6 Belief Types Used in the World's Religions

Types of Religions

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There are many religions and spiritual movements in the world. The majority can be grouped into one of six categories based on their fundamental beliefs. This is not to say that they each believe the same thing, but that their belief structure may be similar.

From the single god of monotheism religions to the 'no god' of atheistic beliefs, in order to understand spiritual beliefs, it's important to understand how they compare to one another.

Examining these six types of belief is a perfect place to begin.

Monotheism

Monotheism is a religion that acknowledges the existence of only one god. Monotheists may or may not also acknowledge the existence of lesser spiritual beings, such as angels, demons, and spirits. Yet, these are always subordinate to the single god and are not deserving of the worship reserved for that god.

When people think of monotheistic religions, they generally think of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: the three major Judeo-Christian religions. There are, however, a number of additional monotheistic religions. Some of these are also Judeo-Christian religions or at least influenced by them, such as Vodou, the Rastafari Movement, and the Baha'i Faith. Others exist independently, such as Zoroastrianism and Eckankar.

A religion that demands the honoring of a single specific god but acknowledges the existence of others is known as a henotheism.

Dualism 

Dualism recognizes the existence of exactly two deities, which represent opposing forces. Believers only honor one as deserving of worship, generally associating them with goodness, order, sanctity, and spirituality. The other is rejected as a being of evil, corruption, and/or materiality.

Religions such as Christianity and Zoroastrianism recognize a single god, but they also acknowledge a being of corruption, which should be rejected.

However, in neither case is the corrupted being a god, but rather something of lesser status.

As such, these faiths are not considered dualistic but are instead monotheisms. The theological differences can be significant between the two views.

Polytheism

Polytheism is any religion that honors more than one god, but not in a dualistic relationship. Most polytheistic religions acknowledge dozens, hundreds, thousands, or even millions of deities. Hinduism is a perfect example as are a number of lesser-known religions that have stemmed from its beliefs.

Believing in multiple gods does not mean that a polytheist regularly worships all such deities. Rather, they approach the gods as needed, and may have one or several whom they feel particularly close to.

Polytheistic gods are generally not omnipotent, unlike monotheistic gods who are often thought to have unlimited power. Rather, each god has his or her own spheres of influence or interest.

Atheistic

An atheistic religion is one that expressly states that there are no divine beings. The lack of supernatural beings, in general, is also commonly accepted but not specifically inherent in the term.

The Raelian Movement is an actively atheistic movement.

Formal acceptance into the religion involves a renouncing of previous religions and the embracing of the fact that there are no gods. Instead, the creation of the human race is credited to advanced life forms living beyond the planet Earth. It is their wishes, not the wishes of a supernatural being, which we should endeavor to embrace for the betterment of humanity.

LaVeyan Satanism is commonly described as atheistic Satanism, although there's no formal declaration of such. Some of these Satanists may describe themselves as agnostic.

Non-Theistic

A non-theistic religion does not center upon the existence of any deities, but it does not deny their existence either. As such, members can easily be a collection of atheists, agnostics, and theists.

Theist believers often integrate their beliefs in a deity or deities with the non-theistic religion, rather than dealing with the two beliefs as separate entities.

For example, Unitarian Universalism stresses many humanistic beliefs. A theistic Unitarian Universalist can easily understand these values as being the wish of God or being part of God's design.

Personal Development Movement

Personal Development Movements encompass a very wide range of beliefs and practices. Many are not distinctly religious, although some are.

Personal Development Movements primarily focus on techniques for believers to better themselves in some way. When these techniques have a spiritual or supernatural component to their understanding, they are frequently categorized as religious.

Some people look to Personal Development Movements to fix things specifically within themselves such as health, ability, or intelligence. They may also be looking to improve their connection with the world, to attract more positive influences and to drive out negative ones.

They may be looking for very tangible results, such as wealth and success. At the same time, they understand that some sort of change needs to occur to within themselves in order for these desires to manifest.