found this book in the clearance section at Barnes & Nobles-The Watkins Dictionary of Religions and Secular Faiths and its been as interesting as i thought it would be.
religion is the most interesting subject i think one can study. hands down. i plan on studying it formally...sometime in the near future.... and it may sound ironic, but i actually have no belief in any god, gods, goddesses, god-like deities or supernatural entities.reading a book like this confronts you with the varying ideas of theology. they all have such fascinating perspectives on life that can tell you so much about their cultures.
for example, Deism takes the stance that god existed at one point in time, but has since died, probably soon after creation (or so, this is how i learned it in my philosophy classes. the website i gave describes it as basically Pantheism).
early in Hinduism the idea that god appeared after creation was present prior to the concept of the Hindu Trinity.
another book i'm reading, African Religions & Philosophy, talks about the concept of god in a number of different traditional (pre-colonial) African tribes. apparently many traditional African societies had some level of ancestor veneration at one level, and then a concept of a higher, more powerful entity that wasn't involved in the everyday lives of humans. they prayed to their ancestors, acting as mediums, or lesser gods to help them in their lives. when something huge was impending (like a war or severe drought) that needed the intervention of this higher, distant god, then they prayed directly to it. also, a number of them associated the idea of this higher god with something valuable to them, such as water. in many cases, the word for god is the same as their word for water (or so it is roughly translated).
this is a quote describing the way Rene Descartes changed the concept of god, mainly in Christianity:
"Descartes thus settled for a concept of God that was relative rather than absolute; we can only understand God to the extent that we are capable and in that process everyone has different aptitudes. Hence the variety of religious expression and experience."
although many Christians still hold the idea that their god is omnipotent and exists regardless who believes in him, Descartes still had much influence in modern Christianity.
quite interesting, right? for me, these variations in theology reinforce my idea that humans created god(s), but if you hold a belief in a god, then maybe knowing different ideas on god will give you a new perspective... on your religion, on others' religions and on the overall concept of god.
comment. think. question.
also, keep in mind that these "definitions" of different ideas about god are highly (and probably overly) simplified. the Hindu concept of god (which is both polytheistic and monotheistic) is one i'm still working on understanding and something that may never make sense to me. similarly with various traditional African concepts of god.