See below for short explanations to help:
Atheism, theism, and agnosticism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.
Jack Smart argues that the distinction between atheism and agnosticism is unclear, and many people who have passionately described themselves as agnostics were in fact atheists. He writes that this mischaracterization is based on an unreasonable philosophical skepticism that would not allow us to make any claims to knowledge about the world. He proposes instead the following analysis:
Let us consider the appropriateness or otherwise of someone (call him ‘Philo‘) describing himself as a theist, atheist or agnostic. I would suggest that if Philo estimates the various plausibilities to be such that on the evidence before him the probability of theism comes out near to one he should describe himself as a theist and if it comes out near zero he should call himself an atheist, and if it comes out somewhere in the middle he should call himself an agnostic. There are no strict rules about this classification because the borderlines are vague. If need be, like a middle-aged man who is not sure whether to call himself bald or not bald, he should explain himself more fully.
Atheist Scale & Dawkins’ formulation
In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins posits that “the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other.” He goes on to propose a continuous “spectrum of probabilities” between two extremes of opposite certainty, which can be represented by seven “milestones“. Dawkins suggests definitive statements to summarize one’s place along the spectrum of theistic probability. These “milestones” are:
- Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”
- De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”
- Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”
- Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”
- Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
- De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
- Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”
Dawkins argues that while there appear to be plenty of individuals that would place themselves as “1” due to the strictness of religious doctrine against doubt, most atheists do not consider themselves “7” because atheism arises from a lack of evidence and evidence can always change a thinking person’s mind. In print, Dawkins self-identified as a ‘6’, though when interviewed by Bill Maher and later by Anthony Kenny, he suggested ‘6.9’ to be more accurate.
Theism, in the field of comparative religion, is the belief that at least one deity exists. In popular parlance, the term theism often describes the classical conception of God that is found in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Satanism.
The term theism derives from the Greek theos meaning “god”. The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617–88). In Cudworth’s definition, they are “strictly and properly called Theists, who affirm, that a perfectly conscious understanding being, or mind, existing of itself from eternity, was the cause of all other things”.
Atheism is rejection of theism in the broadest sense of theism; i.e. the rejection of belief that there is even one deity. Rejection of the narrower sense of theism can take forms such as deism, pantheism, and polytheism. The claim that the existence of any deity is unknown or unknowable is agnosticism. The positive assertion of knowledge, either of the existence of gods or the absence of gods, can also be attributed to some theists and some atheists. Put simply, theism and atheism deal with belief, and agnosticism deals with rational claims to asserting knowledge.
Monotheism (from Greek μόνος) is the belief in theology that only one deity exists. Some modern day monotheistic religions include Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Baha’i Faith, Sikhism, Eckankar and some forms of Hinduism.
Polytheism is the belief that there is more than one deity. In practice, polytheism is not just the belief that there are multiple gods; it usually includes belief in the existence of a specific pantheon of distinct deities.
Within polytheism there are hard and soft varieties:
- Hard polytheism views the gods as being distinct and separate beings; an example of this would be certain schools of Hinduism as well as Hellenismos.
- Soft polytheism views the gods as being subsumed into a greater whole. Some other forms of Hinduism such as Smartism/Advaita Vedanta serve as examples of soft polytheism.
Polytheism is also divided according to how the individual deities are regarded:
- Henotheism: The viewpoint/belief that there may be more than one deity, but only one of them is worshiped.
- Kathenotheism: The viewpoint/belief that there is more than one deity, but only one deity is worshiped at a time or ever, and another may be worthy of worship at another time or place. If they are worshiped one at a time, then each is supreme in turn.
- Monolatrism: The belief that there may be more than one deity, but that only one is worthy of being worshiped. Most of the modern monotheistic religions may have begun as monolatric ones, although this is disputed.
Pantheism and panentheism
- Pantheism: The belief that the physical universe is equivalent to god, and that there is no division between a Creator and the substance of its creation. Examples include works of Baruch Spinoza.
- Panentheism: Like Pantheism, the belief that the physical universe is joined to a god or gods. However, it also believes that a god or gods are greater than the material universe. Examples include most forms of Vaishnavism.
Some people find the distinction between these two beliefs as ambiguous and unhelpful, while others see it as a significant point of division. Pantheism may be understood a type of Nontheism, where the physical universe takes on some of the roles of a theistic God, and other roles of God viewed as unnecessary.
- Classical deism is the belief that at least one deity exists and created the world, but that the creator(s) does/do not alter the original plan for the universe.
Deism typically rejects supernatural events (such as prophecies, miracles, and divine revelations) prominent in organized religion. Instead, Deism holds that religious beliefs must be founded on human reason and observed features of the natural world, and that these sources reveal the existence of a supreme being as creator.
Thanks to Wikipedia.