Monotheism is one of the most long-standing and pervasive religious beliefs on Earth, centered around a single all-powerful deity.
Monotheism is the conviction that there exists one and only one supreme being or energy in the cosmos, holding sovereignty over all other creations. This godhead is typically believed to be an all-knowing, omnipotent, and benevolent power.
Examples of monotheistic religions include Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Monotheists believe their god is the only god and that other gods are either false or nonexistent.
To put it simply, monotheism is the conviction of one god or supreme being and denying all other gods.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, monotheism is “the doctrine or belief that there is only one God” (Porter, 2000, p. 322).
Monotheism, the belief in one god, has been a critical element of religious dogma for thousands of years. It is the conviction that an all-mighty, single God exists who created and controls everything in existence (Cataldo, 2020).
This religious belief system serves as the basis for some of the world’s most significant faiths, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Those who practice monotheism believe wholeheartedly that their god is the only Supreme Being and use faith as a way to achieve salvation and contentment.
Monotheists are typically united by common moral principles, rituals, and worship practices, all of which help to reinforce and strengthen their belief in one God (Langermann, 2012).
In simple terms, monotheism is the belief in one all-powerful being or god and the denial of all other gods. It is an ancient, widespread belief system that has profoundly impacted human civilization for thousands of years.
- Christianity: Christianity is a religion that worships one God and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is currently practiced by billions worldwide. This faith is based on the Bible, which contains teachings about one God and recounts the life of Jesus (Ellwood & Alles, 2010).
- Islam: Spanning more than 1.8 billion adherents, Islam is one of the world’s most widespread religions and serves as an integral part of cultural life for numerous international communities (Ellwood & Alles, 2010). Islamic faith centers around Allah, the all-knowing deity revealed through Muhammed’s teachings, upon whose divine command we should obtain or morals and values.
- Judaism: Judaism, one of the oldest religions in human history, is based on divine revelations found within the Hebrew Bible (also known as Tanakh) and Talmud (Ellwood & Alles, 2010). This monotheistic faith emphasizes a single omnipotent God who oversees all aspects of life for its adherents.
- Sikhism: A monotheistic religion founded in India by Guru Nanak in the 15th century, Sikhism is based on the belief that there is one Supreme Being. Sikhs believe in a single God who is present in all things and governs the entire universe (Ellwood & Alles, 2010).
- Zoroastrianism: Founded by the prophet Zoroaster in ancient Persia, Zoroastrianism is an ancient monotheistic religion that teaches the worship of a single benevolent and omnipotent God (Ellwood & Alles, 2010).
- Baha’i: The Baha’i faith is a monotheistic religion founded in the 19th century that teaches the oneness of God and the unity of all people. Baha’is believe in a single, all-loving Creator who reveals his will to humanity through prophets (Ellwood & Alles, 2010).
- Buddhism: Although not a strictly monotheistic religion, some forms of Buddhism do revere and worship a single divine being or deity, known as the Adi-Buddha (Ellwood & Alles, 2010).
- Jainism: An ancient Indian religion, Jainism is a monotheistic faith that believes in a single all-knowing Creator. Jains believe in karma and reincarnation and strive to live an ethical life to achieve ultimate liberation (Ellwood & Alles, 2010).
- Confucianism: An ancient Chinese philosophy, Confucianism is sometimes considered a monotheistic religion as it venerates a single all-powerful deity known as Heaven. Confucians believe in living an ethical life by the will of Heaven (Ellwood & Alles, 2010).
- Taoism: Another ancient Chinese philosophy, Taoism also reveres a single all-powerful deity, referred to as the Tao or “Way.” Taoists believe in living in harmony with nature and cultivating inner peace and balance (Ellwood & Alles, 2010).
Origins of Monotheism
Many experts posit that the first acknowledged instance of a single-God religion was in Ancient Egypt circa 1350 BC during pharaoh Akhenaten’s reign (Quirke, 2014).
Akhenaten declared himself the sole god of Egypt, thereby introducing a monotheistic religion. He even changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten, which translates to “living spirit of Aten” (Osman, 2002).
The rise of other monotheistic religions soon followed, including Judaism and Christianity.
These faiths are often linked to Abrahamic tradition, which is based on the belief that a single God revealed himself to Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish and Christian faiths.
The rise of Islam in the 7th century AD also contributed to monotheism’s widespread popularity. Based on Muhammad’s teachings, the Islamic faith firmly established monotheism as a bona fide religion and continued to shape its evolution (Ellwood & Alles, 2010).
Today, the prevalence of monotheism is evidenced by its wide-reaching influence on global societies. The teachings of one God inform the practices of numerous faiths and continue to shape the history and culture of many nations.
Monotheism in the Abrahamic Religions
The major monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are referred to as the Abrahamic religions. This tradition is based on the belief that God revealed himself to Abraham, the patriarch of these faiths.
The core tenets of the Abrahamic religion include a belief in one all-powerful God, divine revelation, and the special place of humankind in creation (Ali & Yousuf, 2011).
In addition, the practice of monotheism is an integral component of Abrahamic tradition, as each of these faiths worships a single, unique God (Ali & Yousuf, 2011)..
While the three Abrahamic religions do share commonalities, there are also notable differences between them. For example, the Jewish faith does not recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah, while Christians believe he is God’s son.
Additionally, Islam teaches that Muhammad was the last prophet, while Judaism and Christianity do not accept this.
Despite such distinctions, the core beliefs of Abrahamic tradition remain shared, including monotheism and the faith in a single God. This commonality has allowed them to coexist and interact throughout history, often influencing one another.
Monotheism vs. Polytheism
|Belief in one supreme deity
|Belief in multiple gods or divine beings
|Focus of worship
|Relationship with deity/deities
|Personal and direct relationship with one deity
|Interactions with multiple gods through rituals and offerings
|Christianity, Islam, Judaism
|Hinduism, Ethnic Religions, Ancient Greek
Monotheism and polytheism are divergent belief systems that have historically been at odds with one another. The former is the belief in one god, while the latter is a belief in multiple gods.
Monotheists rely on their conviction that a sole Supreme Being exists and use faith to attain lasting peace and joy in life (Cataldo, 2020).
Polytheists, on the other hand, do not necessarily subscribe to a single omnipotent deity. Instead, they may revere numerous gods or spirits and often practice rituals to pay homage to them (Cataldo, 2020).
Ancient Egyptians believed in polytheism and thus paid homage to a multitude of gods and goddesses (Quirke, 2014). Another example of polytheism is Hinduism.
These deities were considered to have considerable sway over the lives of humans, so people engaged in religious rites as an act of adoration for them.
It is merely one historical example demonstrating how ancient civilizations greatly emphasized honoring their many divine figures.
In contrast, followers of Christianity, the world’s largest monotheistic religion, believe in only one Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ. They look to Jesus as the ultimate source of hope, strength, and salvation.
So, monotheists focus their faith and worship on one God, while polytheists pay homage to multiple deities. Still, both belief systems have a long history and remain prominent today.
Importance of Monotheism
Monotheism is essential in developing religion and culture as it provides a framework for various faith practices, beliefs, and values.
By having faith in the one ultimate deity, humans have been instilled with valuable qualities such as justice, compassion, and mercy, thus allowing people of multiple different faiths to cohabit harmoniously.
In addition, monotheism promotes a sense of community among its adherents, allowing them to come together for shared worship and prayer. It helps to foster relationships between individuals of different backgrounds and beliefs.
Moreover, monotheism has been a source of inspiration for some of the world’s most influential literature, art, and music.
Works such as Dante’s Inferno, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, and Handel’s Messiah are all products of monotheistic belief systems.
Monotheism is integral in promoting and sustaining moral standards. This faith instructs its believers to practice ethical values, thus encouraging them to live with integrity – not only for their own advantage but also that of society as a whole.
Monotheism is a doctrine that has profoundly impacted the development of religion and culture. It means the belief in one God and is the foundation of major faith traditions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
Monotheism serves to cultivate virtue, unity amongst diverse cultures, and spiritual sustenance. It has inspired a vast array of literature, artworks, and musical compositions that continue to shape the world today.
Furthermore, it encourages people from all walks of life to develop meaningful relationships with one another through justice, love, and mercy.
Finally, monotheism offers a robust moral code that guides people to live in beneficial ways for themselves and society.
All these characteristics make monotheism an essential belief system that has enabled various religions to coexist and interact harmoniously.
Ali, M., & Yousuf, M. (2011). The three Abrahamic faiths and their roles in making peace, unity and co-existence. World Journal of Islamic History and Civilization, 1(3), 187–200. https://idosi.org/wjihc/wjihc1(3)11/6.pdf
Cataldo, J. W. (2020). A social-political history of monotheism. Routledge.
Ellwood, R. S., & Alles, G. D. (2010). The encyclopedia of world religions. Viva Books.
Langermann, Y. T. (2012). Monotheism & ethics: Historical and contemporary intersections among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Brill.
Osman, A. (2002). Moses and Akhenaten: The secret history of Egypt at the time of the Exodus. Bear & Co.
Porter, B. N. (2000). One god or many? Casco Bay Assyriological Inst.
Quirke, S. (2014). Exploring religion in Ancient Egypt. Wiley-Blackwell.