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Philosophy of Religion - Who or what is the supreme authority in the Universe?

  1. Theism: belief in the existence of a god or gods, usually belief in one god in the monotheistic sense or one overall god of which all are a part as in the pantheistic sense. God as creator of the universe, intervening in it (monotheistic) and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures.(monotheistic)
    1. Mysticism - Generally a hyper-supernatural approach to theism in nearly all of its forms– can appear as Animist, Monotheist, Polytheist, or Pantheist belief systems.

      1. Monotheistic Judaism: Nullification and absorption within God's Infinite Light(Hassidic)

      2. Monotheistic Islam (Sufi): fana or “union with Allah”; Innate Knowledge

      3. Pantheistic Hinduism, Buddhism: Complete non-identification with the world (Kaivalya Sankhya, and Yoga of some Hinduist schools; Jhana in Buddhism) Liberation from the cycles of Karma (Moksha in Jainism & Hinduism, Nirvana in Buddhism) Union with God - Brahma-Prapti or Brahma-Nirvana in Hinduism

      4. Atheism (Eastern) - Deep intrinsic connection to ultimate reality (Satori in Mahayana Buddhism, Te in Taoism)

      5. Monotheistic Christianity - Theosis or Divinization, union with God and a participation of the divine nature (Catholic Christianity and Eastern Orthodoxy) c.f.Francis Assisi; Charismatic Pentecostal “inner voice” of what they perceive to be their god. (in contrast to Biblical Christianity which adheres to the “Sola Scriptura” authority of the Scriptures for the church and the believer - IITimothy 3:16-17

    2. Panentheism – A theistic religious belief system whereby the universe is “in” god and distinct from him as in monotheism and polytheism but rather god transcends beyond the universe and is not equivocated with it as in pantheism (all that is seen and unseen makes up the person of god) c.f. process theology

    3. Monotheism - The belief in a singular omnipotent, omniscient Creator God who usually possesses a negative disposition toward the existence of any other deity besides Himself and thus, the adherence of the three main monotheistic faiths:- Christianity, Judaism, and Islam utterly reject the proposition of multiple gods (Mormonism, Hinduism, Bahai, etc)

    4. Deism - belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not personally interact in His universe. Deism was birthed and reached its zenith during an intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries that accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind. The god of deism has often been referred to as the “Watchmaker god” in that he creates a machine i.e. the universe, and simply lets it wind down of its own accord. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were said to have been deists, however, a closer examination of their actual writings reveals a belief in a Deity that is personal and “providential” (supernaturally intervening) in the affairs of His creation. Their writings more closely resemble the God of Judaeo-Christianity than that of the deists of their day.

    5. Pluralism – More a disposition toward religion than a religious “system” in that all religions are considered valid and true and no single world religion can or should claim superiority over another. i.e. ALL religions are correct – its just a matter of which one works best for a particular person. This attitude is greatly dependent upon subjective relativism in that it overlooks the contradictory absolutes declared by each and every religion except Bahai which is built upon this relativistic pluralist concept.

    6. Syncretism – Different from pluralism in that instead of “all paths” leading to the same end, syncretism seeks to combine all religious belief systems into one coherent system or “one path” by way of accepting certain aspects of monotheism, pantheism, etc and forming a conglomeration of religious belief.

    7. Pantheism - The theistic belief that all beings in the universe (including the universe itself) comprise the being known as “god” such as in Brahman of Hinduism. This is often confused with panentheism which is actually a differing belief that all things and the universe are in god. A misnomer about pantheism is that it is a theology that permits or tolerates all gods. This is decidedly false in that the exclusive God of Christianity and the exclusive god of Islam are both said to be “accepted” but the claims of exclusivity by both gods are utterly rejected. That is to say, Pantheism is inclusive of all religious systems except true Christianity and true Islam

    8. Polytheism - The belief in and worship of more than one god. This often applies differing attributes to a multiplicity of gods who are usually at odds with one another such as in Greek, Roman, or Near Eastern mythology. Most all of polytheism was wiped out in the west with the arrival of Christianity and in the East with the arrival of Islam.

      1. Henotheism – A variant form of polytheism whereby one particular god enjoys supremacy over all other gods in existence. c.f. “Zeus” of Greek polytheism or “Our Heavenly Father” of Mormonism (bears similar name to Christian Deity with a decidedly different meaning and origin, to the “Heavenly Father”)

    9. Monism – A metaphysical (cosmology), theological, psychological, ethic/moral and epistemological term – each bearing a different definition. In this, the theological sense it is the belief system that claims that all the universe can be described as one substance. “All is one. One is all. All is God” is the credo of Pantheistic monism found mostly among Hindu sects and some Chinese traditional religions. The religious philosophy of monism is primarily an eastern religious world view component and borders largely on the metaphysical (existence) definition of the same concept.
      1. Dr. John Weldon says: "[Monism's] cultural acceptance would destroy both individual and societal purpose in life. The Eastern religions… deify man, depersonalize God, make the creation an 'illusion,' and justify and promote social apathy, to name just several serious consequences. India… is supposed to be the land of perpetual spiritual enlightenment…[but] one needs only to examine the cultures in which the concept of God as a personal Creator has been rejected to see the unhappy results."

      2. I can personally attest to Dr. Weldon’s statement above based on what I know and observed firsthand in many visits to India and Sri Lanka. - AH

      3. There is a tendency among the New Age adherents to embrace monism or being “one with the universe”.

    10. Dualism – A philosophical form of metaphysics, ethics, and theology. In the theological sense it is the existence of two contrasting contrary entities like spirit vs material (Gnosticism) or God vs creation (Paulicanism), and God vs universe (some Hindu sects). In some variant forms dualism is present in the form of “ditheism” (Zoroastrianism)

    11. Ditheism - pits two deities of polar opposite values against one another as can be found in Zoroastrianism. Ditheism has been erroneously credited with the development of Christianity, which usually emerges from a lack of understanding of Christian theology. The ditheist view or Christian origin erroneously posits God vs. “the devil” as polar opposites – which is the general view held by secularists and nominal Christians seeking to describe or understand Christian theology. A ditheist view of Christianity is a gross misrepresentation of Biblical Christian theology in that Christians hold that God has no opposite as the devil is a created, fallen angel and the true source of all evil (sin against God) is in the rebellion of God’s creation – mankind and the angels. This rebellion, in turn, required action on God’s part to resolve: either to obliterate said rebellious creatures and start over, or to redeem mankind and obliterate the rebellious angels. Christians hold that God opted for redemption which is currently in progress. This is markedly different from Zoroastrianism or any other ditheist or bitheist construct

  2. Atheism: A (without) theism (God). Essentially a belief system of faith unto itself whereby the assertion is held that God does not exist.

    1. Eastern Nontheism

      1. Taoism – An ancient Chinese religious and philosophical system whereby an ethical and metaphysical order of the universe can provide order to human lives. Taoism was founded by Lao Tzu (Old Philosopher) in the 6th century BC (possibly coincided with founding of Confucianism) and furthered by the prolific Chuang Tzu in the 4th century BC. This system is taught as “inexpressible in words” (ineffable) and is largely deity-less mysticism. Incorporates the moral dualism of the yin and yang (benevolent vs malevolent opposites) A famous saying of Taoism is “The way of the Tao cannot be known, he who claims to know the way of the Tao has revealed that he has not known it.”

      2. Confucianism – An ancient Chinese system of ethics, education, and statesmanship founded by Chiu King (Confucius) circa 550 B.C. and furthered by Meng Tzu circa 370 B.C. The system is referred to as “optimistic humanism” as it recognizes no deity of any kind apart from emphasis of ancestor worship and reverence for parents and stressed harmony between thought and conduct. Like Taoism, Confucianism adheres to a form of moral dualism found in the yin and yang.

      3. Buddhism – Theravada Buddhism – one of five main sects – holds to the pursuit of “Nirvana” or enlightenment by adhering to a series/system of ethics and behaviors which were introduced by Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha) who gained enlightenment after his disillusionment with Hinduism. Like other ancient traditional Chinese belief systems, Theravada Buddhism does not speak of any deity but rather a “right and correct” way of living life eventually resulting in a perfect deity-less eternity.

    2. Western Nontheism

      1. Skepticism

        1. Soft Skepticism – In the religious sense pertains to a category of skepticism whereby knowledge of deity or supernatural is simply unknown due to the absence of reliable knowledge and/or evidence on the subject and often belief is withheld until such reliable knowledge and/or evidence becomes available.

        2. Hard Skepticism – In the religious sense, a more extreme counterpart of soft skepticism which holds that knowledge of God and/or the supernatural can’t be obtained as these things are “wholly other” than natural man who lives in and by natural law therefore obtaining knowledge of deity or the supernatural is impossible, if indeed deity did exist.

      2. Humanism - System of thought emphasizing human methodology, and futurology while outright denying the existence of the divine or supernatural. The credo of humanism is found in the “Humanist Manifesto” by Raymond Bragg in 1933. The manifesto focuses on the inner value and basic goodness of human beings in general, while emphasizing common human needs, and seek solely empirical methods of solving perceived human “problems”. Like communism and socialism political philosophies, humanism believes that all humans are “basically good” but don’t act that way and are in desperate need of “re-education” which will result in “right” or “correct” behavior.

      3. Nihilism - A philosophy of religion whereby all religious and moral principles are either rejected or held in skepticism and therefore of no use ethically or methodologically due to the fact that life is meaningless. Sometimes called “nothingism”, there are both ‘sorrowing’ and ‘celebrating’ nihilists whereby the sorrowing nihilist accepts his or her fate with dread while the celebrating nihilist looks to this worldview as liberating from “oppressive” moral obligations laid on humans by religion.

      4. Agnosticism: Epistemological approach to philosophy of religion and/or supernatural that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God. There are usually two subtypes of agnostics: hard skeptics which claim that if there is a god nothing can ever be known about Him in that He is “wholly other” - that is, knowledge of god is impossible. The other variety of skeptic is considered a “soft” skeptic which claims that if there is a God - we probably couldn’t know or have knowledge of him, i.e. knowledge of god while not impossible, it is improbable

  3. Animism: An explanation of phenomena by way of spirit activity within and without animate and inanimate objects. This is the most primitive branch of religion apart from the original monotheism and it is a system of belief used to set up relations with spirits in the material and immaterial world.

    1. Examples: Shamanism, Voodoo, African Tribal Religion, Neo-Celtics, etc.

    2. This faith system differs greatly from polytheism i.e. corn spirit is object of magic rather than religious rites, animism belief in “departmental gods” can (and did) lead to polytheism.

    3. Animism is so widely varied, verbally communicated (passed on), and primarily belonging to nomadic tribes with unwritten tradition, that no authoritative writings exist (nor are deemed necessary by past and present adherents).

  1. Crossover of other worldview elements that impact one’s religious worldview

    1. Relativism - a belief system that stretches across epistemology, ethics/morality, and religion which holds to the idea that absolutes do not exist in the realms of knowledge, morality, and truth but rather exist only in direct relation to the culture, history, and society in which they are encountered. The flaw of this belief system is that it requires “absolute” knowledge and truth to claim there is “no absolute” truth or knowledge regarding religion etc.

    2. Solipsism - Also an epistemology that is a somewhat obscure and simple system of belief that by its very simplicity affects nearly every category of one’s world view that adheres to it. Solipsism is simply the belief that nothing can be known outside of one’s self. In fact nothing can be known to even exist outside of one’s self. Because of its odd simplicity I have placed it in a number of categories. In this case, with regards to religion, it is similar to the hard agnostic view that knowledge of God cannot be known, obviously because he would exist outside of one’s self.

    3. Asceticism - This is a methodology to obtain and maintain morality found in several world religious systems. It is an approach to religion whereby the comforts and amenities of this world are typically viewed as “excess” and therefore evil. The response is usually a separatist and or monastic lifestyle to scorn the pleasures of this world in order to gain a greater appreciation for the spiritual pleasures and disciplines. Buddhist monks and medieval Christian monks are an example of the ascetic lifestyle. Because this comprises a methodology to material life, and a motivation with view to ethics and morality, it is also a sub-category of the praxeology/methodolgy and the ethics/morality world view categories as well

Now that you’ve examined the various Philosophies of Religion, click on the icons below to take a look at the other elements that comprise your world view:

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