Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of the Supreme Being or deities.[1][2] 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.[3][4]

Atheism is commonly understood as rejection of theism in the broadest sense of theism, i.e. the rejection of belief in God or gods.[5] The claim that the existence of any deity is unknown or unknowable is agnosticism.[6][7]

Gods in Jacques Réattu's The Triumph of Civilization (1793)


The term theism derives from the Greek theos or theoi meaning "god". The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617–1688).[8] 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".[9]

Types of theism


Monotheism (from Greek μόνος) is the belief in theology that only one deity exists.[10] Some modern day monotheistic religions include Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Baha'i Faith, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Eckankar. There have been many proofs of Monotheism postulated by a multitude of philosophers and academics throughout history. However, many of these proofs are either unknown or have been misinterpreted.


Polytheism is the belief that there is more than one god.[11] 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:

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.[12]
  • Panentheism: Like Pantheism, the belief that the physical universe is joined to a god or gods. However, it also believes that the divine pervades and interpenetrates every part of the universe and also extends beyond time and space. Examples include most forms of Vaishnavism and the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza.

Some find the distinction between these two beliefs ambiguous and unhelpful, while others see it as a significant point of division.[13] 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.[14]


  • Classical Deism is the belief that one God exists and created the world, but that the Creator does/do not alter the original plan for the universe, but presides over it in the form of Providence; however, some classical Deists did believe in divine intervention.[15]

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.[16]

  • Pandeism: The belief that God preceded the universe and created it, but is now equivalent with it.
  • Polydeism: The belief that multiple gods exist, but do not intervene in the universe.


Autotheism is the viewpoint that, whether divinity is also external or not, it is inherently within 'oneself' and that one has the ability to achieve godhood. This can be in a selfless way, a way following the implications of statements attributed to ethical, philosophical, and religious leaders (such as Mahavira).

Autotheism can also refer to the belief that one's self is a deity, within the context of subjectivism. Hindus use the term, "aham Brahmāsmi" which means, "I am Brahman".[17]

Value-judgment theisms

  • Eutheism is the belief that a deity is wholly benevolent.
  • Dystheism is the belief that a deity is not wholly good, and is possibly evil.
  • Maltheism is the belief that a deity exists, but is wholly malicious.
  • Misotheism is active hatred for God or gods.

See also


  1. ^ "theism," Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  2. ^ "theism," Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  3. ^ " Online Dictionary". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  4. ^ " Online Dictionary". Retrieved 2016-11-23.
  5. ^
    • Nielsen, Kai (2010). "Atheism". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2011-01-26. Atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings.... Instead of saying that an atheist is someone who believes that it is false or probably false that there is a God, a more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God for the following reasons (which reason is stressed depends on how God is being conceived)...
    • Edwards, Paul (2005) [1967]. "Atheism". In Donald M. Borchert (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA (Gale). p. 359. ISBN 9780028657806. On our definition, an 'atheist' is a person who rejects belief in God, regardless of whether or not his reason for the rejection is the claim that 'God exists' expresses a false proposition. People frequently adopt an attitude of rejection toward a position for reasons other than that it is a false proposition. It is common among contemporary philosophers, and indeed it was not uncommon in earlier centuries, to reject positions on the ground that they are meaningless. Sometimes, too, a theory is rejected on such grounds as that it is sterile or redundant or capricious, and there are many other considerations which in certain contexts are generally agreed to constitute good grounds for rejecting an assertion.(page 175 in 1967 edition)
  6. ^ Hepburn, Ronald W. (2005) [1967]. "Agnosticism". In Donald M. Borchert (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA (Gale). p. 92. ISBN 9780028657806. In the most general use of the term, agnosticism is the view that we do not know whether there is a God or not. (page 56 in 1967 edition)
  7. ^ Rowe, William L. (1998). "Agnosticism". In Edward Craig (ed.). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-07310-3. In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism 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. In so far as one holds that our beliefs are rational only if they are sufficiently supported by human reason, the person who accepts the philosophical position of agnosticism will hold that neither the belief that God exists nor the belief that God does not exist is rational.
  8. ^ Halsey, William; Robert H. Blackburn; Sir Frank Francis (1969). Louis Shores (ed.). Collier's Encyclopedia. 22 (20 ed.). Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation. pp. 266–7.
  9. ^ Cudworth, Ralph (1678). The True Intellectual System of the Universe, Vol. I. New York: Gould & Newman, 1837, p. 267.
  10. ^ “Monotheism”, in Britannica, 15th ed. (1986), 8:266.
  11. ^ AskOxford: polytheism
  12. ^ "Philosophical Dictionary: Pacifism-Particular".
  13. ^ "What is Panentheism?". About.Com: Agnosticism/Atheism. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  14. ^ Levine, Michael P. (1994). Pantheism : a non-theistic concept of deity (1. publ. ed.). London u.a.: Routledge. ISBN 0415070643.
  15. ^ AskOxford: deism
  16. ^ Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language (G. & C. Merriam, 1924) defines deism as "belief in the existence of a personal god, with disbelief in Christian teaching, or with a purely rationalistic interpretation of Scripture". Although listed as a type of theism, deism is completely different from theism. If anything, theism would be an off-shoot of deism since it takes beliefs a step further to include miracles and divine revelation, with deism being the "base" belief in God.
  17. ^ Gurumayum Ranjit Sharma (1987). The Idealistic Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. Atlantic. p. 180. GGKEY:PSWXE5NTFF4.
Agnostic theism

Agnostic theism, agnostotheism or agnostitheism is the philosophical view that encompasses both theism and agnosticism. An agnostic theist believes in the existence of a god or gods, but regards the basis of this proposition as unknown or inherently unknowable. The agnostic theist may also or alternatively be agnostic regarding the properties of the god or gods that they believe in.


Antitheism (sometimes anti-theism) is the opposition to theism. The term has had a range of applications. In secular contexts, it typically refers to direct opposition to the belief in any deity.


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.An apatheist is someone who is not interested in accepting or rejecting any claims that gods exist or do not exist. The existence of god(s) is not rejected, but may be designated irrelevant.Scientist and philosopher Ian von Hegner has argued that apatheism is an alternative to positions such as theism, atheism, and agnosticism, with implications that have been overlooked in modern philosophical discussions. Philosopher Trevor Hedberg has called apatheism "uncharted territory in the philosophy of religion."

Argument from nonbelief

An argument from nonbelief is a philosophical argument that asserts an inconsistency between the existence of God and a world in which people fail to recognize him. It is similar to the classic argument from evil in affirming an inconsistency between the world that exists and the world that would exist if God had certain desires combined with the power to see them through.

There are two key varieties of the argument. The argument from reasonable nonbelief (or the argument from divine hiddenness) was first elaborated in J. L. Schellenberg's 1993 book Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. This argument says that if God existed (and was perfectly good and loving) every reasonable person would have been brought to believe in God; however, there are reasonable nonbelievers; therefore, this God does not exist.

Theodore Drange subsequently developed the argument from nonbelief, based on the mere existence of nonbelief in God. Drange considers the distinction between reasonable (by which Schellenberg means inculpable) and unreasonable (culpable) nonbelief to be irrelevant and confusing. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of academic discussion is concerned with Schellenberg's formulation.

Classical theism

Classical theism is a form of theism in which God is characterized as the absolutely metaphysically ultimate being, in contrast to other conceptions such as pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, deism and process theism.

Classical theism is a form of monotheism. Whereas most monotheists agree that God is, at minimum, all-knowing, all-powerful, and completely good, classical theism asserts that God is both immanent (encompassing or manifested in the material world) and simultaneously transcendent (independent of the material universe); simple, and having such attributes as immutability, impassibility, and timelessness. A key concept in classical theism is that "created beings" (ie, material phenomena, whether sentient biological organisms or insentient matter) are dependent for their existence on the one supreme divine Being. Also, although God is wholly transcendent, he not only creates the material universe but also acts upon the material universe in imposing (or organizing) a Higher Order upon that material reality. This order was called by the ancient Greeks logos.

Classical theism is associated with the tradition of writers like Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, St. Anselm, Maimonides, Averroes and Thomas Aquinas. Since the advent of the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century the principal of divine immanence as a central doctrine of classical theism (as traditionally held by all three of the major Abrahamic religions) began to be replaced among progressive thinkers with the notion that although God had created the universe in the beginning he subsequently left the universe to run according to fixed laws of nature. A common metaphor for this idea in the seventeenth century was that of the clockwork universe. This theological doctrine was known as deism and gradually became the default view of many of the influential thinkers of the eighteenth century enlightenment.

Among modern day theologians and philosophers of religion classical theism has appeared in a number of variants. For example, there are, today, philosophers like Alvin Plantinga (who rejects divine simplicity), Richard Swinburne (who rejects divine timelessness) and William Lane Craig (who rejects both divine simplicity and timelessness), who can be viewed as theistic personalists. Philosophers like David Bentley Hart have defended traditional classical theism in recent times.

Classical theism was almost universal among Christian theologians prior to the twentieth century. However, some of its recent critics argue that it is taken from pre-Christian philosophers and incompatible with the occasions in the Bible that describe God as emotional or changing. In defence of classical theism's compatibility with the Bible, these passages can be read in an analogous or allegorical sense as containing poetic elements, just as many other passages have also long been read. For example, Exodus 31:18 describes "the finger of God", and Genesis 3:8 describes God as noisily walking in the garden of Eden. It is inconsistent that most Christian critics of classical theism would read these latter verses in an allegorical sense, but insist that instances which describe change or passion in God are extremely literal in meaning. Moreover, whereas critics of classical theism charge that it has infiltrated Christian theology from pre-Christian roots such as Neoplatonism, in fact the term "classical theism" belies crucial differences between a traditional Christian and Neoplatonic conception of God. For example, whereas Arius followed the neo-Platonist Plotinus in asserting that God could not become a physical man, Athanasius defended the doctrine of God's incarnation as the man Jesus, while nevertheless defending the immutability and impassibility of Jesus' divine nature. According to a traditional Christian understanding of the communicatio idiomatum, it can be rightly said that God suffered and died on the cross, but only by virtue of the hypostatic union of the impassible divine word with Jesus' passible human soul and body. Hence, while the church fathers made sure to correct the classical theism of pagan sources where it was incompatible with Christianity, it can be argued that many of the modern Christian critics of classical theism are in fact themselves influenced by an overly uncritical adoption of trends within process theology, which itself has non-Christian philosophical roots in the thought of Charles Hartshorne.


Egotheism is deification of the self, or the view that the idea of God is nothing more than a conception of the self. The latter position presupposes the impossibility of divine revelation. As such, it is a denial of the validity of faith and most theistic traditions, except for deism.

Satanism teaches self-deification. A version of egotheism exists in the pagan cult of Antinous, where it is known as homotheosis.


In monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, and principal object of faith. The conceptions of God, as described by theologians, commonly include the attributes of omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-present), and as having an eternal and necessary existence. Depending on one's kind of theism, these attributes are used either in way of analogy, or in a literal sense as distinct properties. God is most often held to be incorporeal (immaterial). Incorporeality and corporeality of God are related to conceptions of transcendence (being outside nature) and immanence (being in nature) of God, with positions of synthesis such as the "immanent transcendence". Psychoanalyst Carl Jung equated religious ideas of God with transcendental aspects of consciousness in his interpretation.Some religions describe God without reference to gender, while others or their translations use sex-specific terminology. Judaism attributes only a grammatical gender to God, using terms such as "Him" or "Father" for convenience.God has been conceived as either personal or impersonal. In theism, God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, while in deism, God is the creator, but not the sustainer, of the universe. In pantheism, God is the universe itself. In atheism, there is an absence of belief in God. In agnosticism, the existence of God is deemed unknown or unknowable. God has also been conceived as the source of all moral obligation, and the "greatest conceivable existent". Many notable philosophers have developed arguments for and against the existence of God.Monotheists refer to their gods using names prescribed by their respective religions, with some of these names referring to certain cultural ideas about their god's identity and attributes. In the ancient Egyptian era of Atenism, possibly the earliest recorded monotheistic religion, this deity was called Aten, premised on being the one "true" Supreme Being and creator of the universe. In the Hebrew Bible and Judaism, Elohim, Adonai, YHWH (Hebrew: יהוה‎) and other names are used as the names of God. Yahweh and Jehovah, possible vocalizations of YHWH, are used in Christianity. In the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, God, coexisting in three "persons", is called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In Islam, the name Allah is used, while Muslims also have a multitude of titular names for God. In Hinduism, Brahman is often considered a monistic concept of God. In Chinese religion, Shangdi is conceived as the progenitor (first ancestor) of the universe, intrinsic to it and constantly bringing order to it. Other religions have names for the concept, for instance, Baha in the Bahá'í Faith, Waheguru in Sikhism, Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa in Balinese Hinduism, and Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism.The many different conceptions of God, and competing claims as to God's characteristics, aims, and actions, have led to the development of ideas of omnitheism, pandeism, or a perennial philosophy, which postulates that there is one underlying theological truth, of which all religions express a partial understanding, and as to which "the devout in the various great world religions are in fact worshipping that one God, but through different, overlapping concepts".


Henotheism (from Greek ἑνός θεός (henos theos), meaning 'one god') is the worship of a single god while not denying the existence or possible existence of other deities. Friedrich Schelling (1775–1854) coined the word, and Friedrich Welcker (1784–1868) used it to depict primitive monotheism among ancient Greeks.Max Müller (1823–1900), a German philologist and orientalist, brought the term into wider usage in his scholarship on the Indian religions, particularly Hinduism whose scriptures mention and praise numerous deities as if they are one ultimate unitary divine essence. Müller made the term central to his criticism of Western theological and religious exceptionalism (relative to Eastern religions), focusing on a cultural dogma which held "monotheism" to be both fundamentally well-defined and inherently superior to differing conceptions of God.


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.

List of countries by irreligion

Irreligion, which may include deism, agnosticism, ignosticism, anti-religion, atheism, skepticism, ietsism, spiritual but not religious, freethought, anti-theism, apatheism, non-belief, pandeism, secular humanism, non-religious theism, pantheism and panentheism, varies in the different countries around the world. According to reports from the Worldwide Independent Network/Gallup International Association's (WIN/GIA) four global polls: in 2005, 77% were a religious person and 4% were "convinced atheists" while in 2012, 23% were not a religious person and an additional 13% were "convinced atheists"; in 2015, 22% were not a religious person and an additional 11% were "convinced atheists"; and in 2017, 25% were not a religious person and an additional 9% were "convinced atheists".According to sociologist Phil Zuckerman, broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a God range from 500 to 750 million people worldwide. According to sociologists Ariela Keysar and Juhem Navarro-Rivera's review of numerous global studies on atheism, there are 450 to 500 million positive atheists and agnostics worldwide (7% of the world's population), with China having the most atheists in the world (200 million convinced atheists).


Monism attributes oneness or singleness (Greek: μόνος) to a concept e.g., existence. Various kinds of monism can be distinguished:

Priority monism states that all existing things go back to a source that is distinct from them; e.g., in Neoplatonism everything is derived from The One. In this view only one thing is ontologically basic or prior to everything else.

Existence monism posits that, strictly speaking, there exists only a single thing, the Universe, which can only be artificially and arbitrarily divided into many things.

Substance monism asserts that a variety of existing things can be explained in terms of a single reality or substance. Substance monism posits that only one kind of stuff exists, although many things may be made up of this stuff, e.g., matter or mind.


Nontheism or non-theism is a range of both religious and nonreligious attitudes characterized by the absence of espoused belief in a God or gods. Nontheism has generally been used to describe apathy or silence towards the subject of God and differs from an antithetical, explicit 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, atheism, strong or positive atheism, implicit atheism, and apatheism. It is in use in the fields of Christian apologetics and general liberal theology.

Within the scope of nontheistic agnosticism, philosopher Anthony Kenny distinguishes between agnostics who find the claim "God exists" uncertain and theological noncognitivists who consider all discussion of God to be meaningless. Some agnostics, however, are not nontheists but rather agnostic theists.Other related philosophical opinions about the existence of deities are ignosticism and skepticism. Because of the various definitions of the term God, a person could be an atheist in terms of certain conceptions of gods, while remaining agnostic in terms of others.

Open theism

Open theism, also known as openness theology and free will theism, is a theological movement that has developed within evangelical and post-evangelical Protestant Christianity as a response to ideas related to the synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology. It is typically advanced as a biblically motivated and philosophically consistent theology of human and divine freedom (in the libertarian sense), with an emphasis on what this means for the content of God's foreknowledge and exercise of God's power. Roger E. Olson said that open theism triggered the "most significant controversy about the doctrine of God in evangelical thought" in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


Panentheism (meaning "all-in-God", from the Ancient Greek πᾶν pân, "all", ἐν en, "in" and Θεός Theós, "God") is the belief that the divine pervades and interpenetrates every part of the universe and also extends beyond time and space. The term was coined by the German philosopher Karl Krause in 1828 to distinguish the ideas of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775–1854) about the relation of God and the universe from the supposed pantheism of Baruch Spinoza. Unlike pantheism, which holds that the divine and the universe are identical, panentheism maintains an ontological distinction between the divine and the non-divine and the significance of both.

In panentheism, God is viewed as the soul of the universe, the universal spirit 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, like in the Kabbalah concept of tzimtzum. Also much Hindu thought – and consequently Buddhist philosophy – is highly characterized by panentheism and pantheism. The basic tradition however, on which Krause's concept was built, seems to have been Neoplatonic philosophy and its successors in Western philosophy and Orthodox theology.


Pantheism is the belief that reality is identical with divinity, or that all-things compose an all-encompassing, immanent god. Pantheist belief does not recognize a distinct personal anthropomorphic god and instead characterizes a broad range of doctrines differing in forms of relationships between reality and divinity. Pantheistic concepts date back thousands of years, and pantheistic elements have been identified in various religious traditions. The term "pantheism" was coined by mathematician Joseph Raphson in 1697 and has since been used to describe the beliefs of a variety of people and organizations.

Pantheism was popularized in Western culture as a theology and philosophy based on the work of the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, particularly his book Ethics. A pantheistic stance was also taken in the 16th century by philosopher and cosmologist Giordano Bruno.


Post-theism is a variant of nontheism that proposes that the division of theism vs. atheism is obsolete, that God belongs to a stage of human development now past. Within nontheism, post-theism can be contrasted with antitheism.

The term appears in Christian liberal theology and Postchristianity.

Frank Hugh Foster in a 1918 lecture announced that modern culture had arrived at a "post-theistic stage" in which humanity has taken possession of the powers of agency and creativity that had formerly been projected upon God.Denys Turner argues that Karl Marx did not choose atheism over theism, but rejected the binary "Feuerbachian" choice altogether, a position which by being post-theistic is at the same time necessarily post-atheistic. For example, at one point Marx argued "there should be less trifling with the label 'atheism,'” as he insisted "religion in itself is without content, it owes its being not to heaven but to the earth, and with the abolition of distorted reality, of which it is the theory, it will collapse of itself."Related ideas include Friedrich Nietzsche's pronouncement that "God is dead" and the transtheism of Paul Tillich or Pema Chödrön.

Process theology

Process theology is a type of theology developed from Alfred North Whitehead's (1861–1947) process philosophy, most notably by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000) and John B. Cobb (b. 1925). Process theology and process philosophy are collectively referred to as "process thought".

For both Whitehead and Hartshorne, it is an essential attribute of God to affect and be affected by temporal processes, contrary to the forms of theism that hold God to be in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable), and unaffected by the world (impassible). Process theology does not deny that God is in some respects eternal (will never die), immutable (in the sense that God is unchangingly good), and impassible (in the sense that God's eternal aspect is unaffected by actuality), but it contradicts the classical view by insisting that God is in some respects temporal, mutable, and passible.According to Cobb, "process theology may refer to all forms of theology that emphasize event, occurrence, or becoming over substance. In this sense theology influenced by Hegel is process theology just as much as that influenced by Whitehead. This use of the term calls attention to affinities between these otherwise quite different traditions." Also Pierre Teilhard de Chardin can be included among process theologians, even if they are generally understood as referring to the Whiteheadian/Hartshornean school, where there continue to be ongoing debates within the field on the nature of God, the relationship of God and the world, and immortality.


Teleology or finality is a reason or explanation for something as a function of its end, purpose, or goal. It is derived from two Greek words: telos (end, goal, purpose) and logos (reason, explanation). A purpose that is imposed by a human use, such as that of a fork, is called extrinsic. Natural teleology, common in classical philosophy but controversial today, contends that natural entities also have intrinsic purposes, irrespective of human use or opinion. For instance, Aristotle claimed that an acorn's intrinsic telos is to become a fully grown oak tree.Though ancient atomists rejected the notion of natural teleology, teleological accounts of non-personal or non-human nature were explored and often endorsed in ancient and medieval philosophies, but fell into disfavor during the modern era (1600–1900). In the late 18th century, Immanuel Kant used the concept of telos as a regulative principle in his Critique of Judgment. Teleology was also fundamental to the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel.

Contemporary philosophers and scientists are still discussing whether teleological axioms are useful or accurate in proposing modern philosophies and scientific theories. Example of reintroducing of teleology in modern language is notion of attractor. For another instance in 2012, Thomas Nagel, who is not a biologist, proposed a non-Darwinian account of evolution that incorporates impersonal and natural teleological laws to explain the existence of life, consciousness, rationality, and objective value. Regardless, the accuracy can also be considered independently from the usefulness: it is a common experience in pedagogy that a minimum of apparent teleology can be useful in thinking about and explaining Darwinian evolution even if there is no true teleology driving evolution. Thus it is easier to say that evolution "gave" wolves sharp canine teeth because those teeth "serve the purpose of" predation regardless of whether there is an underlying nonteleologic reality in which evolution is not an actor with intentions. In other words, because human cognition and learning often rely on the narrative structure of stories (with actors, goals, and proximal rather than distal causation), some minimal level of teleology might be recognized as useful or at least tolerable for practical purposes even by people who reject its cosmologic accuracy.


Theocracy is a form of government in which a religious institution is the source from which all authority derives. The Oxford English Dictionary has this definition:

1. a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.

1.1. the commonwealth of Israel from the time of Moses until the election of Saul as King.

An ecclesiocracy is a situation where the religious leaders assume a leading role in the state, but do not claim that they are instruments of divine revelation: for example, the prince-bishops of the European Middle Ages, where the bishop was also the temporal ruler. Such a state may use the administrative hierarchy of the religion for its own administration, or it may have two "arms"—administrators and clergy—but with the state administrative hierarchy subordinate to the religious hierarchy. Theocracy differs from theonomy, the latter of which is government based on divine law.The papacy in the Papal States occupied a middle ground between theocracy and ecclesiocracy, since the Pope did not claim he was a prophet who received revelation from God and translated it into civil law.

Religiously endorsed monarchies fall between theocracy and ecclesiocracy, according to the relative strengths of the religious and political organs.

Most forms of theocracy are oligarchic in nature, involving rule of the many by the few, some of whom so anointed under claim of divine commission.

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