Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of at least one deity. In common parlance, or when contrasted with deism, the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism (also referred to as classical theism) — or gods found in polytheistic religions — a belief in God or in gods without the rejection of revelation as is characteristic of deism. Gnosticism is the belief in personal spiritual knowledge.
Atheism is commonly understood as non-acceptance or rejection of theism in the broadest sense of theism, i.e. non-acceptance or rejection of belief in God or gods. Related, but separate, is the claim that the existence of any deity is unknown or unknowable: agnosticism. Combined with theism, it becomes agnostic theism.
The term theism derives from the Greek θεός (theós) or theoi meaning "god" or "gods". The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617–1688). In Cudworth's definition, they are "strictly and properly called Theists, who affirm, that a perfectly conscious understanding being, or mind, existing of itself from eternity, was the cause of all other things".
Types of theism
Monotheism (from Greek μόνος) is the belief in theology that only one deity exists. Some modern day monotheistic religions include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baháʼí Faith, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, some Sects of Hinduism, and Eckankar.
Polytheism is the belief in multiple deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon, along with their own religious sects and rituals. Polytheism was the typical form of religion before the development and spread of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which enforce monotheism. It is well documented throughout history, from prehistory and the earliest records of ancient Egyptian religion and ancient Mesopotamian religion to the religions prevalent during Classical antiquity, such as ancient Greek religion and ancient Roman religion, and in ethnic religions such as Germanic, Slavic, and Baltic paganism and Native American religions.
Notable polytheistic religions practiced today include Taoism, Shenism or Chinese folk religion, Japanese Shinto, Santería, most Traditional African religions, various neopagan faiths such as Wicca. Hinduism, while popularly held as polytheistic, cannot be exclusively categorised as such as some Hindus consider themselves to be pantheists and others consider themselves to be monotheists. Both are compatible with Hindu texts, since there exists no consensus of standardisation in the faith. Vedanta, the most dominant school of Hinduism, offers a combination of monotheism and polytheism, holding that Brahman is the sole ultimate reality of the universe, yet unity with it can be reached by worshipping multiple gods and goddesses.
A major division in modern polytheistic practices is between so-called soft polytheism and hard polytheism. "Soft" polytheism is the belief that different gods may either be psychological archetypes, personifications of natural forces, or as being one essential god interpreted though the lenses of different cultures (e.x. Odin, Zeus, and Indra all being the same god as interpreted by Germanic, Greek, and Indic peoples respectively) – known as omnitheism. In this way, gods may be interchangeable for one another across cultures. "Hard" polytheism is the belief that gods are distinct, separate, real divine beings, rather than psychological archetypes or personifications of natural forces. Hard polytheists reject the idea that "all gods are one essential god" and may also reject the existence of gods outside their own pantheon altogether.
Polytheism is further divided according to how the individual deities are regarded:
- Henotheism is the viewpoint / belief that there may be more than one deity, but that only one of them is to be worshiped. Zoroastrianism is an example.
- Kathenotheism is the viewpoint / belief that there is more than one deity, but only one deity is worshiped at a time or ever, and another may be worthy of worship at another time or place. If they are worshiped one at a time, then each is supreme in turn.
- Monolatrism is the belief that there may be more than one deity, but that only one is worthy of being worshiped. Most of the modern monotheistic religions may have begun as monolatric ones, although this is disputed.
Pantheism is the belief that reality, the universe and the cosmos are identical to divinity and a supreme being or entity, pointing to the universe as being an immanent creator deity who is still expanding and creating, which has existed since the beginning of time, or that all things compose an all-encompassing, immanent god or goddess and regards the universe as a manifestation of a deity. This includes all astronomical objects being viewed as part of a sole deity. The worship of all gods of every religion is another definition but it is more precisely termed Omnism. Pantheist belief does not recognize a distinct personal god, anthropomorphic or otherwise, but instead characterizes a broad range of doctrines differing in forms of relationships between reality and divinity. Pantheistic concepts date back thousands of years, and pantheistic elements have been identified in various religious traditions. The term pantheism was coined by mathematician Joseph Raphson in 1697 and since then, it has been used to describe the beliefs of a variety of people and organizations. Pantheism was popularized in Western culture as a theology and philosophy based on the work of the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, in particular, his book Ethics. A pantheistic stance was also taken in the 16th century by philosopher and cosmologist Giordano Bruno.
- Classical Deism
- Classical deism is the belief that one God exists and created the world, but that the Creator does not alter the original plan for the universe, but presides over it in the form of Providence; however, some classical Deists did believe in divine intervention.
Deism typically rejects supernatural events (such as prophecies, miracles, and divine revelations) prominent in organized religion. Instead, Deism holds that religious beliefs must be founded on human reason and observed features of the natural world, and that these sources reveal the existence of a supreme being as creator.
- Pandeism is the belief that God preceded the universe and created it, but is now equivalent with it.
- Polydeism is the belief that multiple gods exist, but do not intervene in the universe.
- Autotheism is the viewpoint that divinity, whether also external or not, is inherently within 'oneself' and that one has the ability to become godlike. Indian religions like Buddhism and Jainism are Autotheistic. This can be in a selfless way, a way following the implications of statements attributed to ethical, philosophical, and religious leaders (such as Mahavira).
- Eutheism is the belief that a deity is wholly benevolent.
- Dystheism is the belief that a deity is not wholly good, and is possibly evil.
- Maltheism is the belief that a deity exists, but is wholly malicious.
- Misotheism is active hatred for God or gods.
Non-theism and atheism
- Atheism is the lack of belief in supernatural powers such as deities, gods / goddesses, or messiahs. Some atheists express an active disbelief or rejection of the existence of such entities.
- Non-theism is the belief in no gods or god.
- Agnosticism is the belief that it is not possible for any person to genuinely know whether deities or the supernatural are actually true to their descriptions, or are mere fabrications, regardless of sincerity. Agnostics reject either theistic or deistic beliefs as established facts, and only accept such as unsubstantiated opinion, whether regarding their own beliefs or others'.
- "theism," Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
- "theism," Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
- "Dictionary.com Online Dictionary". http://www.dictionary.com/browse/theism?s=t.
- "Dictionary.com Online Dictionary". http://www.dictionary.com/browse/deism?s=t.
- Nielsen, Kai (2010). "Atheism". Encyclopædia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40634/atheism. Retrieved 2011-01-26. "Atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings.... Instead of saying that an atheist is someone who believes that it is false or probably false that there is a God, a more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God for the following reasons (which reason is stressed depends on how God is being conceived)...".
- Edwards, Paul (2005). "Atheism". in Donald M. Borchert. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1 (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA (Gale). p. 359. ISBN 9780028657806. "On our definition, an 'atheist' is a person who rejects belief in God, regardless of whether or not his reason for the rejection is the claim that 'God exists' expresses a false proposition. People frequently adopt an attitude of rejection toward a position for reasons other than that it is a false proposition. It is common among contemporary philosophers, and indeed it was not uncommon in earlier centuries, to reject positions on the ground that they are meaningless. Sometimes, too, a theory is rejected on such grounds as that it is sterile or redundant or capricious, and there are many other considerations which in certain contexts are generally agreed to constitute good grounds for rejecting an assertion.". (page 175 in 1967 edition)
- Hepburn, Ronald W. (2005). "Agnosticism". in Donald M. Borchert. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 1 (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA (Gale). p. 92. ISBN 9780028657806. "In the most general use of the term, agnosticism is the view that we do not know whether there is a God or not.". (page 56 in 1967 edition)
- Rowe, William L. (1998). "Agnosticism". in Edward Craig. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-07310-3. https://books.google.com/books?id=VQ-GhVWTH84C&pg=PA122. "In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist. In so far as one holds that our beliefs are rational only if they are sufficiently supported by human reason, the person who accepts the philosophical position of agnosticism will hold that neither the belief that God exists nor the belief that God does not exist is rational.".
- Mackintosh, Robert (1911). "Theism". in Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 744.
- Halsey, William; Robert H. Blackburn; Sir Frank Francis (1969). Louis Shores. ed. Collier's Encyclopedia. 22 (20 ed.). Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation. pp. 266–7.
- Cudworth, Ralph (1678). The True Intellectual System of the Universe, Vol. I. New York: Gould & Newman, 1837, p. 267.
- "Monotheism", in Britannica, 15th ed. (1986), 8:266.
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- Picton, James Allanson (1905). Pantheism: its story and significance. Chicago: Archibald Constable & CO LTD.. ISBN 978-1419140082. https://archive.org/details/pantheismitsstor00pictrich.
- *Fraser, Alexander Campbell "Philosophy of Theism", William Blackwood and Sons, 1895, p 163.
- The New Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1998. p. 1341. ISBN 978-0-19-861263-6. "The term 'pantheist' designates one who holds both that everything constitutes a unity and that this unity is divine."
- Encyclopedia of Philosophy ed. Paul Edwards. New York: Macmillan and Free Press. 1967. p. 34.
- Reid-Bowen, Paul (April 15, 2016). Goddess as Nature: Towards a Philosophical Thealogy. Taylor & Francis. p. 70. ISBN 9781317126348.
- "Definition of Pantheism". https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pantheism.
- A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. p. 340. "They deny that God is "totally other" than the world or ontologically distinct from it."
- Levine 1994, pp. 44, 274–275:
- "The idea that Unity that is rooted in nature is what types of nature mysticism (e.g. Wordsworth, Robinson Jeffers, Gary Snyder) have in common with more philosophically robust versions of pantheism. It is why nature mysticism and philosophical pantheism are often conflated and confused for one another."
- "[Wood's] pantheism is distant from Spinoza's identification of God with nature, and much closer to nature mysticism. In fact it is nature mysticism."
- "Nature mysticism, however, is as compatible with theism as it is with pantheism."
- Taylor, Bron (2008). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. A&C Black. pp. 1341–1342. ISBN 978-1441122780. https://books.google.com/books?id=i4mvAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA1342. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
- Ann Thomson; Bodies of Thought: Science, Religion, and the Soul in the Early Enlightenment, 2008, page 54.
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- Birx, Jams H. (11 November 1997). "Giordano Bruno". Mobile, AL: The Harbinger. http://www.theharbinger.org/xvi/971111/birx.html. "Bruno was burned to death at the stake for his pantheistic stance and cosmic perspective."
- AskOxford: deism
- Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language. G.&C. Merriam. 1924.
- 'belief in the existence of a personal god, with disbelief in Christian teaching, or with a purely rationalistic interpretation of Scripture'.
- Gurumayum Ranjit Sharma (1987). The Idealistic Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. Atlantic. p. 180. GGKEY:PSWXE5NTFF4. https://books.google.com/books?id=ORYOsJHi53sC&pg=PA180.
- Davies, Douglas J. (23 October 2003). An Introduction to Mormonism. p. 79. ISBN 9780521817387. https://books.google.com/books?id=fw8DIziwEDsC&dq=apotheosis+mormon&pg=PA79. Retrieved 2022-03-16.
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