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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/554

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MONOTHEISM


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MONOTHEISM


Creator and Lord of the world, the otprnal Spirit, All-powerfvil, All-wisp, ami All-nonil, the Hcwarder of pood and Punisher of evil, tlic Source of our liappi- ness and perfect ion. It is opposed to I'olytlieism, which is belipf in more gods than one, and to Atheism, which is disbelief in any deity wliatsoever. In contrast with Deism, it is the recognition of God'.s presence and ac- tivity in every part of creation. In contrast with Pantheism, it is belief in a CJod of conscious freedom, disiiiict from the physical world. Moth Deism and Pantheism arc religious philosophies rather than re- ligions.

On the other hand. Monotheism, like Polytheism, is a term applying primarily to a concrete system of religion. I'lii- grounds of rea.son underlying mono- theism have already been set forth in the article God. These grounds cnal)le the inquiring mind to recognize the existence of God as a morallj- certain trutli. Its rea.sonablencss acquires still greater force from the positive data associated with the revelation of Christianity. (See Revelation.)

PiiiMiTivE Monotheism. — Was monotheism the religion of our first parents, and hence the primitive form of religion? Many Evolutionists and Rationalist Protestants answer Xo. Rejecting the ver}- notion of po.sitive, Divine revelation, they hold that the mind of man was in the beginning but little above that of his ape-like ancestors, and hence incapable of grasping so intellectual a conception as that of Monotheism.

The}' assert that the first religious notions enter- tained by man in his upward course towards civiliza- tion were superstitions of the grossest kind. In a word, primitive man was, in their opinion, a savage, differing but little from existing savages in his intel- lectual, moral, and religious life. Catholic doctrine teaclies that the religion of our first parents w-as mon- otheistic and supernatural, being the result of Divine revelation. Xot that primitive man without Divine help could not possibly have come to know and wor- sliip God. The (irst man, like his descendants to-day^, had by nature the capacity and the aptitude for re- ligion. Being a man in the true sense, with the use of reason, he had the tendency then, as men have now, to recognize in the phenomena of nature the workings of a mind and a will vastly superior to his own. But, as he lacked experience and scientific knowledge, it was not easy for him to unify the diverse phenomena of the visible world. Kence he was not without danger of going ast ray in his religious interpretation of nature. He was liable to miss the important truth that, as na- ture is a unity, so the God of nature is one. Revela- tion was morally necessary for our first parents, as it is for men to-day, to secure the possession of true monotheistic belief and worship.

The conception that Almighty God vouchsafed such a revelation is eminently reasonable to every- one who recognizes that the end of man is to know, love, and serve God. It is repugnant to think that the first generations of men were left to grope in the dark, ignorant alike of the true God and of their religious duties, while at the same time it was God's will that they should know and love Him, The in- struction in religion which children receive from their parents and superiors, anlicii)ating their powers of independent re:isoning, and guiding them to a right knowledge of God, being impossible for our first parents, was not without a fitting substitute. They were .set right from the first in the knowledge of their religious duties by a Divine revelation. It is a Catho- lic dogma, intimately connected with the dogma of original sin ami with that of the Atonement, that our first parents were raised to the state of sanctifving grace and were destined to a supernatural "end, namely, th(? beatific vision of God in heaven. This necessarily implies supernatural faith, which could come only by revelation.


Nor is there anything in sound science or philosophy to invalidate this teaching that Monotheistic belief was imjiarted by God to primitive man. While it may be true that human life in the beginning was on a comiiaralively low plane of material culture, it is also true that the first men were endowed with reason, i. e. with the ability to conceive with sufficient dis- tinctness of a being who was the cause of the manifold phenomena presented in nature. On the other hand, a humble degree of culture along the lines of art and industry is quite compatible with right religion and morality, as is evident in the case of tribes converted to Catholicism in recent times; while retaining much of their rude and primitive mode of living, they have reached very clear notions concerning God and shown remarkable fidelity in the observance of His law. As to the bearing of the Evolutionistie hypothesis on this question, see Fetishis.m.

It is thus quite in accordance with the accredited results of physical science to maintain that the first man, created by God, was keen of mind as well as sound of body, and that, through Divine instruction, he began fife with right notions of God and of his moral and religious duties. This does not necessarily mean that his conception of God was scientifically and phi- lo.sophically profound. Here it is that scholars are wide of the mark when they argue that Monotheism is a conception that implies a philosophic grasp and training of mind absolutely impossible to primitive man.

The notion of the supreme God needed for re- ligion is not the highly metaphysical conception de- manded by right philosophy. If it were, but few could hope for salvation. The God of religion is the unspeakably great Lord on whom man depends, in whom he recognizes the source of his happiness and perfection; He is the righteous Judge, rewarding good and punLshing evil; the loving and merciful Father, whose ear is ever open to the prayers of His needy and penitent children. Such a conception of God can be readily grasped by simple, unphilosophic minds — by children, by the unlettered peasant, by the converted savage.

Nor are these notions of a supreme being utterly lacking even where barbarism still reigns. Bishop Le Roy, in his interesting work, "Rehgion des primi- tifs" (Paris, 1909), and Mr. A. Lang, in his "Making of Religion" (New York, 1898), have emphasized a point too often overlooked by students of religion, namely, that with all their religious crudities and su- perstitions, such low-grade savages as the Pygmies of the Northern Congo, the Australians, and the natives of the Andaman Islands entertain very noble concep- tions of the Suprr'me Deity. To say, then, that prim- itive man, fresh from the hand of God, was incapable of monotheistic belief, even with the aid of Divine revelation, is contrary to well-ascertained fact. From the opening chapters of Genesis we gather that our first parents recognized God to be the author of all things, their Lord and Master, the source of their hap- piness, rewarding good and punishing evil. The sim- plicity of their life made the range of their moral obligation easy of recognition. Worship was of the simplest kind,

Mos.iic Monotheism. — The ancient Hebrew re- ligion, promulgated by Moses in the name of Jehovah (Jahweh), was an impressive form of Monotheism. That it was Divinely revealed is the unmistakable teaching of Holy Scripture, particularly of Exodus and the following books which treat explicitly of Mosaic legislation. Even non-Catholic Scriptural scholars, who no longer accept the Pentateuch, as it stands, as the literary production of Moses, recognize, in great part, that^ in the older sources which, according to them, go to make up the Pentateuch, there are portions that reach back to the time of Moses, showing the existence of Hebrew monotheistic worship in his day.