The term monotheism comes from the Greek monos, which means one, and theos, which means god. Thus, monotheism is the belief in the existence of a single god. Monotheism is typically contrasted with polytheism, which is a belief in many gods, and atheism, which is an absence of any belief in any gods

Monotheism is the religious belief that God is “one” (singular).  Example religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The word pantheism is built from the Greek roots pan, which means all, and theos, which mens god; thus, pantheism is either a belief that the universe is God and worthy of worship, or that God is the sum total of all there is and that the combined substances, forces, and natural laws which we see around us are manifestations of God. Pantheism.  

Pantheism is the belief God and the universe can be equated; that God is the universe. This is different from panentheism (also called monistic monotheism), where all is in God; it says the divine interpenetrates all aspects of the universe and transcends it. So in panentheism the divine is separate, whereas in pantheism the universe itself could be defined as the divine. It’s often no actual divinity however, but a spiritual reverence, or awe. You could rightfully call it the sublime, but I suppose that would apply to panentheism equally


The concept of Monotheism is solely associated with Islam. It was first introduced in the SEA during the 13th Century by Arab traders who came to Malacca to do business in the spice region. Parameswara, the founder of Malacca who became a Muslim and changed his name to Sultan Iskandar Muzaffar Shah, 5 is an important figure in introducing Islam to his subjects. There is a popular theory now that Islam came to ‘Tanah Melayu’ from Arab traders who sailed from China.


The primary meaning of “pantheism” is “the belief that the Divine is identifiable with the forces of nature and with natural substances,” and it is this meaning of pantheism which is properly contrasted with “pantheism” (the belief that the Divine is within the natural world but not limited to it). This pantheism *denies* all Gods and Goddesses, at least to the extent that They are understood as anything more than natural forces. Thus if you believe that the Goddess is something more than the physical planet Earth, you are NOT a pantheist; you are a pantheist.

A secondary meaning of “pantheism” is “worship that admits or tolerates all gods.” As this meaning directly contradicts the primary meaning, persons using the term should be careful to specify which meaning they intend. (Under this meaning, if there is any god whose existence you do not acknowledge – Satan, for example – you are NOT a pantheist.)

Within the pagan community, the term pantheism is used even more sloppily as a synonym for polytheism and/or animism. This had led many people who don’t meet either of the above definitions to mistakenly call themselves pantheists.

P> By that, I mean that I believe the Christian God exists, but
P> don’t necessarily worship that particular deity. If all gods
P> and goddesses exist, you can worship one of them (Monotheism),
P> without excluding the existence of the rest of them

That’s not monotheism, that’s henotheism. Monotheism is the belief that only one “God” exists. Note, however, that monotheism does not deny the existence of lesser beings (saints, angels, etc.) who might also be called “gods” in a polytheistic system. Note also that Christianity is not truly monotheistic, as it has the top job shared three ways.

Pantheism and Western Monotheism

How does pantheism relate to traditional Judaeo-Christian conceptions of God? As Paul Harrison (“Defining the Cosmic Divinity,” SP website) points out, traditional (Western) religion describes a God who is ultimately a mystery, beyond human comprehension; awe-inspiring; overwhelmingly powerful; creator of the universe; eternal and infinite; and transcendent. The divine universe fits some of these descriptions without modification and it fits others if we allow ourselves to interpret the terms flexibly.

The divine universe is mysterious. Though we can understand the universe more adequately as scientific research proceeds, there will always be questions to which we will not yet have answers; and explanations of ultimate origins will always remain speculative (they are too far in the past for us to decipher clearly).

The divine universe is awe-inspiring. Would a creator behind it be any more awe-inspiring than the universe itself?

The universe is clearly very powerful. It creates and it destroys on a vast scale.

So far as we know, the universe created all that exists; which is to say that, the universe as it is now was created by the universe as it was a moment ago, and that universe by the universe that existed a moment before that, and so on. If we view universe in this way, we can keep the idea of creator and creation and yet have no need to imagine a being apart from the universe who created it. The divine being is indeed a creator, in the pantheist view. Indeed, the creativity of the natural universe is probably the best evidence for its divinity.

Is the universe eternal? Well, it depends on how you understand eternity. Traditional Western theology understands eternity as a quality of a God that exists altogether outside time. Yet the dynamic and changing universe is very much bound up with time, so it is not eternal in the theological sense. Possibly it is everlasting, maybe it had no first moment and will never cease to exist. Scientific evidence does point to a Big Bang several billion years ago, from which our universe in roughly its current form originated, but if we accept the time-honored precept that nothing comes from nothing, we cannot rule out the existence of a material universe before this Big Bang.

Is the universe transcendent? In Western theology transcendence is a term often paired with eternity. A transcendent being is essentially outside and independent of the universe. Of course, the divinity which pantheists revere is not transcendent in that way. However, in ordinary language, to transcend is to surpass. Well, the universe which includes us also certainly surpasses us, as it surpasses everything we are capable of knowing or observing.


Differences with Western Monotheism

Pantheism has clear differences with the traditional description of God. It departs from the picture of God given in the Old Testament to the extent that the Old Testament attributes human attributes to the divine being, such as a willingness to make deals (You worship me and I’ll make you my Chosen People) and anger (for example, Yahweh’s anger at the Israelites’ worship of the Golden Calf).

Pantheism also avoids some features of the theological conception of God which arises from a mix of Greek philosophical influences and Judaeo-Christian thought. For example, pantheism does not hold that the divinity we revere is a first cause wholly independent of matter, or that the divine being freely creates the physical universe from nothing but its own will.


There is a clear difference between the ‘isms’. Pantheism and Polytheism is the belief in the existence of several gods, while Monotheism believes in the existence of one god. Be it Phantheism, Polytheism or Monotheism, the artists who produced the artwork throughout the different religious periods in the SEA countries were responsible in coloring the region with different kinds of artistic expressions. The ‘Dongson Drum’ and the ‘Boat of Death’ it has been used by the believer in all the religion ceremonies and funerals. For ‘Makyong’ and ‘Wayang Kulit’, this two activities work as a messenger to the people about the Ramayana Epic and a way of asking the devotees to be good in life. The ‘Chandi’ Lembah Bujang and Borobodor built by the Buddish in Kedah and Jogjakarta during the Buddhism did give benefit to the people in the form of a place of worship and knowledge in the religion. As for Islam, the artist leads by the ‘Pandai Tukang’ Melayu have transformed the idea of beauty through the woodcarving and others. All these practices through the religion have given the work of art with a purpose not just Art for Art sake as ideally by the western artist.


  1. (2002), Macmillan English Dictionary, Macmillan Education, UK. Pg 1025
    2. Zainal Abidin Abdul Wahid (1972), Sejarah Malayisa Se Pintas Lalu, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur. Pg 12
    3. (2002), Macmillan English Dictionary, Macmillan Education, UK. Pg 1025
    4. Last updated: 23 Jul 1996,, The External Cultural Relations Division Office of The National Culture by Mahidol University
    5. Dr. Siti Zainon Ismail (2002), Meng’Ukir’ Seni Melayu, Fakuli Sains Sosial dan Kemanusaian, UKM, Malaysia.
    6.Muhammad Haji Salleh, ed (1997), Tun Seri Lanang, Sulalat al Sulatin (Sejarah Melayu), Yayasan Karyawan dan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, KL
    7. Prof. H. M. Toha Jahja Omar (1964), Hukum Seni Musik, Seni Suara dan Tari dalam Islam, Jakarta. Pg 307
    8. Sulaiman Esa (2000), Syerah, Kuala Lumpur.
    9. Dr. Siti Zainon Ismail (2002), Meng’Ukir’ Seni Melayu, Fakuli Sains Sosial dan Kemanusaian UKM, Malaysia.

Posted by AzianTahir at 6:55 PM



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