Theism (issarakàranavàdi) is the belief in an all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing God who created and controls the universe. It is one of the four false views (A.I,173), together with materialism (lokàyatavàda), kammic determinism (sabbaü pubbekatahetu) and randomism (ahetuvàda).
Buddhism’s main objection to theism is that God’s supposed attributes contradict each other. If he (some gods are feminine, others have no gender) really created and controls everything then he must be responsible for all the suffering in the world. ‘If God really designs the life of the world, humans are just his instruments and he is responsible for glory and misery, for all the good and all the evil’ (Ja.VI,208). If God is really omniscient this means that humans have no freedom and thus God’s function as arbiter of right and wrong, rewarder of good and punisher of evil, becomes redundant. If God is really all-powerful and can stop massive disasters like earthquakes, floods and tsunamis but does not, he could not be all-loving. From the Buddhist perspective, human spiritual consciousness could be said to move through three stages - polytheism, theism and non-theism. Primitive peoples attributed different natural occurrences and forces to different deities. Later all these were attributed to a single deity. In its highest and most sophisticated stage, the human mind understands that things happen as a part of the order of nature and not because of a deity. It is interesting to note that these three stages roughly correspond to the periods when people lived in tribes, when they were governed by autocratic monarchs and finally when democratic and scientific thinking became dominant.
- Buddhism: A Non-theistic Religion, H. von Glasenapp, 1970.