There are at least twenty distinct options on God, found throughout history and afoot right now.
We can say there is considerable ‘variety’ in the approach to God as long as we admit that ‘variety’ is just a pretty word for disagreement.
What does disagreement show?
Theological disagreement shows us that humanity has never ever agreed about Who or What or Whether God is. Your own view of God (find it in the list below) will always be a minority opinion, outnumbered by all the other opinions combined.
Here are the twenty:
Polytheists say there are many Gods, as many as you like, into the millions if you prefer, perhaps billions, one for every pair of human eyes. You may worship and adore all the Gods.
Henotheists admit many Gods too, but you may only have time to devote yourself to one, and that’s okay because these are not self-doubting, jealous Gods.
Kat-henotheists also acknowledge many Gods, but you should dedicate yourself to a single God at a time, moving from one God to another God at different phases of your life, perhaps the phases offered in As You Like It by Shakespeare’s intellectualist idler, Jaques, who espies seven stages of life, beginning with infancy and ending in the second childishness of old-aged senility—‘sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’ There are Gods aplenty for each stage.
Trinitarians affirm one God but this God is to be worshiped and adored in three persons: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Ghost. To other monotheists like Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Baha’is and Caodais, and to polytheists and atheists too, Trinitarian math is elusive (1+1+1=1?) and susceptible to being labelled a petite polytheism of three distinct Gods. Trinitarians vigorously defend the oneness of three.
Dualists acknowledge two Gods, one very very Good and the other one very very Evil. The need for two rests upon the world’s oscillation between beauty and ugliness, delight and dread, kindness and cruelty, irises and ebola viruses. In a family of Dualists you may hear the following dialogue: Child: ‘Mommy, did our good, loving and compassionate God create the talon, the fang and the claw?’ Mom: ‘No, sweetie, the other God, the God of cruelty, made those.’ As if you needed to be told, you should adore the very very Good God.
Monotheists declare there has only ever been one good God to worship and adore. Several distinct and opposing monotheistic religions claim this God and define him in many different ways, with many different hues.
Dystheists say there’s one God who is not really all that good, given conspicuous evidence from our bloody red in tooth and claw, predator-prey natural world. Adore with caution.
Pantheists state that God is identical to the many things of the physical, material world, and when you adore the many things of the material world you adore God.
Pan-en-theists claim that God is within the many things of the material world but distinct from the many things of the material world. You may adore this God in your esteem for the material world, or adore this God as something above the material world.
Deists insist there is one God who created the universe but thereafter took no interest in it. You do not adore this God because this God cares nothing about you, either because he doesn’t know you exist, or because he cares about you as much as he cares about the life of an oyster or a gnat (with due apologies to The World Parliament of Insects, Mollusks, & Affiliated Clam Culture).
Daoists maintain that God is not a person at all but an Impersonal Force that pervades the universe and may be tapped-into by humans but requires no adoration. (Cf. Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Rey of the Star Wars mythos.)
Extra-Terrrestrialists say that what humans have been calling ‘Gods’ are actually space-visiting galactic beings who used modest ingredients and measuring spoons to un-miraculously originate life on Earth and thereafter vacationed in rural New Mexico.
Monists proclaim there is only one item in existence: God. God is everything, everything is God, and everything is only one thing, God. Variety is a delusion, and all the words we have for the many existent things are superfluous. Thin the dictionary to the letter ‘g’ and the word ‘God.’ (Pantheism is different in that it admits the existence of many things).
Anatheists say God cannot be rendered into any image or concept, because the God that can be imagined is not the real God. Our mystics proffer this deity and claim to adore God immediately; that is, without the mediation of holy saints, holy buildings, holy worship services, bells, books, candles, or even thoughts and words. Mystics often claim an ineffable experience and then write inch-thick books describing it.
Euhemerists say all Gods were once humans who at some point achieved apotheosis, elevation to divinity. Adore the worthy ones. (Some Buddhists may be here.)
Misotheists follow Prometheus and hate all Gods because Gods are completely overbearing, pompous, fat-witted despots. Adoration is inapt.
Skeptics doubt not only avowals about God but also all claims to all knowledge. A Skeptic might say, ‘You you claim to know God exists and you don’t even know if Charlemagne existed.’
Atheists find no persuasive arguments for God, no convincing idea of God on offer in six thousand years, and therefore say there must be no Gods. (Some Buddhists may be here).
Agnostics remain unconvinced by every argument for God’s existence but prefer to withhold judgment as to whether God exists by saying ‘I don’t know if there’s a God.’ Agnostics are no kind of believer in God and do not ‘hedge their bet’ by attending religious services or by praying—just in case there’s a God.
Ignostics advise us to give up the word ‘God’ and rub it from the world’s lexicons and never utter it again. Why? Because it has been proved over many thousands of years that humans are utterly ignorant about what the word ‘God’ signifies, as established by our extensive disagreements concerning God, evinced in this very roster of twenty.
Featured image ‘Confusion’ by lisa-skorpion via Flickr