The Birth of Monotheism

Believe it or not, we used to be accepting of other’s beliefs.

#canva

As far as we know, all cultures were polytheistic until the 14th century BC. No one god was believed to look after everyone, and no culture insisted on worshiping only one deity.

This was until the Amarna Era in Ancient Egypt and subsequent domination of Atenism at the volition of one ruler.

Atenism was not, however, new to ancient Egypt — it was a polytheistic society with “tribal” deities and theological acceptance of the beliefs of others. While these faiths are called “cults,” they were not “cults” in the modern sense.

There was a general understanding that “your god takes care of you, my god takes care of me.”

Dominating via political influence rather than spiritual resonance, this diversion into monotheistic oppression broke many traditional ethics. Egyptian faiths held a common harmonious and benevolent goal.

#canva

With this revolution, other faiths became persecuted. Their cultural icons were destroyed if they depicted other deities besides the Aten, symbolized by the rising sun — the father of all things.

Much of the available history of ancient Egypt is after this time, though there are records, evidence, and accounts. Because of this, and its profound impact on theology that rings to this day, the Amarna Era is the most studied, debated, and sited era in Egyptian history.

#canva & worldhistory.org

It was just assumed all beliefs had validity and warranted acceptance.

Amenhotep IV ruled Egypt from 1353–1336BC as the pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt. He left the cult of Amun for the cult of Aten in the 5th year of his reign, changing his name to Akhenaten. His newly adopted name translates to “Of Great Use To” or “To The Success Of” Aten.

Akhenaten became radicalized and is now infamous to most as a “heretic king.” Regardless, he destroyed Egyptian culture and religion to institute the monotheistic religion as the one and only acceptable religion.

He proclaimed himself the living embodiment of the Sun God, Aten. Many pharaohs had associations with Gods such as Rah, Isis, or Osiris, but Akhenaten was the first to proclaim himself an actual God.

So much so was he engulfed in his narcissistic tyranny, that he founded a new capital of Egypt, also named Akhenaten, moving the royal family from Thebes. Their luxurious new palace was on virgin land and faced the East to glorify and exalt the rising morning sun.

Akhenaten was rather androgynous and depicted as being very slender. #canva

After stepping into his assumed role as a living God, Akhenaten grew disinterested in and neglectful of political obligations outside Egypt, and even really just outside his palace walls. Even matters regarding his local people and international allies were forsaken by the less-than-loving God, as evidenced by the Amarna Letters.

After 12 years of his tyranny, it is believed the royal family was struck down by plague or epidemic of some sort, one after another. This led to young King Tut taking the throne at only 8 or 9 years old.

Tut ruled under the supervision of Ay, the possible father of his step-mother Nefertiti, for ten years before he died as well, likely from disease though murder is rumored. One theory is that Ay was tired of guiding a child in ruling the nation and murdered him for the throne, though he was already in poor general health and walked with a cane even as a boy.

The city of Akhenaten was abandoned, and Akhenaten’s mummy was moved to the Valley of the Kings. His sarcophagus was left in his tomb in a mountain outside of his new city, which was also abandoned.

King Tut #canva

Tut was named “Tutankhaten” before reverting to worship of Amun after his father’s death. He changed his name to “Tutankhamen” or “In The Image Of Amun” instead of “In The Image Of Aten.”

They reinstated freedom of religion in Egypt and began restoring monuments Akhenaten had ordered to be destroyed during the conversion period to Atenism.

Moses of the Bible was possibly a monotheistic Atenist that fled Egypt with his followers after Ay and Tut began reinroducing irradicated Egyptian traditions. According to some theories, anyway.

The Amarna Era is theorized by Freud and other scholars to have influenced future theologians to continue his idea of one true God to oversee all humanity, and to reject polytheism or other “disagreeing” faiths. This broke new ground for bigotry, persecution, and prejudice, replacing the openness which “characterized human religious belief for millennia” prior to the Amarna Era.

Moses choosing Elders #canva

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