Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of the Supreme Being or deities. 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.
Atheism is commonly understood as rejection of theism in the broadest sense of theism, i.e. the rejection of belief in God or gods. The claim that the existence of any deity is unknown or unknowable is agnosticism.
The term theism derives from the Greek theos or theoi meaning “god“. 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
Main article: Monotheism
Monotheism (from Greek μόνος) is the belief in theology that only one deity exists. Some modern day monotheistic religions include Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Baha’i Faith, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Eckankar. There have been many proofs of Monotheism postulated by a multitude of philosophers and academics throughout history. However, many of these proofs are either unknown or have been misinterpreted.
Main article: Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief that there is more than one god. In practice, polytheism is not just the belief that there are multiple gods; it usually includes belief in the existence of a specific pantheon of distinct deities.
Within polytheism there are hard and soft varieties:
- Hard polytheism views the gods as being distinct and separate beings; an example of this would be certain schools of Hinduism as well as Hellenismos.
- Soft polytheism views the gods as being subsumed into a greater whole. Some other forms of Hinduism such as Smartism/Advaita Vedanta serve as examples of soft polytheism.
Polytheism is also divided according to how the individual deities are regarded:
- Henotheism: The viewpoint/belief that there may be more than one deity, but only one of them is worshiped.
- Kathenotheism: 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: 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 and panentheism
- Pantheism: The belief that the physical universe is equivalent to god, and that there is no division between a Creator and the substance of its creation.
- Panentheism: Like Pantheism, the belief that the physical universe is joined to a god or gods. However, it also believes that the divine pervades and interpenetrates every part of the universe and also extends beyond time and space. Examples include most forms of Vaishnavism and the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza.
Some find the distinction between these two beliefs ambiguous and unhelpful, while others see it as a significant point of division. Pantheism may be understood a type of Nontheism, where the physical universe takes on some of the roles of a theistic God, and other roles of God viewed as unnecessary.
Main article: Deism
- Classical Deism is the belief that one God exists and created the world, but that the Creator does/do 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: The belief that God preceded the universe and created it, but is now equivalent with it.
- Polydeism: The belief that multiple gods exist, but do not intervene in the universe.
Autotheism is the viewpoint that, whether divinity is also external or not, it is inherently within ‘oneself’ and that one has the ability to achieve godhood. This can be in a selfless way, a way following the implications of statements attributed to ethical, philosophical, and religious leaders (such as Mahavira).
Autotheism can also refer to the belief that one’s self is a deity, within the context of subjectivism. Hindus use the term, “aham Brahmāsmi” which means, “I am Brahman”.
- 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.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia