Types of Theism

Which Religions Count as Theism?

Theos is the Greek word for god and is the root word for theism. Theism is then at its most basic the belief in at least one god. There are, however, many different types of theists. Monotheists and polytheists are the most well known, but there are a variety of others as well. These terms describe types of religious thought rather than specific religions. Here are some of the more commonly discussed beliefs.

Types of Theism: Monotheism

Monos means alone. Monotheism is the belief that there is a single god. The Judeo-Christian religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as smaller groups such as the Rastas and the Baha'i, are monotheists. Some detractors of Christianity claim that the concept of trinity makes Christianity polytheistic, not monotheistic, but the foundation of the idea of the trinity is that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three aspects of the same single god.

Zoroastrians today are also monotheists, although there is some debate as to whether this has always been the case. There has also been an offshoot of Zoroastrianism called Zurvanism, which was not monotheistic.

Sometimes it is difficult for outsiders to understand why believers consider themselves monotheists due to distinctions of what might be called a god. Believers of Vodou (Voodoo) consider themselves monotheists and recognize only Bondye as a god.

The lwa (loa) with which they work are not considered gods, but rather lesser spiritual servants of Bondye.

Polytheism

Poly means many. Polytheism is the belief in many gods. Religions such as that of the pagan Aztecs, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Egyptians, Norse, Sumerians, and Babylonians were all polytheist in nature.

Many modern neopagans are also polytheists. Not only do polytheists worship many gods and have a pantheon of gods they actively recognize, but they also are often open to the idea that the gods acknowledged by other cultures are real as well.

Pantheism

Pan means all, and pantheists believe that everything in the universe is a part of, is one with, and is the same as God. Pantheists do not believe in a personal god. Rather, God is an impersonal, non-anthropomorphic force.

Panentheism

Panentheists are similar to pantheists in that they believe the entire universe is one with God. However, they also believe that there is more to the God than the universe. The universe is one with God, but God is both the universe and beyond the universe. Panentheism allows for the belief in a personal God, a being with whom humans can forge a relationship, who has expectations for humanity, and who can be related to in human terms: God "speaks," has thoughts, and can be described in emotional and ethical terminology as good and loving, terms that would not be used for the impersonal force of pantheism.

The Science of Mind is an example of a panentheist view of God.

Henotheism

Heno means one. Henotheism is the worship of a single god without actively denying the existence of other gods.

Henotheists, for various reasons, felt a specific connection with a single deity to whom they owe some sort of loyalty. Ancient Hebrews appear to have been henotheists: they recognized there were other gods in existence, but their god was the god of the Hebrew people, and thus, they owed loyalty to him alone. Hebrew scripture tells of multiple events that were visited upon the Hebrews as punishment for worshiping foreign gods.

Deism

Deus is the Latin word for god. Deists believe in a single creator god, but they reject revealed religion. Instead, knowledge of this god comes from rationality and experience with the created world. Deists also commonly reject the idea of a personal god. While God exists, he does not interfere with his creation (such as granting miracles or creating prophets), and he does not desire worship.