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anthropomorphism

anthropomorphism (ănˌthrəpōmôrˈfĭzəm) [key] [Gr., = having human form], in religion, conception of divinity as being in human form or having human characteristics. Anthropomorphism also applies to the ascription of human forms or characteristics to the divine spirits of things such as the winds and the rivers, events such as war and death, and abstractions such as love, beauty, strife, and hate. As used by students of religion and anthropology the term is applied to certain systems of religious belief, usually polytheistic. Although some degree of anthropomorphism is characteristic of nearly all polytheistic religions, it is perhaps most widely associated with the Homeric gods and later Greek religion. Anthropomorphic thought is said to have developed from three primary sources: animism, legend, and the need for visual presentation of the gods.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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