Polytheism & the Roman Catholic Church

by Aaron Charles

While Roman Catholics call their faith monotheistic -- based on a belief in one God -- other religious groups, particularly Jews, call it polytheistic -- based on a belief in many Gods. The disagreement is inspired by the Roman Catholic teaching about the trinity, which, according to the Athanasian Creed, says that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

In Support of Monotheism

The Roman Catholic catechism quotes the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) in which the prophet Moses refers to only the one God of Israel, not many Gods. It also notes how Jesus Christ himself affirmed this idea by saying that there is but one Lord whom a person must love with his whole heart, soul, mind and strength. Based on this concept, then, a Catholic must declare that he believes in one God, and one God only. In fact, the "Catholic Encyclopedia," as published on the New Advent website, states that anyone denying that there is only one true God should be regarded as anathema, or something denounced and accursed by the Church.

Catholic Thoughts on Ancient Egypt

The Roman Catholic church pretty much equates polytheism with paganism, and mentions the polytheism and paganism in ancient Egypt, in particular. The ancient Egyptians had many gods and goddesses that they worshiped among the different towns and communes, and usually an animal or tree represented each god. The Egyptians even put some of these gods into triads, or families of three, such as in the case of the gods Osiris, Iris and Horus. According to the "Catholic Encyclopedia," these triads in ancient Egypt were examples of the "one God in three forms" concept.

Claims of Polytheism

The "Catholic Encyclopedia" further states that there is "a germ," or a hint, of monotheism in the Egyptian triads. Some have posed the question, then -- especially devout Jews -- of how it is that the Catholic belief in a Christian trinity - Father, Son, Holy Spirit as one God -- can be monotheistic while the Egyptian triads are basically polytheistic, with only a "germ" of monotheism in them. Those of the Jewish faith and others point to the statement in the Old Testament at Deuteronomy 6:4, which says: "Jehovah our God is one Jehovah," with an emphasis on the number "one" and not "three."

Mystery of the Trinity

But Catholics stand by their belief that Christianity is monotheistic. They say that the trinity teaching is in fact monotheistic, while emphasizing that the Athanasian Creed states that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three Gods, but one God. Furthermore, in the "Catholic Encyclopedia" there's an emphasis on how the trinity teaching is a mystery and that, despite what others say, the mystery contains no contradiction and actually adds much to our understanding of the infinite.

About the Author

Aaron Charles began writing about "pragmatic art" in 2006 for an online arts journal based in Minneapolis, Minn. After working for telecom giant Comcast and traveling to Oregon, he's written business and technology articles for both online and print publications, including Salon.com and "The Portland Upside."

Photo Credits

  • Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images