, in its most inclusive usage, is the belief in at least one deity
. Some narrower usages specify that the deity believed in be a distinct identifiable entity, thereby being contrasted with pantheism
. Other narrower usages specify that the deity (or deities) be an active, immanent
force in the universe, thus excluding some forms of deism
. Theism can be categorized into more particular types, such as monotheism
(in which case the word God
is capitalized) and polytheism
The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688) ,and was probably coined to contrast with atheism, a term that is attested from ca. 1587 (see the etymology section of atheism for details).
Divisions by numbers of deities
is the belief that there is only one deity.
- Inclusive monotheism: The belief that there is only one deity, and that all other claimed deities are just different names for it. The Hindu denomination of Smartism is an example of inclusive monotheism.
- Exclusive monotheism: The belief that there is only one deity, and that all other claimed deities are distinct from it and false — either invented, demonic, or simply incorrect. Most Abrahamic religions, and certain versions of the Hindu denomination of Vaishnavism, such as ISKCON which regard the worship of anyone other than Vishnu as incorrect are examples of exclusive monotheism.
The earliest known form of monotheism still in practice is Judaism.
is the belief that there is more than one deity. 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 belief that there may be more than one deity, but one is supreme.
- Monolatry: The belief that there may be more than one deity, but only one should be worshiped.
- Kathenotheism: The belief that there is more than one deity, but only one deity at a time should be worshiped. Each is supreme in turn.
Divisions by natures of deities
Forms of pantheism
- Pantheism: The belief that the physical universe is equivalent to God, and that there is no 'division'.
- Panentheism: Like Pantheism, the belief that the physical universe is joined to God. However, it also believes that God is greater than the universe.
Forms of deism
- Deism is the belief that a god or gods exists, created the world, but does/do not alter the original plan for the universe. It typically rejects supernatural events (prophecy, miracles) and divine revelation prominent in organized religion, along with holy books and revealed religions that assert the existence of such things. 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.
- 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.
- Misotheism: the belief that some god or gods are evil.