Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

12.5: Patterns of Belief

  • Page ID
  • Patterns of belief focused on one or more god of extrahuman origin is called a theism. The pattern may be a reflection of social organization, e.g., the more centralized and stratified the society, the fewer gods.

    • Monotheism: belief in one god (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)
    • Henotheism: worship of only one god, while acknowledging that other gods exist. Henotheists do not necessarily view other gods as legitimate objects of worship, even while acknowledging they exist (Hinduism)
    • Polytheism: belief in many gods (Aztec, ancient Greeks, Egyptians)


    1. Bonvillain, Nancy. 2010. Cultural Anthropology, 2nd edition. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.
    2. Lavenda Robert H. and Emily A. Schultz. 2010. Core Concepts in Cultural Anthropology, 4th edition. Boston: McGraw Hill Higher Education.
    3. Laufer, Berthold. 1917. Origin of the word shaman. American Anthropologist 19 (3): 361-371. Also, DOI: 10.1525/aa.1917.19.3.02a00020 (October 28, 2009).
    4. Warms, Richard. 2008. Sacred Realms: Readings in the Anthropology of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.