A Deity or God is a supernatural being considered divine or sacred. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines deity as a god or goddess (in a polytheistic religion), or anything revered as Divine (Athena & Sagitter). C. Scott Littleton defines a deity as “a being with powers greater than those of ordinary humans, but who interacts with humans, positively or negatively, in ways that carry humans to new levels of consciousness, beyond the grounded preoccupations of ordinary life“. Religions can be categorized by how many deities they worship. Monotheistic religions accept only one deity (predominantly referred to as “God“), whereas Polytheistic religions accept multiple deities. Henotheistic religions accept one supreme deity without denying other deities, considering them as aspects of the same divine principle. Nontheistic religions deny any supreme eternal creator deity, but may accept a pantheon of deities which live, die and may be reborn like any other being.
Although most monotheistic religions traditionally envision their God as omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and eternal, none of these qualities are essential to the definition of a “deity” and various cultures have conceptualized their deities differently. Monotheistic religions typically refer to God in masculine terms, while other religions refer to their deities in a variety of ways, male, female, hermaphroditic, or genderless. Historically, many ancient cultures, including the ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Norsemen, personified natural phenomena, variously as either deliberate causes or effects. Some Avestan and Vedic deities were viewed as ethical concepts. In Indian religions, deities were envisioned as manifesting within the temple of every living being’s body, as sensory organs and mind. Deities were envisioned as a form of existence after rebirth, for human beings who gain merit through an ethical life, where they become guardian deities and live blissfully in heaven, but are also subject to death when their merit is lost.
In monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith. God is usually conceived of as being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent as well as having an eternal and necessary existence. God is most often held to be incorporeal, with said characteristic being related to conceptions of transcendence or immanence. Some religions describe God without reference to gender, while others use terminology that is gender-specific and gender-biased. 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. Atheism is an absence of belief in God, while agnosticism deems the existence of God 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. Each monotheistic religion refers to its god using different names, some referring to cultural ideas about the god’s identity and attributes.
In ancient Egyptian Atenism, possibly the earliest recorded monotheistic religion, this deity was called Aten and proclaimed to be the one “true” Supreme Being and Creator of the Universe. In the Hebrew Bible, the titles of God include Elohim (God), Adonai (Lord) and others, and the name YHWH. The names Yahweh and Jehovah, possible vocalizations of YHWH, are used in Christianity. In Judaism some of the Hebrew titles of God are considered holy names. In the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, one God coexists in three “persons” called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In Islam, the title God (“Allah” in the Arabic language) is often used as a name, while Muslims also use a multitude of other titles 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 names for God include Baha in the Baha’i Faith, Waheguru in Sikhism, Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism, and Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa in Balinese Hinduism.
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