Theism loosely is the belief in Deity, or God. The opposite being Atheism, the belief that there is no God.
Deism = belief in God, but a god that does not interfere in the universe; a god who created the universe, and then now sits back and watches it unfold. Proof of God is found in the observation of nature. Deists don’t believe in miracles or anything supernatural, and they don’t participate in organized religion. This reminds me of the recent intelligent design theory.
A deist belief may be that God or a group of gods once existed and created the universe, but then lost interest and went away. Or that God is dead.
Comparatively, Theists believe in a God or gods that directly participate in the lives of the people and that are accessible through prayer, direct revelation and/or through organized religions.
Monotheism = belief in one God-Creator. Christianity, Judaism, Islam.
Polytheism = belief in more than one God or gods – in particular a specific pantheon of gods. Hinduism and many forms of Paganism.
- Hard Polytheism – the gods are people; separate and unique individuals.
- Soft Polytheism – the gods are aspects, or expressions of one God or creative source.
- Henotheism – the worship of only one god, yet allowing for others to worship their ‘one’ god as well.
- Kathenotheism – there are many gods but only one is worshipped at a time, and there may be a time and place for each to be worshipped, giving them each a turn at being supreme. This term was coined in reference to the Hindu trinity – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma
- Monolatrism – the belief in many gods, but consistent worship of only one. Possible that early monotheists were actually monolaterists.
Pantheism = belief that God and God’s creation are one and the same. Therefor there is God in all of us and all of the living universe is God. God is a force, a creation, not an anthropomorphized being or Deity. Taoism is an example, where the Way is the only path. Not a God at all, but rather the way of being. I’ve heard of God being described in this way as ‘Good Orderly Direction’.
Panentheism = is similar, but the distinction is this: belief that God is God’s creation and we are all part of that, but at the same time, God sits above creation as well, or that creation lives inside of God and God transcends creation. Some Native American belief is an example. God is called ‘the Great Mystery’ or ‘the Creator’ or ‘the Great Spirit’. I have a friend who used to just say ‘Source’.
Autotheism = the belief that whether divinity is external or not, it also comes from within, and that we have a personal responsibility to reach for perfection and become divine. This is what Jesus taught, among others. Funny that it also reminds me of Anton LaVey.
Animism = “Animism encompasses the beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) world, and souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in all other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment. Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names, or metaphors in mythology. Examples of Animism can be found in forms of Shinto, Serer, Hinduism, Buddhism, Pantheism, Paganism, and Neopaganism.”
Totemism = Similar to animism, but with a further belief that one spirit, of an animal or plant for example, is connected through kinship or friendship to a person or a group of people.
Ancestor Veneration = belief that the dead have a continued existence that intertwines with our own, and that family members who have passed on should still be included in the family and can have the ability to influence the fortune of the family or descendants. The Catholic church is included here interestingly enough – in that their Saints are worshiped as beings who can intercede in fates and outcomes.
Source for this post: Theism
After reading all of that, I’d have to say for me… that I am a Soft Polytheist, (allowing for the possibility, at the moment, of hard-polytheism) with leanings towards Panentheism, Monolatrism, Autotheism and a firm belief in Animism. I am also working with ancestor veneration at the moment.
whew! glad that’s cleared up.