Types of Religions
Scholars from a variety of disciplines have strived to classify religions. One widely accepted categorization that helps people understand different belief systems considers what or who people worship (if anything). Using this method of classification, religions might fall into one of these basic categories, as shown in .
|Religious Classification||What/Who Is Divine||Example|
|Polytheism||Multiple gods||Belief systems of the ancient Greeks and Romans|
|Monotheism||Single god||Judaism, Islam|
|Animism||Nonhuman beings (animals, plants, natural world)||Indigenous nature worship (Shinto)|
|Totemism||Human-natural being connection||Ojibwa (Native American) beliefs|
Note that some religions may be practiced—or understood—in various categories. For instance, the Christian notion of the Holy Trinity (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit) defies the definition of monotheism, which is a religion based on belief in a single deity, to some scholars. Similarly, many Westerners view the multiple manifestations of Hinduism’s godhead aspolytheistic, which is a religion based on belief in multiple deities,, while Hindus might describe those manifestations are a monotheistic parallel to the Christian Trinity. Some Japanese practice Shinto, which followsanimism, which is a religion that believes in the divinity of nonhuman beings, like animals, plants, and objects of the natural world, while people who practicetotemism believe in a divine connection between humans and other natural beings.
It is also important to note that every society also has nonbelievers, such as atheists, who do not believe in a divine being or entity, and agnostics, who hold that ultimate reality (such as God) is unknowable. While typically not an organized group, atheists and agnostics represent a significant portion of the population. It is important to recognize that being a nonbeliever in a divine entity does not mean the individual subscribes to no morality. Indeed, many Nobel Peace Prize winners and other great humanitarians over the centuries would have classified themselves as atheists or agnostics.