In monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the Supreme Being and the principal object of faith. The concept of God, as described by theologians, commonly includes the attributes of omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (unlimited power), omnipresence (present everywhere), and as having an eternal and necessary existence. Depending on one’s kind of theism, these attributes are used either in way of analogy, or in a literal sense as distinct properties of the God.

God is most often held to be incorporeal (immaterial), and to be without gender, although many religions describe God using masculine terminology, using such terms as "Him" or "Father" and some religions (such as Judaism) attribute only a purely grammatical "gender" to God.[6] Incorporeity and corporeity of God are related to conceptions of transcendence (being outside nature) and immanence (being in nature, in the world) of God, with positions of synthesis such as the "immanent transcendence".

God has been conceived as either personal or impersonal. In theism, God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, while in deism, God is the creator, but not the sustainer, of the universe. In pantheism, God is the universe itself. In atheism, God is not believed to exist, while God is deemed unknown or unknowable within the context of agnosticism. God has also been conceived as the source of all moral obligation, and the "greatest conceivable existent". Many notable philosophers have developed arguments for and against the existence of God.

The many different conceptions of God, and competing claims as to God's characteristics, aims, and actions, have led to the development of ideas of omnitheism, pandeism,[8] or a perennial philosophy, which postulates that there is one underlying theological truth, of which all religions express a partial understanding, and as to which "the devout in the various great world religions are in fact worshipping that one God, but through different, overlapping concepts or mental images of Him."

This argument has produced few converts, as Pascal would not have been surprised to learn. He knew that people cannot change their beliefs at will. We can’t muscle our mind into believing something we take to be false, not even when the upside is an eternity of happiness. Pascal’s solution is that you start by pretending to believe: attend church, speak the prayers, adopt religious habits. If you walk and talk like a believer, eventually you’ll come to think as one. He says, “This will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness.”

But many of us recoil at this suggestion. We don’t want to lie to ourselves. Say there were a pill that would do the trick: Pop it in your mouth and you’ll be a religious believer. Someone convinced by Pascal’s argument — at least to the extent of thinking that believing is the best bet — might nonetheless refuse to take this pill. She might be repulsed by the thought of going behind her own back to acquire this belief.


Monotheists refer to their gods using names prescribed by their respective religions, with some of these names referring to certain cultural ideas about their god's identity and attributes. In the ancient Egyptian era of Atenism, possibly the earliest recorded monotheistic religion, this deity was called Aten,[10] premised on being the one "true" Supreme Being and creator of the universe.[11] In the Hebrew Bible and Judaism, "He Who Is", "I Am that I Am", and the tetragrammaton YHWH (Hebrew: יהוה‎, traditionally interpreted as "I am who I am"; "He Who Exists") are used as names of God, while Yahweh and Jehovah are sometimes used in Christianity as vocalizations of YHWH. In the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, God, consubstantial in three persons, is called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In Judaism, it is common to refer to God by the titular names Elohim or Adonai. In Islam, the name Allah is used, while Muslims also have a multitude of titular names for God. In Hinduism, Brahman is often considered a monistic concept of God.[12] In Chinese religion, God (Shangdi) is conceived as the progenitor (first ancestor) of the universe, intrinsic to it and constantly ordaining it. Other religions have names for God, for instance, Baha in the Bahá'í Faith,[13] Waheguru in Sikhism,[14] and Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism.[15]

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