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    From the perspective of comparative religions, here’s a useful guide to various “theisms” lifted from a conversation archived in JCF’s old Conversations of a Higher Order. These are thumbnail descriptions that no doubt miss much nuance, but it is intriguing seeing the different categories applied to a multitude of mythological beliefs. (What have we missed?):

    Agnosticism: While not really a “theism” in its suffix, it is still in this category because this is a doctrine that affirms to the uncertainty of all claims to ultimate knowledge or higher powers. Basically, an “I don’t know” type of situation; an Agnostic is on the fence about higher deities. There may or may not be a Supreme Being but no one can prove it either way as of yet.

    Allotheism: this is the belief or worship of strange Gods. However, what is strange to one person may be normal to another. To define oneself as believing in allotheism would indeed be strange; this is most likely a term applied to someone else when their Gods are not understood.

    Animism: This is a belief that all natural things (objects, phenomena, and the universe itself) have souls or a spirit. It is also the belief in spiritual beings or agencies or a doctrine that the soul is the principle to health and life.

    Atheism: the prefix means “non” in this case (think asexual) and means a disbelief in any supreme beings or any form of God.

    Deism: this is best explained as either a belief in a God based on the evidence of reason or nature with rejection of supernatural evaluation. It may also mean a belief that God(s) exist but that they don’t take part in our lives or that they created the world but are now indifferent to it.

    Ditheism, Duo-theism or Bitheism: Di, Duo or Bi, meaning two, is the belief that there are two Gods of equal power, such as among Wiccans who believe in male and female deities known as the God and Goddess, or Lord and Lady. Ditheism can also be said to be a belief in two antagonistic forces such as an inherently “good” God and an inherently “bad” God (which according to Joseph Campbell first emerged in Zoroastrianism). By this definition Christianity could be considered Ditheistic rather than monotheistic, given its beliefs in Satan and God.

    (Note: Duo-theism is used incorrectly, it is not a real word and the closest word to it is “dualism” which does not necessarily pertain to religion doctrines.)

    Dystheism or Maltheism: That God or the Gods do exist but that they are all evil.

    Egotheism or Autotheism: this is the doctrine of God’s self-existence or the dedication and worship in oneself; self-worship.

    Hedonism: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good a person can achieve; it is a devotion to maintaining personal pleasure as a way of life.

    Henotheism: this may be defined as belief in more than one God, but that only one is supreme. Also to be used in the case of tribes or families who worship one God but don’t deny the existence of others. Ancient polytheistic religions held beliefs similar to this, such as acknowledging that others had Gods but they did not worship them but instead worshiped the ones of their own culture.

    Hulo- or Hylotheism: this is the philosophical doctrine that identifies a God or Gods with that of matter. Worshiping a tree or a stone might be two examples.

    Kathenotheism: similar to Henotheism, this is the belief of more than one God but that only one at a time should be worshiped; each is supreme in its turn. Greek and Roman mythology could be said to follow this. The people of ancient Greece and Rome believed in all of the Gods of their people, but worshiped each one in turn depending on the requests or needs they had.

    Misotheism: this is a doctrine that does not deny a God(s) existence, but rather is just an outright hatred of the God(s).

    Monolatry: this doctrine is a little confusing, or rather it is a little like multiple personality disorder. This is the belief in more than one God but that they are all expressions of the supreme God.

    Monotheism: this is the most common belief, that of one God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are considered examples of Monotheism.

    Panatheism: this is the belief that because there is no God then nothing can be termed as a sacred or holy object. The statues, the places deemed holy, the artifacts such as the Holy Grail, all of these are just objects or places with no inherent holy value.

    Pantheism, Panentheism or Cosmotheism: the belief that the universe is part of God and God is part of the universe; they are equivalent. God is the transcendent of reality and the matter and humans in the universe are only manifestations. It denies God’s personality but identifies God with nature. (There is a subtle distinction between pantheism, which claims all is God, and panentheism, which holds that all is contained IN God but sees God as greater than the universe – but unlike transubstantiation and consubstantiation within Christianity, proponents of the different flavors of pan-theology are unlikely to come to blows over the subtle difference)

    Polytheism: this is the belief that many Gods or Goddess exist. This is sometimes known as paganism, or any religion that is not monotheistic or non-Abrahamic. Greek, Norse, Egyptian, Celtic and Native American are a few examples of polytheism.

    Tritheism: the prefix, tri, means three and this is the belief that the three persons of the trinity are three distinct Gods, each one is an independent center of consciousness and determination. An example of a trinity is best known in Christianity with the belief in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Wicca also has a trinity of the three phases of the Goddess; Maiden, Mother and Crone, and in Hinduism Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – Preserver, Creator, and Destroyer – are sometimes considered different manifestations or facets of the same divine agency.


    Great reference post Stephen. Do you think ‘Solipsism’ might be another useful entry in the list? Although solipsism isn’t a theism it’s an important metaphysical position the mind can consider. That said, it’s only ever going to be held by one person!



    You may be onto something: if the self is all that exists, is that just the little”I”– the subjective ego? Os it the uppercase S Self that is the totality of existence? Seems like the latter, which strikes me as quite mysterious and magical.

    I’d say it belongs (which is what counts, since I’m the All )


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