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God the Father depicted by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld in 1860

Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of at least one deity.[1][2] In common parlance, or when contrasted with deism, the term often describes the philosophical conception of God that is found in classical theism—or conception found in monotheism—or gods found in polytheistic religions—or a belief in God or gods without the rejection of revelation as is characteristic of deism.[3][4]

Atheism is commonly understood as non-acceptance or outright rejection of theism in the broadest sense of the term (i.e., non-acceptance or rejection of belief in God or gods).[5][6] Related (but separate) is the claim that the existence of any deity is unknown or unknowable; a stance known as agnosticism.[7][8] Agnostic theism is a personal belief in one or more deities along with acceptance that the existence or non-existence of the deity or deities is fundamentally unknowable.


The term theism derives from the Greek θεός[9] (theós) or theoi meaning "god" or "gods". The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617–1688).[10] 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".[11]

Types of theism[edit]

Classical theism[edit]

Classical theism is the form of theism that describes God as the Absolute Being. Central insights of classical theistic theology includes emanationism and divine simplicity.[12][13] Classical theistic traditions can be observed in major religions and philosophies; such as Sufism in Islam, Vaishnavism in Hinduism, Sikhism in general, and Platonism.


Monotheism (from Greek μόνος) is the belief in theology that only one deity exists.[14] Some modern day monotheistic religions include Judaism, Islam, Mandaeism, Druze, Baháʼí Faith, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Rastafari, 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,[15] and various neopagan faiths such as Wicca, Druidry, Romuva, and Hellenism. 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 Devas and Devies.

A major division in modern polytheistic practices is between so-called soft polytheism and hard polytheism.[16][17] "Soft" polytheism is the belief that different gods may be psychological archetypes, personifications of natural forces, or fundamentally one deity in different cultural contexts (e.g., Odin, Zeus, and Indra all being the same god as interpreted by Germanic, Greek, and Indic peoples, respectively)—known as omnitheism.[18] In this way, gods may be interchangeable for one another across cultures.[17] "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.[17]

Polytheism is further divided according to how the individual deities are regarded:

Henotheism is the belief that there may be more than one deity but only one of them is to be worshiped. Zoroastrianism is sometimes considered an example.
Kathenotheism is the 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 in 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 only one is worthy of being worshiped. Most of the modern monotheistic religions may have begun as monolatrous ones, but this is disputed.[citation needed]
The philosophy of Baruch Spinoza is often regarded as pantheist.[19][20]


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 in and of itself, the deity is understood as still expanding, creating, and eternal,[21] or that all things compose an all-encompassing, immanent god or goddess that is manifested as the universe.[22][23] As such, even astronomical objects are viewed as part of the sole deity. The worship of all gods of every religion has been conceived as a form of pantheism, but such a system is more akin to Omnism.[24] Pantheist belief does not recognize a distinct personal god,[25] anthropomorphic or otherwise, but instead characterizes a broad range of doctrines differing in forms of relationships between reality and divinity.[26] 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,[27][28] and since then has been used to describe the beliefs of a variety of individuals 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.[29] A pantheistic stance was also expressed by the 16th-century by philosopher and cosmologist Giordano Bruno.[30]


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. Instead, the deity presides over it in the form of Providence; some classical deists, however, did believe in divine intervention.[31]

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.[32]

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 external or not—is inherently "within oneself" and that one has the ability to become godlike. Buddhism and Jainism, which shared an Indian cultural context during their emergence, are autotheistic.

Within the context of subjectivism, autotheism can refer to the belief that one's self is a deity. Hindus sometimes use the phrase "aham Brahmāsmi", or "I am Brahman", to describe their relation to divinity.[33]

The Latter-day Saint doctrine of exaltation, by which humans attain godhood after death, could be viewed as a form of autotheism.[34]

Value-judgment theisms[edit]

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 toward and for God, gods, and/or other divine beings.

Non-theism and atheism[edit]

Atheism is the lack of belief in supernatural powers such as deities, gods, goddesses, and 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 impossible for any person to genuinely know whether deities or the supernatural are genuinely true to their descriptions or mere fabrications regardless of sincerity. Agnostics reject both theistic and deistic beliefs as established facts, and accept such as only unsubstantiated opinion whether regarding their own beliefs or others'.

Alterity theism[edit]

Alterity theism is a belief that the supreme being is radically transcendent to the point that it cannot be recognized as having any genuine being at all.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "theism", Archived 12 December 2021 at the Wayback Machine Dictionary.com. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  2. ^ "theism," Archived 14 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  3. ^ "Dictionary.com Online Dictionary". Archived from the original on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Dictionary.com Online Dictionary". Archived from the original on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  5. ^ Nielsen, Kai (2010). "Atheism". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 26 January 2011. 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)...
  6. ^ Edwards, Paul (2005) [1967]. "Atheism". In Donald M. Borchert (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 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)
  7. ^ Hepburn, Ronald W. (2005) [1967]. "Agnosticism". In Donald M. Borchert (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 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)
  8. ^ Rowe, William L. (1998). "Agnosticism". In Edward Craig (ed.). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-07310-3. 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.
  9. ^ Mackintosh, Robert (1911). "Theism" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 744.
  10. ^ Halsey, William; Robert H. Blackburn; Sir Frank Francis (1969). Louis Shores (ed.). Collier's Encyclopedia. Vol. 22 (20 ed.). Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation. pp. 266–7.
  11. ^ Cudworth, Ralph (1678). The True Intellectual System of the Universe, Vol. I. New York: Gould & Newman, 1837, p. 267.
  12. ^ Feser, Edward (2017). Five Proofs of the Existence of God. San Francisco: IGNATIUS PRESS. ISBN 978-1-62164-133-9.
  13. ^ Hart, David Bentley (24 September 2013). The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss. Yale University Press.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  14. ^ "Monotheism", in Britannica, 15th ed. (1986), 8:266.
  15. ^ Kimmerle, Heinz (11 April 2006). "The world of spirits and the respect for nature: towards a new appreciation of animism". The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa. 2 (2): 15. doi:10.4102/td.v2i2.277. ISSN 2415-2005.
  16. ^ Galtsin, Dmitry (21 June 2018). "Modern Pagan religious conversion revisited". Sacra. 14 (2): 7–17. Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  17. ^ a b c Hoff, Kraemer, Christine (2012). Seeking the mystery : an introduction to Pagan theologies. Englewood, CO: Patheos Press. ISBN 9781939221186. OCLC 855412257.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Negedu, I. A. (1 January 2014). "The Igala traditional religious belief system: Between monotheism and polytheism". OGIRISI: A New Journal of African Studies. 10 (1): 116–129. doi:10.4314/og.v10i1.7. ISSN 1597-474X. Archived from the original on 24 February 2023. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
  19. ^ Picton, James Allanson (1905). Pantheism: its story and significance. Chicago: Archibald Constable & CO LTD. ISBN 978-1419140082.
  20. ^ *Fraser, Alexander Campbell "Philosophy of Theism", William Blackwood and Sons, 1895, p 163.
  21. ^ 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."
  22. ^ Encyclopedia of Philosophy ed. Paul Edwards. New York: Macmillan and Free Press. 1967. p. 34.
  23. ^ Reid-Bowen, Paul (15 April 2016). Goddess as Nature: Towards a Philosophical Thealogy. Taylor & Francis. p. 70. ISBN 9781317126348.
  24. ^ "Definition of Pantheism". Archived from the original on 3 November 2022. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
  25. ^ Charles Taliaferro; Paul Draper; Philip L. Quinn (eds.). A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. p. 340. They deny that God is "totally other" than the world or ontologically distinct from it.
  26. ^ Levine, Michael (1994), Pantheism: A Non-Theistic Concept of Deity, Psychology Press, pp. 44, 274–275, ISBN 9780415070645:
    • "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."
  27. ^ Taylor, Bron (2008). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. A&C Black. pp. 1341–1342. ISBN 978-1441122780. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  28. ^ Ann Thomson; Bodies of Thought: Science, Religion, and the Soul in the Early Enlightenment, 2008, page 54.
  29. ^ Lloyd, Genevieve (2 October 1996). Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Spinoza and The Ethics. Routledge Philosophy Guidebooks (1st ed.). Routledge. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-415-10782-2.
  30. ^ Birx, Jams H. (11 November 1997). "Giordano Bruno". Mobile, AL: The Harbinger. Archived from the original on 27 July 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2019. Bruno was burned to death at the stake for his pantheistic stance and cosmic perspective.
  31. ^ AskOxford: deism
  32. ^ Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language. G.&C. Merriam. 1924.
    defines deism as
    'belief in the existence of a personal god, with disbelief in Christian teaching, or with a purely rationalistic interpretation of Scripture'.
    Although Webster's lists deism as a type of theism, deism is completely different from theism. If anything, theism would be an off-shoot of deism since it takes beliefs a step further to include miracles and divine revelation, with deism being the 'base' belief in (a) God.
  33. ^ Gurumayum Ranjit Sharma (1987). The Idealistic Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. Atlantic. p. 180. GGKEY:PSWXE5NTFF4.
  34. ^ Davies, Douglas J. (23 October 2003). An Introduction to Mormonism. Cambridge University Press. p. 79. ISBN 9780521817387. Retrieved 16 March 2022 – via Google Books.