Religious Views: Atheism, Agnosticism & Theism

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Religion: Key Concepts and Definitions

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:08 Religious Views
  • 0:59 Theism
  • 2:32 Atheism
  • 3:44 Agnosticism
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Long-Crowell

Erin has an M.Ed in adult education and a BS in psychology and a BS in management systems.

Sociology of religion is a large branch of sociology. The different views on deities are studied as part of this topic. In this lesson, we compare and contrast the views of theism, atheism, and agnosticism.

Religious Views

What effect does media have on religious belief? How does religion affect non-religious aspects of society? How many religions believe in the same God? These are all questions that are asked in sociology of religion, a popular branch of sociology. Sociologists study how religions and systems of belief affect society as a whole. At the center of most religions is the belief or disbelief of one or more deities.

In other lessons, we'll discuss the concept of religion in more depth and also discuss ideologies of some of the largest religions in the world. In this lesson, the focus is on understanding the difference between theistic, atheist, and agnostic views on deities.


Theism, in its most basic form, is belief that one or more deities exist. The term theism derives from the Greek word 'theos,' which means 'god.' Theists include all individuals who believe in one god or multiple gods. The majority of the world's population are theists.

Theism is the core of most religions; the beliefs of Christianity, Judaism, and hundreds more are theistic. Of course, the deity or deities they believe in and how each group of people practice their beliefs are different. It's important to note that someone who is theistic isn't necessarily a member of a certain religion.

For example, Emma, Tommy, and Warren are all theists. Emma is a devout Christian who regularly attends church. Tommy believes there is one God but does not identify with any particular religion. Warren believes in multiple gods whose stories have been passed down through his family.

Although there are many different types of theism, the two that are frequently compared are monotheism and polytheism. Monotheism is belief in a single god and includes religions like Christianity and Judaism. Polytheism is belief in multiple gods and includes religions like Hinduism and Wicca.


Often contrasted with theism is atheism, which is disbelief of the existence of any deity. The term derives from the Greek word 'atheos,' which means 'without god(s).' Atheism is on the rise all over the world. According to a 2012 global poll, approximately 13% of the world's population are self-reported atheists.

Like theists, individual belief (or disbelief) systems of atheists can vary. Although many people think of atheists as anti-religion, that is not always the case. Many atheists believe that there are no forces or entities which exist outside of physical nature. At the same time, atheism is actually part of some nontheistic religions like Buddhism, which believe in mystic forces, just not god(s). For example, Holly identifies herself as a Hindu. She believes deities do not exist, but she does believe in karma and reincarnation. Therefore, Holly is a member of a religion and an atheist at the same time.


The last concept we'll discuss in this lesson is agnosticism, which is the view that the existence of any deity is unknown and unknowable. Where theism and atheism deal with belief, agnosticism deals with knowledge. The term comes from the Greek words 'a' (without) and 'gnosis' (knowledge). Agnosticism, then, literally means 'without knowledge' of the existence of gods.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account