Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Polytheism and Monotheism


Polytheism and Monotheism, the worship of many gods or of one god. Polytheism arose from totemism, fetishism, animism in the period of the decay of primitive-communal society. Belief in the plurality of equal fetishes and spirits was replaced by belief in gods who assumed concrete appearance, name, and cult. Social division of labour, earthly relations of supremacy and submission was reflected in the hierarchy of gods. The consolidation of the slave-owning system, the creation of monarchies, led initially to the worship of one God, with recognition of the existence of others. Then from the Pantheon of gods one Almighty God was singled out – a copy of the earthly king; Monotheism was thus established. Pure Monotheism, however, did not exist. Signs of Polytheism are discernible even in such monotheistic religions as Islam and Judaism, to say nothing of Christianity, with its Trinity, the Virgin, and a great number of saints. 
Totemism, one of the early forms of religion in primitive-communal society. As a term it was used for the first time by John Long at the end of the 18th century. The main feature of Totemism is belief in the common origin, blood relationship and association of a group of people with a definite kind of animal, plant, object or phenomena. The primitive conception of the totem is the animal ancestor, its portrayal or symbol, and also a group of people. The totem, the powerful protector of people, supplies them with food. Totemism is widespread among the aboriginal tribes of Australia, North and South America, Melanesia, Polynesia and Africa. The survival of Totemism are preserved in developed religions (God is the father of believers, pure and impure animals; the eucharist means the partaking of God’s body), and in folklore (tales of marital and blood relationships between people and animals). 
Fetishism, worship of objects and phenomena of nature; an early form of religion in primitive societies. The term Fetishism was proposed in 1760 by Charles de Brosses, a French historian and linguist. Not knowing the essence of material objects, people attributed to them supernatural properties and believed that these objects (fetishes) satisfied their wishes. Fetishism is connected with totemism and magic. Fetishism forms part of many contemporary religions (worship of images and the cross). 
Animism, belief in the soul and in spirits that affect the lives of people and animals, and exert an influence over the objects and phenomena of the surrounding world. Animist concepts emerged in primitive societies. Primitive man imagined that things, plants, and animals possessed souls. The chief reason for the emergence of Animism was the extremely low level of development of the productive forces, the consequent small store of knowledge and man’s inability to oppose the elemental forces of nature, which seemed alien and mysterious to him. At a certain level of social development, the personification of natural forces was a form in which they were mastered. Animist conceptions formed the basis of later religions; in principle; Animism is part of all religions.

(A Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by M. Rosenthal and P. Yudin, translated from Russian, edited by Richard R. Dixon and Murad Saifulin, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1967)

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