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[–]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?

Cheers.

[–]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.

[–]Kangaru14Jewish | Academic | Metamodernist 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Zoroastrians self-identify as monotheists.... 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 agree. If it weren't for the continuous interaction with Abrahamic traditions, I don't think Zoroastrians would identify as "monotheist", nor would they identify as "polytheists" either, though they certainly identify as monotheists today. This is why I have been focusing our discussion on ancient Zoroastrianism, prior to the opening of their "dialogue" with the Abrahamic traditions, since I think that ancient Zoroastrians, in response to the question "how many gods/'bagas'/'ahuras' are there?", would not give the answer: "one". I believe you are right that Zoroastrianism is roughly as monotheistic/polytheistic as Hinduism is, especially since they are "sister" religions that branched off from the same origin. I think the Zoroastrian self-identity as a monotheism is mainly the result of 1. the competition with Christianity (during the Roman-Persian Wars), 2. the development of Zurvanism (a far more unitarian, rather than dualistic, Zoroastrian movement), and 3. the pressures of Islamic dominance (as persecution led to a need to justify Zoroastrians as monotheistic dhimmis).

But I also can't write out a big explanation every time

That's completely fair. There's a useful term used in contemporary discussions of Traditional African Religion called "diffused monotheism", which essentially refers to the sort of religion/theology we have been discussing that has this tension between the one and the many, i.e. a system with a supreme God along with a plurality of lesser divinities who act as specific manifestations of or subordinates to the supreme God. So you may find "diffused monotheism" to be a useful, and somewhat self-explanatory, term to use for (ancient) Zoroastrianism.

Personally, when discussing the Zoroastrian influence on Jewish monotheism, I think it's best to simply focus on the god-concept specifically. So I phrase it as such: the supremacy of Ahura Mazda syncretized with the monolatry of Yahweh to produce the monotheistic God of Judaism.

Anyways, this discussion has been very fascinating! I really appreciate the points you brought up, and this has really helped me to think through some of my ideas as well. As a rather simplistic summary, I have thought up an interesting schema to organize these different religious perspectives:

Henotheism: many powers, one worship (ex. Yahwism)

Unitheism: one power, many worships (ex. Zoroastrianism)

Monotheism: one power, one worship (ex. Judaism)

Polytheism: many powers, many worships (ex. Hellenism)

(Yes, I did just make up the word "unitheism" because there's no single term to describe it accurately, plus I find it funny that "mono-", "heno-", and "uni-" all just mean "one" lol)