“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1: 1-2, Moses, Estimated 1446 – 1406 BC)

“Mortals suppose that the gods are born and have clothes and voices and shapes like their own. But if oxen, horses and lions had hands or could paint with their hands and fashion works as men do, horses would paint horse-like images of gods and oxen-like ones, and each would fashion bodies like their own. The Ethiopians consider the gods flat-nosed and black; the Thracians blue-eyed and red-haired. There is one god, among gods and men the greatest, not at all like mortals in body or mind. (Xenophanes, Estimated 570 – 478 BC)



Takes 20 minutes to read.



All of the world’s archaeological evidence and all of recorded history (involving every major culture) tells us that humankind has always believed in the divine. Moreover, in spite of “modernity,” some social scientists today believe humanity might be as or more religious than ever. In other words, the secularization thesis (that atheism will take over) is already Resting In Peace.

Therefore, whether God is part of one’s personal belief system, real, or a good idea, or not, we are doing ourselves a favor to think about God beyond personal bias. God and the sacred are not going anywhere. (“Thank goodness!” to the vast majority.) Beliefs about God are perhaps the cornerstone of each worldview, and they most certainly determine much of behavior and life’s outcomes.

In this post we continue our God Series (Part II of III) to explore the various kinds of gods popular around the globe. You can read the first post on God and philosophy by clicking here. In Part I we related God to the worldview concept as our second of eight worldview pillars, the first being Truth, and we defined God as a supernatural being. We highlighted that whenever we think about God or personal experience with God, we are engaging in philosophy; more specifically the philosophy of human experience related to religion (called theology).

Of course, we recognize that “God” has many definitions used for many purposes, and, in Part I, we chose for God a simple definition: supernatural being. Here “super” would mean somehow outside of, beyond, a special part of, and generally greater than, nature itself. God must be either real or not, and part of the story of the world or not.

Given these considerations, questions arise about where God is located, God’s nature, and how God interacts with us and the world, if at all. Then there is that really big question of how to achieve salvation or forgiveness, the blessings or presence of God, or a higher/the highest state of being. Related is admission to a good after-life or heaven. In general, answers to these metaphysical, theological questions shape the great religions across the globe.

Of course, we do not try to describe of all of this here, and, as we’ve said many times in the past, we are not trying to advocate for one type of God over another or even a belief in God Him-Her-Itself.

In general, the gods worshipped around the world are either an All-Powerful, All-Good, and All-Knowing Creator God (referred to in the chart near the bottom below as an Omni Creator God), a similar Force or Spirit, perhaps instantiating an Ultimate Reality (and moving into this one), or a human-like or otherwise natural manifestation of divine or “super” characteristics. In general, human beings everywhere without thinking much about it recognize that nature has severely profane aspects, or there would be no moral or sacred.

Please take only 3:71 minutes to watch the three videos at top featuring Professors Rodney Stark and Jay Ford. They offer a 30,000-foot overview of the many ways human beings think about God today from West-to-East. Dr. Stark describes the orthodox, all-powerful, unchanging, personal God of the Bible, being monotheism. Dr. Ford describes other varieties of God some Christians worship and relates It to the Eastern gods of Hinduism and Buddhism, being pantheism or polytheism; he also very briefly compares these Western and Eastern gods to the monotheistic God of Islam.

(In the third video, PC Executive Director Doug Monroe asks the perspiring Dr. Ford under special lighting if he needs some water. The interview was conducted at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where Jay was head of the University’s Religion Department, in the library on a very hot and humid summer afternoon . . . when the air conditioning was broken! He did an amazing job under most difficult circumstances.)


Kinds of Gods and Reason


The Bible’s first two sentences, Genesis 1:1-2, quoted at top introduce the reader to two of the three types of Gods that dominate the world today, the Creator God and Spirit (or Force). The New Testament introduces the third type in human form (divine manifestation in nature). Human consciousness through being in the world, constantly using reason and being connected to the world and God through senses, feelings, and emotions, has led Christians, as one example, to the Trinity, a three-in-one God.

While man’s view of the gods has evolved and changed over thousands of years, the Bible’s version of God has endured largely intact. Indeed, as science has progressed, especially since around 1900, a question has become increasingly pressing: How could Genesis’ account of creation have been so accurate when written thousands of years before the development of modern physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, history, and linguistics—to name just a few sciences and social sciences?

How did Genesis get it so right? Its account of creation is astonishing.

Perhaps God revealed Genesis to Moses or other Jewish learned men in the middle of the Second Millennium in words, visions, or dreams that by definition are sacred places. We introduced the concept of revelation in its General and Special forms in God Series I. The same thing seems to happen to human beings today.

We also would suggest that the Jews of Israel then were just as intelligent as they are today (a well-documented fact given their outsized contributions to knowledge, the arts, and progress relative to the world population), and that they used reason to draw conclusions about God and nature’s origins. That’s what all human beings do; when we think about God, we apply reason to personal experience in the world, including Scripture, to draw important conclusions. While conversions to belief in God are perhaps more a matter of experience, feelings, emotion, compassion, or charity, we must use the mind to communicate about God and to process the divine into our worldview.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to attend a council of Jewish tribal leaders taking a few hours off from the hot sun in 1446 BC to debate creation and God, while remaining lost in the Wilderness?

They probably would have discussed the constantly changing world of what today we call matter and energy, from ice-to-steam and their own bodies growing and healing, start and end, cause and effect, life, growth, maturation, death, and rebirth, never nothing into something, nothing that exists ever creating itself, the obvious building blocks of nature in time, geological and natural finds, the world’s topography and weather (usually terrifying), the changing, stable, yet predictable heavenly firmament, including the sun and moon, the hierarchies and relationships of life on earth, the role of thought, word, and deed in shaping nature, the fundamental elements of earth, water, wind, and fire, that larger things seem built from smaller elements, the principle that more seems to produce or combine creatively into less (but not vice versa, producing what today we call entropy), differentiation, dialogue, contra-dances (yin and yang), thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, the differences between God, man, animal, and plant relative to the fundamental, “non-living” elements, and, perhaps, to repeat, all the evidence in general of nature over time, involving flora, fauna, and even fossils. Not to mention the significant evidence for the spiritual world that manifests in regular human time & space – such a big topic that it demands another paragraph as long as this one, to be the subject of future PC interviews and posts. The evidence of a beautiful, yet dangerous world lay all around these early Jewish geniuses. Historians today have even determined roughly when and where the Flood might have occurred and how in the Wilderness mana actually might have fallen from heaven to keep these men alive, if God didn’t push the mana button Himself (which is always possible).

Such human thoughts all over the world produced the early stages of the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments for the gods or God. The elements of the puzzle were there; the pieces needed assembling. And God or the gods seemed to be communicating.

The point is that revelation from God and personal experience over time, when combined with divine logos in human form (otherwise known as reason), produces narrative that seems quite true and miraculous.

Nothing has changed. The story just gets more fascinating.

Below Genesis 1:1-2 above is Xenophanes’ famous quote uttered nearly a thousand years after Genesis, mocking man’s tendency to anthropomorphize God. While Xenophanes—that way ahead-of-the curve, pre-Socratic Greek philosopher—was right to think that man would increasingly lean toward monotheism and move away from deification of nature, he was also quite wrong: If men were oxen, horses, or lions, God would not be one of them. No, God must be a supernatural being also existing outside of nature with characteristics far beyond man. If oxen, horses, lions, or even monkeys could think like human beings, they would most certainly agree with this conclusion.

In general, while man and woman might somehow resemble God as the “highest form of conscious life” on earth, humanity is obviously nothing compared to God. In other words, less than a gnat in relation to man.

Clearly, all of humanity perceives a fundamental difference between man, animals, and machines in that humankind is conscience of itself, its place in the world, its place in time, and its ability to shape his/her future world different from the past. Plants have no apparent consciousness, and animals, while often exhibiting astonishing intelligence, do not change their circumstances from generation to generation.

Animals are not in any way creative like human beings, and most certainly not like God.

In time, all of man has looked around the world in a universe with increasing wonderment and with knowledge of his own limitations. Man knows what he cannot know and cannot do in contrast to the astounding achievement of Creation. Likely divine logos, reason, and logic—seeming to match the world reliably when applied well—dictates a Designer or Creator.

In sum, Israel’s tribal leaders applied reason to revelation and experience and drew conclusions that in time proved to be far superior to those in Egypt to the West, Babylonia to the East, and centuries later, Greece and Rome to the north (that included Greece’s Socratic superstars). It makes no difference that some creation stories had similarities in given parts of the world. We would expect that because human beings always compare notes, as no doubt Eastern Mediterranean man was doing in the Second Millennium BC.

Furthermore, the Jews saw in their Creator God the moral traits of truth, goodness, and beauty and their derivatives. They examined their own best moral nature, and they believed that this moral nature, when compared to animal nature, had to have come from somewhere, as well. Unfortunately, a discussion of morality here would lead us too far from today’s subject of basic supernatural kinds. It will wait for a further introduction in Series III and other future Circling posts.


Kinds of Religions


In applying reason to personal experience, humanity knew that the gods or God are either real—like the lion, horse, or oxen—or imagined. And if real, God would likely be a being outside of man and produce a true God/man story to go with it. Of course, and again, this true story would itself evolve and radically shape mankind over centuries. Reasoning and truth being binary in nature, when judgment is applied: That story would create different kinds of religions all over the world.

Man wants answers: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is my purpose in life? What do I value? What is truth? (Credit these questions to the Equip Worldview Academy sponsored by the Family Foundation this year in Richmond, Virginia!)

Given all of this, what are the fundamental types of belief in God today? Here is one list provided in Worlds Apart: A Handbook on Worldviews (2003). Most of the world’s dominant religions contain sects that exhibit traits across several of these categories. Deism, panentheism, and finite godism are rarely encountered today. Of course, atheism itself subdivides into dozens of prevalent ideologies:

  1. Atheism – No god at all; only the natural or material world exists.
  2. Monotheism – One infinite, all powerful God exists outside of nature and sustains and influences us (grace/miracles) in important ways.
  3. Polytheism – Many finite gods exist inside nature and influence us in important ways.
  4. Deism – Generally one God who created nature exists but has not influenced it since Creation, having allowed created, natural laws to govern the world.
  5. Panentheism – One God exists outside nature and inside nature, being nature itself. God’s mind exists outside the universe, and the universe itself is God’s body.
  6. Pantheism – God is nature itself; God is the universe.
  7. Finite Godism – Like monotheism, except God beyond the universe is limited in nature and power.

Again, beyond the question of whether God exists and the number of gods, the key questions religions address creating differentiation are: Where is divine being located, what is the relation between the supernatural and natural world (given a dualistic view), what is God’s nature, what is man’s relation and duty to God, and what happens before and after life?

Possible answers, depending on worldview: God is in us, in nature, outside of nature, or all of the above. If God influences us, it must be either directly through our minds or spirit, through nature itself, or directly as a Spirit, Force, or Person. Deists believe God doesn’t influence us through nature itself, with most Deists becoming atheists since Darwin. Orthodox Christians say yes to all of the above divine influence and call this influence grace. It’s doubtful the monotheistic debate over: (1) whether God changes with nature and man, (2) has the power to influence it and us, and (3) uses that power actively to shape us and events . . . will ever end. Much of this debate relates to how to address the issues of evil, pain, and suffering.


Kinds of Gods


At the end of the worldview day (as mentioned in God Series I), to think about God and worldview at all, we must consider at least two worlds: the natural or material world and the theistic or supernatural world. This produces a dualistic vision at minimum. Modern theists and atheists alike have expanded this baseline into many dimensions and even infinite universes.

While the number of options to consider has expanded radically over time, the number of religions man follows has decreased, possibly to the same degree. In other words, if there is God, revelation and competition among ideas are reducing the possibilities in the passage of time, creating real winners and losers.

The table below, entitled Kinds of Supernatural Gods (the word supernatural offers contrast to atheistic worship), presents the 12 most dominant religions in the world today.

Christianity and Islam have the largest following and have spread globally. They have “founders” of sorts, Christ and Muhammad, and they did not exist in 0 AD. Of course, both have their origins in the Bible and the Jewish prophet Abraham. “Hinduism” represents a group of many religions that predate the others in the chart, yet they’ve remained predominantly on the Indian continent. An off-shoot of Hinduism is Buddhism, and it has spread globally. Obviously, religions that retain ethnic, racial, or sexual requirements have demonstrated more limited growth potential.


Kinds of Supernatural Gods
Religion % of World Population Began Location God Type Name Worldview Type
1. Christainity 29% (2.2B) 30-33 AD Worldwide Creator Omni God God Monotheism
Trinity Spirit, Christ
2. Islam 23% (1.6B) 622 AD Worldwide Creator Omni God Allah Monotheism
3. Hinduism 13.5% (1B) 2500 BC India Force with Brahman Pantheism
Polytheistic Vishnu Polytheism
Manifestations Shiva, Brahma
4. Buddhism 6.7% (500M) 5-400 BC Worldwide - None-to-Some Buddha Atheism
Asia Theism
Total 72.2% (5.3B) Polytheism
5. Sikhism <1% (25M) 14-1500 AD India Spirit Naam-Sanskrit Theism
6. Taoism <1% (8-20M) 6-500 BC China Ultimate Reality (UR) + Tao Atheism
borrowed polytheism Pantheism
7. Judaism <1% (16M) 1800 BC Worldwide - Creator Omni God Yahweh Monotheism
Israel - U.S. Polytheism
8. Confuscianism <1% (6M) 6-500 BC China - Korea Force-UR Tian Polytheism
9. Bahaism <1% (5M) 18-1900 AD India - Iran Creator Omni God God Pantheism
10. Shinto <1% (3-4M) Unknown Japan Spirits Kami Polytheism
11. Jainism <1% (4M) 700 BC India No Supreme God but lesser "divines" N/A Atheism
12. Zoroastianism <1% / (124-200K) Unknown - India - Iran Creator God Ahura Mazda Polytheism
12-600 BC Evil God Angra Mainyu
Information in all columns from "12 Major World Religions" by Jason Boyett (2016), except "Worldview Type" from "Worlds Apart: A Handbook on Worldviews" (2003) by Norman Geisler and William Watkins.


God or gods have similar characteristics across varying religions, yet they remain different enough to maintain separate religions. Moreover, humans see God or the gods as having varying degrees of influence on the world and man from none to complete determination of events.

Moreover, every major religion listed above contains strands, sects, or denominations that fall across the neat categories. There are other possible metaphysical permutations, but only small groups hold these beliefs. For example, some who see themselves as Catholics are pantheists, and some who see themselves as Christian are monists, seeing all of reality as spirit, denying the existence of matter.

As options and permutations multiply, logical possibility in relation to perceived human experience becomes more of a stretch. Like galaxies in the universe, religions encounter each other and sometimes fall together, with some being changed or eliminated. For example, try to imagine an infinite number and kinds of gods all with the same omni-powers both inside and outside the universe. Could this make sense? While this doesn’t make sense in the West, radical polytheism with monotheistic traits elsewhere has mutated into pantheism or panentheism.

In other words, when worldviews grow quite similar, they tend to collapse into each other. When they move too far away from what regular people are willing to believe, they disappear.

Most of the 12 or so largest religions that exist around the world today are “tried and true” over centuries. Clearly, Christianity and Islam seem to be covering the most bases or meeting the most human needs. Why? Well, it’s our thinking that this is what one would expect from the strongest cultures—or better yet, truth and reality.




Next time in our Series on God, God III, we will zero in on the most popular God in the world, the personal God of Christianity. In the meantime, we hope you’ve had a Happy Father’s and Juneteenth Day, and, if a golf fan, we hope you’ve enjoyed the Men’s U.S. Open. (Congrats, Wyndham Clark.)

Finally, in honor of Father’s Day, here’s Dennis Praeger on why the Bible uses “he” in the Bible as the pronoun for God. The answer: Those Jewish geniuses didn’t have a choice (no neuter pronoun existed in Hebrew); it wasn’t their fault! (Actually, they didn’t see God as one sex or the other and still don’t, like all orthodox monotheists.)

But seriously, they knew men are the problem on earth and need a strong role model offering clear rules. In other words, if God was going to remain in the audience of history by separating “the heavens from the earth” (see the quote at top), then, to keep the peace and ensure life in this world continues to progress toward a better, more peaceful place under the sun, God at times might need to be a man.

Or else . . .

In sum, as those Jewish tribal leaders knew: If God is real, then we have to think of God some darn way.





The picture below shows select sources pulled from the PC library read over the years that touch on today’s content. They concern the evolution worldwide of God over human history, religious worldview categorization, and the religious nature of man. They do not focus on God in detail (e.g., the Christian God), “apologetic” arguments for God or the supernatural either from theology, philosophy, science, or, most important, personal experience (which have been or will be squarely in PC’s focus), evidence supporting the Bible, or the application of Christianity to human existence and society. All are excellent books, given their intended purposes:

The Religions of Man, Huston Smith (1965, 2013)

The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, Mircea Eliade (1959, 1987)

The Compact Guide to World Religions, Dean Halverson, Editor (1996)

God is not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World, Stephen Prothero ((2011)

A History of God: The 4,000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Karen Armstrong (1994)

Discovering God: The Origins o the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief, Rodney Stark (2008)

The Evolution of God, Robert Wright (2010)

And Man Created God: A History of the World at the Time of Jesus, Selina O’Grady (2013)

The Divine Quest: A Comparative Study of Ultimate Realities, James Ford (2016)

Worlds Apart: A Handbook on Worldviews, Norman Geisler and William Watkins (2003)

12 Major World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity’s Most Influential Faiths, Jason Boyett (2016)