Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[1] In a more specific sense, theism is commonly a monotheistic doctrine concerning the nature of a deity, and that deity's relationship to the universe.[2][3][4][5] Theism, in this specific sense, conceives of God as personal, present and active in the governance and organization of the world and the universe. As such theism describes the classical conception of God that is found in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism. The use of the word theism to indicate this classical form of monotheism began during the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century in order to distinguish it from the then-emerging deism which contended that God, though transcendent and supreme, did not intervene in the natural world and could be known rationally but not via revelation.[6]

The term theism derives from the Greek theos meaning "god". The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617–88).[7] 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".[8]

Atheism is rejection of theism in the broadest sense of theism; i.e. the rejection of belief that there is even one deity.[9] Rejection of the narrower sense of theism can take forms such as deism, pantheism, and polytheism. The claim that the existence of any deity is unknown or unknowable is agnosticism.[10][11] The positive assertion of knowledge, either of the existence of gods or the absence of gods, can also be attributed to some theists and some atheists. Put simply theism and atheism deal with belief, and agnosticism deals with (absence of) rational claims to asserting knowledge.[11]



Main article: Monotheism

Monotheism (from Greek μόνος) is the belief in theology that only one deity exists.[12] Some modern day monotheistic religions include Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Baha'i Faith, Sikhism, Eckankar and some forms of Hinduism.


Main article: Polytheism

Polytheism is the belief that there is more than one deity.[13] 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:

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 worshipped.
  • Kathenotheism: The viewpoint/belief that there is more than one deity, but only one deity is worshipped at a time or ever, and another may be worthy of worship at another time or place. If they are worshipped 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 worshipped. Most of the modern monotheistic religions may have begun as monolatric ones, although this is disputed.

Pantheism and panentheism

Main articles: Pantheism and Panentheism
  • Pantheism: The belief that the physical universe is equivalent to a god or gods, and that there is no division between a Creator and the substance of its creation.[14] Examples include many forms of Saivism.
  • Panentheism: Like Pantheism, the belief that the physical universe is joined to a god or gods. However, it also believes that a god or gods are greater than the material universe. Examples include most forms of Vaishnavism.

Some people find the distinction between these two beliefs as ambiguous and unhelpful, while others see it as a significant point of division.[15]


Main article: Deism
  • Deism is the belief that at least one deity exists and created the world, but that the creator(s) does/do not alter the original plan for the universe.[16]

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.[17]

  • Pandeism: The belief that a god preceded the universe and created it, but is now equivalent with it.
  • Panendeism combines deism with panentheism, believing the universe is a part (but not the whole) of deity
  • Polydeism: The belief that multiple gods existed, but do not intervene with the universe.


Main article: Apotheosis

Autotheism is the viewpoint that, whether divinity is also external or not, it is inherently within 'oneself' and that one has a duty to become perfect (or divine). This can be in a selfless way, a way following the implications of statements attributed to ethical, philosophical, and religious leaders (such as Jesus[18][19] and Mahavira).

Autotheism can also refer to the belief that one's self is a deity (often the only one), within the context of subjectivism. This is a fairly extreme version of subjectivism, however.

Value-judgment theisms

  • 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.

See also


  1. (page 175 in 1967 edition)

External links

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