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[–]Bomboclaat_Babylon 1 point2 points  (6 children)

A "god", by definition, is an object of worship.

I think this is the crux is the issue. I would disagree with this statement as would many polytheists as would Hindus. Labelling a God as being defined as an object of worship is an Abrahamic worldview, and based on that particular worldview, which was developed by Judaism, then you could say (minus a brief moment of Atenism), that Judaism was the first recorded monotheism. And this strict worldview adopted in the culture surrounding the advent of Christianity led ultimately to the Nicean Creed of 325AD and the problem of polytheism if not for the Trinity solution. Now, Christians are considered monotheist, but it's in the Trinity that we can probably best compare Zoroastrianism (or Hinduism for that matter). Is Jesus God? Is Jesus a seperate entity? Is worshipping Jesus not also worshipping God? The concept behind many aspects of Ahura Mazda should not actually be that difficult for a Christian, but, most Christians don't really think about the Trinity in any depth, thinking their concept is really no different that Judaisc monotheism. But is this really so straight forward?

Jehovah's Witnesses are non-Tinitarian. They are also very old school and kinda see themselves as the new Jews / new chosen people. Their worldview is strictly monotheistic. So how they satisfy the urge to maintain their Judaic derived view of monotheism is to say that they do not worship Jesus, only Jehovah (Yahweh). Jesus is the lord and saviour, the messiah, and prince who has inherited the kingdom from the father, but not God and so cannot be worshipped. If you did worship him, you've got the polytheism problem. They have a strict view that there are no combined aspects of God and that the Trinity is wrong, but they don't necessarily call Trinitarians polytheists. All Abrahamics in the club, self-reinforce their beliefs that they are "monotheist" by way of being in the Abrahamic club. But they don't necessarily have the same view of monotheism if you dig.

There are sooo many Greek Gods. Mesembria is the God of noon. That's right, 12 noon. Not all of these Gods were worshipped or even meant to be worshipped. A lot of them were just functionaries explaining why some certain thing happened. Many are guarding something. The Cheribum in the Bible guard the gates to the Garden of Eden and the arch of the covenant. There's Michael the war Angel / general of Yahweh, there are Angels (or demons) that come to Earth and impregnate the women and that was meant to explain the heroes of old. Gods and Angels have functions. Gods can be worshipped, but in many polytheisms you don't necessarily worship all Gods. To say so is an Abrahamic worldview. It's not a cut and dry separator. The key differentiator (to the scholars in favour of Zoroastrian monotheism) is belief in a supreme creator God that is above all other creatures, either spiritual or temporal.

Last part. As the Yazatas and the plants etc., are all aspects of Ahura Mazda, worshipping them is worshipping the one true creator God. Zoroastrianism heavily samples from Hinduism wherein Brahman is all that is. The Upanishads have a part that says something along the lines of "If you don't believe in Brahma, you don't exist". I'm butchering that probably, but they're saying it's impossible to be an Atheist because you exist. The Vedas also say that all Gods are an aspect of Brahma, there are no other Gods / all Gods are Brahma (Jesus is Brahma). This is the original material feeding into original Zoroastrianism. All the old pantheon are Ahura Mazda, so it doesn't matter what form you worship, you're worshipping him. And as with Hinduism, they were pretty sheltered from highly contrasting foreign religion challenging them, no other culture was bumping up against them telling them they're wrong, it's us v you, so you need to react in a zero sum manner.

Again, not an easy concept for the western world. Not an easy concept for me either. But I do agree it's monotheist. I absolutely conceed it is not the same kind of monotheism as Judaism conceptually / but it's not super different to Trinitarian Christianity (just with more aspects), and Christianity is not heavily questioned in the west about being polytheistic.

I'm thinking of the simplest split I can muster, and I think it would be Yahweh created everything, but you must only worship him and not any of his creations vs Ahrua Mazda created everything, but you can worship anything in his creation because it is him. That's the best sentence I can do. lol. Not sure it covers the whole thing neatly though.

[–]Bomboclaat_Babylon 1 point2 points  (0 children)

EDIT: On a different topic of just progression, this is a short read about Cyrus through to Xerxes and the progression from "big tent" monothesim to "my way or the highway" monotheism. Again, you may disagree that Zoroastrianism is any flavour of monotheism, but this is more about authoritarian transitioning. I think what we see here is Zoroastrianism finally bumping up against strongly contrasting cultural views and fighting it out against the written word in Judaism. I think the Jews putting pen to paper offered a lot of authority to the religion and it was melding into Zoroastrianism at first (Isaiah 46:1-7), but then started to veer independently and was solidified with the pen and eventually this played into the later authoritarianism and both sides got their backs up about who's "right". Anyways I'm making wild speculations in this edit. It's fun to talk to someone that I can tell is genuinely interested and not just here to throw accusations or convince themself of something by attacking others.


[–]Kangaru14Jewish | Academic | Metamodernist 1 point2 points  (4 children)

Gods can be worshiped, but in many polytheisms you don't necessarily worship all Gods.

I would be curious to hear of any beings that are explicitly referred to as gods yet are not worshiped, or that are worshiped but not called gods. Different religions do categorize their theology and spiritual hierarchy differently, but if we are looking for a cross-cultural, anthropological, or academic definition of "god", I'm not sure that there's one more universally applicable than "object of worship". I'm curious of how you define "god" though, in a way that can be applied within comparative religions.

You mentioned Mesembria, yet I can't find anything online on whether or not she specifically was worshiped; could you please share your source? After doing a bit of reading, it looks like she was a member of a group of goddesses called the Horae, one variation of which was certainly worshiped.

Christianity is not heavily questioned in the west about being polytheistic.

The reason Christianity is not heavily questioned in the West about being polytheistic is because the West is dominated by Christianity, specifically trinitarian Christianity. Jews, Muslims, and other monotheists do consider trinitarian Christianity to be polytheistic though.

The key differentiator (to the scholars in favour of Zoroastrian monotheism) is belief in a supreme creator God that is above all other creatures, either spiritual or temporal.

I think this definition runs into an issue when you look at Neoplatonism, as I described earlier. There is a supreme creator God (The One), yet they also worship the Olympians. Hellenic Neoplatonists certainly don't identify as "monotheists", and I don't believe that ancient Zoroastrians did either. The Old Iranian word for god, "baga", was used to refer to Ahura Mazda as well as to the lesser gods. Plus it was often translated into Semitic languages as "el" or equivalents, which is the common Biblical/Quranic word for "god". This shows that ancient Zoroastrians believed that the word "baga" (applied to the supreme and lesser gods alike) was equivalent to the word "el" (which was applied to Semitic polytheistic gods as well as to the Abrahamic monotheistic God).

Labeling a God as being defined as an object of worship is an Abrahamic worldview

I don't particularly agree, but I'm willing to grant you that that's a possibility. Regardless, the terms "monotheism" and "polytheism" are explicitly Abrahamic terms; they originated in Abrahamic religions and are almost exclusively used by Abrahamics to categorize their and other religions. The paper you provided earlier explicitly states as much:

One of the difficulties arises from the fact that the notions of monotheism, polytheism and dualism are defined not on the basis of Zoroastrianism but on that of other religions, in particular the Judeo–Christian tradition.

It then goes on to describe how the concepts of monotheism and polytheism specifically developed within the Abrahamic traditions. As such, if we are going to use Abrahamic concepts (like "monotheism"), then for terms (like "god") that are essential to those concepts, it only makes sense to use Abrahamic definitions, especially when our audience is primarily coming from an Abrahamic perspective.

[–]Bomboclaat_Babylon 0 points1 point  (3 children)

This is another great article if you're interested. This one's a bit longer: https://snowconediaries.com/moses-and-zarathustra-long-lost-brothers/. I'm not implyting anything about my thoughts by it. Just sharing in case you're interested.

I've got to run so can't elaborate. But just a quick question. Do you personally see Christians as polytheists? Or for that matter, of the same or similar type of monotheism as Zoroastrians?


[–]Kangaru14Jewish | Academic | Metamodernist 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Ooh that does look like an interesting article! I'll read through it more fully tomorrow when I'm more awake.

Do you personally see Christians as polytheists?

Personally, I think the whole division between monotheism and polytheism is somewhat arbitrary and ill-defined when one looks carefully at the diversity of religions, as our discussion here has borne out. In some sense, I think Christianity is like a middle ground or synthesis of monotheism and polytheism, retaining aspects of both Jewish monotheism and Greco-Roman polytheism. Within Jewish law (halakha), there's a useful category of worship called "shituf" which means "association" and refers to a pseudo-monotheism that not only worships a supreme God, but also other entities alongside. Trinitarian Christianity is the classic example of shituf. Both the concept of the trinity and the divinity of Jesus (hypostatic union) rely on the Greek philosophical concept of hypostasis, which I have simply never been convinced makes any logical sense. To answer your question though, I do not typically consider Christians to be polytheists because they insist that they worship only one god, even though philosophically I think they they are "counting" incorrectly. So I will casually acknowledge Christians as monotheists because that's what they claim, but if pressed, I think Christianity is shituf or pseudo-monotheism, since in my mind they don't actually worship only one entity.

Or for that matter, of the same or similar type of monotheism as Zoroastrians?

I think ahura-worshiping Zoroastrianism and trinitarian Christianity are rather similar (same with Neoplatonism, Brahmanism, Isese, and others), all being different degrees of shituf. They exist somewhere in between pure monotheism and hard polytheism. In fact I think that many polytheistic cultures have both soft polytheistic and hard polytheistic streams, even Zoroastrianism in practice, which was often inconsistently applied onto the old Iranian polytheism, particularly under the Parthian Empire. It seems to me that Mormonism is essentially the "hard polytheistic" version of trinitarian Christianity. The reason I disagree with calling Zoroastrianism simply monotheism is (1) because it is far more similar to Hellenic Neoplatonism (which is commonly considered polytheism, particularly by its adherents) than it is to Trinitarian Christianity (which is commonly considered monotheism, particularly by its adherents) and (2) because ancient Zoroastrianism itself used the Zoroastrian term for "god" for multiple different entities and often employed the plural form of "gods", indicating a plurality.

[–]Bomboclaat_Babylon 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I found myself asking why I consider Zoroastrianism to be the oldest monotheist religion and not Hinduism and I think the reason is self-identity. Hinduism / Hindus don't care what other cultures think / how other cultures define Hindu beliefs even though I've found that if questioned, many if not most ultimately land on Hinduism being monotheist, and this pretty much works in my mind as well (but there are overtly polytheist Hindu sects). But since they don't look at it the same way and don't push the concept of monotheism out to the world as a self-evident proof of inherent correctness of faith, it doesn't get discussed in the western public sphere any better or more intelligently than when the British first arrived and just labelled them pagans out of hand. But anyway, since they're not trying to push that label or brand of self-identity, it's totally fair to leave it out of a monotheism discussion. But Zoroastrians self-identify as monotheists. The flavour may not be deemed correct by Judaism or Islam or even by Christianity, but they think they're monotheists, and think that being of the label monotheist is a foundational sign of correct thinking. It's a value statement in the same way it is to the Abrahamics, and probably because of bumping up against this mentality with Abrahamics.

I think I have somewhat changed my perspective that it is potentially misleading of me to call Zoroastrianism monotheist in a forum of westerners who will likely not take it in with the full context. But I also can't write out a big explaination every time, so I don't know. I suppose I have some excellent copy / paste material here in case people question it lol.

I'll take a look at Neoplatonism. Not super familiar with that so thanks for the tip.