What is autotheism?

autotheism, autotheist
Question: "What is autotheism? What is an autotheist?"

Answer:
Autotheism is a compound word from the Greek theos, which means “God” or “god”; and autos, which is the word for “self.” An autotheist is one who believes him/herself to be God, and autotheism is the belief that one is deity.

Autotheism and autotheist have two distinct meanings that go to the very heart of the problem between God and man. Although somewhat rare, the words can be used to speak of God’s self-existence. He is God in and of Himself. When Satan entered the Garden of Eden, he offered Eve to opportunity to be “like God” (Genesis 3:5). When Eve rejected God’s command, she did indeed become her own god as she decided she would chart her own course regardless of what God had said.

The terms autotheism and autotheist can be used of human beings who worship themselves or make the claim that they are divine. Autotheism can take a number of different forms, some more subtle than others. You might find someone confined to a mental hospital who declares himself to be God—the God of the Bible or some other god. No doubt, this person’s claim would not be taken very seriously.

However, it is not uncommon to find people functioning in the highest echelons of culture, government, and entertainment who are more subtle autotheists as they reserve for themselves the prerogatives that properly belong to God. Some overtly proclaim themselves to be divine in a New Age sense.

The death metal band The Faceless has an album titled Autotheism. The title cut is performed in three movements lasting over 17 minutes. The lyrics of “Movement I: I Create” express autotheism well:

I consummate this realm through the vision I possess
I rise above consecrated imposition
The pious flame
A flame extinguished from the mind
I will create a new reality

No creator in the heavens above (I am the lightning)
Rest your weary mind
No demons in the furnace below (I am the frenzy)

I have realized I am God
I will descend to the depths of man
Proclaim to the void
Emptying my cup
The starved, weary, thirsting

From God’s barren grave within the garden of untruths
A flower takes bloom and births a new reality
No creator in the heavens above (I am the lightning)
Rest your weary mind
No demons in the furnace below (I am the frenzy)
I have realized I am God.

In this worldview, there is no God (as in the God of the Bible), but each individual is a god unto himself, creating his own reality. The well-known poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henly well summarizes the theology of autotheism, which is popularly palatable, even in religious circles. While the author pays lip service to “the gods,” the ultimate god in this poem is the author himself:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Humanism is really a form of autotheism that views mankind (and with it individuals) as the highest and most important beings in the universe. This is illustrated by the Unity Temple on Oak Park, Illinois, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Although the building entrance is officially inscribed “FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD AND THE SERVICE OF MAN,” Wright was clear that he designed his building as a “temple to man.” Humanism may pay lip service to God, but elevates man to the place of prominence.

Autotheism is the consummate and most persistent sin of the human race. We want to displace God in our own lives and build a little universe that revolves around ourselves and our interests. We want to make our own rules. This attitude can be found in atheists and theists alike. Sometimes autotheism takes the form of a formal declaration of our own divinity, and sometimes it is simply actions and attitudes by which we elevate ourselves to the place that only God should occupy. An autotheist can even claim to honor and worship God.

The antidote to autotheism is a healthy dose of Scripture, which teaches us that we are not God or gods; rather, we are made in His image to represent Him on earth, to worship Him, and to live in fellowship with Him (see Genesis 1:28–29). One day every human being will be judged by God, and every knee will bow before Him (see Philippians 2:10–11 and Revelation 20:11–15).

“This is what the LORD says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
(Isaiah 44:6–8)

Recommended Resource: I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek and The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias

Free Bible Study Book Each Month – From Faithlife and Logos Bible Software.
Related Topics:

What is agnosticism?

What is the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)?

What is the New Atheism?

Why are there so many atheists?

What is Christian atheism?

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