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The Case For Ancient Monotheism – Join islam

The Quran informs us that the natural instance placed inside all people is Monotheism.

[30:30] Therefore, you shall devote yourself to the religion of strict monotheism. Such is the natural instinct placed into the people by GOD. Such creation of GOD will never change. This is the perfect religion, but most people do not know.

 فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا فِطْرَتَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّتِى فَطَرَ ٱلنَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ ٱللَّهِ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلْقَيِّمُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

I recently came across the following documentary, which explores how the religion of the most primitive societies all over the world was some form of monotheism. The video shows that as society advanced, they often shifted their All-Powerful God to a more human-like entity and introduced partners to God.

Here is a summary of the video provided by Blackbox:

Discovery of Ancient Sumerian Texts:

  • Archaeologists in the early 19th century uncovered the longest Sumerian epic, “A Nemacar and the Lord of Eratta,” which mentioned a time when all people worshipped Enlil with one language until Enki confused their languages.
  • The text suggested an ancient monotheism, which was unusual for a polytheistic culture and perplexed scholars.

Theories on the Origin of Religion:

  • E.B. Tylor’s evolutionary hypothesis proposed that religions evolved from animism to polytheism, then henotheism, and finally monotheism.
  • Andrew Lang initially supported Tylor’s theory but later rejected it after anthropological studies of primitive cultures suggested the existence of monotheism in early societies.

Studies of Australian Aboriginal Tribes:

  • Australia’s geographical isolation allowed for the preservation of ancient beliefs, with some oral traditions possibly persisting for 70,000 years.
  • Anthropologists found that many isolated and primitive tribes had monotheistic tendencies, worshipping a high god or “All-Father.”
  • Examples included the Narinari, Murano, Kulin, and other tribes with beliefs in a supreme creator who prescribed moral laws.

Monotheism in Other Cultures:

  • Lang and his followers argued that generally, the more primitive tribes were more monotheistic, while more developed tribes were more polytheistic.
  • Similar monotheistic tendencies were observed among Native American tribes, such as the Yuki and the Maedu, who believed in a creator god.

Criticism and Defense of Monotheism Theory:

  • Critics of Lang’s theory suggested that beliefs in a high creator god among aboriginal tribes were due to misunderstandings by missionaries or the incorporation of Christian beliefs.
  • Defenders of Lang’s view, including anthropologist Lester Hayat and philosopher of religion Winfried Corduan, argued against these criticisms, pointing out the consistency and secrecy of the tribes’ religious beliefs.

Wilhelm Schmidt’s Work on Original Monotheism:

  • Schmidt documented primitive tribes with monotheistic tendencies worldwide, challenging the prevailing view that monotheism was a late development in religious evolution.
  • His extensive 12-volume work provided detailed evidence of monotheism in remote regions, from Russia to the Philippines.

African Tribal Religions:

  • Recent studies by African scholars and philosophers have suggested that many primitive African tribes were monotheistic, contrary to the widespread belief in animism or polytheism.
  • Tribes like the Messiah and the Kikuyu demonstrated monotheistic beliefs in a supreme creator god, often alongside veneration of ancestors.

The Evolution from Monotheism to Polytheism:

  • Andrew Lang proposed a model where primitive societies started with monotheism but evolved into polytheism as they developed and desired more from their deities.
  • This model was supported by evidence from various cultures, including the Inca, where a monotheistic cult worshipped the creator god Viracocha alongside a pantheon of other gods.

Implications for Understanding Religious Evolution:

  • The data suggests that monotheism is an ancient concept, coexisting with polytheism throughout history.
  • The biblical account of monotheistic patriarchs may reflect reliable oral traditions from early stages of human society, rather than late, anachronistic insertions.

One key source the video referenced was Wilhelm Schmidt’s 12-volume work “Der Ursprung der Gottesidee (The Origin of the Idea of God).” Below is a summary of the work by ChatGPT:

Wilhelm Schmidt’s “The Origin of the Idea of God” is a seminal work in the field of anthropology and the history of religion. Published in the early 20th century, Schmidt’s book explores the development of religious belief and the concept of a supreme deity across different cultures and societies. Here’s a summary of the key ideas and arguments presented in the book:

Key Ideas and Arguments:

  1. Primitive Monotheism:
    • Schmidt argues for the existence of a form of primitive monotheism among early human societies. He posits that the earliest religions were centered around the worship of a single high god or supreme being, contrary to the then-prevailing belief that polytheism or animism preceded monotheism.
    • This high god, according to Schmidt, was often viewed as a creator god, responsible for the creation of the world and humanity.
  1. Ethnographic Evidence:
    • The book draws extensively on ethnographic evidence from various indigenous cultures around the world, including those in Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Schmidt uses these examples to support his thesis that belief in a high god was widespread among early human communities.
    • He documents how these societies often had concepts of a distant, supreme being who was less involved in daily affairs but revered as the ultimate source of life and moral order.
  1. Cultural Evolution:
    • Schmidt’s theory challenges the linear progression model of cultural evolution, which suggests that societies evolve from animism to polytheism to monotheism. Instead, he proposes that monotheism existed in the earliest stages of religious development and that later religious forms, such as polytheism, emerged as a result of cultural and social changes.
    • He suggests that as societies became more complex, the worship of the high god became diluted with the introduction of lesser deities and spirits, leading to polytheism and animism.
  1. Comparative Religion:
    • Schmidt employs a comparative approach, examining the religious beliefs of different cultures to identify common patterns and themes. He argues that these patterns indicate a shared, primordial religious experience centered around the worship of a high god.
    • This comparative method aims to show that despite cultural differences, there is a fundamental unity in the way early human societies conceived of the divine.
  1. Criticism of Evolutionary Theories:
    • Schmidt critiques the evolutionary theories of religion proposed by earlier anthropologists like Edward Burnett Tylor and James George Frazer. He argues that these theories, which suggest a gradual development from primitive forms of religion to more sophisticated ones, do not adequately account for the evidence of early monotheism.
    • He contends that these theories are overly simplistic and fail to recognize the complexity and diversity of religious development.
  1. Influence and Legacy:
    • Schmidt’s work has had a significant impact on the study of religion and anthropology, particularly in challenging the evolutionary model of religious development.
    • Although some of his conclusions have been debated and revised by subsequent scholars, his emphasis on the importance of ethnographic evidence and the idea of primitive monotheism has influenced later research in the field.

Conclusion

Wilhelm Schmidt’s “The Origin of the Idea of God” presents a provocative and well-researched argument for the existence of primitive monotheism in early human societies. By drawing on ethnographic evidence and challenging existing theories of religious evolution, Schmidt offers a compelling case for the fundamental unity of religious belief across different cultures. His work remains an important contribution to the study of religion and the understanding of how the concept of a supreme deity has shaped human history.

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