chapter  1
26 Pages

Understanding monotheism as a cultural institution

ByJeremiah W. Cataldo

Isolating monotheism from political and cultural meanings and behaviors was itself a political act on the part of the person or institution making the distinction. For Axial Age theorists, monotheism was a crown jewel of the period. The term "monotheism" was a defensive response, even a sociopolitical one, to the unfettered encroachment of reason upon religion. However, "pagan monotheism" never became an institutionalized religion in the way that Judaism, Islam, and Christianity have. Monotheistic traditions developed the concept of "evil" as the symbolic category to capture anything that threatens the fundamental stability of the community and the legitimated authority of its God. But "God" represents the idea of something beyond the experiences of the individual or the community – but categorized within the rational knowledge of the community. In the "realm of representation", ideas and meanings are represented without any prerequisite experience of them.