An in depth look at religion

Are you potentially struggling with your beliefs or Deities? I feel your pain! What follows is a list of religious terminologies and several religions them selves, this is not an exhaustive list, that would have taken me more time than I care to imagine! This is for anyone, who like me, is trying to decide what exactly their beliefs are regarding religion. It was very eye opening for me and I thought other’s might benefit from some of the knowledge I found here. I did not include or exclude anything due to preference. I chose many of these because they were either wholly unfamiliar to me or were more common, but had differing definitions. Please feel free to add anything I missed in the comments below! Feel free to skip around and read the ones unfamiliar to you! Have fun reading and gaining knowledge, I know I did!!

** Organized religion, also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

I. Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of a supreme being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with deism, the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism (also referred to as classical theism) – or gods found in polytheistic religions—a belief in God or in gods without the rejection of revelation as is characteristic of deism.

Monotheism is the belief that there is only one deity, an all-supreme being that is universally referred to as God. A distinction may be made between exclusive monotheism, in which the one God is a singular existence, and both inclusive and pluriform monotheism, in which multiple gods or godly forms are recognized, but each are postulated as extensions of the same God.

Polytheism is the belief in multiple deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own religious sects and rituals. Polytheism is a type of theism. Within theism, it contrasts with monotheism, the belief in a singular God who is, in most cases, transcendent. In religions that accept polytheism, the different gods and goddesses may be representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles; they can be viewed either as autonomous or as aspects or emanations of a creator deity or transcendental absolute principle (monistic theologies), which manifests immanently in nature (panentheistic and pantheistic theologies). Polytheists do not always worship all the gods equally; they can be henotheists, specializing in the worship of one particular deity, or kathenotheists, worshiping different deities at different times.

Pantheism is the belief that reality, the universe and the cosmos are identical with divinity and a supreme supernatural being or entity, pointing to the universe as being an immanent creator deity still expanding and creating, which has existed since the beginning of time, or that all things compose an all-encompassing, immanent god or goddess and regards the universe as a manifestation of a deity. This includes all astronomical objects being viewed as part of a sole deity.

Panentheism (“all in God”, from the Greek πᾶν, pân, ‘all’, ἐν, en, ‘in’ and Θεός, Theós, ‘God’) is the belief that the divine intersects every part of the universe and also extends beyond space and time. In panentheism, the universal spirit is present everywhere, which at the same time “transcends” all things created. While pantheism asserts that “all is God”, panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe. Some versions of panentheism suggest that the universe is nothing more than the manifestation of God. In addition, some forms indicate that the universe is contained within God.

Deism, derived from the Latin deus, meaning “god”) is the philosophical position and rationalistic theolog that generally rejects revelation as a source of divine knowledge, and asserts that empirical reason and observation of the natural world are exclusively logical, reliable, and sufficient to determine the existence of a Supreme Being as the creator of the universe. More simply stated, Deism is the belief in the existence of God solely based on rational thought without any reliance on revealed religions or religious authority. Deism emphasizes the concept of natural theology (that is, God’s existence is revealed through nature)

Autotheism is the viewpoint that divinity, whether also external or not, is inherently within ‘oneself’ and that one has the ability to become godlike. Indian religions like Buddhism and Jainism are Autotheistic. This can be in a selfless way, a way following the implications of statements attributed to ethical, philosophical, and religious leaders.

Value-judgment theisms
a. Eutheism is the belief that a deity is wholly benevolent.
b. Dystheism is the belief that a deity is not wholly good, and is possibly evil.
c. Maltheism is the belief that a deity exists, but is wholly malicious.
d. Misotheism is active hatred for God or gods.

Nontheism or non-theism is a range of both religious and nonreligious attitudes characterized by the absence of espoused belief in the existence of god or gods. Nontheism has generally been used to describe apathy or silence towards the subject of God and differs from atheism. Nontheism does not necessarily describe atheism or disbelief in God; it has been used as an umbrella term for summarizing various distinct and even mutually exclusive positions, such as agnosticism, ignosticism, ietsism, skepticism, pantheism, pandeism, transtheism, atheism, strong or positive atheism, implicit atheism, and apatheism. It is in use in the fields of Christian apologetics and general liberal theology.

a. Nontheist Christians A few liberal Christian theologians define a “nontheistic God” as “the ground of all being” rather than as a personal divine being
b. Nontheist Quakers A nontheist Friend or an atheist Quaker is someone who affiliates with, identifies with, engages in and/or affirms Quaker practices and processes, but who does not accept a belief in a theistic understanding of God, a Supreme Being, the divine, the soul or the supernatural. Like theistic Friends, nontheist Friends are actively interested in realizing centered peace, simplicity, integrity, community, equality, love, happiness and social justice in the Society of Friends and beyond.
c. Buddhism The Buddha said that devas (translated as “gods”) do exist, but they were regarded as still being trapped in samsara, and are not necessarily wiser than humans. In fact, the Buddha is often portrayed as a teacher of the gods, and superior to them. Since the time of the Buddha, the denial of the existence of a creator deity has been seen as a key point in distinguishing Buddhist from non-Buddhist views.[6] The question of an independent creator deity was answered by the Buddha in the Brahmajala Sutta. The Buddha denounced the view of a creator and sees that such notions are related to the false view of eternalism, and like the 61 other views, this belief causes suffering when one is attached to it and states these views may lead to desire, aversion and delusion. At the end of the Sutta the Buddha says he knows these 62 views and he also knows the truth that surpasses them. Later Buddhist philosophers also extensively criticized the idea of an eternal creator deity concerned with humanity.
d. Hinduism is characterized by extremely diverse beliefs and practices. In the words of R.C. Zaehner, “it is perfectly possible to be a good Hindu whether one’s personal views incline toward monism, monotheism, polytheism, or even atheism.” He goes on to say that it is a religion that neither depends on the existence or non-existence of God or Gods. More broadly, Hinduism can be seen as having three more important strands: one featuring a personal Creator or Divine Being, second that emphasises an impersonal Absolute and a third that is pluralistic and non-absolute. The latter two traditions can be seen as nontheistic.
e. Jainism Jain texts claim that the universe consists of jiva (life force or souls) and ajiva (lifeless objects). According to Jain doctrine, the universe and its constituents-soul, matter, space, time, and principles of motion-have always existed. The universe and the matter and souls within it are eternal and uncreated, and there is no omnipotent creator god. Jainism offers an elaborate cosmology, including heavenly beings/devas, but these heavenly beings are not viewed as creators-they are subject to suffering and change like all other living beings, and are portrayed as mortal. According to the Jain concept of divinity, any soul who destroys its karmas and desires, achieves liberation/Nirvana. A soul who destroys all its passions and desires has no desire to interfere in the working of the universe. If godliness is defined as the state of having freed one’s soul from karmas and the attainment of enlightenment/Nirvana and a god as one who exists in such a state, then those who have achieved such a state can be termed gods
f. Other Philosophical models not falling within established religious structure.

Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

II. Antitheism, also spelled anti-theism, is the philosophical position that theism should be opposed. The term has had a range of applications. In secular contexts, it typically refers to direct opposition to the belief in any deity.

III. Gnosticism is a collection of religious ideas and systems which coalesced in the late 1st century AD among Jewish and early Christian sects. These various groups emphasized personal spiritual knowledge (gnosis) above the orthodox teachings, traditions, and authority of religious institutions. Gnostic cosmogony generally presents a distinction between a supreme, hidden God and a malevolent lesser divinity (sometimes associated with the Yahweh of the Old Testament) who is responsible for creating the material universe. Consequently, Gnostics considered material existence flawed or evil, and held the principal element of salvation to be direct knowledge of the hidden divinity, attained via mystical or esoteric insight. Many Gnostic texts deal not in concepts of sin and repentance, but with illusion and enlightenment. Major movements include: Elkesaites, Mandaeism, Samaritan Baptist sects, Sethite-Barbeloite, Valentinianism, Basilideans, Thomasine traditions, Marcion, Hermeticism, and Manichaeim.

IV. Modern paganism, also known as contemporary Paganism and Neopaganism, is a term for a religion or family of religions influenced by the various historical pre-Christian beliefs of pre-modern peoples in Europe and adjacent areas of North Africa and the Near East. Although they share similarities, contemporary pagan movements are diverse, and do not share a single set of beliefs, practices, or texts. Scholars of religion may characterise these traditions as new religious movements. Some academics who study the phenomenon treat it as a movement that is divided into different religions while others characterize it as a single religion of which different pagan faiths are denominations.


V. Polydeism (from the Greek πολύ poly (“many”) and Latin deus meaning god) is a portmanteau referencing a polytheistic form of deism, encompassing the belief that the universe was the collective creation of multiple gods, each of whom created a piece of the universe or multiverse and then ceased to intervene in its evolution. This concept addresses an apparent contradiction in deism, that a monotheistic God created the universe, but now expresses no apparent interest in it, by supposing that if the universe is the construct of many gods, none of them would have an interest in the universe as a whole.

Neopaganism, also known as modern paganism and contemporary paganism
Hinduism is not a monolithic religion: a wide variety of religious traditions and practices are grouped together under this umbrella term and some modern scholars have questioned the legitimacy of unifying them artificially and suggest that one should speak of “Hinduisms” in the plural. Theistic Hinduism encompasses both monotheistic and polytheistic tendencies and variations on or mixes of both structures.

Mormonism Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, believed in “the plurality of Gods”, saying “I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.”

Buddhism is typically classified as non-theistic, but depending on the type of Buddhism practiced, it may be seen as polytheistic as it at least acknowledges the existence of multiple gods.
Christianity is usually described as a monotheistic religion, it is sometimes claimed that Christianity is not truly monotheistic because of its idea of the Trinity. The Trinity believes that God consists of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because the deity is in three parts, some people believe Christianity should be considered a form of Tritheism or Polytheism.

VI. Henotheism (Greek “one god”) is a term coined by Max Müller, to mean devotion to a single primary god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities. Müller stated that henotheism means “monotheism in principle and polytheism in fact”.

VII. Animism (from Latin: anima meaning ‘breath, spirit, life’) is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Potentially, animism perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and perhaps even words—as animated and alive. Animism is used in the anthropology of religion, as a term for the belief system of many Indigenous peoples, especially in contrast to the relatively more recent development of organized religions. Animism focuses on the metaphysical universe, with a specific focus on the concept of the immaterial soul.

VIII. Hellenism (Ἑλληνισμός)[a] in a religious context refers to the modern pluralistic religion practiced in Greece and around the world by several communities derived from the beliefs, mythology and rituals from antiquity through and up to today. It is a system of thought and spirituality with a shared culture and values, and common ritualistic, linguistic and literary tradition. More broadly, Hellenism centers itself on the worship of Hellenic deities, namely the twelve Olympians.

IX. Monolatry (Ancient Greek: μόνος, romanized: monos, lit. ‘single’, and λατρεία, latreia, ‘worship’) is the belief in the existence of many gods, but with the consistent worship of only one deity. The term monolatry was perhaps first used by Julius Wellhausen. Monolatry is distinguished from monotheism, which asserts the existence of only one god, and henotheism, a religious system in which the believer worships one god without denying that others may worship different gods with equal validity.

X. Scientology teaches that a human is an immortal, spiritual being (Thetan) that resides in a physical body and has had innumerable past lives. Some Scientology texts are only revealed after followers have spent more than $200,000 in the organization, and it charges tens of thousands of dollars for access to these texts in what it calls “Operating Thetan” levels. The organization has gone to considerable lengths to try to keep these secret, but they are freely available on the internet. These texts say that lives preceding a Thetan’s arrival on Earth were lived in extraterrestrial cultures. The Scientology doctrine states that any Scientologist undergoing “auditing” will eventually come across and recount a common series of events. They include reference to an extraterrestrial life-form called Xenu. The secret Scientology texts say this was a ruler of a confederation of planets 70 million years ago who brought billions of alien beings to Earth and then killed them with thermonuclear weapons. Despite being kept secret from most followers, this forms the central mythological framework of Scientology’s ostensible soteriology: attainment of a status referred to by Scientologists as “clear”. These aspects have become the subject of popular ridicule.

XI. Secular religion is a communal belief system that often rejects or neglects the metaphysical aspects of the supernatural, commonly associated with traditional religion, instead placing typical religious qualities in earthly entities.

Modern Satanism
Secular Buddhism
Secular Judaism
Religion of Humanity

XII. Syntheism is a new religious movement that is focused on how atheists and pantheists can achieve the same feelings of community and awe experienced in traditional theistic religions. The Syntheist Movement sees itself as the practical realisation of a philosophical ambition for a new religion. Syntheism may also be viewed as a response to the lack of atheistic and pantheistic belief systems in Western cultures while being more abundant in Eastern cultures.

Zen Buddhism
Dzogchen Buddhism
Advaita Vedanta Hinduism

XIII. Transtheism refers to a system of thought or religious philosophy that is neither theistic nor atheistic, but is beyond them. The word was coined by either theologian Paul Tillich or Indologist Heinrich Zimmer. Zimmer applies the term to Jainism, which is theistic in the limited sense that gods exist but are irrelevant as they are transcended by moksha (that is, a system that is not non-theistic, but in which the gods are not the highest spiritual instance). Zimmer (1953, p. 182) uses the term to describe the position of the Tirthankaras having passed “beyond the godly governors of the natural order.” The term has more recently also been applied to Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, and the Bhakti movement.

XIV. Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion characterized by a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Unitarian Universalists assert no creed, but instead are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth, guided by a dynamic, “living tradition.” Currently, these traditions are summarized by the Six Sources and Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, documents recognized by all congregations who choose to be a part of the Unitarian Universalist Association. These documents are “living,” meaning always open for revisiting and reworking. Unitarian Universalist (U.U.) congregations include many atheists, agnostics, and theists and have churches, fellowships, congregations, and societies around the world. The roots of Unitarian Universalism are in protestant liberal Christianity, specifically unitarianism and universalism. Unitarian Universalists state that from these traditions comes a deep regard for intellectual freedom and inclusive love. Congregations and members seek inspiration and derive insight from all major world religions. The beliefs of individual Unitarian Universalists range widely; they can include, but are not limited to: humanism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Taoism, syncretism, Omnism, Neopaganism, atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, panentheism, pandeism, deism, and teachings of the Baháʼí Faith.

XV. Agnosticism is the view or belief that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist.

XVI. Kathenotheism is a term coined by the philologist Max Müller to mean the worship of one god at a time. It is closely related to henotheism, the worship of one god while not rejecting the existence of other gods. Müller coined the term in reference to the Vedas, where he explained each deity is treated as supreme in turn.

XVII. Occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of esoteric supernatural beliefs and practices which generally fall outside the scope of religion and science, encompassing phenomena involving otherworldly agency, such as magic and mysticism and their varied spells. It can also refer to supernatural ideas like extra-sensory perception and parapsychology. The term occult sciences was used in 16th-century Europe to refer to astrology, alchemy, and natural magic.

XVIII. Apatheism a portmanteau of apathy and theism) is the attitude of apathy towards the existence or non-existence of God(s). It is more of an attitude rather than a belief, claim, or belief system. The term was coined by Robert Nash, theology professor at Mercer University, in 2001. An apatheist is someone who is not interested in accepting or rejecting any claims that gods exist or do not exist. The existence of a god or gods is not rejected, but may be designated irrelevant.

XIX. Non-denominational person or organization is one that does not follow (or is not restricted to) any particular or specific religious denomination. The term has been used in the context of various faiths including Jainism, Baháʼí Faith, Zoroastrianism, Unitarian Universalism, Neo-Paganism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Wicca. It stands in contrast with a religious denomination. Religious people of a non-denominational persuasion tend to be more open-minded in their views on various religious matters and rulings. Some converts towards non-denominational strains of thought have been influenced by disputes over traditional teachings in the previous institutions they attended. Nondenominationalism has also been used as a tool for introducing neutrality into a public square when the local populace are derived from a wide-ranging set of religious beliefs.


(2022, December 31). Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia. En. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Wow! You definitely went on a mission to understand different religious beliefs & classifications.

I guess I’d now fall somewhere in the Polytheistic Pagan realm.

Its interesting all of the different ways that things are classified & that have been studied. Great job & a very informative & interesting read!


Thank you for this I really needed it, definitely gonna find out where I stand!


This is a treasure trove of information and an extremely helpful resource for anyone hoping to find terms/labels that they connect with! :heart: Finding a term that you relate to can make your beliefs feel much more tangible, and opens the door to being able to learn more about your chosen path.

Really very helpful- thank you so much for taking the time to write this guide out, @TheDarkestDesire! You’ve done an amazing job with it :books::blush: