I know that the term is not very good, considering that any faith can be interpreted as you like. The term monolatry is much better characterized by religions such as Christianity, Islam or Zoroastrianism, given that they pray to a single divine figure, recognizing the existence of lesser supernatural beings like angels/jinns/amesh spentas.

My question is: do we need special conditions for the emergence of such a religion? Like the syncretism of cults of different deities, the elevation of one deity above others so much that other (lesser deities) are declared his servants/angels, or vice versa, enemies who should be despised? I also noticed that monotheistic features of religions appear more often where large empires(but there are exceptions)unite different peoples under the single rule of one dynasty: Ahura Mazda and the Achaemenids, Pacha-Kamak Viracocha and Pachacutec Yupanki, Sol invictus and the late Roman emperors, also Marduk and Babylonian dynasties.

I am creating a world in which monotheistic religions from polytheistic cults develop in parallel in different parts of the continent/world. But I would like to describe these processes in detail so that it sounds realistic, like a historical document.I also wish that these religions did not seem to be copies of Christianity, Zoroastrianis, Islam or Judaism. .Thank you in advance for the answers.

  • $\begingroup$ Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    May 16 at 7:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "I would like to know your opinions." That's flattering, but also explicitly off-topic for this site, "opinion-based" is a reason to close questions. (This also would fail the "book test" since a well-justified answer would be book-length.) You appear to have done considerable research already, I suggest that most of your readers(?) will know less about the topic than you do and your explanation will be adequately convincing. $\endgroup$ May 16 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, I would like to know what conditions are needed for the emergence of a monotheistic religion: is there a need for a figure of a prophet?, a figure of evil, any holy scriptures? Or something like that. Also, what unique, exotic features could I give to these religions so that they would not be too similar to Abrahamism or Zoroastrianism? $\endgroup$
    – Tyto Alba
    May 16 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ "Monotheistic features of religions appear more often where large empires unite different peoples": As exemplified by the rise of the One God of Abraham in the famously large and powerful Hebrew Empire. P.S. We have very little historical knowledge about the emergence of mono-, heno-, poly- and whatever other -theistic religions. We do have a lot of data about the evolution of religions after they appeared. Unless you really want to believe that the Archangel Gabriel actually dictated the actual word of God to the Prophet. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 16 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answers, at the expense of large empires, I forgot to add that there are exceptions like Jews :). But it is worth saying that there were similar processes in Israel. Of course, there was no large Jewish empire, but the Jews united many Canaanite tribes under the patronage of Yahweh. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto Alba
    May 16 at 9:48

3 Answers 3


You are mixing up things.

Religions do not emerge where there are strong empires, one religion can thrive and expand thanks to a strong empire for the simple fact that it can prove useful to control and unify people, so a religion aligned with the view of the empire rulers will be graciously taught to the conquered populations.

Then, coming to how religions emerge, there are, roughly speaking, two views:

  1. the divinity spells their rules, either directly or via a spokesperson, to a group of people who become the first nucleus of believers and then start spreading the religion.
  2. a monotheistic religion evolves from magical thinking, going from "I spilled blood before hunting and I had a big catch, then if I always spill blood I will always have big catch" to "some powerful beings favor me if I do what they like and will help me in my life" ending to "if this being is so powerful and perfect, it must be unique." Which is roughly the path from magic -> polytheistic religions -> monotheistic religions. Note that the last step was formalized by a formally polytheistic philosopher in Ancient Greece.
  • $\begingroup$ It is very interesting. I also noticed that some deities are very popular (for example, in real history), maybe this is due to a connection with light, power, fertility or something like that? Can such super-popular gods give rise to monotheistic religions (with a century of development)? $\endgroup$
    – Tyto Alba
    May 16 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ I did not mean that religions appear where there are empires, I said that most often monotheistic features (your gods, my gods-there is one) where there are empires uniting different peoples with different cultures. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto Alba
    May 16 at 9:49

Frame Challenge

The answer to this question is highly dependent on what your view of Religion is.

  • Is Religion an accurate representation of the world?

If so - then this is the easiest answer to your question: There is a Monotheistic religion because that is the nature of the world and all the other religions are in error.

  • Is Religion a practical tool of helping a society to survive?

This would be akin to the Jordan Peterson view of Religion: "I act as if God is Real" - in which case, God is merely a manifestation of your highest set of Value(s). This makes more sense in a Society that has a written culture (like the Jews) and a strong analytical tradition (again, like the Jews and to a lesser extent, the golden age of Islam)

  • Is Religion an attempt to explain the world around you?

This is IMO why most tribal cultures are Polytheistic. You have a Deity for each significant natural phenomenon. A God of the Sun, a God of the Sea, a God of Earthquakes etc. etc. And since some of these phenomenon would appear to be in direct opposition (God of the Desert vs God of the Sea) it would stand to reason that they are different deities.

Then you need to add in things like

  • Culture
  • History
  • Place


As these all have an influence.

I don't think we can answer this question more than this.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer, I meant that monotheism (or rather monolatry) is a rather rare phenomenon in religions. I was wondering if there are any special conditions that promote monotheistic views? After all, Judaism began with Christian polytheism, Zoroastrianism grew out of Indo-Iranian politheism. There was also a cult of Zalmoxis-Gebeleizis as the only god of the geto-dacians. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto Alba
    May 16 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ For me, religion is more a way of interacting with hypothetical supernatural forces. The only question is, what can motivate people who were polytheists until recently to worship only one god? $\endgroup$
    – Tyto Alba
    May 16 at 9:42
  • $\begingroup$ In my world, all religions are a set of rituals and myths. Religions are not accurate descriptions of the world order. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto Alba
    May 16 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ @TytoAlba Actually, monotheism is quite common. Most individuals worship only one god even in polytheistic cultures. That is their god. Their neighbor worships a different god which is how the culture is polytheistic. Judaism predates Christian polytheism by centuries. Monotheism is imposed on a culture when a ruler demands it (often during times of economic disaster). $\endgroup$
    – David R
    May 16 at 13:53

The threat of cultural dissolution. Surrounded by other tribes, with various multi theisms and loads of shared cultural similarities- if you dont't do something to distinct yourself, the cultural identity dissolves and the priesthood/clanchefs power fades away. Monotheism is a defensive-reaction to multi-cultural meltingpots.


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