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Beliefs about deity/deities in different religions

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What different faith groups believe about their deity/deities:

The religions of the world teach a wide diversity of concepts about deity. Books have been published which list over 1,000 Gods or over 1,000 Goddesses who have been worshiped in various eras and locations.

bullet At first glance, a person who is investigating the entire "God" concept for the first time might conclude that all of these diverse deities are purely human creations. That is: God did not create humanity -- humanity created Gods.

bullet However, in practice, most people believe that the God or the Goddess or Gods or Goddesses of their faith tradition is or are real, whereas all of the thousands of other deities are human creations, who are nonexistent, except in the minds of humans. Some people believe in an all-evil entity called Satan and attribute religions other than their own to Satan.

In practice, a person's beliefs about deity/deities is largely an accident related to one's birth location. They largely depend upon the faith group followed by one's family of origin, which in turn largely dependent upon the country and region where one is born.

Beliefs about deity cover a wide range, including, in alphabetic order:

bullet Agnosticism: having reached no conclusion whether God exists. (See Agnosticism) Some Agnostics believe that the existence of God will never be proved or disproved.

bullet Animism. The belief that all entities have life force, a soul or mind. For example, rocks, trees and mountains have an awareness of their surroundings: (e.g. Native aboriginal religions).
bullet Atheism:
bullet According to most dictionary definitions and general usage, Atheists totally reject the possibility that God exists. This would include many Atheists, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, etc.

bullet However, American Atheists, the largest group of Atheists in the U.S. define Atheism as having no belief in God. A newborn would not be considered an Atheist within the dictionary definition, but would be an Atheist according to the American Atheists.

bullet Deism: The belief that God exists, but is remote, unknowable and uninvolved. They believe that God created the universe, set it going, left, but has not taken an active interest in it since. This was a popular belief among intellectuals during and after the American revolution. It shows up in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and its references to to "Nature's God," and "Creator." It is a rapidly growing belief today. However, many Deists are unaware of the existence of Deism.

bullet Duotheism (a.k.a. Bitheism): belief in a dual divinity: (e.g. Wicca and Zoroastrianism). In the case of Wicca, one deity is female, the other male; in Zoroastrianism one is all good while the other is all evil.

bullet Henotheism. belief in many deities of which only one is the supreme deity. This may involve:
bullet One chief God and multiple gods and goddesses of lesser power and importance. Ancient Greek and Roman religions were of this type.
bullet One supreme God, and multiple gods and goddesses who are all simply manifestations or aspects of the supreme God. Hinduism is one example; they recognize Brahman as the single deity. Some Wiccans believe in a single deity about which they know little. They call the deity "The One" or "The All." They recognize the God and Goddess as the male and female aspects of that one supreme deity.

bullet One supreme God who rules over a country, and many other gods and goddesses who have similar jurisdiction over other territories. Liberal theologians believe that the ancient Israelites in the early years of the Hebrew nation were henotheists. They worshipped Jehovah as the supreme God over Israel, but recognized the existence of Baal and other deities who ruled over other tribes. The monotheistic concept of "Yahweh only" came later.

bullet Monism: The belief that what people perceive as deity, humanity and the rest of the universe is in fact all of one substance - that divisions among the body, mind, flesh, spirit, material, physical are not real. All are simply aspects of one being.
bullet Monotheism: The belief in a single God. Examples include Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism). Within Christianity, most denominations consider themselves to be monotheistic, even though they teach the existence of three separate persons within in the Trinity. Some theologians believe that religiously inspired violence is more commonly found among monotheists than among polytheists or Atheists. However if one views communism as a religion, its followers are Atheists and responsible for tens of millions of persons exterminated in various genocides.

bullet Panentheism: The belief that the entire universe -- substances, forces and laws -- is God; the universe is God's body. God transcends the universe as well. (e.g. some components of New Age belief).

bullet Pantheism: The belief that every existing entity (humans, animals, etc.) together, is a part of God. They do not see God as having a personality, the ability to make decisions, etc.  Rather, God is the very spiritual essence of the entire universe.


Polytheism: belief in many Gods and Goddesses: (e.g. various Neopagan religions, where each deity has a specific specialty or function. Hinduism is often looked upon in the west as a polytheistic religion).

bullet Trinity: belief in a single deity who has three aspects (e.g. historical Christianity, whose members generally believe in Trinity formed by three persons: a Father, Son and Holy Spirit who they view as being a single entity). Christians often look upon God as being omniscient (all-knowing) , omnipotent (all powerfl), omnipresent (present everywhere) and omnibeneficient (all good.) Some liberal Christians believe that such a list of attributes is logically contradictory and thus impossible.

Many specific denominations and faith groups are difficult to categorize. For example, a religion might teach the belief in a single God, and a large number of minor deities, heroes, or saints who have some powers normally restricted to deities. It might be considered a monotheistic religion in theory or a polytheistic/henotheistic religion in practice.

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Faith groups' beliefs about other topics:

There is essentially no consensus among religions on any factor related to:

bullet religious belief, ritual, organization
bullet family structure
bullet personal sexual behavior

Some examples (in alphabetic order) are:

bullet Abortion: allowed, prohibited, allowed under some circumstances
bullet Adult celibacy: encouraged, accepted, discouraged
bullet Afterlife: unknown, heaven/hell, purgatory, limbo, reincarnation, transmigration of the soul, nirvana.
bullet Animal sacrifices: common, rare, prohibited
bullet Appearance: no real rules, beard, shave, no makeup, no jewelry
bullet Artificial birth control: forbidden, ignored, encouraged
bullet Calendars: Gregorian (secular calendar), Julian, various moon or sun-based calendars
bullet Clergy celibacy: required, optional, discouraged
bullet Clergy gender: male only, female only, either
bullet Clergy present: yes, no
bullet Days for rituals: daily, Saturday, Sunday, special days, full moons, new moons, equinoxes, solstices...
bullet Documentation: oral tradition, written tradition, combination
bullet Family organization: male has power; power shared
bullet Family types: nuclear, extended, polygamous, intentional community
bullet Gender of deities: all male, all female, both genders, no gender
bullet Homosexual orientation: eligible/not eligible for membership & clergy; eligible/not eligible for union ceremonies; disordered, sinful, morally neutral.
bullet Meeting place: church, synagogue, mosque, temple, outside in nature, room
bullet Nature of deities: permeates universe, remote, intimate, within
bullet Nature of humanity: inherently sinful; naturally good
bullet New Year: Jan 1, Jan 14, Spring Equinox, May 18, Sep 14, Nov. 1...
bullet Number of deities: 0,1,2, trinity, many
bullet Origin of the universe: belief in Evolution, belief in a creation story
bullet Prayer: encouraged, non-existent; at defined times of the day, while alone, while in groups
bullet Premarital sex: encouraged, forbidden, tolerated
bullet Religious calendar: lunar, solar, mixed
bullet Role of women: equal, restricted, superior
bullet Sacred texts: inerrant, contain mistakes and ignorable items, none (oral tradition)
bullet Surgical modifications: none allowed, circumcision of males, female genital mutilation
bullet Special clothing: kirpan, turban, temple undergarments, yarmulke, tallith, tefillin, phylacteries, hijab, rosary, tasbih, takiyah...
bullet Symbols: cross, crucifix, fish, 5 pointed star, 6 pointed star, 8 spoked wheel, crescent, goat head...

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Related section of this web site:

bullet Comparing different religions and faith groups.

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Site navigation:

Home page > Christianity > Christian personalities > God > here

or Home page > Religious information > God > here

or Home page > Religious information > here

or Home page > Spirituality > God > here

or Home page > Comparison of religions > here

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Copyright ©1996 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-JAN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson
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