There is loneliness in the human condition: we are surrounded by other beings (animals) with whom we cannot communicate, and we long for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe (aliens or gods, namely). The most important feature of gods, then, is for them to have minds: without minds, we would not be able to interact with them in any way—they would not be able to hear our prayers or send us messages or messengers. Gods and supernatural beings are often quite close to being human in form, but nevertheless possess superhuman abilities and attributes.

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Chuang Tzu
Daoist sage

“Far away on a mountain called Ku She, there lives a holy man whose skin is like ice and pure snow, and his manner is like a shy virgin. He does not eat the five grains, but lives off the wind and dew. He climbs the clouds and rides the dragons, and travels beyond the boundaries of the known world. He has distilled holiness and uses this to heal all and to bring full harvests.”

Ruth H. Chang
Scholar of East Asian religions

“Daybooks (rishu) found in Han tombs give evidence that what mattered most usually was external ritual conduct, not the rules of moral behavior. The daybooks, like the Shanhaijing and other classical texts, contain numerous gods, spirits, and divine beings that were believed to exist besides the supreme tian. These spiritual figures are generally anthropomorphic, concrete, and zoomorphic in nature, different from the more abstract tian which was an arbiter of morality. There is little mention of morality or ethics in regard to these beings. Instead, the daybooks depict them as basically only having the power to cause annoyances that affect people; however, ultimately they could be exorcised so they were not really of any threat to people. The books taught people how to deal with such supernatural beings.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture

“He created mankind out of dried clay, like pottery, the jinn out of smokeless fire”

Pascal Boyer
Cognitive anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist
Art & Literature
Todd Tremlin
Scholar of religion
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“First, of all the objects in the environment, agents matter most. The connection?—gods are agents. Second, humans understand the world, and particularly agents, in light of minds. The connection?—gods have minds.”[

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture

“Praise be to God, Creator of the heavens and earth, who made angels messengers with two, three, four [pairs of] wings. He adds to creation as He will: God has power over everything.”

Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism
Collection of Jewish writings

“Rabbi Elijah of Chelm was a Master of the Name. It was he alone, in his generation, who knew the secret pronunciation of God’s Name. This gave him the power to accomplish anything. So too was he well versed in the Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Creation. Drawing on mysteries revealed there, he made a man of clay, inscribed the word emet—truth—on its forehead, and when he uttered God’s Name, the golem came to life. Thereafter, the golem performed wonders whenever there was urgent need for them. Then it happened that the golem began to grow larger and larger, and Rabbi Elijah was afraid it might destroy the world. So he ordered the golem to bend down and he removed the first letter of the word on its forehead, changing emet into met—dead—and at that instant the golem turned back into dust.”

Joseph Campbell
Scholar of comparative mythology and religion

“He [Avalokitesvara] reveals himself in human form with two arms, in superhuman forms with four arms, or with six, or twelve, or a thousand, and he holds in one of his left hands the lotus of the world. Like the Buddha himself, this godlike being is a pattern of the divine state to which the human hero attains who has gone beyond the last terrors of ignorance.”