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What do we call a person who believes in god but not in a particular religion?

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Related:english.stackexchange.com/q/45390/8019 –  TimLymington Aug 28 '12 at 16:49

3 Answers 3

up vote 25 down vote accepted

A theist is a very general term for someone who believes at least one god exists.

Barrie’s answer of deist specifically refers to the notion that the existence of a god is evident from reason and the observation of the universe, but such a god does not intervene in the lives of humans.

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Technically, theism implies a belief that the god intervenes in the universe. See WP, ODO, m-w etc. –  coleopterist Aug 28 '12 at 17:06
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There are also the agnostics, the antitheists, the spinozans, and probably a couple of other shades to account for. –  coleopterist Aug 28 '12 at 17:24
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Agnosticism, in the coin model, is the edge of the coin; they assert that we can neither prove not disprove the existence of any god. Spinozism is a subset of Deism seeking to explain his nature and involvement beyond our ability to detect or understand. Antitheism is simply more atheism; though some religions either assert there is no god (Buddhism) or accept that as a valid viewpoint (Hinduism), in Western culture if you call yourself "atheist" you reject the basic premise of Abrahamic religion, and are thus antitheist. –  KeithS Aug 28 '12 at 18:13
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Well now we're getting into implicit/explicit atheism and weak/strong atheism. You're exactly right that you can be an "atheist" without opposing religion, but being a "strong atheist" pretty much requires it. An "implicit atheist" simply does not assert there is a god. An "explicit atheist" personally denies belief in a god, but does not go so far as to say that "there is a god" is a false statement. A "strong atheist" does make that assertion. Strong atheists are antitheists. –  KeithS Aug 28 '12 at 19:55
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@KeithS Only in the sense that a strong Christian is an antijew. You can believe there isn't a god without being against religion. There are an absurd number of branches of belief, why must lack of belief be so polarised? –  Phoshi Aug 28 '12 at 19:58

A deist in the OED’s definition, is ‘One who acknowledges the existence of a God upon the testimony of reason, but rejects revealed religion.’

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Whether this is correct depends whether the poster meant "believes in God but explicitly rejects all religion" or "believes in God but we do't want to be so specific as to say he believes in any particular religion". Like, Jews, Christians, Moslems, Hindus, etc are all theists, but none are deists. –  Jay Aug 28 '12 at 21:21

To begin with, there are many ways to describe “a person who believes in [G]od” (or gods). Believer, theist, etc., can be used when the context already makes clear which particular god(s) are meant, or when it does not matter. When you also want to identify the god(s), you can often find a particular word, such as Christian for a person who believes in Jesus Christ.

Then there are many ways to describe a person who does not believe “in a particular religion”. If the person does not believe in any religion, they are unreligious or not religious. If you mean a particular religion, you can often construct a description using not or non, such as: non Muslim or not Buddhist. (In a noun phrase, these will generally be hyphenated, as in: “non-Jewish Israeli”.)

To identify both in a person together becomes more of a puzzle. Depending on your needs, you might try the popular “spiritual but not religious”, or something like “non-sectarian Christian”. Or, if you are describing the person from the point of view of the religion they don’t believe in, heretic, apostate, or atheist

Notes

  1. The word atheist was coined by believers as an epithet for a person who is estranged from the gods or abandoned by them, and is still used in that sense by believers to mean a person who rejects their religion: Gk. atheos "without god, denying the gods; abandoned of the gods; godless, ungodly". (Online Etymology Dictionary) Atheists themselves adopted the word much later.
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protected by RegDwigнt Jan 14 '13 at 11:50

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