Comparing Polytheism & Monotheism

Religion was a major part of life in all early civilizations. However, not all religions were the same. Religions mostly differed between polytheism and monotheism. Polytheism is the belief in more than one god. Monotheism differs from polytheism in that it is the belief in a single god or divine being. Groups in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt practiced some form of polytheism and monotheism.

Civilizations such as the Sumerians and Ancient Egyptians practiced polytheism. In the Sumerian civilization, each city-state had their own god. Sumerian religion is rooted in worshiping elements of nature. Later, Sumerian gods maintained human forms and traits. Sumerians believed that their role was to serve the gods. Religious ceremonies were conducted at the temple in the center of the city called the ziggurat. Later, Greek mythology borrowed their ideas such as naming Anu, the main Sumerian god, as King of their gods.

In Ancient Egypt religion was very important. A pharaoh was the divine leader and considered both man and god.

They believed in many gods and sometimes gods would take form as animals. Ra was the sun god and king of all the gods. Egyptians believed in life after death. They believed the body was needed in the afterlife and so they would preserve the body to be taken along with the spirit to the afterlife. They used a process called mummification to preserve bodies for the journey into the afterworld.

There are several ancient civilizations that were monotheistic. Zoroastrianism was the main monotheist religion in Persia. They believed in one god called Ahura Mazda. Their holy book was called the Avesta. Zoroastrianism also holds the belief in the duality of good and evil. It is thought to have influenced major religions throughout history such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The Hebrews and Judaism are also examples of monotheistic religion. Their sacred text is the Torah. Judaism believes in one god who speaks through prophets.

The first prophet and founder of Judaism is Abraham. Another main prophet is Moses who is believed to have led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and said to have wandered the Sinai peninsula’s desert for 40 years.

Polytheism and Monotheism have similarities. They both have the belief in god(s) or divine being(s). Both belief systems are considered forms of theism. Both words, polytheism and monotheism have Greek language roots. In Greek, Monos means one, poly means many, and theos means god.

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