The term "god" has a very wide range of uses — so wide, indeed, that no single definition can hope to capture it. Examples include living human beings such as certain Roman Emperors and Egyptian Pharaoahs, humanlike beings with superhuman powers such as the gods of the Ancient Greeks, personal but omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent creators such as the god of the Abrahamic religions, and impersonal abstractions such as the Hindu concept of Brahman.
Whether or not the term "god" is capitalised has at times been the subject of debate; this is not merely a matter of typography, but of the rôle of the term. For many scripts, including forms of Greek, no distinction between upper and lower case is possible. In scripts that do allow the distinction, such as Latin, terms such as "deus", "dominus", and "christus" were generally not capitalised until the mid-seventeenth century.
There was intense debate over whether "god" was a proper or a common noun in mediæval times. Some theologians denied that it was a proper noun, because a true proper noun has direct reference, like a demonstrative, and they thought such direct reference would bring the one who grasped it into such intimate union with god that he would die.
Varieties of belief
Henotheism involves the belief in many gods, but the worship of only one. The one god that is worshipped might be seen as having a special attachment to or responsibility for one's own nation, race, or tribe (as was the case in early Judaism, or as being thought to be more powerful or important than the others (the latter is often called "monolatry").
Henotheism may involve the belief in various numbers of gods; when two gods are believed in it is called "ditheism". Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism are examples of this. Monotheism is the militing case of henotheism.
Kathenotheism is a version of henotheism in which many gods are believed in and one worshipped, but which god is worshipped varies according to the time or place rather than remaining the same across the believer's lifetime.
- In, for example, this early-fourteenth-century, "deus" is uncapitalised, as in the second column halfway down, with the blue paragraph mark, beginning "quicumque autem", and just before that "hoc enim deus" can be seen in lower case. Again, this fifteenth-century manuscript by Bonaventura, "Augustine" and "Boethius" are capitalised, but not "deus". In the photograph of a page from this undated, but probably mid-seventeenth-century book (from Roger Pearse's Tertullian website), the lower case is still in use. See also "The Wife Bath's Tale" (Caxton 1483) and the Gutenberg Bible (Gutenberg, fifteenth century).
- Some Christian sects take this view of the Trinity, holding that only the father should be worshipped, not Jesus or the holy spirit.