people who believe in God, not in religion

Discussion in 'English Only' started by epistolario, Nov 23, 2008.

  1. epistolario

    epistolario Senior Member

    I have heard some people who claim to believe in God, but they don't believe in religion. They would consider themselves agnostic, and they refuse to join any religious group. Yesterday, my brother and I debated on the meaning of the word, and he was right when I looked it up. What is the right term for this group of people? I'm not sure if they fit the definition of a deist or there is another more precise term.
  2. losilmer

    losilmer Senior Member

    The agnostic think that people cannot know anything with certainty. So, they don't deny God, neither affirm there is a God, because they say they cannot know.
    A deist believe that there is a God or several gods. The contrary is an atheist. Now, a deist is also a person who believes in one God who created but does not intervene in the universe. You could also called a deist a theist.
  3. Pidginboy Senior Member

    India-Local dialect
    Theists, nihilists, and pagans are some words which crossed my minds.
  4. losilmer

    losilmer Senior Member

    Nihilism - It is kind of extreme scepticism, that denies all existence.
    But also a total rejection of religion or moral principles, saying that life has no meaning at all. Nihilists were many in 19-cent. Russia. Nihil is Latin for "nothing". There is also in English the word "nil"=nothing.
    Pagan is different. The word refers rather to non-Christians or followers of ancient religions (Rome, Greece). But pagans are deists, and more so, because they usually believe in many deities.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2008
  5. Cypherpunk Senior Member

    Springdale, AR
    US, English
    Actually, Christian and Buddhist were the first words to come to my mind. I'm sure others could be included. I know people who believe the central tenets of one or the other, but they choose not to affiliate themselves with a particular church, because they have a mistrust of churches and their hierarchical nature, or the institution(s) of religion.
  6. losilmer

    losilmer Senior Member

    This is a difficult area. If a person believes in God, but not in religion, that person could be a deist or theist, but not an agnostic. Christians believe both in God and in religion (Christianity). Buddhists believe in religion (Buddhism), and they do not tackle the issue of God, but that of their own happiness (nirvana).

    The people ffrancis allude (they believe in God, but not in religion) are deists, but not religionists.
  7. Cypherpunk Senior Member

    Springdale, AR
    US, English
    Actually, agnostics may or may not believe. They lack certainty about religion or God's existence, which is not the same as saying s/he does not exist.

    And, you missed my point. I was referring to the institution of religion (see def. 2): churches, hierarchy, national and international organizations, and so on. A great many of my friends consider themselves Christian, have Christian beliefs, but refuse to associate with a church, because they have a strong mistrust of religion. In my experience, Buddhists are even less likely to believe in religion...

    Let's keep in mind that we are discussing how these terms are actually used by native speakers, not reiterating dictionary definitions. :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2008
  8. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Deism is a particular set of religious, philosophical and intellectual beliefs. You can read an introduction to it in Wiki.

    Theism is a more general term that relates to the belief in one or more god(s). Deriving from it, we have pantheism and monotheism.

    In my circles(*), I sometimes hear "spiritual" as an adjective referring to people who say they believe in God but don't adhere to any religion.

    (*)Fair disclosure. I am a Catholic nun. The terms I suggest, though, don't seem to be restricted to Catholics or to clergy.
  9. Aardvark01

    Aardvark01 Senior Member

    Midlands, England
    British English (Midlands)
    People who do not attach themselves to a religion while holding that there is a God or gods often call themselves 'spiritual but not religious'.
    In this way of thinking the institutions of religion can be likened to a container, with 'the spiritual' being the substance to be contained. Many people distrust the idea of being contained:
    ... no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined... Mark 2:22

    A theist may or may not be religious (in the above sense) and may believe in one God or many.
    A mono-theist only believes there is one God above all others.
    A non-conformist monotheist may be part of a group/structure but outside the traditional religious structures.

    For a precise label, extending these terms to describe an individual, one would be an Independent (Non-Conformist) Monotheist.
  10. Hermocrates Senior Member

    Italian & British English (bilingual)
    I can relate. After a brief flirtation with Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism and whatnot, I came up to the conclusion that I am a "spiritual - not religious" person.

    In my point of view "spirituality" is an intimate human need (so, "spiritual" as an adjective refers to this need and its context). Religion, on the other hand, carries connotations that deal with specific traditions, doctrines, history, society, and so on. Religion is about a set of beliefs and practices that not necessarily a "spiritual" person follows. Hence "religious" referred to a person implies this "social" connotation as well.

    This is at least how I discriminate between the two terms.

  11. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    The term agnostic is not limited to those who hold that it is impossible to know whether God exists. It can also be applied to those who are personally uncertain, regardless of their philosophical position.
  12. losilmer

    losilmer Senior Member

    I have heard the word sceptic or skeptic for a person who casts doubts on substantial parts of a religion. Some friends of mine have told me that they believe in God, but not in priests or pastors, falling then within that category. And they even consider themselves more religious or pure than those who go to church. In my cultural world these people can be labeled "sceptics". I have also heard that they use to entitle themselves agnostics, (Using Kevin Beach's term)

    Does anyone know if the term "sceptic" is used in some English-speaking country for these referred-to persons?
  13. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    How about nondenominational?
  14. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    In my experience, sceptic/ skeptic by itself refers to people who are doubtful about the objects of belief, including, possibly the existence of a deity. Otherwise, people may be skeptical about practices of various institutions, various doctrines, the efficacy of organized religion, etc., but the object of doubt would be specified.

    nondenominational might apply in certain situations. As I understand it, it doesn't suggest a rejection of formal religion, but a preference for an inclusive acceptance of the many forms of religious practice.

    To be able to answer ffrancis' question well, we really need to know more about what these people do believe. The reference to God in the original post implies that they are monotheists, as has been noted above. Or, is the term the original poster is looking for meant to include a broader range of religious beliefs?
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2008
  15. mirx Banned

    Aren't we going too far?

    I think it is pretty simple.

    You belive in a god or gods, you are a deist.

    Whether religious practices are included here is enough thread for another thread altogether.

    Some mentioned the word spiritual, this word is not only applicable for those ones who believe in a god but that are not religious. Many atheists declare themselves "spiritual", as they do believe in their own spirit and their inner wellbeing.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2008
  16. Aardvark01

    Aardvark01 Senior Member

    Midlands, England
    British English (Midlands)
    Too far? I shall go further and say that any label we come up with to describe the group of 'people who believe in God, not in religion', will quickly become the name of a new religion.

    This has happened to 'Deism/Deist', which already has defined beliefs about the nature of God and the universe:
    : a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe .
  17. mirx Banned

    Perhaps strictly speaking you are right, but then again I presume Ffrancis meant none of the existing religions.

    So I still believe that deist/theist (which are not the same) are the obvious option. Any other concept will fall into too specific terminology that no one will ever agree on. Plus, you have already implied that there's no such thing as "somene who believes in God but not in religion".

    I say we keep it simple.

  18. losilmer

    losilmer Senior Member

    mirx offers the word deist. And he adds theist. I totally agree.

    The meaning should be People who claim to believe in God, but they don't believe in religion.

    In post #6 above, I stated that these people are deists, and I cannot find another more fitting name.

    Are there any more options restricted to the same meaning?
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2008
  19. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Regarding deist, please see post 8.

    Theist could work, but I think the original poster was asking for words used in common conversation. Neither of these fits that bill.
  20. Aardvark01

    Aardvark01 Senior Member

    Midlands, England
    British English (Midlands)
    I agree because I use deist and theist (imprecisely) to descibe this group, of which I used to be a member (though not a fully paid up one of course;)). However I do so knowing that I may have to explain (for precision's sake) that I do not necessarily mean:
    Deism: a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe .

    In speech it is tricky pronouncing the lower case 'd'. I guess we could say "deist with a small 'd'" in the way that I might call myself a catholic with a small 'c' or a liberal with a small 'L'.
  21. lt.supervisor New Member

    Simply Put I Am Non Religious and I Believe in GOD.

    If Asked "Do I Believe In GOD" I say Yes.

    If That Question Is Followed By "What Religion Are You?" I say
    I Am Not Religious.

    If That Leads To More Questions I will Reply Truthfuly.

    If There Are No More Questions I will Leave It At That.

    The Easiest Way To Put It Is: I Don't Have Time For
    Religion, I Am To Busy Loveing God, and man As Jesus

    Either Way It Will Probably Leade to a Quite Interesting
    Conversation Between You and The One Doing The Asking.
  22. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    << Welcome to WordReference, lt.supervisor :)
    Greeting inserted by Moderator.>>

    On the topic of the question, I completely agree with everyone who suggested 'deist'. It denotes a belief in a supernatural being, but no belief in any aspect of man-made religions. Someone who believed that Jesus Christ was a supernatural being would not be a deist in my opinion, because then you've gone from 'a god' to 'at least one specific god, with specific teachings' which is a religious belief. But all words used to talk about religious beliefs have complicated histories and meanings, because it's a sensitive subject, so what a word means to one person might mean something completely different to another.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2009
  23. Zindegi New Member

    I myself is one of those that believe in God only. God being a living entity that has no beginning or ending. It is infinite.
    There is no specific term yet to describe people who only believe in God. Yes there are people who don't believe in any religion at all and yet believe in God being something of an imaginary figure comprised by man in a form of a deity whether it be a photo, figurine or any object which is comforting to man as being his God. Some look at Sun or the Moon being God. There are many variations how people perceive God to be whether they are religious or non religious.
    God being a living entity as per my definition and along with others has no shape, form and body. It is invisible and indeterminably beyond our comprehension. It continuously keeps on growing as proven by the birth of new forms of life, new genesis, planets, solar systems and galaxies.
  24. mplsray Senior Member

    I would add that deism does share one belief with many religions other than simply the belief in God, namely that God is the creator of the universe.

    I don't deny the possibility that there may be deists who are agnostic about whether God created the universe or even deists who deny that he did so--perhaps believing that he was co-created with/came into existence at the same time as the universe. I'm just saying that I have never read of or met a deist who did not also believe that the God in which he believed was indeed the creator of the universe.
  25. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    More and more, I hear the simple word "Believer" to describe people who believe in a deity.
  26. linguos

    linguos Senior Member

    I believe that many of us here sometimes tend to confuse philosophical terms with what we use in our everyday life. The former should be rather precise and have some logic behind them, the latter are mostly a matter of usage and tradition.

    As many of this terms come from Greek or Latin and hence are international, nonnative speakers of English may contribute to this topic as much as the natives.

    That's the way I see it:

    Theist usually refers to a person who believes in personal God, who created the world and still actively interferes with the wordly matters.

    Deist believes in a God who only created the universe but does not intervene in any way in its affairs.

    Atheist is convinced that there are no gods whatsoever and deems any religion to be superstitious mumbo jumbo.

    Agnostic is someone who doesn't support any side. Some Agnostics believe that the probability of the existence of God is about fifty-fifty.

    Pantheist is somebody who believes in non-personal supernatural entity that encompasses all aspects of the universe (I think Zindegi falls into this category).

    As I said, I didn't try to describe the absolute definitions of these terms, just what I find to be the most common and traditional way of interpreting them.

    Btw, if someone is practising their faith in god (by praying, meditating, etc.) then he actually is religious, they just don't follow any form of institutional religion and don't belong to any church.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  27. mplsray Senior Member

    I disagree with this assessment. Most agnostics, it seems to me, know very well what side they are on: neither. As for the question of probability, there's no reason to believe that agnostics think the probability that God exists is 50-50. I certainly don't remember having read such an assertion from any agnostic, although I don't deny the possibility that such agnostics exist.
  28. linguos

    linguos Senior Member

    To me that's almost the same as saying that they don't know which side to choose. ;)

    I know many people who call themseves "agnostics" just because they're completely indifferent to these matters. I know also those who are de facto atheists, yet they describe themselves this way because they know it can't be proven that there is no god. Btw, I used to belong to this group.

    As I said before, my suggestions aren't absolute or definite. It's just the way I see these terms based on my very own experience. If you think that what I wrote is rude to agnostics than I can rewrite it to sound more neutral. :)
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  29. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Well, I think the point is that it's not an issue of likelihood with agnostics but a conviction or evaluation that the answer cannot be ascertained.

    I agree that "agnostic" is often used to mean "apathetic". :) I don't believe that's the defined meaning of the word.

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