Theism

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Theism is the belief in one or more gods or goddesses. More specifically, it may also mean the belief in God, a god, or gods, who is/are actively involved in maintaining the Universe. This secondary meaning is shown in context to other beliefs concerning the divine below.

The term is attested in English from 1678, and was probably coined to contrast with atheism attested from ca. 1587 (see the etymology section of atheism for details).

Views about the existence of God are commonly divided into these categories:

  1. Atheism: It has two distinct, commonly used meanings:
    • Strong atheism: The doctrine or belief that there is no God or gods.
    • Weak atheism: An absence of belief in the existence of God or gods.
  2. Agnosticism: The belief that the existence of God or gods is unknown and/or inherently unknowable.
  3. Deism: The doctrine that God created the world but does not interact with it. This view emphasizes the deities' transcendence.
  4. Theism (second definition): The doctrine God(s) is immanent in the world, yet transcends it:
    • Polytheism: The belief that there is more than one god.
      1. Monolatry: The belief that there is more than one god, but only one should be worshipped.
      2. Henotheism: The belief that there is more than one god, but one is supreme.
      3. Kathenotheism: The belief that there is more than one god, but only one god at a time should be worshipped. Each is supreme in turn.
    • Monotheism: The belief in one god.
      1. Monism: The belief that everything is of one essential essence or energy.
      2. Dualism: The belief that everything is of two essential essences or energies.
      3. Pluralism: The belief that everything is of many essential essences or energies.
  5. Panentheism: The belief that the world is entirely contained within God, while at the same time God is something greater than just the world.
  6. Pantheism: The belief that the world is identical to God.


Within Polytheism there are “Hard” and “Soft” varieties. Hard polytheism views the gods as being distinct and separate beings, while soft polytheism views the gods as being subsumed into a greater whole.

Within monotheism there are exclusive and inclusive forms. Exclusive monotheism can be monistic (Judaism, Islam), dualistic (Parsis/Zoroastrian) and pluralistic ("Christianity"). Some forms of Hinduism and Neopaganism could be considered Inclusive monotheism.

Finally, the distinction can be made between belief in the existence of gods, and assertions about their benevolence or morality, or the belief in God as the summum bonum: see eutheism and dystheism.

Compare: Atheism, Agnosticism

See also

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