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A supernatural being is usually referred to as a god (depending on the context, also goddess ) or deity , who has a great and not scientifically describable transcendent power. In the understanding of mythologies , religions and beliefs , one or more gods are given special reverence and special properties are assigned, including often the property of being the first origin , creator or designer of reality. Even ideas of a non-essential, impersonal “divine power” are sometimes referred to as God - due to a lack of understanding of foreign religions or for reasons of simplicity .

With God without any further determination an all-embracing God is usually referred to. The metaphysics deals with the question of the properties and the existence of such a God.

Etymology in the Germanic language area

Indo-European origin

The root word of "God" is old, but only to be found in the Germanic language area and unknown outside of it. Designations are Old and Middle High German got, Old Saxon , Old Frisian , Middle Low German and English god , Gothic guþ, Old Norse gođ as well as Swedish and Danish gud .

The Teutons worshiped the ancient Germanic sky god Tiwaz , who has been proven by linguistic evidence to be an Indo-European heritage. In the various dialect groups of Germanic, for example, it appears as Old High German Ziu and Old Norse Tyr . The Latin word deus probably goes back to Indo-European deiwos . This is a Vriddhi derivation of the word * djew's "heaven" , which is already Urindo-European . The personification * djeus ph 2 tēr "Father Heaven" can be found in the Greek Zeus Ζεῦ πάτερ ( Zeu páter , voc . To Ζεῦς , Gen. Διός ), the Roman Jupiter (from the vocative * Dioupater to the nominative Diēspiter ), the Vedic Dyaus Pita and the Illyrian Δει-πάτυρος ( Dei-pátyros "heavenly father"). All of these forms can be traced back to the root * djew- , which is translated as "shine, appear". This word, with its derivation * deiwos, is based on the ancient Indian deva and the Latin deus as terms for God.

For the origin of the Germanic word God , it is assumed that the term originated from the substantive second participle of the Indo-European * ghuto-m of the verbal root * gheu- “call, call”. According to this, the gods would be the beings invoked ( e.g. by magic word ). Alternatively, the word could also be traced back to the Indo-European verbal root * gheu “pour”, according to which the god would be understood as “that to which (with) a libation is offered”. The Greek theói is also etymologically related to the verb thýein “sacrifice”, as the simplex theós “God” etymologically describes the votive object of the altar through equivalents in the Anatolian vocabulary. The standard reference work Etymological Dictionary of the German Language by Friedrich Kluge confirms the assumption of a derivation of “pour” (for example God as “poured” or “poured image”) or libation by comparing it with Avestian and ancient Indian . Wolfgang Meid adds: "This is grammatically implausible, because the drink is 'poured', not the god".

Shift in meaning in Christian times

“God” in the Gothic genitive form guþs (abbreviated to gþs ) in the Codex Argenteus ( Mt 5.34  EU ): ni svaran allis, ni bi himina, undte stols is guþs (“do not swear, not by heaven, which is the throne of God ").

The Germanic designation * guda- "God" was originally a grammatical neuter , as were other Germanic designations for gods. When transferred to the Christian God, the word became masculine at the time of the Arian Christianization of the Goths in the 3rd to 4th centuries in the Eastern Roman sphere of activity and in the Frankish-Anglo-Saxon Roman Catholic mission among the Merovingians and Carolingians . In the Gothic, however, the word remained genderless as a designation of the pagan gods - because of the Christian rejection of these gods. The transition from neuter to masculine took place in the West Germanic area from around the beginning of the 6th century to the end of the 8th century. In the Scandinavian-North Germanic area, the neuter lasted longer because there the word for the personal god Ase (óss) remained alive.

Like the other words or expressions for "God", this was often used in plural to describe an unspecified group of divine beings. Due to the origin of the word, it is assumed that the higher powers ( numen ) are referred to as passive beings who were worshiped, and not as active beings who maintained earthly events. On the other hand, other words for "God" used to designate an active being were also sexless. This means that there is a high probability that such words in the plural denoted the gods as a whole ( tívar: the more Norse plural “the gods”, originally from Týr ). Many events were not to be ascribed to a specific “god”, but more generally to “the gods”. This explains why the singular form of the original * deiwos-Teiwaz only appears appellatively in name composites , for example in Odin , who is nicknamed Fimbultýr ("great, mighty god"). In addition to the individual gods, who came to the fore with their own name, their own myths and a fixed cult and were easy to recognize, there was the incalculable divine mass from which, for example, mythologists could highlight new figures.

The Teutons never developed a transcendent concept of God, or only in the north and only very late. It was not until Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century that Odin was the Alfaþir ("Allfather"). In the transition period of Christianization, combined with forms of syncretism , Odin, Thor and Balder were declared to be omnipotent or perfect gods in the Icelandic-Nordic texts in order to be able to face the emerging figure of Christ. The conceptual contrast between “gods” and “people” ( * teiwoz  - * gumanez ), which the Teutons knew from time immemorial, has been replaced by the new dichotomy * guda  - * gumanez. Because this connection has a rod-rhyming effect, it found its way into various poetry, especially the Old Norse, and thus also had an effect. The formerly gender-neutral term “God” finally became masculine as soon as it referred to the Christian God. As a result of Christianization, the change in meaning that exists today occurred, in which the word was reinterpreted and referred to the Judeo-Christian God YHWH ( Hebrew יהוה) was applied.

The designation deity ( ancient Greek θεότης , Latin divinitas , from divus "god"), which was first documented in Carolingian times, is ambiguous and can on the one hand be used as a substance term in the sense of "divine nature" or emphasize the inner, passive element of divinity, on the other hand only can be applied to non-Christian gods. The latter meaning has only been in use since the middle of the 18th century.

Origin of the "idea of ​​God"

The archeology , by the construction of certain artifacts limited conclusions on religious cults do, requiring a corresponding faith. However, since the idea of ​​something “divine” predated the invention of writing, there is no way to determine place and time (possibly also several places and times). In addition, such ideas elude a clear definition, leaving a lot of room for imaginative interpretations.

There is some evidence that " a master or mistress of the animals " - as recently found in almost all hunter-gatherer cultures as protector of the animal world and ruler over the weal and woe of hunters - the first god-like idea Paleolithic hunter-gatherer groups. Concrete reconstructions and transfers of recent , scriptless cultures to prehistory - such as shamanistic practices or religious ideas - are now considered highly speculative and unprovable.

The first finds that are associated with the idea of ​​a deity are mostly female figurative representations ( Venus figurines ) from the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 to 9,700 BC), which some authors interpret as statues of mother goddesses , as well as those later Occurring graphic representations of people with symbols that can be interpreted relatively reliably as an indication of deities.

Definition and demarcation

The question of the circumstances under which an entity can be classified as God has so far received little attention in religious studies , especially since the Judeo-Christian tradition has always provided an implicit model for the concept of God. In addition to the restriction to one cultural area, this is problematic insofar as there are already a large number of different ideas about God in these religions. HP Owen states in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy that it is "very difficult and perhaps impossible" to come up with a definition of "God" that covers all uses of the word and corresponding words in other languages. The 2nd edition of the Dictionnaire de la langue philosophique gives as a general definition: “Supernatural being that men should honor.” The Christian philosopher Brian Leftow uses the following more restrictive definition in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy : “The highest reality , which Source or reason for everything else, perfect and worthy of worship . "

Not all cultures make a clear distinction between gods, spirits , angels , demons, and other supernatural beings; Occasionally the corresponding term is taken quite broadly in other languages. For example, the orishas of the Yoruba can be regarded as ancestral spirits and clan authorities as well as gods subordinate to the highest god Olorun , who work in different spheres of nature and social life. Such “function gods”, who at the same time present authoritative ancestral spirits, also exist among the Ewe . The word vodon (compare “ Voodoo ”) in the Fon language is translated both with “God” and “Spirit”, as is the Japanese word Kami . The Buddhist devas , mostly translated as "gods", are supernatural beings with their own personality, but are not considered perfect, immortal, omnipotent or omniscient . Some Neoplatonic thinkers used the word θεός (theós) to refer to a variety of spiritual entities, including the human soul . The question of an adequate definition of “God” is further complicated by the fact that philosophers and theologians have developed concepts of God that differ significantly from religious practice (see sections on metaphysical and popular ideas).

In cognitive religious studies , gods are counted among the supernatural actors . In philosophy and psychology, an actor is a being with intellectual abilities, to whom conscious views and desires are assigned, or whose behavior is evoked by mental states. Supernatural concepts can be formed from natural concepts by violating intuitive, everyday conceptions of the ontological categories belonging to them. Examples of such concepts are trees that are nowhere, stones that feel emotions, and also beings that are invisible. The actor's mental faculties are the only anthropomorphic quality accepted by believers and theologians alike.

Classification of ideas about God

By number: mono- and polytheism

Depiction of Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva , the divine figures of the Trimurti, late 18th century

A distinction is often made between polytheistic religions, which know several gods, and monotheistic religions with only one god. In the cosmology of monotheistic religions, the polytheistic gods with their different functions are partly summarized as attributes of the only god, partly transferred to supernatural beings such as angels and saints .

In many polytheistic religions the gods are organized as a pantheon . In this holy community there is a hierarchy that results from the different functions of the individual gods. Sometimes there is a ruler over the pantheon, such as a father of all gods (such as El among the Canaanites ) or a goddess with supremacy (such as Amaterasu in early Shinto ). Religions with a main god are called henotheistic . Philosophers like Plato and the Stoics occasionally spoke of “God” and “the gods” indiscriminately in the same paragraph.

The distinction between mono- and polytheism is not always objectively clear, because in some religions a god exists in several forms or hypostases ( Trimurti in Hinduism, Trinity in Christianity, "God above / below" with the Bari , "father, mother, Son ”with the Ndebele ). In addition, special people such as Maria (mother of Jesus) or Siddhartha Gautama can be viewed as god-like or additional gods, at least in the context of comparative religious studies or from the perspective of other religions. A religion can also combine mono- and polytheistic aspects insofar as different ideas of God can be encountered depending on the denomination and even depending on the follower. For example, early Christians believed in one, two, 30, or 365 different gods depending on the grouping, and Trinity teachings range from believing in three gods ( tritheism ) to the notion that the three are just different aspects of one god ( modalism ). All three Abrahamic religions are explicitly monotheistic today.

High gods

The gods of monotheistic religions, the highest-ranking, most powerful deities in polytheistic religions (see also: henotheism ) , but also ideas of a supreme supernatural power in some ethnic religions - such Kitchi Manitou Algonquian - are often used in religious studies and anthropology as a high god or supreme being called . Up until the beginning of the 20th century, ethnologists and missionaries with Eurocentric thinking equated many conceptions of high God with the Christian conception of God in a premature and undifferentiated manner (for example with African, Australian or North American gods or divine forces). The ethnographic literature is full of examples of this. Often the high god is considered to be the creator, but he is not worshiped because afterwards he no longer had any influence on human life. This idea is similar to Deism's concept of God .

In fact, the gods of the various cultures are described very differently. The following is an example of a table based on four criteria (converted into percentages from the Handbook of Living Religions 1984):

Cultural space does not interfere with
intervenes in action, but
not in ethics
interferes with the whole of
no high god
Mediterranean area 0(81 cultures) 10% 01 % 86% 03%
Sub-Saharan Africa (147 cultures) 65% 12% 08th % 15%
South America 0(67 cultures) 37% 06% 15% 42%
Eastern Eurasia 0(71 cultures) 17% 14% 18% 51%
North America (153 cultures) 27% 05% 08th % 60%
Oceania 0(77 cultures) 17% 08th % 00% 75%

According to a cosmic-natural function

Creator Gods

God as the creator of the universe ( title of a Bible moralisée , around 1230)

A concept of the origin of the world that is widespread in different cultures depicts the primordial universe as an egg , which in its shell contains the ability to create all things. Usually an event then takes place that causes changes and developments (see also Etiology : Explanatory Statements). In the West African Dogon , the creator god Amma shook the cosmic egg and set free gods of order and gods of chaos. The idea of ​​a divine craftsman or carpenter is widespread in Africa.

Parents made the world in several cultures. For example, the world began in the Maori creation myth when Heavenly Father and Earth Mother Rangi and Papa were separated by their sons. For the Aztecs , the creation consisted in the deity Ometecutli separating itself into its male and female parts: Ometeotl and Omecihuatl. A variant of the dual creation myth can be found in ancient Greece : the earth mother Gaia and the male sky god Uranos are considered the first two gods. The creation myth of a first pair of gods was also found in Japanese mythology with the tradition of Izanagi and Izanami , as well as in all cultures of Oceania . In some ideas the world - and sometimes the gods themselves - was created by sacrificing a living being . In the Nordic religion, for example, the three creator gods slaughtered the primeval giant Ymir , whose organs became parts of the world. Something similar is reported in a Vedic hymn by Purusha and in Chinese mythology by Pangu .

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle mentions in the seventh book of his Metaphysics an immaterial "unmoving mover" ( ancient Greek ού κινούμενον κινεῖ) as the first cause that gave structure to the already existing matter. Aristotle, however, denies a creation, because matter is eternal and uncreated. In his Timaeus, Plato takes the view that a creator god ( demiurge ) must have given the disordered primordial matter a form in order to create a reasonable whole from it.

Some gods "created themselves", such as Ometecuhtli among the Aztecs or the Aboriginal god Baiame . In other cultures, such as Christianity, the view of a “creation out of nothing” is represented ( creatio ex nihilo ) , in which a god gets by without any prerequisites. Not all creator gods created everything. The god Karei or Ta Pedn der Semang, for example, created everything but the earth and man; these are the work of the subordinate god Ple.

In many cultures, creator gods play a subordinate role for people. One example is Bunjil from the Aboriginal religion who , after the creation of earth, trees, animals and people, handed over power over heaven and earth to his two children. Since then, he has withdrawn from the world and hovers above the clouds.

Some religions have a cycle of creation and annihilation and re-creation. One of the most complicated variants can be found in Hinduism . Here a lotus flower rises from Vishnu's navel , which releases the creator god Brahma . Here, the creator god, Brahma, represents a male, personal deity who developed from Brahman . The Brahman is the name for the changeless, immortal Absolute, the highest. It denotes the impersonal world soul that exists without beginning and without end, it is the ultimate one that has no cause itself, but from which everything has arisen. The world created by the god Brahma has existed for a very long time before it dissolves into chaos and the whole cycle begins again. Other cyclical ideas about the world can be found among others among the Hopi Indians and the Aztecs.

Sky and storm gods

Depiction of the sky god Varuna in battle with Rama . Painting by Raja Ravi Varma , 19th century

Gods who reveal themselves in heaven were and are very often considered to be the highest gods; typical examples are the early Vedic god Varuna and the Iranian god Ahura Mazda . The belief in heavenly gods as the highest beings who created the world can be found to a certain extent in all ethnic groups . However, such gods are mostly considered passive, so that they have an insignificant role in religious practice. More important is the belief in holy powers and beings, which come closer to everyday life and which seem more useful to them. These sacred powers take different forms and range from totemism and ancestral cults to spirits of the dead and sun gods . According to Mircea Eliade , heaven gods were once often at the center of religious life, but over time they have been replaced by more accessible forms. Examples of sky gods that are still worshiped are the Zuñi god Awonawilona and the creator god of the San , Cagn.

With many peoples of the African dry savannah , especially with Nilotic tribes, the concept of God is semantically closely linked to the phenomenon of rain.

In cultures with differentiated polytheistic ideas, sky gods go beyond meteorological-astronomical phenomena. Often they are accorded extraordinary power; the supreme god of the arctic peoples, for example, is an omnipotent ruler over the world. In contrast, the sky god of some Siberian and Central Asian peoples is so far removed from the world that he does not care about human concerns.

The thunder has always been an important mark of heaven gods. Native American tribes from Kansas claimed that they never saw their god Wakan but often heard his voice as thunder. According to Eliade, the specialization of the sky gods into storm and rain gods is explained by their passivity, which is in contrast to the direct influence of the storm gods on agriculture. The Vedic Ashvamedha sacrifice was initially dedicated to the sky god Varuna, but his place was later taken by the storm god Prajapati and sometimes also Indra . Other well-known examples of storm gods are Zeus , Min , Rudra , Adad , Iupiter Dolichenus and Thor . Frequently recurring themes with storm gods, besides rain and thunder, are marriage to an earth mother and a ritual and mythological relationship with bulls. Min, Baal and Adad are among the gods who are represented as bulls and who are not worshiped for their heavenly attributes, but for their marriage to the Earth Mother and the life-giving functions that result from it. In contrast, Zeus, Jupiter and El retained a certain autonomy and supremacy in the pantheon due to their role as world rulers.

Sun and moon gods

Depiction of the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu when leaving her cave in a triptych from the 19th century

Sun worship was particularly prevalent in Egypt, Asia, and primitive Europe. In Africa the supreme god was quite often transformed into a sun god over time; numerous African peoples give their highest god the name "sun". For the Kavirondo , the sun is the highest god, and the Kaffa call their highest being Abo, which stands for both "father" and "sun". Similar to the sky gods, sun gods are seldom a central object of worship in Africa.

Likewise, the sun gods Atum - Re in ancient Egypt, Huitzilopochtli in Mexico, Amaterasu in Japan and the sun gods of various Indian tribes were the highest gods. Sun gods can also wreak havoc, especially among desert peoples. In Egypt, Re led the dead souls through the underworld . The Sumerian god Utu was also related to the underworld, where he judged souls.

Since the phases of the moon are related to the tides, moon gods are often related to water. The Sumerian god Nanna, for example, ruled over the waters, and Ardvisura Anahita, the Iranian goddess of water, was also a moon creature. Similar connections existed with the Iroquois and Mexican cultures. A central Brazilian people call the daughter of the moon god "mother of water". A large number of fertility gods are also associated with the moon, such as Ištar in Mesopotamia, Anaitis in Iran and Selene in Greece. Moon gods like Thoth in Egypt or Aningaaq among the Inuit measure time and regulate natural phenomena. Gods who are associated with the stars and planets are sometimes seen as the eyes of the sky god, which is why they are often ascribed omniscience.

Earth and water gods

Depiction of Gaia in a Syrian fresco around 730

One of the earliest theophanes of the earth and soil was that of a mother who was associated with fertility. Although many earth and some fertility gods are described as androgynous , the idea of ​​a personified earth or earth mother is widespread. Gaia was worshiped quite often in Greece. According to Hesiod's theogony , Uranos emerged from her bosom, with whom she gave birth to a whole family of gods in a form of hierogamy . The development of agriculture led to the fact that the earth mother was forgotten in favor of a goddess of vegetation and harvest; in Greece, for example, Demeter took the place of Gaia. This development gave new weight to male, fertilizing gods. Such agricultural cults have been very enduring, in some cases ranging from prehistoric times to the present day.

River and water gods were worshiped in several cultures, such as Anahita in Zoroastrianism and Sarasvati in Hinduism. A very well-known river god of the Greeks, Acheloos , was not only associated with the river of the same name by Homer , but also counted among the great gods as god of all rivers, lakes and springs. Above all the smaller water gods was Poseidon , the god of the sea. In the Nordic religion, Aegir personifies the endless ocean. For Hindus, Ganga (the river Ganges ) is a powerful goddess who supplies the land and mediates between the earthly and the divine world. Sedna , the Inuit sea goddess, is the mother of all aquatic animals, but also causes hunger and devastation when people break taboos.

With the Dogon , the amphibious water deities, the Nommo , are associated with the sky. They are also revered as ancestral spirits.

According to social function

Georges Dumézil established three main social functions in gods of the proto-Indo-European culture : the function of a ruler with magical and judicial aspects, a physical power and courage function, especially in times of war, and a fertility and prosperity function. This scheme is only partially applicable to other cultures. For example, many gods in the Middle East and Africa combine the functions of ruler and warlord, while other cultures do not clearly distinguish between the functions of harvest and war.

Xochiquetzal in Codex Rios , 16th century

Guardian of morality and society

The highest gods are often guardians of social order and morality at the same time. Such gods hold people accountable, judge them and punish them, either directly or indirectly through other gods. In the Vedic understanding, Varuna is regarded as the protector of the cosmic-moral law ( rta ). The Judeo-Christian God YHWH is the author of the law. In the Roman religion, Jupiter was the keeper of the oath, contracts, and moral duties. In Babylon the assembly of the great gods watched over society and determined human destinies.

Gods of war and protectors

Those gods who use their physical power often also act as gods of war . This role is particularly important for cosmic storm gods, for example Indra in the Vedas, Thor in the Nordic religion, Marduk with the Babylonians or YHWH with the Israelites. A classic god of war is Mars , who defended the Roman state against the enemies, but also protected fields and herds from misfortunes. For the Yoruba, Ogun is the god of hunting, ironmaking and war. Many goddesses are also worshiped as divine fighters and protectors, such as Anat among the Canaanites, Athena among the Greeks or Durga in the Hindu tradition. Divine protectors are very diverse and range from Castor and Pollux , the protectors of the Roman soldiers, to the street kami in Japan.

Fertility gods

Fertility gods make up a very large and diverse category. In Greece, Hera , the wife of Zeus, was the goddess of marriage, and Aphrodite and Eros are gods of love . In Scandinavia, Freya was the goddess of love and marriage. The Aztec goddess Xochiquetzal was a popular goddess of the arts, love, and lust for love. Popular Mexican depictions identify the Virgin Mary with an indigenous fertility goddess who ruled the land before the arrival of Europeans.

Depiction of Hestia in a 6th century Egyptian tapestry

Household and village gods

Hestia was the Greek goddess of the family hearth, as was Vesta with the Romans, where she held a special state cult position. In the Vedic period, Agni , god of fire, ruled the family hearth at the same time, as did Zao Jun in the Chinese folk religion. In ancient Egypt, Neith was the goddess of domestic crafts, similar to Athena among the Greeks. For the Ainu of Northern Japan, the fire goddess Iresu-Huchi was also the goddess of the household, to which she gave peace and prosperity. Traditional Japanese households show portraits of Daikoku and Ebisu as protectors of the household.

Villages too often have their own gods who guarantee them protection and prosperity. The Chinese earth god Tudigong is worshiped in many villages in East Asia. In India, most of the traditional villages have their own gods, often female deities, ( Gramadevata ) , who are thought of in festivals as village founders and protectors, but also as occasional causes of disease and disaster.

Gods of healing, sickness and death

While some gods bring disease and death, others heal the sick and protect the dead, and other gods combine these two functions. The Greek god Asklepios is known for medicine and healing. In China, the doctor Baosheng Dadi was made the god of medicine after his death. The gods who cause disease include Pakoro Kamui among the Ainu and Lugal-Irra and Namtar in Mesopotamia. The latter was said to be able to cause 60 different diseases. In the Vedas, Rudra often brings disease and desolation, but is also venerated as a healer. The characteristics that are ascribed to the gods of the dead depend on the religious and cultural ideas of what happens after death . The Egyptian goddess Hathor guards the dead, and in Hinduism, Yama judges the dead.

Shiva statue in Bangalore

Gods of culture, arts and technology

The gods associated with cultural life are quite diverse. In several religions, culture is considered God given; Poets, painters, sculptors, and dancers were inspired to perform creatively by gods. In Hinduism, according to Ramayana, Rama is the bearer of culture. Sarasvati , the goddess of learning, art and music, is very often worshiped in school celebrations, and Shiva is nicknamed "King of Dance". In Egypt, Thoth was the inventor of all the arts and sciences, from arithmetic to hieroglyphic writing.

There is a god for almost every profession and every craft. Njörðr was the protector of shipbuilders and sailors in the Nordic religion. In Greece, Heracles and Hermes were primarily associated with trade, Athena with craftswomen, and Hephaestus with blacksmithing. Among the Yoruba, Ogún ensures prosperity for all those who come into contact with metal in their work, for example goldsmiths, barbers, mechanics and taxi drivers.

According to character traits

In anthropomorphic terms, gods are often assigned a specific personality that includes benevolent and angry qualities. The mother goddesses of the Aztecs are very cruel, such as Coatlicue , who is depicted with a blouse made of human hands and hearts. She gave birth to the god of war Huitzilopochtli, who killed his four hundred siblings. YHWH is portrayed both mildly and grimly in the Torah . In India the most important gods have a “gentle” and a “terrible” form. Although Kali stands for death and desolation and eats her children, she is revered by many Hindus as a loving mother. The Hawaiian goddess Hina is another example of a god who encourages flourishing but also brings death and devastation to people. Before Christian proselytizing, the Kikuyu believed that their God was a God of love, but that those who disobey him would be punished with hunger, illness and death.

Other gods are considered perfectly benevolent. For Plato, God was the morally best and perfect , and for some Christian theologians, God is all good. In contrast, the gods of the Greek pantheon were known for their often immoral actions. The Chagga people know the creator god Ruwa, who is also the guardian of morality. This God is all good so that people do not have to be afraid of him; Only the spirits of the dead are feared. The god Buga of the Evenks sits on a white marble throne and rules over all things, but only does good and does not punish.

Godmen and demigods

Mazu figures in China

Not only can gods be described in terms of anthropomorphisms, but they can also have a bluntly human or human-like being. These include demigods such as Perseus in Greek mythology or Māui in the Maori religion. These demigods are usually limited in their power compared to real gods. An example of a person who has been declared a god of war is the Chinese general Guan Yu . The Chinese girl Mazu was taken into heaven as a goddess and has since been venerated as the “Queen of Heaven” and protector of sailors. Conversely, some gods can appear in human form, such as Jesus in the Christian dogma of the Incarnation and the Avatara of Vishnu . The apotheosis is the deification of a respected as a heroic man, who as a god-king is revered. Examples of this are Alexander the Great and Gaius Iulius Caesar , who was worshiped as Divus Iulius in the Roman Empire .

According to metaphysical properties

The supernatural properties attributed to gods vary. Some gods are omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, while others have limited access to knowledge or are only powerful in certain ways. In the ancient philosophy systematic considerations are often found to God or the gods. In Hindu philosophy, the theology of the Abrahamic religions and modern Western philosophy, there are also rational considerations on the metaphysical properties of the divine (compare natural theology ). The word “God” is not always used. Various Greek philosophers spoke of “ the one ”, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel used synonyms such as “infinite life”, “ the absolute ”, the “concept”, the “idea”, the “absolute spirit” or the “only absolute reality” ".

A tendentially abstract image of God arises from the claim to disillusionment with mythological-religious ideas of God through rational considerations. Although such a "god of philosophers and scholars", so-called in Blaise Pascal's Mémorial, differs in some respects from a god of mythology and revelation , philosophers and theologians often assume that the two are merely different descriptions of the same reality acts.

Relationship to the world

Depending on the metaphysical worldview , the relationship between the gods and the world is represented differently. In some ideas God or the gods are completely separate from the world, in others a god includes the world in whole or in part.

Classical theism

The theism can initially - as illustrated by Richard Swinburne and John Leslie Mackie as opposed to - atheism are considered, the non-belief in gods. Here the term describes any worldview that assumes the existence of a divine authority. In the narrower sense, classical theism describes the belief in one or more gods who are not identical with the world, but who guide and intervene in it, and who may also be eternal and unchangeable.


The word “ deism ” has the same origin as “theism”, but was used with a different meaning when it was first known to be used in the second half of the 16th century. The term was used differently by different thinkers, but in each case it had an unorthodox connotation that was different from the established religion. Deists generally advocated an undogmatic monotheism and rejected supernatural revelations. Deism had its heyday during the Enlightenment and was particularly widespread in the Anglo-American region, where Anthony Collins and Thomas Paine emerged as well-known advocates. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, another meaning of deism established itself as a belief in a God who withdrew after creation and has not intervened in the world since.


According to emanationism , everything has emerged from a primal principle (God) through emanation, a process similar to flowing out or radiating. With increasing emanation, the products become less and less perfect; the transcendent source - called "the one" by Plotinus - remains unaffected. Emanationism can be found in Gnostic teachings such as the Pistis Sophia and some of the writings of Valentinus . The Kabbalistic philosophy, theosophy and the Baha'i faith were also affected by the Emanationismus. In contrast to pantheism, the divine original principle is transcendent and not immanent. Some philosophers regard emanationism as a form of panentheism.


The word " panentheism " was coined in 1828 by Karl Christian Friedrich Krause . According to the panentheistic view, the world is part of a single God, but not identical to him. Panentheism represents a middle way between classical theism and pantheism in that on the one hand it accepts a God with understanding and will, on the other hand it emphasizes the close connection between God and the universe. For Gustav Theodor Fechner, for example, the world belonged to God, just as the body is only one part of the human being, with the spirit representing the other part. The process theology also represents a panentheistic view. The term can also be broader; In this sense, a distinction can be made between individual panentheism (“God exists in my deepest interior”), ontological panentheism (“God is the basis of all existence”), social panentheism (“God exists in our relationship with other people”) and cosmic panentheism ("God is found in nature or in beauty").


Pantheism , which was only called in the early 18th century, describes the conception that everything that exists is divine. Pantheists oppose the notion that God and the universe are different things. In the 16th century Giordano Bruno proposed that God manifests himself in all things that form an interlocking whole. For Baruch Spinoza there was only one uniform substance, namely God. Paul Harrison , the founder of the World Pantheist Movement, distinguishes between scientific, idealistic and dualistic pantheism; the latter asserts the existence of an immaterial mind.

Naturalistic theism

Religious or spiritual naturalism - a term that has been used in US theology since the 1940s at the latest - assumes that everything that exists can in principle be explained scientifically. At the same time, a religious attitude towards the world or parts of the world is adopted without assuming a higher, ontologically separate reality. If the object of religious orientation is called God, this attitude can be called "naturalistic theism". Here God is either the creative process within the universe (as in Shailer Mathews and Henry Nelson Wieman ) or the entirety of the universe. At least “scientific” pantheism is therefore a form of naturalistic theism.

Other attributes

Transcendence and immanence

The Judeo-Christian God is viewed by most theologians as transcendent, that is, he is "outside" the world he created. At the same time, it is also immanent to a certain extent, i.e. part of the world - for example through its presence in the religious feelings of believers. In Hinduism, too, God was occasionally described as transcendent, for example by the hymn poet Nammalvar. Ramanuja wrote on the one hand that God was not accessible to people through meditation or prayer, but on the other hand he showed himself in human form to those who worship him. In Islam, God is considered both transcendent and immanent. The Lugbara , a people living in the Uganda / Democratic Republic of the Congo border region , distinguish between a transcendent (Adroa) and an immanent (Adro) form of God. In its immanent form, it sometimes lives on earth in rivers, trees, thickets and mountains.


The idea of ​​an omniscient God is widespread in many cultures and at the latest in the 6th century BC. In Xenophanes . The great monotheistic religions represent an omniscient conception of God; YHWH is already described in the Tanakh as omniscient, see for example Psalm 139  EU . In Hinduism, Varuna is considered omniscient. Most of the omniscient gods are sky gods, such as Tororut with the Pokot in Kenya, Ngai with the Maasai or Tengri with the Altai people . Usually it is evil deeds that attract the attention of the omniscient gods.


The concept of omnipotence (omnipotence) is represented by all Abrahamic religions, but is also often found outside of it, such as with Alhou, the highest being of the Sema-Naga , or with the god Karai Kasang of Jingpo . Among the Aztecs, Tezcatlipoca was omnipotent "in earth and sky". In any case, gods are often portrayed as powerful, and divine epithets such as "the Almighty" are common. Some peoples associate divine power primarily with nature, others more with human concerns. On the other hand, the Canaanite god El was sometimes depicted old and powerless when he was replaced by Baal . There is a tendency to unite local gods to form great gods in various cultures who take over all previous power attributes.


The omnipresence (ubiquity) is also a common property of gods. Among the ancient philosophers it was represented by Socrates and Epictetus . Amun , the Egyptian god of wind and fertility, was referred to as "the one who dwells in all things". The Bena in Tanzania believe that their God "is everywhere at the same time". Often gods combine omniscience and omnipresence; in Flores , Indonesia, for example , the god Dua Nggae claimed that he saw everything, knew everything and was everywhere. In some peoples, gods are associated with specific places, albeit omnipresent. The Langi believe, for example, that hill are connected to God and that it is therefore dangerous to build houses in their vicinity. In ancient Greece the most important gods resided in heaven or on Olympus .


In Western philosophy and theology, God was almost always viewed as a personal being, as in Plato and Aristotle. Some philosophers like Hegel saw in personal descriptions of God an imperfect conception of the absolute. Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita also describe God as a personal being, while Shankara represented impersonal conceptions of Brahman.


The majority of the Abrahamic God is considered immaterial, i.e. non-material. Philosophers who see the world as part of this God or as the embodiment of his being hold God at least partially material. Such a view was represented, for example, by the Stoics , who equated him with the basic elements of air and fire. In contrast to the Church Fathers and the majority of Christian philosophers like Thomas Aquinas, who argued for the immateriality and spirituality of God, there were individual Christian writers like Tertullian who called God "corporalis" (corporeal). However, it was taught by the overwhelming number of thinkers influenced by Platonic or Aristotelian principles that a material being would contradict God's perfection or perfection. African peoples also generally consider the respective high god to be a disembodied, immaterial spirit being, although he is described in anthropomorphic metaphors.


As supernatural spirits, gods are at least temporarily invisible. In some peoples God is considered invisible, while his effects can be felt physically, for example as wind. Other cultures consider natural phenomena and objects - the sky, stars or thunder - to be manifestations of gods. However, some gods are partially visible. In the Torah account of the burning bush , Moses covers his face for fear of looking at God. The San sky god is usually invisible, but sometimes passes by with a bright light and his voice can be heard as thunder.


Christian theology distinguishes three ways of learning about God: reason, revelation, and religious experience. In the natural theology is an attempt to meet by reason and observation statements about God. In general, however, gods are viewed, at least in part, as unfathomable . The Alur consider their god to be "practically unknowable" and the Lugbara admit that they do not know much about the nature of their god, since he eludes human imagination. Something similar is claimed in Islam: Man as a limited being cannot understand God, who is free of “limits and dimensions”, like other things. Søren Kierkegaard went so far as to define God as the unfathomable.

Eternity and time

In many peoples there are epithets for gods such as “the everlasting”, “the eternal” or “the one who is always there”; immutability is often emphasized at the same time. Christian thinkers like Boëthius , who saw God as a perfect being, were also convinced of his eternity . That God's nature is immutable was asserted by Plato, as well as by Jewish and Christian theologians, particularly Augustine of Hippo . In contrast to this is a god who is tied into time and interacts with his creatures. Such a “relational” image of God is represented, for example, by Richard Swinburne and William Lane Craig . In ancient Egypt, gods could die; for example, Osiris was murdered by his adversary Seth . However, because of the cosmological doctrine of the cyclical return, this did not necessarily mean the end of existence. Radical proponents of God is dead theology of the 1960s believed that God literally died.

Classification by Hartshorne and Reese

Charles Hartshorne and William Reese (1963) proposed a classification of ideas of the “highest” according to metaphysical attributes. They identified the following five basic properties that appear in different ideas:

U Immutable in some (or, if V is absent, in all) respects, be it by birth, death, increase or decrease
V In some (or, if U is absent, in all) respects changeable, at least in the form of a certain increase
B. (Yourself) aware
A. Knowing the world (completely)
E. Including the entire world as a component

The combination of these properties results in the following classification according to Hartshorne and Reese:

properties description Worldview Well-known representatives
UVBAE The highest as eternal-temporal consciousness, knowing and including the world. Panentheism Plato , Jiva Goswami , Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , Gustav Theodor Fechner , Alfred North Whitehead , Muhammad Iqbal , S. Radhakrishnan
UB The highest as Eternal Consciousness which the world does not fully know or include. Aristotelian theism Aristotle
UBA The highest as eternal consciousness, omniscient in relation to the world, but not including it. Classical theism Philon of Alexandria , Augustine of Hippo , Anselm of Canterbury , al-Ghazali , Thomas Aquinas , Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
U The highest as eternal, above consciousness and knowledge. Emanationism Plotinus
UBAE The highest as eternal consciousness, knowing and including the world. Classical pantheism Shankara , Baruch Spinoza , Josiah Royce
UVBA The highest as eternal-temporal consciousness, omniscient, but not including the world. "Temporalistic Theism" Fausto Sozzini , Jules Lequier
UVBW (E) The highest as eternal-temporal consciousness, partly separated from the world. Limited panentheism William James , Christian von Ehrenfels , Edgar Sheffield Brightman
V (B) (A) The highest as fully temporal or emergent consciousness. - Samuel Alexander , Edward Scribner Ames , Raymond Bernard Cattell
V The highest as temporal and unconscious. - Henry Nelson Wieman

Representation in art and literature

Page from the Codex Vaticanus , an early New Testament manuscript from the 4th century. According to Judeo-Christian teaching, the Bible is the word of God .

When depicting gods, a rough distinction can first be made between book religions that know a canonized Holy Scripture , cult religions that are determined by cult activities carried out in front of the image of God, and “ mystical ” religions that ultimately use word and image as an inappropriate form of statement look beyond the divine.

Although the ancient Egyptians owned numerous holy scriptures, they did not combine them into a canonical norm. The gods appeared more in their image than in their word, which is why the Egyptian religion is counted among the cult religions. In ancient Greece, too, writing played a subordinate role alongside the worship of images . In Judaism, on the other hand, God reveals himself in the word; pictorial representations are therefore discarded. The same applies to Zoroastrianism . In Christianity, the question of the worship of icons led to the Byzantine iconoclasm . Even if the ban on images was often not observed in Christianity, theology rejects anthropomorphic descriptions as a matter of principle, since God should not be placed on a level with profane human features. The prohibition of images in Islam is observed relatively consistently, which is why only calligraphy emerges as a decorative element.

In some cult religions, gods were depicted as animal-like beings, for example in ancient Egypt and in the advanced Meso and South American cultures. These portraits do not mean that the gods worshiped were imagined in the same way. Rather, they should express the otherness of what cannot be represented. Representations of gods with specific attributes, such as sun gods, are not to be interpreted as manifestations of those gods, but are only intended to express essential aspects visually.

Representation in the film

Mythological gods are often depicted in films (e.g. Thor ). The only God in the sense of monotheistic religions is rarely depicted in films. examples are

Concepts of God from different cultures


Ištar vase, early 2nd millennium BC Chr.

In the Sumerian religion , the numinous was viewed as an invisible force or " élan vital " inherent in things. The Sumerian language , for example, uses Nanna to denote both the moon and the power hidden in it, the moon god. A similar equation of object and God can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh . In the fourth millennium BC Above all, the forces of nature were worshiped, especially those that were important for human survival. Out of the human need to establish a meaningful connection with the gods, anthropomorphic gods were preferred. The predominant form was that of the son and provider whose life story reflected the annual harvest cycle, for example Dumuzi .

In the midst of the war-like conditions at the beginning of the third millennium, the idea of ​​a mighty divine ruler and warrior developed. In the traditional prayers of Gudea to Ningirsu , the main god of Lagaš , he is addressed as “master”, “lord” and “warrior”. The new role of the gods as protectors and military chiefs made it necessary to fathom their will. This could be done in dream visions or through divination. The gods were also seen as stewards of their property. Instead of acting alone, they were looked after by higher gods or by the assembly of gods with special tasks. The main task of the assembly of the gods was to judge evildoers and to appoint or remove high-ranking officials, both men and gods. In this respect the gods were represented quite humanly; for example, they strengthened themselves with food and drink before the meeting.

In the second millennium, a “personal” religion developed in which God cares for the worshiper. On the one hand, the believer placed his trust in God's compassion; on the other hand, he expected punishment for sins. Personal happiness has often been associated with divine reward; In the Akkadian language , the term for "having luck" was literally translated as "to get a god". The humble attitude and self-humiliation become clear in the traditional penitential psalms and “Letters to God”. The idea of ​​a personal God also influenced the Egyptian religion at the time and later the Israelite religion.

The Babylonian creation myth Enûma elîsch names around 300 gods of heaven and 300 gods of the underworld. In Rykle Borger's Assyrian-Babylonian list of characters, about 130 names of gods can be documented, some of which are epithets or manifestations of other gods, and around 25 can be considered great gods.


Depiction of the god Re-Harachte , 13th century BC. Chr.

Like other prehistoric peoples, the Egyptians seem to have shown their awe of the powers of the natural world. Archaeological finds indicate gods in animal form, such as cows or falcons, who represented aspects of the cosmos. At the beginning of historical times there were gods like Min and Neith who were worshiped in human form. The Egyptian word netjer encompassed people worshiped as gods as well as spirits and demons , and even the hieroglyphics were sometimes referred to as gods.

Egypt developed several creation myths that were never unified into one myth, but have some common features. According to the Eightness of Hermopolis , the world was created by four pairs of gods who embodied male and female aspects of the pre-worldly state ( primeval waters , endlessness, darkness , invisibility). Another myth, the Ninth of Heliopolis , describes the sun god Atum as the all-producer and father of the gods, from whose bodily fluids other gods emerged. According to Memphite theology , the androgynous god created the metalworkers, craftsmen and builders, Ptah , Atum and all other gods through "heart and tongue". This is the earliest known variant of the Logos concept , in which the world takes shape through the creative speech of a god.

The character traits of the gods were very different. Some gods were especially helpful to humans, such as Thoth , Horus and Isis for their healing powers, while others were hostile to humanity. Other gods, on the other hand, showed ambivalent traits; Hathor, for example, was revered as the goddess of love, music and celebration, but was also considered a raging destroyer of humanity. Many cults of the main gods formed family triads of father, mother and son over time, such as Amun , Mut and Chons in Thebes . In addition, groups of four, five or more gods formed without a clear scheme being apparent. Personal piety was particularly widespread during the New Kingdom . Petitions received show that gods could forgive human sins.

Many gods changed their regional affiliations over time, while others rose to regional or national gods and vice versa. The character of gods could also change; for example, Seth's nature, popularity, and importance fluctuated greatly. Osiris took on many epithets and characteristics from other gods over the years. An Egyptian peculiarity was the combination of different gods by linking their names (e.g. Atum-Chepre and Amun-Re ) and reassembling their shape. 1500 gods are known by name from the ancient Egyptian period, although details are only known about a small number. Isis was one of the last Egyptian gods to survive; It is still known from AD 452 that pilgrims visited their statue in the temple of Philae .


Statue of the Hindu god Vishnu and his partner Lakshmi on the serpent Shesha in the primeval sea

The oldest Hindu scriptures, the Vedas , go back to the middle of the 1st millennium BC. BC back. An important term in Hindu philosophy is Brahman , an imperceptible abstraction, the infinite, immanent and transcendent reality, which is the basis of all matter, energy, time, space, being and everything above the universe. Brahman cannot be defined; it is neti neti (not like that, not like that!), as the Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad says. The gods, Ishvara and the Devas are thus symbolic entities that emerged from Brahman and that represent the guiding forces of the world. According to the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the breath of life ( Prana ) is the soul of the gods and the only supreme being.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad speaks of 33 gods: eight spheres of existence (Vasus), eleven life principles (Rudras), twelve principles of rulership ( Adityas ), one ruler of heaven ( Indra ) and one producer ( Prajapati ), each of which occurs in different spheres of development (Mahiman) . However, these numbers vary depending on the text. Indra is described as ubiquitous and able to take any form. According to the Avyakta Upanishad, he embodies the qualities of all gods and is therefore the most important of them. The Adityas personify the laws that govern the universe and human society. They include Mitra (friendship), Aryaman (honor) or Varuna (who connects). In addition, there are subordinate gods such as the sons of Shiva, including Ganapati . Other gods are also described, such as the Ashvins , the Yakshas or the god of the dead Yama. The gods of the Vedas form only a small part of the Hindu pantheon, and many are no longer worshiped today.

The Trimurti from Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva represents the three cosmic functions of the universe. Vishnu can appear in any avatar . Shiva presumably emerged from its Vedic counterpart Rudra . While Rudra has been described as aggressive, active, and destructive, Shiva is also considered peaceful. Yet his character is ambivalent; he has terrible and meek forms. Brahma is the personified, masculine form of Brahman. It is considered the first cause of all being and is described in various creation myths.

Some of the Hindu deities have a male and a female form. The feminine power of Shiva is Shakti , who appears among other things as his wife Parvati . Shiva is also portrayed early on as “the Lord who is half woman” ( Ardhanarishvara ).

Usually, believers worship a preferred god without denying its Brahmanic nature. From the Hindu point of view, monotheism is only the glorification of a preferred God; in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna explains that the worship of other gods is only the worship of oneself. Often attempts have been made to establish correspondences with gods of other religions and beliefs; thus the Vedic Rudra was identified with the Dravidian Shiva, the Greek Dionysus and the Egyptian Osiris . Some Hindus who are familiar with the Christian religion consider Jesus to be the avatar of Vishnu, because Vishnu is not regarded as the personal god of a particular religion, but as a universal principle. The term "Hinduism" came about late and encompasses quite different cults. The worship of Shiva in Shivaism or of Vishnu in Vishnuism as the main deity or supreme Brahman is widespread today . There is also Shaktism , who worships Shakti, Devi or one of the many other goddesses as the main goddess.

In addition to Hinduism, Jainism is an atheistic religion in India and Sikhism is a monotheistic religion.


Chinese Daoism is considered atheist in its early form, but later it developed a large, polytheistic pantheon; see pantheon of Daoism .


Tibetan Bodhisattva statue from the 18th century

Above all in older western literature, and often also today, the opinion is held that the "original" Buddhism of the historical Buddha , Siddhartha Gautama , described in the Pali Canon , is an atheistic "philosophy of life" and not a religion. At best, this is a gross simplification that does not correspond to religious practice in all Buddhist countries.

According to the Anguttara Nikaya , Siddhartha Gautama replied to the question of whether he was a human being or a god (Deva) that he was not a god, Gandharva or human, but a Buddha. In Mahayana texts, the Dharma body (Dharma-kāya) of a Buddha is equated with the absolute reality that extends to the limits of the world and permeates everything. The Dharma body is also omniscient in that the entire world is directly reflected in its mind. The body of manifestation (Nirmāṇa-kāya) of the Buddha can appear in any form; however, his actions are not the result of voluntary decisions. According to the formal teaching of Theravada Buddhism, the Buddha is dead and no longer intervenes in the world; nevertheless he is revered like a god and also worshiped by some believers. Although Buddhas and Bodhisattvas differ from gods in some ways, some of them are nevertheless counted among the divine beings.

The doctrine of dependent arising formulated in early Buddhism postulates ignorance as the cause of the chain of rebirths. According to one interpretation, this is a critique of the Brahmanic creation myth of the Rigveda . To this extent, Buddhism developed a non-teleological doctrine of causality that does without a creator god. The wheel of life , which describes the six realms of being in Mahayana Buddhism , contains the realm of the gods (devas) and the realm of the “jealous gods” ( asuras ), who are counted among the devas in Theravada. Buddhist believers worship many of the Hindu gods, which is not syncretism in that these gods were part of Buddhism from the beginning. Their existence has never been denied, although Buddhism considers them to be dispensable. There is a balance between belief in Buddha and in the gods in that gods can help in worldly matters, but only the Buddha can show the way to salvation.

Greece and Roman Empire

Bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon, around 460 BC Chr.

Since the topography of ancient Greece made communication by land and sea difficult and there were linguistic and ethnic differences, the mythological content and cults varied. Homer's works Iliad and Odyssey led to a partial stabilization of these myths and exerted a significant influence on subsequent Greek and Roman authors. The Greeks and Romans knew numerous creation myths that have many parallels to the myths of the Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians and Hebrews. According to Homer, the titans Oceanus and Tethys were responsible for the origin of the gods. Okeanos represented the ring-shaped ocean that enclosed the disk-shaped earth. Hesiod gave the first known complete description of creation in his Theogony (around 700 BC). From the chaos Gaia emerged, which Uranos brought forth. They both fathered six female and six male children, the Titans, who also had children. The titans were essentially personifications of various aspects of nature. After the fall of the titans, Zeus and the other gods of Olympus took over the world.

The gods formed a hierarchically organized pantheon. They were generally considered to be human-like and feeling, though their looks and actions have been idealized to some degree. On the other hand, they could reflect people's physical and mental weaknesses. The gods lived in houses on Olympus or in heaven; There was, however, an important difference between the gods of the air and the upper world, and the chthonic gods who rule in the depths of the earth. Gods could move at great speed, suddenly disappear and appear, and take any shape - human, animal, and divine. Though their power was greater than that of humans, they were hardly omnipotent, save possibly Zeus, and even his actions were subject to fate. The quality that most obviously set the Greek gods apart from humans was their immortality.

Although some gods were only particularly worshiped in certain places - such as Athena in Athens and Hera in Argos - the most important gods were recognized throughout the Greek world. At the top stood Zeus, the father of all gods and men. He defended the highest moral values, sometimes together with other gods, and protected the family and the state. Zeus could be named as a god without being named. Xenophanes sharply attacked the usual anthropomorphic notions, claiming that there was a single non-anthropomorphic god.

The Roman religion had its roots in the religious ideas of pre-Roman Italian peoples such as the Sabines and the Etruscans . In general, the Roman gods, originally anchored in cult rather than myth, were less anthropomorphic than the Greek gods. When in the 3rd century BC BC when the first historians and epic poets wrote in Latin, the influence of Greek literature was already predominant. Many authors were Greek themselves, so that the Roman legends were adapted from the Greek. The original Italian gods were equated with the Greek, for example Saturnus with Kronos or the great sky god Jupiter with Zeus.

Biblical Judaism

Ugaritic Baal figure, 14th to 12th century BC Chr.

The main source for the Jewish religion is the canonized Bible , the Tanakh . The Israelite religion was originally henotheistic . When the Israelites settled in Canaan during the time of the Judges (1250 to 1000 BC) , they took up the religious ideas there, even though the Canaanites are described negatively in the Bible. The extensive correspondence between the attributes of YHWH , the only God of Israel, and the Canaanite- Ugaritic god El suggests that YHWH arose from El and gradually moved away from the henotheistic cult. This assumption is supported by the fact that, unlike the other biblical gods , there was no polemicism against El and that he retained his function as the forefather of the assembly of gods .

The high god El presided over the assembly of gods in the Ugaritic religion and was named as the creator of gods and creatures. Next to him stood the young fertility god Baal , generator of the thunderstorm and giver of rain. He was often portrayed together with his lover Anat as a warlike god who killed his opponents. Anat herself emerges as a fighter and lover, and she is not afraid to threaten the supreme god El herself. Among the goddesses of Ugarit, Athirat was the consort of Els. Astarte or Ashera , the queen of heaven, was equated with the Babylonian goddess of war and love Ištar.

The 1st book of Moses names YHWH as the creator of heaven and earth. Since his divine name was not pronounced, the name Adonai ("Lord") often took its place . In the Song of Debra , one of the oldest texts in the Bible, YHWH is described as the God of Israel intervening on behalf of his people. Here prevails the atmospheric description of YHWH, before whom the earth trembles, the clouds drip with water and the mountains sway. Other passages state that he lives in heaven. Further texts emphasize the warlike traits of YHWH; the Book of Judges particularly emphasizes its assistance in Israel's wars against the enemy. Outside Jerusalem, Baal and the goddesses continued to be worshiped. Both YHWH and Baal were heaven gods associated with lightning and thunder. An indication that the two were not always separated during the judges' time is the component of the name Baal , which also occurs in the proper names of strictly Yahwist families. It was only later that Baal was described as an arch enemy of YHWH.

According to the Deuteronomy, YHWH is the only God of Israel. He is described as a jealous god who does not tolerate any other god by his side. As “great and terrible God” who chose his people Israel out of love, he demands awe and love from his followers. YHWH's character is ambivalent in a certain way, for he brings both good and (at first sight) bad. According to the Jewish understanding of themselves, God is absolutely good; What seems evil from a human point of view (such as extreme punishments) should serve the good from a divine point of view. As the word of God, the law enjoys divine authority, and the Ten Commandments are also expressions of divine will. Although there are clear anthropomorphisms, especially in the older texts of the Bible, the Jewish ban on images clearly expresses that YHWH cannot be thought of in human terms.

Pre-Islamic Arabia

The source material for the ancient South Arabian religion consists essentially of inscriptions in monuments that name a large number of gods and their nicknames. In all ancient South Arabian empires, Athtar was the main god to whom the planet Venus was assigned. In addition to his vital irrigation and fertility functions, he was also active as a god of war. The Sabaean state god was Almaqah , who was associated with the moon and represented the state together with the king and the people of the empire. The sun god had two feminine forms, namely dat-Himyam and dat-Baʿdan. Together with Athtar and Almaqah, they formed the official trinity of Saba, and they were also mentioned most frequently in other South Arabian states. There were also other regional gods such as Sama , probably a moon god, and Ta undlab . In the later royal period (from 40 AD), due to severe internal power struggles of different tribes, there was a differentiation into further manifestations and individual gods. There was no representation of gods in human form; instead, symbolic signs and animals were often used.

In central and northern Arabia, the population did not live in highly developed states as in the south, but - with the exception of Lihyan - led a nomadic existence . The source situation in central Arabia is much worse than in the south, but later texts such as the Koran polemic against paganism or the book of idols of Ibn al-Kalbī provide references to the ancient central Arab gods . Like all nomadic peoples, the Bedouins of Arabia also worshiped Allah, a supreme god of heaven, who created the world and gives rain. Other gods did not enjoy the same high rank and did not form a hierarchically ordered pantheon. Besides Allah, the three goddesses Manat , Al-Lāt and Al-ʿUzzā , also called "Daughters of Allah", were highly venerated throughout Arabia. Al-Lat was identified by Herodotus with Urania , the sky goddess; presumably it originally had a similar paramount importance as Allah. The three dozen local gods named in the idol book played a subordinate role and were often assigned to certain tribes.

Post-Biblical Judaism

With the destruction of the Jerusalem temple at the end of the Jewish War in 70, the relationship between Judaism and God changed forever. Instead of temple sacrifices and pilgrimages to Jerusalem, under the supervision of the priests and Levites , there was communal prayer, which was codified in the following centuries for the days of the week and the Sabbath in Siddur and for the holidays in Machsor . The destroyed temple is being replaced by synagogues in the diaspora , both in the Roman Empire and in the Persian Empire .

Although there was no systematic consideration of the attributes of God in rabbinic Judaism , there was agreement on some essential points. All rabbis were convinced of the oneness of God, the Creator of heaven and earth. God rewards those who obey his will and punishes others, and he chose the Jewish from among all peoples to reveal the Torah to him . The tetragram YHWH is never pronounced out of awe, and other names or paraphrases such as Adonai ("Lord") or the saint are used instead. Although God can be addressed directly in prayer, his true nature is unfathomable and he is entirely different from his creatures. Yet the authors of the Talmud were not very concerned about anthropomorphic descriptions. Often God has been compared to a king seated on the throne of judgment or the throne of forgiveness. Particularly as a result of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the idea that God feels human suffering and mourns with the victims of persecution deepened. The rabbis strictly rejected the worship of images and dualistic ideas.

In the Middle Ages, under the influence of Greek philosophy, there was a refinement of the attributes of God. Medieval theologians pointed out that all anthropomorphic descriptions of God in the Bible are not to be taken literally. At Maimonides ' 13 principles of Jewish faith is one of the view that God is incorporeal and immaterial. God was both omniscient and omnipotent. Like the authors of the Bible and the rabbis, the medieval Jewish thinkers represented a caring God, although according to Maimonides and Levi ben Gershon this only extends to humans and not to all creatures.

The Kabbalists accepted the abstract descriptions of the medieval philosophers but, as mystics, felt a desire to establish a more vivid connection with God. In Kabbalah, a distinction was made between God himself - the unfathomable En Sof - and his manifestations. The kabbalistic tree of life names ten emanations in the Sephiroth that arise from God himself, to whom nothing at all can be said. They represent different aspects of God like wisdom, strength or splendor. The Hasidism , founded in the 18th century by the Baal Shem Tov , tends to panentheistic understanding of Tzimtzum -Begriffs: Without God there would be no universe, but without the universe God is still the same.

Among the Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, Mordechai M. Kaplan most vehemently advocated a naturalistic worldview. For him, God is not a supernatural, personal being, but the universal force that leads to justice. In his main work, Ich und Du, Martin Buber treats the relationship between humans and God and fellow human beings as existential, dialogical and religious principles. The Holocaust led to a reassessment of the medieval statements about the relationship between God and man and to an exacerbation of the theodicy problem .


Depiction of God the Father, the Holy Spirit (dove) and the crucified Jesus, niche painting in an Austrian wayside shrine

Since the Christians were originally a Jewish group, their ideas about God were strongly influenced by Jewish traditions. In addition, Greek philosophy, especially ancient Platonism , had a decisive influence on Christian ideas about God. Early attempts to work out a Christian theology, such as those of Clement of Alexandria , Justin the Martyr , Irenaeus of Lyon , Athenagoras and Theophilus , refer not only to biblical tradition, meanwhile developed confessional formulas and liturgical idioms, but also in different terminology, content and work conceptions Extent borrowings from Jewish theologians and philosophical traditions. God is often described as transcendent and eternal, free from temporal or spatial limits and endowed with the highest supernatural power and honor. Because of the unfathomable nature of his being, he is often only named in symbolic expressions, in his effects and otherwise in negative properties such as “infinite”, “unfathomable” or “invisible”. Speeches in the Bible, liturgy, prayer forms and the like that could lead to the physical and especially anthropomorphic presentation of God are often interpreted as improper expressions, especially by theologians in the school tradition of Alexandrian theology (including e.g. Philo of Alexandria and Origen ) . Other theologians are more reluctant or hostile to the culture, terminology and concepts of Greek traditions and relate more directly to Judeo-Christian traditions.

The Confession of Nicaea , formulated in 325 and recognized today by all major Christian churches, names Jesus Christ divine and of being with God the Father and also briefly mentions the Holy Spirit . The idea that Jesus was man and God at the same time was confirmed in the later Christological Confession of the Council of Chalcedon . Later debates and determinations turn from Christology more to Trinity theology . The attempt is made to avoid the assumption of three gods or independent modalities , which are embodied by the father, son and spirit, or to present them as heresy. They are determined to be identical in substance but different in relation; Doctrines and teachers that differ from this are delineated as heretical .

The Christian theology of the Middle Ages works on the doctrine of God in different, sometimes contradicting accents in the reception of further ancient concepts and partly also the debates in Jewish and Islamic theology. It was often controversial how strongly Greek philosophical terminology can and should be borrowed and to philosophical conceptualizations (natural reason or natural theology) that do not already estimate knowledge from revelation . A compromise formula of the Fourth Lateran Council (can. 806) is, for example, that God always remains dissimilar to a greater extent, even with all possible demonstrations of similarities with what has been created.

The Reformation called for a stronger return to biblical texts. Less cognitive value is ascribed to natural reason and interim tradition. While u. a. in the 19th century some theologians on challenges and a. through enlightenment and modern criticism of reason and revelation with a constructive reception u. a. transcendental philosophical ideas react, others reject it. The range of "natural reason" is then estimated to be smaller, "the supernatural" higher; in the most varied of forms, for example, on the part of most Catholic attempts to revitalize the systematizations of Thomas Aquinas , differently at the beginning of the 20th century with Protestant theologians such as Karl Barth , who referred more to biblical revelation. In recent theological debates, previously largely undisputed aspects of the concept of God, such as the omnipotence of God, were critically discussed.


Islam, which originated on the Arabian Peninsula , developed its concept of God in conflict with the ancient Arabic religion , which knew various local deities , as well as with ideas of Judaism and Christianity. The Koran emphasizes the unity and uniqueness of God and argues that belief in God as the creator of the world makes belief in other divine beings and powers superfluous. Continuity in the monotheistic religion's image of God already existed in the ancient South Arabian Empire of Himyar . The two divine names Allah and Rahman were adopted from this context in Islam, which appear in connection with one another, for example in the Basmala formula. Verse 1 of Sura 112 underlines the monotheistic principle of Islam. The same verse also reflects the Jewish creed Shma Yisrael from Deut. 6.4  EU . In the same sura, the statement in verse 3 that God is neither begetting nor begotten can be understood as a direct rejection of the Nicene creed , according to which Jesus was "begotten, not created" by God.

Theological debates that began around the middle of the 8th century revolved around the question of how the various statements about God in the Koran that imply corporeality or human likeness are to be interpreted. While some theological schools took these statements literally and tended towards an anthropomorphic image of God (e.g. q al-Mughīra ibn Saʿīd and Muqātil ibn Sulaimān ), others represented a very radical transcendence of God ( e.g. Jahm ibn Safwān ). At the end of the 8th century, intermediate positions developed. The Shiite scholar Hischam ibn al-Hakam (died after 795) defined God as a three-dimensional, massive body of light, based on the statements about God in sura 112 and in the verse of light . The followers of the Muʿtazila emphasized that God's nature is indescribable; In their opinion, anthropomorphic attributions in the Koran had to be interpreted metaphorically .

The theological speculation has also given rise to the numerous names and attributes of God mentioned in the Koran . The question arose how these relate to God's own being. While the Muʿtazilites, in the course of their strict emphasis on the oneness of God ( Tawheed ), believed that God had qualifications such as “knowing” ( ʿālim ), “powerful” ( qādir ), “living” ( ḥaiy ) through himself ( bi- nafsih ī ) In Sunni theology it was assumed that these properties refer to correlating nouns, namely “knowledge” ( ʿilm ), “power” ( qudra ), “life” ( ḥayāt ), which have a real existence. In order not to violate the principle of the oneness of God, however, they could not go so far as to designate these attributes as different from God. The theologian Ibn Kullāb therefore developed the formula that the attributes of God are "neither identical with God nor non-identical with him". This formula was later adopted in Ashʿarite theology. The attributes of God were thus given a position that resembled that of the hypostases in Christian theology.

However, some groups, such as the early Hanbalites , also completely refused to make the essence of God the object of rational speculation . Today's Wahhabis follow their tradition . In the Sufi tradition, speculation about God was preferred to an immediate, mystical experience of God in the form of “ becoming in God ” ( fanā fī Llāh ). Finally, there was a tendency among various groups in the Shiite ghoulāt tradition to regard their own imam as god.


In voodoo , Bondyè is the only god worshiped. Since he is said to be in an unreachable distance, prayers and sacrifices are directed exclusively to the Loa as mediating spirit beings .

Existence of god

Efforts to conclusively deduce the existence of God or the gods can already be found in Greek philosophy. In Jewish and early Christian apologetics , and later in Jewish, Christian and Arab scholasticism , further formal proofs of God were established . Some modern apologists also use logical arguments to explain the existence of God.

The following list gives important arguments for the existence of God, as well as some well-known representatives.

The existence or movement of all things requires a first cause, namely God (cosmological arguments). Plato , Aristotle , Avicenna , Thomas Aquinas , William Lane Craig
The order and complexity of the world require a creator (teleological arguments). Socrates , Cicero , Thomas Aquinas , William Paley
The fact that it is possible to imagine a perfect, supreme being proves its existence (ontological arguments). Avicenna , Anselm of Canterbury , René Descartes , Kurt Gödel
Morality, consciousness ( body-soul problem ), beauty, love and religious feelings suggest a god. John Henry Newman , Henry Sidgwick , John Polkinghorne , Richard Swinburne , René Descartes
The truthfulness of miracles and revelations shows that God exists. CS Lewis , William Lane Craig
Personal experiences of God or answering prayers suggest that there is a God. Thomas Reid , Nicholas Thomas Wright

Regardless of evidence of a god's existence, belief in his existence can be shown to be beneficial. Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottlieb Fichte , for example, were of the opinion that belief in God is morally necessary. The Pascal's wager , according to it's reasonable to believe in God for safety's sake, because it if necessary rewarded the faith and punishes disbelief.

For Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , philosophy was only real philosophy if it allowed something to be scientifically determined about “the existence and non-existence of God.” For Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel too, philosophy has the purpose of knowing God, as its subject, truth , nothing other than the confrontation with God. Kant, on the other hand, criticized classical proofs of God and considered the objective reality of God to be neither provable nor refutable. Friedrich Nietzsche was skeptical of metaphysical concepts; he refused the attempt to infer an unconditional, contradicting world and only introduce God through negations.

Categories of answers to the question "Why do you believe in God?" (After Shermer / Sulloway)

The view that no reasonable discussion about the existence of gods is possible is usually justified by the fact that human reason is incapable of this ( irrationalism and fideism ), or that all statements of truth are ultimately arbitrary ( epistemological relativism ). The strong agnosticism , is of the opinion that no one can know whether there is a God, and not that it be possible to answer this question ever.

Disbelief in gods is often justified by a lack of evidence of their existence. Russell's teapot is an example intended to demonstrate the philosophical burden of proof for the assertion of a god. A similar attitude is claimed in the context of religious parodies, in which supernatural beings such as the “ invisible pink unicorn ” or the “ flying spaghetti monster ” are invented. In addition to logical arguments against certain notions of God, such as the omnipotence paradox and the theodicy problem, there are attempts to empirically refute the existence of gods. Scientific explanations of the origin of life and the universe as well as statistical studies on the ineffectiveness of prayers would show that the universe behaves exactly as one would expect in the absence of a god.

In a 1998 survey of 1,000 US-Americans, the main reasons for believing in God were the beauty, perfection or complexity of the world (29% of respondents who believe in God) and personal experience of God (21%). A survey of members of the Skeptics Society found that the main reason for not believing in God was the lack of evidence of its existence (38% of those who did not believe in God).

Spread of belief in God

2005: Proportion of the population who "believe that there is a God" ( Eurobarometer - survey )


A summary of survey results from various states in 2007 found that there are between 505 and 749 million atheists and agnostics worldwide. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica , there were 640 million non-religious and agnostics (9.4%) worldwide in 2009, and another 139 million atheists (2.0%), mainly in the People's Republic of China .

A Eurobarometer survey in 2005 found that 52% of the then EU population believed that there was a God. A more vague question about belief in “another spiritual force or life force” was answered positively by a further 27%. There were great differences between the individual European states with regard to their belief in God. The survey found that belief in God is most widespread in countries with strong ecclesiastical influence, that more women (58%) than men (45%) believe in God, and that belief in God is greater with age, less education and politically right-wing people Correlated views.

According to a survey of 1003 people in Germany in March 2019, 55% believe in a God; In 2005 it was 66%. 75% of the Catholics surveyed and 67% of the Protestants believed in one God (2005: 85% and 79%). Among the non-denominational, the belief rate fell from 28 to 20%. Faith was more pronounced among women (60%) in 2019 than among men (50%), and more widespread in western Germany (63%) than in eastern Germany (26%).

Popular ideas

Concept map of the attributes used to describe God by American students (after Kunkel); Roughly two dimensions can be distinguished in the description:
- horizontal: primitive-caring
- vertical: abstract-anthropomorphic

In empirical studies it has been found time and again that the ideas of God widespread among believers are also very diverse within the same religion. Similarity structure and factor analyzes revealed different dimensions from which an image of God can be built. For example, divine properties can vary along the dimensions judging-caring, controlling-saving or concrete-abstract.

Justin Barrett found in research among American and Indian believers that people intuitively tend to person-like ideas of God that run counter to theological teaching. For example, there is a tendency to think that God or the gods can move, process sensory impressions, or only do one task at a time. On the other hand, in more abstract situations, theological attributes such as omnipresence or omnipotence are used to describe God. The ontological discrepancy between humans and the supernatural is therefore bridged at least in cognitively relevant, everyday situations such as prayer by ignoring the differences between the two areas.

Psychological attempts to explain

In psychoanalysis , belief in God is viewed as a form of wishful thinking. For Sigmund Freud , God was the projection of a perfect, protective father figure who should convey the feeling of an idealized childhood. For Carl Gustav Jung , God is an experience that lies in the depths of the soul. The inner soul image of God corresponds to the archetype of the self and represents psychological wholeness. Nothing is said about the metaphysical reality of God. Other psychoanalysts saw God not as a comforting dream but as a projection of neurotic self-hatred. Ludwig Feuerbach , who also represented theses critical of religion, saw belief in God as the “mirror of man”, which allows conclusions to be drawn about the human being.

The cognitive science of religion assumes that people, because of their disposition, tend to solidify ideas of supernatural actors. Standard theory justifies this mainly through two mental modules in humans, the Theory of Mind Mechanism (ToMM) and the Agency Detection Device (ADD). The ToMM enables people to suspect feelings and intentions in other actors. ADD makes it possible to quickly perceive the presence of actors in the environment based on sensory stimuli. In early humans it served to recognize predators in good time and to avoid them, but is still active today, so that even natural events are often suspected of being an actor. This explanatory model refers not only to gods, but to all supernatural actors.

A related subject of research is the question of what cognitive abilities are innate in relation to belief in God. The anthropomorphism hypothesis assumes that children initially regard a god as “great superhumans in heaven” and only later develop the idea of ​​a transcendent, disembodied being. In contrast, the preparedness hypothesis says that children accept such metaphysical properties without any problems, since they are cognitively able to imagine general supernatural actors from the start.


Reference works and overviews of mythology:

  • Louis Gray: The Mythology of all Races (13 vol.) Cooper Square, New York 1964.
  • Samuel Noah Kramer: Mythologies of the Ancient World. Quadrangle Books, Chicago 1961.
  • Manfred Lurker: Lexicon of gods and demons. Kröner, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-520-82001-3 .
  • Patricia Turner, Charles Russell Coulter: Dictionary of Ancient Deities. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2001, ISBN 0-19-514504-6 .
  • Roy Willis (Ed.): World Mythology. Henry Holt, New York 1996, ISBN 0-8050-4913-4 .

Comparative Philosophy of Religion:

  • Charles Hartshorne, William Reese: Philosophers Speak of God. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1953.
  • Eduard Ostermann: Scientists discover God! What scientists like Max Planck, Pascual Jordan, Bruno Vollmert, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, John C. Eccles etc. a. discovered. Hänssler, Holzgerlingen 2001, ISBN 3-7751-3335-6 .
  • HP Owen: Concepts of Deity. Macmillan, London 1971, ISBN 0-333-01342-5
  • HP Owen: God, Concepts of. In: Donald Borchert (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Philosophy . Volume 4, Thomson Gale, Detroit 2006, ISBN 0-02-865784-5 , pp. 107-113.
  • Raimundo Panikkar: Deity. In: Lindsay Jones (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 4, Thomson Gale, Detroit 2005, ISBN 0-02-865733-0 , pp. 2252-263.

Comparative religious studies:

  • John Carman: Majesty and Meekness: A Comparative Study of Contrast and Harmony in the Concept of God. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 1994, ISBN 0-8028-0693-7 .
  • Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Sheed and Ward, London 1958.
  • EO James: The Concept of Deity: A Comparative and Historical Study. Hutchinson's University Library, London 1950.
  • Hans-Joachim Klimkeit (ed.): Image of gods in art and writing . Bonn 1984, ISBN 3-416-04002-3 .
  • Theodore Ludwig: Gods and Goddesses. In: Lindsay Jones (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 6, Thomson Gale, Detroit 2005, ISBN 0-02-865733-0 , pp. 3616-3624.
  • Raffaele Pettazzoni: The All-Knowing God. Methuen, London 1956. German: The omniscient God. Frankfurt 1960.
  • Ina Wunn : The Evolution of Religions. Doctoral thesis University of Hanover 2004 ( PDF: 2.8 MB, 556 pages on d-nb.info).

Web links

Commons : God  - collection of images
Wiktionary: God  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: God  - Quotes
Wikibooks: Critique of Religion: God  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Helm : Old Germanic history of religion. Volume 2. Winter, Heidelberg 1953, p. 215; Jan de Vries: Old Germanic history of religion (= outline of Germanic philology. Volume 12). Volume 2. De Gruyter, Berlin 1970, p. 160.
  2. Jacob Grimm : German Mythology. Volume 2. Unchanged reprint of the fourth edition with adaptation by Elard H. Meyer, 1875–1878. Fourier, Wiesbaden 2003, p. 11.
  3. ^ Martin L. West : Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford University Press 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-928075-9 , pp. 120-123 (English).
  4. Stefan ZimmerZiu - Týr. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 35, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-018784-7 , pp. 929-932.
  5. ^ Wolfgang Krause : Ziu. In: News from the Society of Sciences in Göttingen. Philological-historical class. 1940, N. F. Vol. 3, No. 6, pp. 155-172.
  6. Georges Darms : Schwäh und Schwager, Hahn und Huhn. The Vrddih derivation in Germanic. R. Kitzinger, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-920645-26-X , p. 377 ff .; Elmar Seebold : Heaven, the day and the gods among the Indo-Europeans. In: Historische Sprachforschung 104, 1 (1991), pp. 29-45.
  7. Helmut Rix : Lexicon of Indo-European Verbs. Second edition. Reichert, Wiesbaden 2001, ISBN 3-89500-219-4 , p. 179.
  8. Dagmar S. Wodtko, Britta Irslinger, Carolin Schneider: Nomina in the Indo-European Lexicon. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-8253-5359-9 , p. 102.
  9. ^ Friedrich Kluge , Elmar Seebold : Etymological dictionary of the German language. De Gruyter, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-11-017472-3 , p. 332.
  10. Wolfgang Meid : Germanic religion in the testimony of language. In: Heinrich Beck (Hrsg.): Germanic religious history - sources and source problems. Supplementary volume 5 to the real dictionary of Germanic antiquity . De Gruyter, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-11-012872-1 , p. 494.
  11. ^ Karl Helm: Old Germanic history of religion. Volume 2. Winter, Heidelberg 1953, p. 36.
  12. ^ Karl Helm: Old Germanic history of religion. Volume 2. Winter, Heidelberg 1953, p. 214 ff.
  13. ^ A b Wolfgang Meid: Aspects of the Germanic and Celtic religion in the testimony of language (= Innsbruck contributions to linguistics , volume 52). Institute for Linguistics, Innsbruck 1991, ISBN 3-85124-621-7 , p. 17.
  14. Jan de Vries : The spiritual world of the Teutons. WBG, Darmstadt 1964, p. 187 ff.
  15. Klaus E. Müller: Shamanism: Healers, Spirits, Rituals. 4th edition. Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-41872-3 , pp. 17-18 and 41 (original edition 1997).
  16. Theo Sundermeier : Religion - what is it? Religious studies in theological context; a study book. 2nd, expanded new edition. Lembeck, Frankfurt / M. 2007, ISBN 978-3-87476-541-1 , pp. 33-36.
  17. Ilkka Pyysiäinen, Kimmo Ketola: Rethinking “God”: The Concept of “God” as a Category in Comparative Religion. In: Tore Ahlbäck (Ed.): Approaching Religion (= Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis. 17: 1). Part 1, Almqvist & Wiksell International, Åbo 1999, ISBN 952-12-0368-4 , pp. 207-214; Ilkka Pyysiäinen: Supernatural Agents: Why We Believe in Souls, Gods, and Buddhas. Oxford University Press, New York 2009, ISBN 978-0-19-538002-6 , p. 95.
  18. Paul Foulquié: Dictionnaire de la langue philosophique. Presses Universitaires de France, Paris 1969, p. 174.
  19. a b c Brian Leftow: God, Concepts of. In: Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge, London 1998, ISBN 0-415-16917-8 .
  20. Ilkka Pyysiäinen: Supernatural Agents. P. 176; John Carman: Majesty and Meekness. P. 5.
  21. ^ Benson Saler, Charles A. Ziegler: Atheism and the Apotheosis of Agency. Temenos 42, 2 (2006), ISSN  0497-1817 , p. 9. ( PDF, 444 kB, 36 pages ( Memento from January 31, 2012 in the Internet Archive )).
  22. Ilkka Pyysiäinen: Supernatural Agents. Todd Tremlin: Minds and Gods: The Cognitive Foundations of Religion. Oxford University Press, New York 2006, ISBN 0-19-530534-5 , p. 12, p. 144.
  23. See for example Daniel Dennett: The Intentional Stance. MIT Press, Cambridge 1993, ISBN 0-262-04093-X ; William Bechtel: Mental Mechanisms: Philosophical Perspectives on Cognitive Neuroscience. Routledge, New York 2008, ISBN 978-0-8058-6333-8 , p. 15 ff.
  24. Ilkka Pyysiäinen: Supernatural Agents. P. 23 f.
  25. Todd Tremlin: Minds and Gods. P. 101.
  26. ^ Theodore Ludwig: Gods and Goddesses. In: Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 6, p. 3616.
  27. a b c Theodore Ludwig: Gods and Goddesses. In: Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 6, p. 3618 f.
  28. ^ HP Owen: Concepts of Deity. P. 4.
  29. ^ John S. Mbiti: Concepts of God in Africa. SPCK, London 1975, ISBN 0-281-02902-4 , p. 29 f.
  30. Ilkka Pyysiäinen: Supernatural Agents. P. 52; Todd Tremlin: Minds and Gods. P. 5; John Carman: Majesty and Meekness. P. 405.
  31. Mark Morford, Robert Lenardon: Classical Mythology. Oxford University Press, New York 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-530804-4 , p. 138.
  32. ^ Bart D. Ehrman: Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press, New York 2003, ISBN 0-19-518249-9 , p. 2; HP Owen: Concepts of Deity. P. 7.
  33. Walter Hirschberg (Gre.), Wolfgang Müller (Red.): Dictionary of Ethnology. New edition, 2nd edition, Reimer, Berlin 2005. P. 177 (Höchstes Wesen), 268 (natural religion).
  34. ^ Dieter Haller: Dtv-Atlas Ethnologie. 2nd Edition. dtv, Munich 2010, p. 240.
  35. a b c d Roy Willis (Ed.): World Mythology. Henry Holt, New York 1996, ISBN 0-8050-4913-4 , pp. 18/19 (English).
  36. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Sheed and Ward, London 1958, p. 241 (English).
  37. ^ HP Owen: God, Concepts of. In: Donald Borchert (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Philosophy . Volume 4. Thomson Gale, Detroit 2006, ISBN 0-02-865784-5 , pp. 107-113, here p. 108 (English).
  38. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Sheed and Ward, London 1958, p. 46 (English).
  39. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Sheed and Ward, London 1958, p. 42 (English).
  40. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Pp. 40, 83.
  41. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Chapter 2; Theodore Ludwig: Gods and Goddesses. In: Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 6, p. 3618.
  42. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Pp. 52-56.
  43. Oswin Koehler: God's names and ideas of God among the Nilots. In: Sociologus, New Series / New Series, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 34-44 (1956).
  44. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Pp. 60-63.
  45. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Pp. 53, 82, 96.
  46. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. P. 93 f.
  47. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Pp. 124-129.
  48. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Pp. 159, 162; Theodore Ludwig: Gods and Goddesses. In: Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 6, p. 3619.
  49. ^ Theodore Ludwig :: Gods and Goddesses. In: Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 6, p. 3620.
    Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. P. 245.
  50. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. P. 262.
  51. Aharon N. Varady: Dogon Cosmology and the Interface of Nature and Culture. ( Memento from October 3, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  52. ^ Georges Dumézil: Les dieux souverains des Indo-Européens. Gallimard, Paris 1986, ISBN 2-07-029586-9 .
  53. a b c Theodore Ludwig: Gods and Goddesses. In: Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 6, p. 3621.
  54. a b c Theodore Ludwig: Gods and Goddesses. In: Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 6, p. 3622 f.
  55. a b Theodore Ludwig: Gods and Goddesses. In: Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 6, p. 3623.
  56. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. P. 419; John Carman: Majesty and Meekness. Pp. 143-152.
  57. ^ John S. Mbiti: Concepts of God in Africa. P. 33.
  58. ^ Mircea Eliade: Patterns in Comparative Religion. Pp. 48, 63.
  59. ^ A b c Mark Morford, Robert Lenardon: Classical Mythology. P. 135 ff.
  60. God (philosophical). In: Hans Jörg Sandkühler (Ed.): Encyclopedia Philosophy. Volume 1, Meiner, Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-7873-1452-0 , p. 796 f.
  61. Paul Foulquié: Dictionnaire de la langue philosophique. P. 175; God (philosophical). In: Hans Jörg Sandkühler (Ed.): Encyclopedia Philosophy.
  62. See for example Dieu. In: Régis Jolivet: Vocabulaire de la philosophie. Emmanuel Vitte, 1966, p. 61.
  63. ^ Heinrich M. Schmidinger: Theism . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 9 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2000, Sp. 1389 .
  64. Thomas Morris: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Anselm. In: Anselmian Explorations: Essays in Philosophical Theology. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame (Indiana) 1987, ISBN 0-268-00616-4 . Quoted in: John W. Cooper: Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers. Baker Academic, Grand Rapids 2006, ISBN 0-8010-2724-1 , p. 14.
  65. Ernest Campbell Mossner: Deism. In: Donald Borchert (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Volume 2, pp. 680-693.
  66. Philip Merlan: Emanationism. In: Donald Borchert (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Volume 3, p. 188 ff.
  67. ^ Charles Hartshorne, William Reese: Philosophers Speak of God. Pp. 243-257; John W. Cooper: Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers. P. 124 f.
  68. Dirk Hutsebaut: Anthropomorphic and Non-Anthropomorphic God Representations and Religious Cognitive Styles: An Empirical Study on a Sample of Adults with High Church Involvement. In: Hans-Georg Zieberts et al. (Ed.): The Human Image of God. Brill, Leiden 2001, ISBN 90-04-12031-9 , p. 363.
  69. ^ Jerome Arthur Stone, Religious Naturalism Today: The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative. State University of New York Press, Albany NY 2008, ISBN 978-0-7914-7537-9 , p. 11.
  70. ^ Jerome Arthur Stone: Religious Naturalism Today. P. 5 f., 10, 12
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  131. See, for example, Mark Krejci: Gender Comparison of God Schemas: A Multidimensional Scaling Analysis. In: Approaches to Uncovering the Latent Structure of Religious Concepts. American Psychological Association, Los Angeles 1994. Quoted in Kunkel (1999), p. 200.
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