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"Belief without religion" redirects here. For a similar concept, see Spiritual but not religious.

Ietsism (Dutch: ietsisme (pronounced [itsˈɪsmə]) – "somethingism") is an unspecified belief in an undetermined higher force. In some Eastern European censuses (Albanian, for example), those having ietsistic beliefs are counted as believers without religion. It is a Dutch term for a range of beliefs held by people who, on the one hand, inwardly suspect – or indeed believe – that there “must something undefined beyond material and that which can be seen” than we know about, but on the other hand do not necessarily accept or subscribe to the established belief system, dogma or view of the nature of God offered by any particular religion. Some of the English language equivalent terms are agnostic theism and deism.


The name derives from the Dutch equivalent of the question: "Do you believe in the conventional 'Christian' God?", a typical 'ietsist' answer being "No, but there must be something (something being "iets" in Dutch)".

The term became known in the Netherlands after the atheist political columnist Ronald Plasterk (who later served as the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science) used it in a feature for the television programme Buitenhof. But the term possibly existed already.[1]

In October 2005, the word “ietsisme” was included in the 14th edition of the Dutch Language Dictionary 'Dikke Van Dale', but has also recently begun to circulate among English-speakers as a loanword. More recently; the word "ietsers" (somethingers) has emerged in the Netherlands to describe people of this viewpoint, but this has not yet been borrowed into English.


Ietsism may roughly be described as a belief in an end-in-itself or similar concept, without further assumption to exactly what object or objects have such a property, like intrinsic aliquidism without further specification. Other aliquidistic lifestances include the acceptance of "there is something – that is, some meaning of life, something that is an end-in-itself or something more to existence – and it is...", assuming various objects or "truths", while ietsism, on the other hand simply accepts "there is something", without further assumption to it.

In contrast to traditional agnostics who often hold a skeptical view about gods or other metaphysical entities (i.e. “We can't or don't know for sure that there is a God"), “ietsists” take a viewpoint along the lines of, “And yet it feels like there is something out there...." It is a form of religious liberalism or non-denominationalism. Ietsism may also be described as the minimal counterpart of nihilism, since it accepts that there is something, but yet, assumes as little further as possible without any more substantial evidence.

Ietsism also shares many attributes with similar viewpoints such as Deism and the so-called 'God of the Gaps', whose origins lie more in questions about the nature and origin of the physical universe. It could be said that ietsism is 'Deism for the spiritually-inclined'.[2]

An opinion poll conducted by the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw in October 2004 indicated that some 40% of its readership felt broadly this way.

As the ietsist will not have found any of the 'pre-packaged' gods offered by traditional religions satisfactory, each ietsist's conception of God will be different. This can range from the Judeo/Christian/Islamic concept of God as a force / intelligence that exists outside the world, to a position similar to the Buddhist "world view" with collective spiritual power existing within the world. Other ietsists will take a truly agnostic viewpoint – that the actual nature of God is totally unknown.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Dutch) (permalink) - Ronald Plasterk: ietsisme, the site “” is archived and transferred to
  2. ^ - Born-Again Deist (e-book)