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Gods, Goddesses and other deities

Background material. Differentiating
among Theists, Agnostics, and Atheists:

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About this web site:

As we explain in our home page, this is a religious web site that is different from almost all others:

  • We do not promote the religious beliefs of the webmaster.

  • We try to explain the full range of beliefs on each topic as objectively as we can. This goal is easier for us since ours is a multi-faith group, including Theists, Agnostics and Atheists.
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Belief in God(s) and Goddess(es). Taking sides in controversies:

One of the most popular topics of interest to our visitors is "God". Of all our 8,000 or so essays, the most visited essay is the one on Agnosticism.

According to David Barrett et al, editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," 1 there are 19 major religions in the world and many smaller religions. Each of these can be subdivided into many denominations, sects, faith groups, etc. These can number in the tens of thousands. 1

Taken together, these religions and faith groups teach the existence of thousands of Gods, thousands of Goddesses, a smaller number of gender-neutral deities. and lots of other supernatural entities like demons, angels, archangels, principalities, seraphim, cherubim, saints, Elohim (godly beings), Bene Elohim (sons of Godly beings), Sons of God, God's council, Jinn, Ascended Masters, etc.

Some sources have estimated that more than 20,000 denominations, faith groups, and sects coexist within Christianity. All of them base their beliefs and practices largely on the Bible. However, they interpret biblical passages very differently. Thus, when controversies arise, like:

various Christian groups find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

It is interesting to note than whenever a denigrated, discriminated-against group becames organized and agitates for equality, their status has improved. By 2013, for example, 87% of adults favored allowing interracial couples to marry. Support for same-sex marriage is currenty increasing about 1 percentage point a year.

Even within religions that teach theism, various traditions or denominations assign very different attributes to their deity/deities. Some view God as filled with wrath, judgmental, and prone to punishing humans for misbehavior or for deviating from a specific group of beliefs. Others conceive of God as a loving, caring father who gently inspires his children to adopt better behavior. Various denominations within a religion, in effect, create a series of different deities with different personalities, and the same name. The Baylor Religion Survey found that most Americans believe in one of four very different deities. 31% believe in an Authoritarian, 23% in a Benevolant, 16% in a Critical, and 24% in a Distant God. (More details can be seen in a two part essay: Part 1 Part 2.)

Obviously, all or almost all of the world's major religions differ greatly in their teachings of God and supernatural beings. The probability that any given faith group within a single religion has an absolutely correct view of God, the Goddess, Gods, Goddesses, or Gods & Goddesses would seem to be quite slim. However, the vast majority of believers are certain that their specific faith group's view of God has the fullness of truth. Some go further and consider all deities other than their own to be either Satan or a member of Satan's army.

There are many different religions and many divisions within all of the major religions. This is a good indication that there is no way to assess the will of God for humanity through prayer. Otherwise, believers would have merged their many religions into one in order to match God's wishes. We have partially confirmed this disconnect between God and humanity in a pilot study into whether believers attempted to assess God's will through prayer.

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Differentiating among Theists, Agnostics, and Atheists:

There are a variety methods of sorting these three categories into specific belief systems. They are:

  • Theists include persons who believe in one or more gods. They include:
    • Monotheists are persons who believe in a single indivisible deity. Muslims and Jews are perhaps the best known groups of Theists.

    • Duotheists or bitheists are persons who believe in two deities. Most Wiccans, for example, believe in a Goddess and a God. Zoroastrians believe in an all-good deity and a profoundly evil deity.

    • Trinitarians believe in a single Godhead who consists of three persons: God; Jesus Christ, his son; and the Holy Spirit. Most Christians are Trinitarians and also believe that they are Monotheists. However, followers of some other religions often consider Christians to be polytheists.

    • Polytheists believe in multiple deities. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc. are typical examples.

  • Agnostics are persons who are unable to find a convincing proof, either of the existence or of the nonexistence of God. They accept the uncertainty. Some believe that God's existence can never be known.

  • Atheists typically describe themselves as not having a belief in God. However, many non-Atheists define Atheists as strong Atheists -- persons who actively deny the existence of any deity.

Richard Dawkins popularized a method of differentiating among various types of Theists, Agnostics, and Atheists. He discussed a "spectrum of theistic probability" in his book: "The God Delusion." 2 He suggests that people rate themselves from 1 to 7, as follows:

  1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.

  2. De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.

  3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.

  4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.

  5. Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.

  6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.

  7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

At various time, Dawkins has rated himself in the region 6 to 6.9. 2

Libb Thims, an American electrochemical engineer, proposed an extended scale of 1 to 10, in order to handle more shades of meaning. 3

Science writer Christopher Sisk created a series of 14 images showing all seven points on the Dawkins scale with a description and either a light or dark background. He encouraged people to use the image that matches their belief on their web site, blog, etc. Unfortunately, only #6 with a light background appears to have survived:

image of Dawkin's scale #6

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Topics covered in this section:

In this section, we describe the full range of deities recognized by various religions. We describe the following beliefs about God:

  • Monotheistic: Followers of Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and other monotheistic religions worship a single indivisible God.

  • Trinitarian: Most Christians  believe in a Trinity, consisting of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit -- three persons simultaneously existing in a single spiritual entity. Members of the Jehovah's Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Pentecostal Church, the Pentecostal Assemblies of The World, and other Oneness Pentecostal denominations reject this concept in various ways.

  • Goddess worship: This involves worship of a single female deity.

  • Duotheism: Belief in two deities. Wiccans and many other other Neopagans recognize a male and female deity (sometimes viewed as the male and female aspects of a single deity -- "The One" or "The All."  Zoroastrians believe in an all-good deity and an all-evil deity, similar to a small percentage of Protestants.

  • Polytheism: Polytheistic religions like Santeria, Vodun, some Neopagans, and others teach of the existence of a pantheon of Gods, and/or Goddesses.

  • Henotheism: Henotheistic religions like Hinduism teach a single deity but recognize other gods and goddesses as facets, forms, manifestations, or aspects of that supreme God.

We will also describe the four main views of how deities are structured as viewed by different religions, including: Deism, Panentheism, Pantheism, and Theism.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. David Barrett et al, editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200,"
  2. book cover Richard Dawkins, "The God Delusion." Mariner Books; (Reprinted 2008) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Available in Kindle format for $7.75 (Cover shown) and in Hardcover for $16.08 (Different cover design). His criteria are described on Page 50, or 73; sources differ. We have paraphrased his descriptions in this essay.
  3. Christopher Sisk, "I'm a six on the Dawkins scale," 2009, at http://www.christophersisk.com/

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Related sections:

See also our essays on:

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Site navigation:

Home page > Christianity > Christian personalities > God > here

or Home page > Religious information > God > here

or Home page > Spirituality > God > here

or Home page > God > here

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Copyright © 2000 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-FEB-18
Latest update and review: 2016-MAY-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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