Non-theistic Religions: What Are These Types Of Beliefs, And Examples

Non-theistic religions

There are many religious movements that have emerged throughout history, some of which still have millions and millions of followers.

However, not all religions share the same characteristics. In this article we are going to focus on the so-called non-theistic religions We will discover what this type of creed consists of and what are some of the most representative examples that we can find.

Non-theistic religions are belief systems that do not revolve around the worship or belief in a personal deity or supreme being. Instead, they focus on philosophical principles, ethical codes, and spiritual practices that guide individuals in their quest for meaning, morality, and fulfillment. We delve into the diversity, beliefs, and cultural significance of non-theistic religions around the world.

What are non-theistic religions?

When we talk about non-theistic religions, a quick and brief definition would be that they are those creeds in which belief in a god does not appear or is not essential Therefore, they would be a set of beliefs and standards of conduct, with the difference with respect to theistic religions, that they would not worship a god.

It may seem strange and even paradoxical or contradictory to use the expression of non-theistic religions, but in reality this perception arises from the relationship that our society has traditionally had with certain religions, such as Catholic Christianity, and more distantly, Judaism and Islam. . All of them are theists, specifically, monotheists, which means that they believe in one God.

In contrast to them, non-theistic religions would be presented. We will be able to see some examples we will see later in detail in the next point of this same article.

Some definitions of religion introduce the element of belief in a divinity as one of the requirements, so for those descriptions, non-theistic ones could not be considered religions. But other definitions, on the contrary, consider the possibility of having a certain creed and carrying out religious practices without it being essential to believe in a god.

On the other hand, Some authors prefer to distinguish between the concept of religion and spirituality, as do the American professors Peter Mandaville and Paul James According to its definition, non-theistic religions would have a place within the idea of ​​religion, since they do not establish the requirement of belief in a god or gods to be included in this category.

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Examples of non-theistic religions

Now that we have a general idea of ​​what non-theistic religions imply, we can rely on a series of examples that will strengthen this understanding. Some of them refer to religions known to a large part of our society, while others may be more surprising.

1. Buddhism

Buddhism is probably the greatest exponent when it comes to non-theistic religions. With more than 500 million followers, practically 7% of the world’s population, this religion is the fourth largest, behind the three great monotheists that we have already mentioned before (Christianity, Islam and Judaism).

Like any religion, Buddhism involves a set of beliefs, such as the Four Noble Truths that, in a very summary way, teach how to free oneself from suffering by abandoning desire and achieving nirvana. To achieve this objective, an eight-step path is proposed.

Likewise, concepts such as Samsara are taught, which speaks of cyclical existence, or karma, which refers to the intentionality of actions and how they accumulate. In addition to these and other beliefs, Yes, there is talk of the existence of divine entities known as devas, but they are alien to us, so they would not be essential for the creed That is why this is one of the non-theistic religions.

On the other hand, Buddha did not establish the idea that there was an omnipotent god who created all existence, since he determines that this question is not relevant to his teachings. Therefore, although the existence of these devas is mentioned, it would not be a conception of a god as presented by monotheistic religions, for example.

2. Non-theist or Quaker friends

Another non-theistic religion is that of the so-called Quakers or non-theistic friends, who They emerged as a result of the Religious Society of Friends, a split of Protestant Christians, differing from the main group in not having the need for belief in a higher being that is, from God, to believe and practice the values ​​that had been instilled in them.

Although the Quaker group emerged in the mid-17th century in England, the group of non-theists began to have relevance during the 1930s, when the group known as the Humanist Society of Friends was formed, which later became part of the American Humanist Association.

They were not formally conceived as one of the non-theistic religions until, in 1952, they published a publication in which the non-theism of their creed was explicitly mentioned.

3. Atheistic Hinduism

It may be surprising that Hinduism is included in non-theistic religions, since it has traditionally been identified as a polytheistic creed, that is, it has many gods to believe in. However, the reality is that Hinduism is a very broad concept, which encompasses very different ways of understanding said religion

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Therefore, within the more than 1.1 billion people who share this ancient creed, almost 5,000 years old, there is a group that practices polytheism, another that would define itself as monotheistic, another that believes in monism, and finally There would be atheists, who would be the ones who would convert that part of Hinduism into one of the non-theistic religions.

Even within that grouping, there are a whole series of aspects. One of the most important would be Charvaka, with a hedonistic and materialistic nature To a certain extent, his creed reflects the values ​​of the Epicurean philosophical movement.

4. Liberal Christianity

If it was surprising to include Hinduism within non-theistic religions, it is even more surprising to do the same with Christianity. And there is a branch of this religion, liberal Christianity, which It embraces Christian teachings and values, but under a contemporary prism and without the need to believe in God as this religion has done in a traditional way

This aspect of Christianity appeared as a contrast to the strong atheist rationalist movement, but also to the strictest dogmas of the Holy Scriptures and the dictates of the Church.

Another characteristic of liberal Christianity is the no need to believe in the miracles of Jesus. On the contrary, it focuses solely on the teachings that he transmitted through his word, which for the followers of this non-theistic religion, is what is really important.

Likewise, it must be taken into account that liberal Christians are not the only example of religions without belief in a god that have emerged within Christianity, since the non-theistic Quakers, which we have already seen previously, also represent a split within the bulk of this majority religion.

5. Jainism

Continuing with the list of non-theistic religions, we find Jainism. Jains consider that there are natural laws of a universal nature, which would in some way be an approximation to the laws of physics. But They consider that all the elements that exist in the universe have always existed

Therefore, they do not believe that there is a higher being, a god, who created everything. Simply put, he has always existed. On the contrary, they believe that there is the jiva, which would be the vital energy and souls, and the ajiva, referring to inert matter. Souls, like everything else, have not been generated by a god, but have existed and will always exist, throughout eternity.

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Like Buddhism, in Jainism there are devas, celestial beings who would be on a different plane than human beings, but that does not mean they are an omnipotent and creative deity in which to believe. This is why Jainism is another of the non-theistic religions.

6. Taoism

Taoism, originating in China, centers on the concept of the Tao, or the Way, as the underlying principle of reality. Taoist practices include meditation, harmonizing with nature, and cultivating balance and simplicity in life. While Taoism incorporates reverence for celestial beings and ancestral spirits, it does not emphasize worship of a personal deity.

7. Confucianism

Confucianism, a philosophical and ethical tradition from China, focuses on principles of moral conduct, social harmony, and filial piety. Confucian teachings emphasize ethical relationships, self-cultivation, and virtuous living, but do not include belief in a transcendent deity or creator.

8. Philosophical currents

Although they are not a religion in the strict sense of the definition, there are philosophical currents that are so close to what we could include within non-theistic religions, that they deserve a separate mention. We have, for example, Chinese Taoism, whose principles serve to ensure that its followers are in harmony with what they call Tao, which would be the path.

Ruism or Confucianism is another example of Chinese philosophy that approaches the religious way of life. There is also Epicureanism, established by the Greek philosopher, Epicurus, 300 years before Christ. Pandeism or deism would represent other examples added to what could practically be considered non-theistic religions.

Beliefs and Practices

Non-theistic religions share common beliefs and practices, including:

  • Emphasis on ethical conduct, compassion, and altruism
  • Meditation, mindfulness, and spiritual cultivation
  • Rituals, ceremonies, and festivals to mark significant life events and seasonal changes
  • Study of sacred texts, philosophical teachings, and moral precepts
  • Respect for the interconnectedness of all living beings and the natural world

Cultural Significance

Non-theistic religions have had a profound impact on culture, philosophy, and society throughout history:

  • They have inspired art, literature, and architecture, reflecting spiritual and philosophical themes.
  • They have influenced moral and ethical frameworks, shaping laws, governance, and social norms.
  • They have fostered a sense of community, belonging, and shared values among adherents, promoting social cohesion and mutual support.

Non-theistic religions offer rich traditions, philosophical insights, and ethical principles that guide individuals in their quest for meaning, morality, and spiritual fulfillment. By exploring the diversity, beliefs, and cultural significance of non-theistic religions, we gain a deeper understanding of humanity’s spiritual and philosophical aspirations.