Pantheism vs Polytheism
This came up as a discussion today, and because there was a missconception, I wondered if perhaps there were more people out there who might not understand the differences between the two.
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 a god or gods, and that there is no division between a Creator and the substance of its creation. Examples include many forms of Saivism.
- 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.
I think my beliefs tend to fall towards the Buddhist Agnostic Pantheism