Monotheism Today


To Be Presented on February 1, 2013

1:00 PM Friday for the

Ole class on Religions of the World

By William S Jamison

The following are the notes I collected for this presentation:

Definition of Religion

Belief in a metanarrative.

The metanarrative answers three major

questions we all need answered:

Who am I

What is my place in the Universe

How do I maintain that place?

Monotheism itself can be interpreted many

ways. The meaning of a word comes from the

context and is decided by those who are

trained to interpret the meanings in a context.


A Monotheistic Metanarrative would answer

the three major questions by describing a

Grand Unified Theory of the Universe with the

answer to Why everything is the way it is by the

way Plato conjectures in the Timaeus. Notice

this is also basically the point of Brian Greene

here in his explanation of why the universe if

fine tuned for life.

Lyotard argues that the postmodern crisis

results from people no longer believing in

metanarratives but I find Fredric Jameson's

critique in the preface to Lyotard's The

Postmodern Condition to be more coherent.


(Notice some talk this way with regard to being

spiritual as well.)

In my definition of religion the defining

characteristic of a religion is the metanarrative

structure of the dogma which can identify the

culture as well. Here is an example: Conan


Please notice two things here.

The first is that there is a metanarrative that

answers the three questions and teaches an

ethical norm.

The second that in actuality the piece is a

satire for a postmodern audience who should

laugh at the ridiculous nature of the ethic

shown even though there are many people

living still today who live this way. (Our current

Monotheistic view is the Postmodern.)

The ethical position in the metanarrative "kill

your enemies, see them driven before you, and

hear the lamentation of the women" is fairly


If we look at still earlier templates for this we

can see basic hunting narratives. As Vine

Deloria explains, gatherer hunter

metanarratives teach traditions that enable

natives to live in a particular place and subsist

in cooperation with the animals and plants of

that environment.

These stories typically are much more basic

than the model of the mythical narratives

described by Joseph Campbell in his Hero of the Thousand Faces.

Here we see the template used in the great

classical narratives that even structure the

most popular narratives of today - George

Lucas called Joseph Campbell "my Yoda" and

Star Wars plays out as a perfect example of

the template, as does Harry Potter, the life of

Jesus, the life of Mohammad, and even Chloe,

a lost Beverly Hills Chihuahua. (Notice again

the appeal to postmodernists to laugh at this

satire of what appears to be the tried and true

template of the hero's quest. Chloe sacrifices

herself for her friends but is resurrected as the

light hits the stone she lies on dead in the

cave. (As far as I know no critic made fun of

this movie making fun of Jesus' resurrection.)

For the postmodern salvation lies in comedy.


Mathematics (Greek for knowledge)

When we look at the evolution of religious

structure I think we see the main movement to

monotheism following the development of


Once the priesthood develops math in order to

keep accounts, predict the seasons by

following the movements in the heavens, and

build structures that are both functional and

work as a calendar for watching the heavens,

we see the metanarratives associated with

polytheism - many gods - narrow the field to

just one most powerful and then only one god.


Aparently we have Akhenaten's attempt to do

away with the polytheistic priesthood and

replace it with a priesthood dedicated only to

Aten. They lose and the monotheists exodus

from Egypt under the highpriest Moses.



An excellent place to see this occur is in the

mathematization of reason here in the Platonic

dialog Euthyphro. Socrates says: The point

which I should first wish to understand is

whether the pious or holy is beloved by the

gods because it is holy, or holy because it is 

beloved of the gods.


What occurs here is the priority of reason

establishing what is pious over the claim of the

priesthood that what is pious is what they claim

the god loves. What is mathematically obvious

is that there can only be one highest Good.

The problem is how do we come to know what

that is?

To see the mathematical implications of this

we might look at Anselm's Ontological

Argument, or a newer version of that by Kurt


I consider this a successful proof but there are

critiques - Kant's existence is not a predicate

seems to be the strongest but fails as most

everyone agrees that existence is a predicate.

This brings us to the Language Games of God.

(This in the Wittgensteinian sense).

I notice that Pope Benedict XVI uses this

theory to explain the Trinity.

Notice this tree diagram of world religions.

Zooming in on Judaism you can see the

varieties of monotheism that has sprung from

the common root.

Interaction Ritual Chains - people coming

together in groups.

Interaction Rituals among Intellectuals

Notice the connections centered around

Aquinas and his compromise. Aquinas is

doing physics (metaphysics) and continues to

apply the mathematical model to theology as

an Aristotelian.

Monotheism is the belief that there is only one

God. (But not Monodeism!) In this we see the

religions of the Book (Torah, Bible, Koran) as

in agreement. There is one God. The

Language Games that have developed to

enhance the meaning of the concept of God

are where there are differences.

But the one God of Judaism is the one God of

Christianity and that God is Allah in Arabic.

What enters into most arguments I have seen

concerns the cultural differences between

people in trying to understand practical

specifics that result from submission or belief

in God. Tariq Ramadan seems to clearly

confuse the need to live according to Arabic

Culture in order to be Islamic. So he is

supporting the view that the IRs of Arabic

Culture are necessary universally. This

certainly seems to be ridiculous since a

change in environment requires a change in

IRs. Imagine any western court fining a father

for killing his daughter. But how has the

monotheistic metanarrative developed in the


In its abstract mathematically correct form the

proof of the existence of God does not answer

any practical questions.

If you attended Denys Turner's presentation at

UAA several years ago you may remember he

even argued that the position of Atheists is

essentially the same position of Theists today.

By the way, our philosophy conference speaker

this year will be John Hare from Yale Divinity School.


Sam Harris argues that we could use science

to determine best social practices today and

wants science to take over the job of

determining correct moral principles.


Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and

Daniel Dennett seem to join Sam Harris in this

argument. Notice the monotheistic narrative for

the modern west would be associated with

Science. We assume the best religious

practice for a people in a particular

environment should be something we could


Perhaps DARPA might support this project as

part of its attempt to understand the function of

narrative. Or as they describe it:


Visualizing and understanding the

spatiotemporal dynamics of global diffusion of

ideas and the semantic web‖,

involves a process typical of advanced DCS:

ontology formation, web search,

data return and analysis, pattern identification,

ontology refinement, ... or see "One sub-goal"


It occurs to me that Bishops Ambrose and

Augustine might have found such analysis

useful in their conflicts. (Font of Life by Gary Willls)

But what is the dominant monotheism today?

Watching Richard Dawkins several summers

ago at UAF it was obvious to me that he was a

very religious man (by my definition) and his

followers were very religious as well. His

lecture had the atmosphere of a sacred

service. He is also clearly monotheistic though

confused about a great many things. One of

his colleagues, Alister McGrath, goes to great

length to help clarify things for him in this series

of videos.

Which brings me to a terrific interpretation of

our contemporary postmodern monotheism

and the IRs that have developed especially

among our young people - Slavoj Zizek.

Gangnam Style

Robert Putnam ends the book American

Grace by saying that "America has solved the

puzzle of religious pluralism... by creating a

web of interlocking personal relationships

among people of many different faiths. This is

America's Grace." We agree with Stephen Jay Gould.


Last week's presentation by Dr. Reverend Richard Gay are on these two links in Windows Media format:





This page is maintained by William S. Jamison. It was last updated July 11, 2016. All links on these pages are either to open source or public domain materials or they are marked with the appropriate copyright information. I frequently check the links I have made to other web sites but each source is responsible for their own content.