The concept of religious doctrine has always been a major societal force, which directly impacted people’s values. It is important to note that the current set of human dogmas gradually developed on the basis of three main religious philosophies. They include Greco-Roman polytheism, Medieval monotheism, and Renaissance humanism. Although each of the given ideas possessed a different perception of the world, the core elements were derived from each other. All three concepts brought a significant amount of change in a culture’s artistic production, such as art, literature, and music. The primary difference lies in the idea of God, where polytheism has pluralistic views, and monotheism is fully dedicated to a singular Creator. However, humanism entirely dismisses the notion of the divine entity, and instead it focuses on people’s secular attributes and the overall goodness of human nature. Polytheism and monotheism are bases for values of the modern humanism.
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Polytheism is a set of beliefs that perceives the world as a bipolar structure, which contains immortal beings, such as gods, and mortal humans. One of the most complex and carefully developed systems of the polytheistic worldview was the religion of ancient Greece and ancient Rome. The ancient Greeks had a large but strictly delineated pantheon of humanoid gods and demigods, and within this pantheon, there was a rigid hierarchy (Olofsdotter 531). Therefore, the main difference of polytheism from both humanism and monotheism is that the given view sees gods as imperfect and powerful entities, who are the cause of injustice and human flaws. However, it is similar to monotheism in the presence of belief in divinity and holiness.
The Medieval monotheism played a major role in forging the current European and Arabic cultures, which strongly focuses on the idea of one God. The largest monotheistic religions are Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, which can be put in a category of Abrahamic ideas. All of these worldviews include the concept of a single Creator, who is all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing (Smith 197). The given properties serve as a moral compass for monotheistic believers, who are assured that life is a test of faith, which will result in the final judgment. The main difference of monotheism from polytheism is that God cannot be a source of evil and injustice in the world, whereas, polytheism sees gods as imperfect and morally variant entities (Smith 201). However, monotheistic values are close to humanistic ones because they both strive for morality and ethics. These similarities can be seen in the literature and art of Medieval age because humanistic ideas were partially derived from Christianity.
Secular humanism is a byproduct Renaissance and enlightenment, where people realized that moral guidance does not require divine beings. It is important to note that the core idea of holiness and goodness were conceptualized from monotheistic beliefs, which makes them highly similar. The shift was manifested in moving from monotheistic holy books to the factual and scientific methodology of evaluating the moral compass, which came in the form of celebrating secular human attributes (Barnes 23). The cultural, artistic production depends on whether society believes in the concept of divinity or their direct relationship with social values (Fornoff 126). Therefore, both culture and religious ideas are tightly interconnected with each other. Societies with polytheism are more practical and art is more demonstrative of the gods, because these beings were not considered as perfect and no promise of heaven was made. Monotheistic people tend to be more use are to illustrate their absolutist views of good and evil, and some religions does not allow to picture the prophet (Fornoff 127). However, humanism gives an open field of creativity and innovation, because no restrictions are present.
In conclusion, monotheism, polytheism, and humanism share common roots because they adopted critical ideas from each other. Polytheistic views the gods are human-like beings, who are prone to be immoral, whereas monotheism beliefs in one all-good and all-powerful God. Humanism does not derive its core ideas from the ideas of supernatural entities but focuses on human attributes.
Barnes, L. Philip. “Humanism, Religious Education and the Former Archbishop of Canterbury.” Theology, vol. 119, no. 1, 2016, pp. 18-25.
Fornoff, Roger. “At the Interface of Art, Religion and Politics.” Thesis Eleven, vol. 123, no. 1, 2014, pp. 123-128.
Olofsdotter, Karin. “No Other Gods.” Review & Expositor, vol. 113, no. 4, 2016, pp. 527-533.
Smith, Brandon D. “What Christ Does, God Does: Surveying Recent Scholarship on Christological Monotheism.” Currents in Biblical Research, vol. 17, no. 2, 2019, pp. 184-208.