obviously Jesus changed his mind when it came to that whole crucifixion thing."

" I said that Egyptian cities may have had only one, monotheistic god, but they had polytheistic attributes, such as not deny other people's gods and even absorbing them."

which confirms my source that says that they eventually split into polytheistic gods.

He was speaking from his human perspective.

" it is also insulting/ridiculous to state that every person that has ever lived had not only a concept of a monotheistic god, but your monotheistic god. If anything, that verse is just trying to find an answer to what happens to the people that never heard of your God, and the answer is burn them. I'm also going to throw in how it is also insulting to other people's religions to call them fools, and especially arrogant to suggest you are wise for believing in something that has yet to be demonstrated."

I would address this but because this is based on monotheism itself, i leave this for another debate.

"You seem to think that for me to deny that monotheism came before, and necessarily evolved into, polytheism I must take the side that polytheism came first and started monotheism. No. The Burden of Proof is on you to show that you are correct. I do not have to show that the opposite is correct, just that you're reasonings and arguments are flawed enough to be dismissed. You also haven't shown that the polytheistic religion of the Nordic people were once monotheists, which would show that monotheism wasn't a universal concept that evolved into polytheism... That evolved once more into monotheism?"

You ignored the sources i quoted and the implications they bring. According to this source (2), Nordics were also once monotheistic:

"Wirth claimed to reconstruct not only the history of the Nordic?Atlantic race, but moreover its religion. It would have been a superior, monotheistic religion, distinct from the animism and demonism of the African and Asiatic natives, without dogmas, of a great purity and potentially universal " The primordial religion of 15,000 BCE would have been solar and penetrated with the sense of a universal law of "eternal return", of death and rebirth " So Wirth speaks of a primordial Nordic monotheism and of a "cosmic Nordic Christianity" that would therefore date back to thousands of years before Christ."

In conclusion, monotheism seems to be the origin of polytheistic religions which altered that one concept of God into many gods personified by nature.

Sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org...

2. http://www.gornahoor.net...
YaHey

Con

BUT IN THE MYTHOLOGY MORE GODS CAME AFTER! You had to have shown the ONLY worshipped and believed in Chaos, and THEN only the other Gods came after due to some sort of social event. Just because, at some point, they believed all the other gods came from Chaos, this doesn't mean they were monotheists!

"He was speaking from his human perspective." The point was to show that they weren't always consistent, and if one entity is an all powerful God and the other is just a mortal, I don't know how they can be one in the same.

I was saying that Egyptian beliefs in cities were similar to polytheism in a way that modern monotheism is not.

"I would address this but because this is based on monotheism itself, i leave this for another debate." The only reason that was included was because you were claiming I was using a logical fallacy and, you know, you stated in the beginning you would confirm that Bible verse. So yeah, it is kind of on topic.

I haven't done my research, but just from the quotes "cosmic Nordic Christianity" and "date back thousands of years before Christ", I'm going to call BS. Well, with the amazing power of the internet, I found a source to contradict you. Here is the important part: "Vikings influenced many changes in Europe, but the most important change occurred because of Europe's influence on Scandinavia. They went from a polytheistic society to a monotheistic society with in three centuries of the introduction of Christianity. Conversion from the old ways occurred as Scandinavians in the Viking age traveled and traded more with Western Europeans and the British Isles. Christianity had already taken a hold in Europe by the time the Vikings began trade and political relations. Little by little the Old Norse religion was replaced with Christianity, small changes would occur time from time, but finally at the start of the eleventh century Christianity dominated the old Scandinavian ways." It seems this cosmic Christianity was more influenced that inspired.

In conclusion, you haven't shown that monotheism was a universal constant, that all of those monotheistic religions are of your God, nor that polytheism came after... And then branched off BACK into monotheism? Maybe it's a cycle.

Sources:
[1] http://www3.gettysburg.edu...;
Debate Round No. 5
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by WileyC1949 2 years ago
WileyC1949
The Bible actually states the opposite.... the ancient Hebrews believed in numerous gods, but they believed that their God was the "Most High God". This is even acknowledge in the 10 Commandments with "you shall not have other gods before me."
Posted by ArcTImes 2 years ago
ArcTImes
Well, technically a god had to came first right? :d

Anyway, this is an interesting topic.
Posted by Truth_seeker 2 years ago
Truth_seeker
Lol debate me and we'll find out
Posted by YaHey 2 years ago
YaHey
Even if you are right, it doesn't confirm that verse. It just makes it a little more possible.
Posted by Truth_seeker 2 years ago
Truth_seeker
I just use the Bible verse for my opening statement, it's not part of the debate.
Posted by Pfalcon1318 2 years ago
Pfalcon1318
Sorry, how can you use a bible verse to prove what came first?
Posted by YaHey 2 years ago
YaHey
Is this a debate just about the chronology of theisms or is the Bible verse also a part of it?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
Truth_seekerYaHeyTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: So, I'm having a hard time figuring out what Pro's case is as he goes. The topic is different from his assertion in R1, and both are different from his assertion at the end of R2. Much of his argumentation beyond that point seems to be defending one or more of these assertions to a small extent, as well as adding other assertions into the mix that I'm still lost on. It really confuses the debate. But the topic is what I'm going with here, and I think Pro never meets his BoP. It was a steep BoP to begin with, and he never gets there. He needs to show that the earliest religion absolutely got its start solely as a monotheist group. I don't see that argument anywhere. I see a lot of quotes in R2 (and very little actual argumentation from Pro himself) that show that the situation isn't obvious, and that monotheism came very early and intermingled with polytheism. I don't see anything that necessarily shows that monotheism precluded polytheism, and thus I vote Con.