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islamispeace
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Quote islamispeace Replybullet Topic: Polytheism: Between Fantasy and Reality
    Posted: 30 July 2014 at 3:37pm
One of our esteemed (and I use the term lightly) forum members has made some strange comments about polytheism, most of which were made in an attempt to disparage monotheistic belief, and especially Islam.  The identity of this person will not be revealed.  Let us call him R. Webb.  Um, no never mind.  That's too obvious.  Let us call him Ron W.  LOL

Here are some of his strange comments, along with my responses to him:

A.  "Besides, the thing about polytheists is that they are by definition tolerant of other gods.  They feel no particular need to go to war against a neighboring tribe of village just because they worship a different god.  No, for true intolerance you need monotheism." [http://www.islamicity.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=30031&PID=187320#187320]

My Response:

"First of all, if polytheists are "tolerant of other gods", then why did the pagans of Arabia persecute the early Muslims for being monotheists?  The first martyr of Islam was a woman named Sumayyah (may Allah be pleased with her) who was tortured to death by Abu Jahl.  There were many others who followed.

Second, what about the Roman persecution of both Jews and Christians?  While it is true that the Church has greatly exaggerated the history of the Roman persecution of Christians, there is little doubt that there were intermittent periods of persecution.  The Romans were not only polytheists, but they also worshiped the emperors.  Pliny the Younger described in a letter to the emperor Trajan how he tortured Christians who refused to pay homage to the Roman gods and to the emperor: 

"Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. [...]

Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged." (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/pliny1.asp)

 
Third, what about the Seleucid persecution of Jews?  The Seleucids were Greek polytheists who ruled over the Holy Land for almost 300 years.  One of the most infamous Seleucid rulers was Antiochus Ephiphanes IV.  The title "Epiphanes" means "God manifest".  In other words, Antiochus considered himself to be divine.  He also was a polytheist.  Here is how the late scholar Geza Vermes described some of Antiochus' persecution of the Jews:

"In 169 BCE Antiochus IV visited Jerusalem and looted the Temple.  But when in 167 he actually prohibited the practice of Judaism under pain of death and rededicated the Jerusalem Sanctuary to Olympian Zeus, the 'abomination of desolation', the opponents of the Hellenizers finally rose up in violent resistance" ("The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English", p. 51)." [http://www.islamicity.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=30031&PID=187373#187373]


B.  "These were more for political reasons than religious.  Besides, nobody is saying that all polytheists are tolerant to all others all the time.  (Shall I list the many, many instances of Muslim persecution of minorities, contemporary and historical?)  I'm just saying that if Satan wanted to cause chaos and religious conflict, he would be better off backing monotheisms that insist on the supremacy of their own God and are hostile to all other gods, rather than religions that accept lots of different gods and a diversity of worship practices." [http://www.islamicity.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=30031&PID=187440#187440]

My Response:

"Backtracking again?  Well, who can blame you?  After all the embarrassment you have suffered due to your i-d-i-o-t-i-c ramblings, backtracking is all you can really do.  Shall I repeat what you wrote originally?  Here is what you stated:

Besides, the thing about polytheists is that they are by definition tolerant of other gods.  They feel no particular need to go to war against a neighboring tribe of village just because they worship a different god.  No, for true intolerance you need monotheism.

Awkward!!

Anyway, it is true that the Romans and Seleucids had political reasons to persecute both Jews and Christians.  But, the fact is that they also forced them to conform to the pagan religious system.  Pliny the Younger forced Christians to worship the gods and the emperor!  Antiochus IV forcefully desecrated the Temple and forced Jews to conform to the Hellenistic culture.  That is why it is referred to as "forced Hellenization".  So clearly, polytheists are just as capable of intolerance. 

Satan had no reason to start a monotheistic religion in order to promote religious violence.  In fact, as I already pointed out (and which you are now ignoring), Satan already had a chance to cause more violence.  If he had started Islam, he would have further exploited the tribal rivalries that were causing tremendous bloodshed in pre-Islamic Arabia.  Unfortunately for you, Islam preached against tribalism!  Why would Satan have done that?  It just doesn't line up, does it? Wink" [http://www.islamicity.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=30031&PID=187497#187497]


C.  ""Fallen by the wayside"?  Because you found a couple of conflicts that you think can be attributed to polytheism?

The most common polytheistic religion today is Hinduism:
"Hindus have welcomed, embraced and lived peacefully among other religions for centuries. During those same centuries, Hinduism itself evolved into hundreds of strains, and thus Hindus are fully at home with many different traditions and viewpoints within their own faith. Hence, they are naturally tolerant of other religions, respecting the fact that each has unique beliefs, practices, goals and paths of attainment, and not objecting when the doctrines of one conflict with those of another. Hindus readily accept the idea that it is not necessary, desirable or even possible for everyone to hold the same beliefs. And certainly such differences should never be cause for tension, criticism, intolerance or violence." http://www.himalayanacademy.com/blog/taka/2011/09/10/how-do-hindus-view-other-religions/

Compare that to any of the monotheistic religions, all of which regard themselves as supreme and the only acceptable religion." [http://www.islamicity.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=30031&PID=187548#187548]


My Response:

"So you present someone's opinion of how Hindus view other religions and think that it somehow proves your point?  I don't doubt that the majority of Hindus would not think to hurt someone who didn't follow their religion, but that's the case with every religion!  In theory, Hinduism may be accepting of "other" gods, but the reality shows that this was not always the case. 

Shall I educate you on some more history by showing that Hindus have and do persecute people of other religions?  Let's have a lesson on Hindu persecution of Buddhists, just as an example (unfortunately, Muslims have also persecuted Buddhists): http://www.zum.de/whkmla/sp/1112/sbk/sbk2.html#iii1

1.  "The Pallava dynasty in Southern India ruled the northern Tamil Nadu region and the southern Andhra Pradesh region from 275 CE to late 13th century. The Pallavas were followers of Hinduism but were generally tolerant to other faiths. However, at least two attempts of overt persecution of Buddhism took place. Simhavarma, known to be the father of Naravarma who reigned from 404 CE, and Trilochana are known to have destroyed Buddhist stupas and have had Hindu temples built over them." 

2.  "Prior to this period, Buddhism flourished under the Gupta Empire. There was great development of Hinduism, but Buddhism was still prominently practiced in the Ganges Plain.
     
However, this was the period when Hindus, especially Shaivites, took aggressive action against Buddhism. At least two kings, the Hephthalite king Miharakula in the early 6th century and the Bengal king Sasanka in the early 7th century reportedly have persecuted Buddhism."


3.  "Sasanka of the Gauda Kingdom of central Bengal in the early 7th century also worshipped Shiva and endeavored to extirpate the Buddhists from his dominions. Having murdered Rajyavardhana, a Buddhist king of Thanesar, he have put thousands of Buddhist monks to death, particularly all those in the area around Kushinagar were known to be slaughtered. (9) He also cut down the holy bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, the act for which Hsuen-Tsang maligned the king, and managed to break the stone carved with the footprints of the Buddha at Pataliputra in about 600 CE, (10) Nevertheless, Buddhism survived from Sasanka's persecution as the Emperor Harshavardhana of Harsha Empire, a great patron of Buddhism, defeated Sasanka and saved Buddhism."

So clearly, Hindus have been known to exhibit intolerance of other religions.  Even in modern times, Hindus extremists have been known to persecute Christians and Muslims in India.  They have even been known to persecute Jains!  Describing the historical persecution of Jains, Dr. K. Prabhakar Rao states:

"Jainism which was a major religion in Telangana disappered almost completely and this is the reason forcomin up of scores of siva temples in Telangana and other Andhra areas.Even fall of Kakateeya rule was partly due to the outcome of conspiracies of jains who suffered during the later years of their rule." (http://kuntamukkalaprabhakar.blogspot.com/2007/12/fall-of-kalyani.html)


Oh and let's not forget the historical rivalry that has existed among Hindus themselves.  As anyone with even a basic knowledge of Hinduism knows, the two major sects are Vaishnavites (who worship Vishnu) and Shivaites (who worship Shiva).  Throughout history, the rivalry between the two sects has sometimes erupted in violence.  For example, the Chola king Kulottunga (who was a Shivaite) severely persecuted Vaishnavites during his reign (Alain Danielou, "A Brief History of India, p. 178)"." [http://www.islamicity.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=30031&PID=187620#187620]

Is anyone else as shocked as I am at the atrocious ignorance of history?  And why is an atheist so defensive of polytheists anyway? Shocked
Say: "Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds. (Surat al-Anaam: 162)

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Quote Abu Loren Replybullet Posted: 31 July 2014 at 3:47am
I don't think Rom Webb is serious when he answers any of the posts here. He quickly googles a word and post the reply that he receives.

I think he's lost and confused and in need of guidance. Having said that what he says here are very *****ic as if he doesn't think before he types.

But still I really think he's searching to fill his heart which is void right now.

If only he looks into Islam with an open and honest heart.....
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Quote Ron Webb Replybullet Posted: 01 August 2014 at 4:29pm
Your sections A and B are spam.  I'm not going over that territory again.  As for C:

So you present someone's opinion of how Hindus view other religions and think that it somehow proves your point?

The article I referenced was published in Hinduism Today, a major international magazine with an excellent reputation.  If you have a better source, let's have it.

I don't doubt that the majority of Hindus would not think to hurt someone who didn't follow their religion, but that's the case with every religion!  In theory, Hinduism may be accepting of "other" gods, but the reality shows that this was not always the case.

At the risk of spamming myself, I can only repeat: nobody is saying that all polytheists are tolerant, all the time. Polytheists are people; and sometimes people are intolerant, even if their religion encourages them not to be.

I was talking about the religion itself, not the people who practice it.  If Satan wanted to invent a religion for the purpose of causing intolerance, conflict and chaos, monotheism would be a far better choice than polytheism.  By definition, polytheism accepts the existence of multiple gods and therefore a diversity of worship practices; whereas most monotheisms teach that their god is the only possible god, and the worship of all other gods is evil.

In other words, monotheisms teach their followers not to tolerate other gods, and by extension not to tolerate those who worship other gods.  And although there are certainly exceptions, in my experience that is the usual result.
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islamispeace
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Quote islamispeace Replybullet Posted: 01 August 2014 at 6:04pm
Originally posted by Ron Webb

The article I referenced was published in Hinduism Today, a major international magazine with an excellent reputation.  If you have a better source, let's have it.


LOL Well what can we say about your source of "excellent reputation" when it failed to point out that the obviously embarrassing fact that even among Hindus, there have been conflicts between different sects (e.g. Vaishnatives vs. Shivaites)?  Clearly, there are Hindus who feel that despite the various deities they all believe in, certain ones are better than others.

Furthermore, just because polytheists believe in multiple gods, that does not mean that one polytheist culture would accept the pantheon of gods from another culture.

Originally posted by Ron Webb

At the risk of spamming myself, I can only repeat: nobody is saying that all polytheists are tolerant, all the time. Polytheists are people; and sometimes people are intolerant, even if their religion encourages them not to be.

I was talking about the religion itself, not the people who practice it.  If Satan wanted to invent a religion for the purpose of causing intolerance, conflict and chaos, monotheism would be a far better choice than polytheism.  By definition, polytheism accepts the existence of multiple gods and therefore a diversity of worship practices; whereas most monotheisms teach that their god is the only possible god, and the worship of all other gods is evil.

In other words, monotheisms teach their followers not to tolerate other gods, and by extension not to tolerate those who worship other gods.  And although there are certainly exceptions, in my experience that is the usual result.
      

We have already seen enough of your "experience".  Your "experience" is based on ignorance and childish misconceptions. Big%20smile   

Now, let us come back to the Vaishnavites and Shivaites, to show the irony of your statement that "polytheism accepts the existence of multiple gods and therefore a diversity of worship practices".  While this may be true in theory, the example of the Vaishnavites and Shivaites shows that even among polytheists, certain gods take precedence over others.  So, Vaishnavites don't reject the "existence" of Shiva; they simply reject that he is more worthy of worship than Vishnu.  The Shivaites feel the same way about Vishnu. 

The irony of many polytheistic religions is that, despite the fact that they believe in multiple gods, they still inevitably believe that one particular god is "supreme" or more powerful than all others.  Hence, in the Greek pantheon, Zeus was the "king" of the gods and the most powerful of them.  In Norse mythology, Odin was the "all-father".  And of course, in pre-Islamic Arabia, the pagans believed in lesser gods, while still believing that Allah was the supreme deity.  So, in spite of their polytheistic beliefs, these religions still acknowledge a monotheistic hierarchy.  After all, there can only be one "supreme" deity, the "king" of the gods.    
Say: "Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds. (Surat al-Anaam: 162)

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Quote islamispeace Replybullet Posted: 08 August 2014 at 10:16pm
Originally posted by islamispeace

Now, let us come back to the Vaishnavites and Shivaites, to show the irony of your statement that "polytheism accepts the existence of multiple gods and therefore a diversity of worship practices".  While this may be true in theory, the example of the Vaishnavites and Shivaites shows that even among polytheists, certain gods take precedence over others.  So, Vaishnavites don't reject the "existence" of Shiva; they simply reject that he is more worthy of worship than Vishnu.  The Shivaites feel the same way about Vishnu.

The irony of many polytheistic religions is that, despite the fact that they believe in multiple gods, they still inevitably believe that one particular god is "supreme" or more powerful than all others.  Hence, in the Greek pantheon, Zeus was the "king" of the gods and the most powerful of them.  In Norse mythology, Odin was the "all-father".  And of course, in pre-Islamic Arabia, the pagans believed in lesser gods, while still believing that Allah was the supreme deity.  So, in spite of their polytheistic beliefs, these religions still acknowledge a monotheistic hierarchy.  After all, there can only be one "supreme" deity, the "king" of the gods.  


Here is some information on the controversies that sometimes erupted between Vaishnavites and Shivaites, which also illustrates the point I made about the irony of seemingly monotheistic principles being practiced by polytheists.  Discussing the persecution of Vaisnavites under the king Kulottunga, M. L. Ahuja states:

"He wanted to make the leader of Vaishnavism sign a declaration that Shiva was the only deity worthy of worship."

And according to a Hindu website:

"Smartism, a denomination of Hinduism is a monist as well as a monotheist religion that understands different deities as representing various aspects and principles of one supreme entity, Brahman or parabrahman. After all, Swami Vivekananda, a follower of Ramakrishna, along with many others, who brought Hindu beliefs to the West, were all Smarta in belief. Other denominations of Hinduism do not strictly hold this belief. Only a Smartist would have no problem worshiping Shiva or Vishnu together as he views the different aspects of God as leading to the same One God. It is the Smarta view that dominates the view of Hinduism in the West. By contrast, a Vaishnavite considers Vishnu as the one true God, worthy of worship and other forms as subordinate." (http://www.crystalinks.com/indiadieties.html)

I also forgot to mention that in the old Chinese religion, which was polytheistic, there was still a monotheistic "hierarchy".  Like the pre-Islamic Arab pagans, the Chinese worshiped many "lesser" deities, but they still acknowledged a supreme deity known as "Shang-di", loosely translated as "Emperor of Heaven".  The interesting thing about Shang-di is that he was never represented by idols!   
Say: "Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds. (Surat al-Anaam: 162)

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Quote Ron Webb Replybullet Posted: 11 August 2014 at 12:12pm
Originally posted by islamispeace

Originally posted by Ron Webb

The article I referenced was published in Hinduism Today, a major international magazine with an excellent reputation.  If you have a better source, let's have it.

LOL Well what can we say about your source of "excellent reputation" when it failed to point out that the obviously embarrassing fact that even among Hindus, there have been conflicts between different sects (e.g. Vaishnatives vs. Shivaites)?

Well, it's called "Hinduism Today", not "Hinduism in History"; but of course they do cover contemporary conflicts and disagreements, including the one you mentioned.

Clearly, there are Hindus who feel that despite the various deities they all believe in, certain ones are better than others.

Furthermore, just because polytheists believe in multiple gods, that does not mean that one polytheist culture would accept the pantheon of gods from another culture.

Of course not.  But they could, without being ideologically inconsistent; whereas a monotheistic religion could not.  That's all I was saying.
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Quote islamispeace Replybullet Posted: 11 August 2014 at 1:12pm
Originally posted by Ron Webb

Originally posted by islamispeace

Originally posted by Ron Webb

The article I referenced was published in Hinduism Today, a major international magazine with an excellent reputation.  If you have a better source, let's have it.

LOL Well what can we say about your source of "excellent reputation" when it failed to point out that the obviously embarrassing fact that even among Hindus, there have been conflicts between different sects (e.g. Vaishnatives vs. Shivaites)?

Well, it's called "Hinduism Today", not "Hinduism in History"; but of course they do cover contemporary conflicts and disagreements, including the one you mentioned.

Clearly, there are Hindus who feel that despite the various deities they all believe in, certain ones are better than others.

Furthermore, just because polytheists believe in multiple gods, that does not mean that one polytheist culture would accept the pantheon of gods from another culture.

Of course not.  But they could, without being ideologically inconsistent; whereas a monotheistic religion could not.  That's all I was saying.


Well, who cares if "they could"?  How is that relevant?  We are not concerned with theory.  We are concerned with reality, and the reality is that polytheists are just as likely as monotheists to show intolerance.  Also, polytheists are ironically very likely to embrace some sort of monotheistic outlook, as the examples above have shown.


Edited by islamispeace - 11 August 2014 at 1:44pm
Say: "Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds. (Surat al-Anaam: 162)

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Quote Ron Webb Replybullet Posted: 11 August 2014 at 1:46pm
Originally posted by islamispeace

Well, who cares if "they could"?  How is that relevant?  We are not concerned with theory.  We are concerned with reality, and the reality is that polytheists are just as likely as monotheists to show intolerance.

It was relevant in the context of the original discussion in which I made the comment.  We were discussing why a malevolent supernatural being (i.e., Satan) might want to supplant a polytheistic religion with a monotheistic one.  There are theoretical advantages to a monotheism if intolerance and conflict is your goal.

I disagree that polytheists are just as likely to be intolerant in practice, but I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on that point.  Anecdotal evidence is not going to convince either of us.  If you look around the world at all the religious conflicts, it seems to me that the vast majority of them involve monotheism (and most of those involve Islam), but I admit that at least part of it may be due to the prevalence of monotheism in general.

Also, polytheists are ironically very likely to embrace some sort of monotheistic outlook, as the examples above shown.

The recognition of one particular god in a pantheon as supreme among the gods does not make it a monotheism.  (My goodness, do I need to explain this to a Muslim?)
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