HOME

TheInfoList




Deism ( or ; derived from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
''
deus ''Deus'' (, ) is the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...

deus
'', meaning "
god In monotheistic Monotheism is the belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the ...

god
") is the
philosophical position A philosophical movement is either the appearance or increased popularity of a specific school of philosophy, or a fairly broad but identifiable sea-change in philosophical thought on a particular subject. Major philosophical movements are often ch ...

philosophical position
and rationalistic
theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed ...
that rejects
revelation In religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involu ...

revelation
as a source of divine knowledge, and asserts that
empirical Empirical evidence for a proposition In logic and linguistics, a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence (linguistics), sentence. In philosophy, "Meaning (philosophy), meaning" is understood to be a non-linguistic entity which is s ...
reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek ...
and
observation Observation is the active acquisition of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nature of its characteristics. Th ...

observation
of the
natural world
natural world
are exclusively logical, reliable, and sufficient to determine the existence of a
Supreme Being In monotheism, monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, creator, and principal object of Faith#Religious views, faith.Richard Swinburne, Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Ted Honderich, Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxfo ...
as the creator of the universe. Deism is also defined as the belief in the
existence of God The existence of God is a subject of debate in the philosophy of religion Philosophy of religion is "the philosophical examination of the central themes and concepts involved in religious traditions". Philosophical discussions on such topic ...
solely based on rational thought, without any reliance on revealed religions or religious authority. Deism emphasizes the concept of
natural theology Natural theology, once also termed physico-theology, is a type of theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity.
, that is, God's existence is revealed through nature. Since the 17th century and during the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link= ...
, especially in 18th-century England and France, various Western philosophers and theologians formulated a critical rejection of the several
religious text Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to their religious tradition. They differ from Literature, literary ...
s belonging to the many
organized religion Organized religion, also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and Formal organization, formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctr ...
s, and began to appeal only to truths that they felt could be established by reason alone as the exclusive source of divine knowledge. Such philosophers and theologians were called "Deists", and the philosophical/theological position that they advocated is called "Deism". Deism as a distinct philosophical and intellectual movement declined towards the end of the 18th century but had its own in the early 19th century. Some of its tenets continued to live on as part of other intellectual and movements, like
Unitarianism Unitarianism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republ ...
, and it continues to have advocates today.


Enlightenment Deism


Origin of the word ''deism''

The words ''deism'' and ''
theism Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, supreme being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with ''deism'', the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism (a ...
'' are both derived from words meaning "god": Latin ''deus'' and Greek ''theos'' (θεός). The word ''déiste'' first appears in French in 1564 in a work by a Swiss
Calvinist Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an , based on the a ...
named
Pierre ViretImage:PierreViret.jpg, Pierre Viret Pierre Viret (1511 – 4 May 1571) was a Swiss Swiss Reformation, Reformed theologian and Protestant reformer. Early life Pierre Viret was born to a devout middle class Roman Catholic family in Orbe, a small ...

Pierre Viret
but was generally unknown in France until the 1690s when
Pierre Bayle Pierre Bayle (; 18 November 1647 – 28 December 1706) was a French philosopher, author, and lexicographer Lexicography is divided into two separate but equally important groups: * Practical lexicography is the art or craft A craft ...

Pierre Bayle
published his famous ''
Dictionnaire Historique et Critique The ''Dictionnaire Historique et Critique'' (in English, the ''Historical and Critical Dictionary'') was a French biographical dictionary A biographical dictionary is a type of encyclopedic dictionary limited to biographical information. Many attem ...
'', which contained an article on Viret. In English the words ''deist'' and ''theist'' were originally synonymous, but by the 17th century the terms started to diverge in meaning. The term ''deist'' with its current meaning first appears in English in Robert Burton's ''
The Anatomy of Melancholy ''The Anatomy of Melancholy'' (full title: ''The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Phil ...
'' (1621).


Herbert of Cherbury and early English Deism

The first major statement of Deism in English is
Lord Herbert of Cherbury Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury (or Chirbury) KB (3 March 1583 – 5 August 1648) was an Anglo-Welsh Anglo-Welsh literature and Welsh writing in English are terms used to describe works written in the English language ...
's book ''
De Veritate ''De Veritate, prout distinguitur a revelatione, a verisimili, a possibili, et a falso'' is the major work of Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury. He published it in 1624 on the advice of Grotius Hugo Grotius (; 10 April 1583  ...
'' (1624). Lord Herbert, like his contemporary , searched for the foundations of knowledge. The first two-thirds of his book ''
De Veritate ''De Veritate, prout distinguitur a revelatione, a verisimili, a possibili, et a falso'' is the major work of Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury. He published it in 1624 on the advice of Grotius Hugo Grotius (; 10 April 1583  ...
'' (''On Truth, as It Is Distinguished from Revelation, the Probable, the Possible, and the False'') are devoted to an exposition of Herbert's
theory of knowledge Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, ...

theory of knowledge
. Herbert distinguished truths obtained through experience and reasoning about experience, from innate truths and from revealed truths. Innate truths are imprinted on our minds, and the evidence that they are so imprinted is that they are universally accepted. Herbert's term for universally accepted truths was ''notitiae communes''Common Notions. When it came to religion, Herbert believed that there were five Common Notions. * There is one Supreme God. * He ought to be worshipped. * Virtue and piety are the chief parts of divine worship. * We ought to be sorry for our sins and repent of them. * Divine goodness dispenses rewards and punishments, both in this life and after it. Herbert himself had relatively few followers, and it was not until the 1680s that Herbert found a true successor in Charles Blount (1654–1693).


The flowering of Deism, 1696–1801

The appearance of
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment Enlightenment, enlighten or enlightened may refer to: Age of Enlightenment * ...

John Locke
's ''Essay Concerning Human Understanding'' (1690) marks an important turning point, and a new phase, in the history of English Deism. Lord Herbert's epistemology was based on the idea of "common notions", in effect, on
innate ideas Innatism is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, ...
. Locke's famous attack on innate ideas in the ''Essay'' effectively destroyed that foundation. After Locke, deists could no longer appeal to innate ideas as Herbert had done. Instead, deists were forced to turn to arguments based on experience and nature. Under the influence of Newton they turned to the
argument from design The teleological argument (from ; also known as physico-theological argument, argument from design, or intelligent design argument) is an argument for the existence of God or, more generally, for an Intelligent designer, intelligent creator based ...
as the principal argument for the existence of God.
Peter Gay Peter Joachim Gay ( né Fröhlich; June 20, 1923 – May 12, 2015) was a German-American historian, educator, and author. He was a Sterling Professor of History at Yale University Yale University is a private Private or privates may refer ...
identifies
John Toland John Toland (30 November 167011 March 1722) was an Irish people, Irish rationalist philosopher and freethought, freethinker, and occasional satirist, who wrote numerous books and pamphlets on political philosophy and philosophy of religion, which ...

John Toland
's '' Christianity Not Mysterious'' (1696), and the "vehement response" it provoked as the beginning of post-Lockian Deism. Among the notable figures, Gay describes Toland and
Matthew Tindal Matthew Tindal (1657 – 16 August 1733) was an eminent English deist author. His works, highly influential at the dawn of the Enlightenment, caused great controversy and challenged the Christian consensus of his time. Life Tindal was born in ...
as the best known, but Gay considered them to be talented publicists rather than philosophers or scholars. He regards Middleton and
Anthony Collins Anthony Collins (21 June 1676 O.S.13 December 1729 O.S.) was an English philosopher, and a proponent of deism. Life and writings Collins was born in Heston, near Hounslow Hounslow () is a large suburban town in West London located wes ...
as contributing more to the substance of debate, in contrast with fringe writers such as Thomas Chubb and Thomas Woolston. “Among the Deists, only Anthony Collins (1676–1729) could claim much philosophical competence; only Conyers Middleton (1683–1750) was a really serious scholar. The best known Deists, notably John Toland (1670–1722) and Matthew Tindal (1656–1733), were talented publicists, clear without being deep, forceful but not subtle. ... Others, like Thomas Chubb (1679–1747), were self-educated freethinkers; a few, like Thomas Woolston (1669–1731), were close to madness.” (pp.9-10) Other British Deists prominent during the period include
William Wollaston William Wollaston (; 26 March 165929 October 1724) was a school teacher, Church of England priest, scholar of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, theologian, and a major Enlightenment era The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason o ...
, Charles Blount,
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (; 16 September 1678 – 12 December 1751) was an English politician, government official and political philosopher. He was a leader of the , and supported the Church of England politically despite h ...

Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
, and, in the latter part, Peter Annet, Thomas Chubb, and Thomas Morgan.
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (26 February 1671 – 16 February 1713) was an English politician, philosopher, and writer. Early life He was born at Exeter House in London, the son of the future Anthony Ashley Cooper, 2nd Earl ...
was also influential. Though not presenting himself as a Deist, he shared many of the deists' key attitudes and is now usually regarded as a Deist. Especially noteworthy is Matthew Tindal's ''Christianity as Old as the Creation'' (1730), which "became, very soon after its publication, the focal center of the Deist controversy. Because almost every argument, quotation, and issue raised for decades can be found here, the work is often termed "the Deist's Bible". Following Locke's successful attack on innate ideas, Tindal's "Bible" redefined the foundation of Deist
epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the Outline of philosophy, branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic Justification (epistemology), justification, the Reason, rationality o ...

epistemology
as knowledge based on experience or human reason. This effectively widened the gap between traditional Christians and what he called "Christian Deists", since this new foundation required that "revealed" truth be validated through human reason.


Aspects of Deism in Enlightenment philosophy

Enlightenment Deism consisted of two philosophical assertions: (a) reason, along with features of the natural world, is a valid source of religious knowledge, and (b) revelation is not a valid source of religious knowledge. Different Deist philosophers expanded on these two assertions to create what
Leslie Stephen Sir Leslie Stephen (28 November 1832 – 22 February 1904) was an English author, critic, historian, biographer, and mountaineer, and father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. Life Sir Leslie Stephen came from a distinguished intellectual fa ...
later termed the "constructive" and "critical" aspects of Deism. "Constructive" assertions— assertions that deist writers felt were justified by appeals to reason and features of the natural world (or perhaps were intuitively obvious) — included: * God exists and created the universe. * God gave humans the ability to reason. "Critical" assertions— assertions that followed from the denial of revelation as a valid source of religious knowledge— were much more numerous. They included: * Rejection of all books, including the Bible, that are claimed to contain divine revelation. * Rejection of the incomprehensible notion of the Trinity and other religious "mysteries". * Rejection of reports of miracles, prophecies, etc.


The origins of religion

A central premise of Deism was that the religions of their day were corruptions of an original religion that was pure, natural, simple, and rational. Humanity lost this original religion when it was subsequently corrupted by "priests" who manipulated it for personal gain and for the class interests of the priesthood, and encrusted it with superstitions and "mysteries"irrational theological doctrines. Deists referred to this manipulation of religious doctrine as "priestcraft," an intensely derogatory term. In the eyes of deists, this corruption of natural religion was designed to keep laymen baffled by "mysteries" and dependent on the priesthood for information about the requirements for salvation– this gave the priesthood a great deal of power, which the priesthood naturally worked to maintain and increase. Deists saw it as their mission to strip away "priestcraft" and "mysteries". Tindal, perhaps the most prominent deist writer, claimed that this was the proper original role of the Christian Church. One implication of this premise was that current-day primitive societies, or societies that existed in the distant past, should have religious beliefs less encrusted with superstitions and closer to those of natural theology. This position became less and less plausible as thinkers such as
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999999 or triple nine most often refers to: * 999 (emergency telephone number) 250px, A sign on a beach ...

David Hume
began studying the natural history of religion and suggested that the origins of religion lay not in reason but in emotions such as the fear of the unknown.


Immortality of the soul

Different Deists had different beliefs about the immortality of the soul, about the existence of Hell and damnation to punish the wicked, and the existence of Heaven to reward the virtuous. Anthony Collins, , Thomas Chubb, and Peter Annet were materialists and either denied or doubted the immortality of the soul.
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin ( April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers or Founders, were a group of American revolutionary Patriots (also ...

Benjamin Franklin
believed in reincarnation or resurrection. Lord Herbert of Cherbury and
William Wollaston William Wollaston (; 26 March 165929 October 1724) was a school teacher, Church of England priest, scholar of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, theologian, and a major Enlightenment era The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason o ...
, held that souls exist, survive death, and in the afterlife are rewarded or punished by God for their behavior in life.
Thomas Paine Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain; – In the contemporary record as noted by Conway, Paine's birth date is given as January 29, 1736–37. Common practice was to use a dash or a slash to separate the old-style year from the new-style year. In the ...

Thomas Paine
believed in the "probability" of immortality of the soul.


Miracles and divine providence

The most natural position for Deists was to reject all forms of supernaturalism, including the miracle stories in the Bible. The problem was that the rejection of miracles also seemed to entail the rejection of
divine providence In theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity.
(of God taking a hand in human affairs), something that many Deists were inclined to accept. Those who believed in a watch-maker God rejected the possibility of miracles and divine providence. They believed that God, after establishing natural laws and setting the cosmos in motion, stepped away. He didn't need to keep tinkering with his creation, and the suggestion that he did was insulting. Others, however, firmly believed in divine providence and so were reluctantly forced to accept at least the possibility of miracle. God was, after all, all-powerful, and He could do whatever he wanted, including temporarily suspending his own natural laws.


Freedom and necessity

Enlightenment philosophers, under the influence of Newtonian science, tended to view the universe as a vast machine, created and set in motion by a creator being, that continues to operate according to natural law, without any divine intervention. This view naturally led to what was then called
necessitarianism Necessitarianism is a metaphysics, metaphysical principle that denies all mere possibility; there is exactly one way for the world to be. It is the strongest member of a family of principles, including hard determinism, each of which deny libertar ...
(the modern term is
determinism Determinism is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Reality is the ...
): the view that everything in the universe – including human behavior – is completely causally determined by antecedent circumstances and natural law. (See, for example, La Mettrie'
''L'Homme machine''
) As a consequence, debates about
freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosophy and religion, it is associated with having free will and bein ...

freedom
versus "necessity" were a regular feature of Enlightenment religious and philosophical discussions. Reflecting the intellectual climate of the time, there were differences among Deists about freedom and determinism. Some, such as
Anthony Collins Anthony Collins (21 June 1676 O.S.13 December 1729 O.S.) was an English philosopher, and a proponent of deism. Life and writings Collins was born in Heston, near Hounslow Hounslow () is a large suburban town in West London located wes ...
, actually were necessitarians.


David Hume

Views differ on whether
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999999 or triple nine most often refers to: * 999 (emergency telephone number) 250px, A sign on a beach ...

David Hume
was a Deist, an
atheist Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psy ...

atheist
, or something else. Like the Deists, Hume rejected revelation, and his famous essay ''On Miracles'' provided a powerful argument against belief in miracles. On the other hand, he did not believe that an appeal to Reason could provide any justification for religion. In the essay '' Natural History of Religion'' (1757), he contended that
polytheism Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deity, deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon (religion), pantheon of God (male deity), gods and goddesses, along with their own religious sects and rituals. Polytheism is a type o ...
, not
monotheism Monotheism is the belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciou ...
, was "the first and most ancient religion of mankind" and that the psychological basis of religion is not reason, but
fear Fear is an intensely unpleasant emotion Emotions are psychological state A mental state is a state of mind that an agent is in. Most simplistically, a mental state is a mental condition. It is a relation that connects the agent with a pr ...

fear
of the unknown. Hume's account of ignorance and fear as the motivations for primitive religious belief was a severe blow to the deist's rosy picture of prelapsarian humanity basking in priestcraft-free innocence. In Waring's words:


Deism in the United States

The
Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America. Founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, th ...
of
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...
, which became the
United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States of America
after the
American Revolution The American Revolution was an ideological and political revolution which occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783. The Americans in the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colo ...
in 1776, were under the rule of the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
, and Americans, as British subjects, were influenced by and participated in the intellectual life of the
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain,"After the political union of England and Scotland in 1707, the nation's official name became 'Great Britain'", ''The American Pageant, Volume 1'', Cengage Learning (2012) was a s ...

Kingdom of Great Britain
. English Deism was an important influence on the thinking of
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were cr ...

Thomas Jefferson
and the principles of religious freedom asserted in the
First Amendment to the United States Constitution The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally compris ...
. Other "Founding Fathers" who were influenced to various degrees by Deism were
Ethan Allen Ethan Allen (Allen's date of birth is made confusing by calendrical differences caused by the conversion between the Julian calendar, Julian and Gregorian calendars. The first change offsets the date by 11 days. The second is that, at the time ...
,
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin ( April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers or Founders, were a group of American revolutionary Patriots (also ...

Benjamin Franklin
,
Cornelius Harnett Cornelius Harnett (April 10, 1723 – April 28, 1781) was a Founding Father of the United States and an American merchant and statesman from Wilmington, North Carolina. He was a leading American Revolutionary statesman in the Cape Fear (region), Ca ...
,
Gouverneur Morris Gouverneur Morris ( ; January 31, 1752 – November 6, 1816) was an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States ...

Gouverneur Morris
,
Hugh Williamson Hugh Williamson (December 5, 1735 – May 22, 1819) was an American physician A physician (American English), medical practitioner (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English), medical doctor, or simply doctor, is a prof ...
,
James Madison James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, diplomat, expansionist, philosopher, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited wi ...

James Madison
, and possibly
Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757July 12, 1804) was an American statesman, politician, legal scholar, military commander, lawyer, banker, and economist. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States The Founding Fa ...

Alexander Hamilton
. In the United States, there is a great deal of controversy over whether the Founding Fathers were Christians, Deists, or something in between. Particularly heated is the debate over the beliefs of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American soldier, statesman, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited with establishing a state. Natio ...

George Washington
. In his "Autobiography", Franklin wrote that as a young man ''"Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist."'' Like some other Deists, Franklin believed that, "The Deity sometimes interferes by his particular Providence, and sets aside the Events which would otherwise have been produc'd in the Course of Nature, or by the Free Agency of Man," and stated at the Constitutional Convention that "the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth— that God governs in the affairs of men."
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were cr ...

Thomas Jefferson
is perhaps the Founding Father who most clearly exhibits Deistic tendencies, although he generally referred to himself as a
Unitarian Unitarian or Unitarianism may refer to: Christian and Christian-derived theologies A Unitarian is a follower of, or a member of an organisation that follows, any of several theologies referred to as Unitarianism: * Unitarianism (1565–present), ...
rather than a Deist. His excerpts of the Biblical gospels, for example, now commonly known as the '''', strips all supernatural and dogmatic references from the Christ story. Like Franklin, Jefferson believed in God's continuing activity in human affairs.
Thomas Paine Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain; – In the contemporary record as noted by Conway, Paine's birth date is given as January 29, 1736–37. Common practice was to use a dash or a slash to separate the old-style year from the new-style year. In the ...

Thomas Paine
is especially noteworthy both for his contributions to the cause of the American Revolution and his writings in defense of Deism alongside the
criticism Critique is a wikt:method, method of disciplined, systematic study of a written or oral discourse. Although critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgment,Rodolphe Gasché (2007''The honor of thinking: critique, theory, p ...
of
Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic Semitic most commonly refers to the Semitic languages, a name used since the 1770s to refer to the language family ...

Abrahamic religions
. In ''
The Age of Reason ''The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology'' is a work by English and American political activist Thomas Paine Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain; – In the contemporary record as noted by Conway, Paine's birt ...
'' (1793–1794) and other writings he advocated Deism, promoted
reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek ...
and
freethought Freethought (sometimes spelled free thought) is an Epistemology, epistemological point of view (philosophy), viewpoint which holds that beliefs should not be formed on the basis of authority, tradition, revelation, or dogma, and that beliefs s ...
, and argued against institutionalized religions in general and the Christian doctrine in particular. ''The Age of Reason'' was short, readable, and is probably the only Deistic treatise that continues to be read, and to be influential, today. The last contributor to American Deism was Elihu Palmer (1764–1806), who wrote the "Bible of American Deism", ''
Principles of Nature ''Principles of Nature'', also known as ''The Principles of Nature, or A Development of the Moral Causes of Happiness and Misery among the Human Species'', was a work written in 1801 by Elihu Palmer. The work was similar to Thomas Paine's writings, ...
'', in 1801. Palmer is noteworthy for attempting to bring some organization to Deism by founding the "Deistical Society of New York" and other Deistic societies from Maine to Georgia.


Deism in France and continental Europe

France had its own tradition of
religious skepticism Religious skepticism is a type of skepticism relating to religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, texts, s ...
and natural theology in the works of
Montaigne 270px, The coat of arms of Michel Eyquem, Lord of Montaigne Michel Eyquem de Montaigne ( ; ; 28 February 1533 – 13 September 1592), also known as Lord of Montaigne, was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissanc ...

Montaigne
,
Pierre Bayle Pierre Bayle (; 18 November 1647 – 28 December 1706) was a French philosopher, author, and lexicographer Lexicography is divided into two separate but equally important groups: * Practical lexicography is the art or craft A craft ...

Pierre Bayle
, and
Montesquieu Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, Lot-et-Garonne, Montesquieu (; ; 18 January 168910 February 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, intellectual, man of letters, historian, and po ...

Montesquieu
. The most famous of the French Deists was
Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (; 21 November 169430 May 1778), known by his ''nom de plume A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a pseudonym A pseudonym () or alias () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) is a ...

Voltaire
, who was exposed to Newtonian science and English Deism during his two-year period of exile in England (1726-1728). When he returned to France he brought both back with him, and exposed the French reading public (i.e. the aristocracy) to them in a number of books. French Deists also included
Maximilien Robespierre Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (; 6 May 1758 – 28 July 1794) was a French lawyer and statesman who was one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. As a member of the National Constitu ...

Maximilien Robespierre
and
Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, ; ; 28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Republic of Geneva, Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment throughout Europe, as w ...

Rousseau
. During the
French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) was a period of radical political and societal change in France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a spanning and in the and the , and s. Its ...

French Revolution
(1789–1799), the Deistic
Cult of the Supreme Being In modern English, a cult is a social group In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or more people who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collectively have a sense of unity. Other theorists di ...
, a direct expression of Robespierre's theological views, was established briefly - just under three months - as the new state religion of France, replacing the deposed Catholic Church and the rival atheistic
Cult of Reason The Cult of Reason (french: Culte de la Raison) was France's first established state-sponsored atheistic religion, intended as a replacement for Catholicism The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the l ...
. Deism in Germany is not well documented. We know from his correspondence with Voltaire that
Frederick the Great Frederick II (german: Friedrich II.; 24 January 171217 August 1786) was King in Prussia King ''in'' Prussia ( German: ''König in Preußen'') was a title used by the Prussian kings (also in personal union Electors of Brandenburg) from 1701 ...

Frederick the Great
was a Deist.
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Immanuel Kant
's identification with Deism is controversial.


Decline of Enlightenment Deism

Gay describes Enlightenment Deism as entering slow decline, as a recognisable movement, in the 1730s. A number of reasons have been suggested for this decline. * The increasing influence of naturalism and
materialism Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimate ...
; * The writings of
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999999 or triple nine most often refers to: * 999 (emergency telephone number) 250px, A sign on a beach ...

David Hume
and
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Immanuel Kant
raised questions about the ability of reason to address metaphysical questions; * The violence of the French Revolution; * Christian revivalist movements, such as
Pietism Pietism (), also known as Pietistic Lutheranism, is a movement within Lutheranism Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of that identifies with the teachings of and was founded by , a 16th-century German monk and whose efforts to ref ...
and
Methodism Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations Denomination may refer to: * Religious denomination, such as a: ** Christian denomination ** Jewish denomination ** Islamic denomination ** Hindu d ...
, which emphasized a personal relationship with God, along with the rise of anti-rationalist and counter-Enlightenment philosophies such as that of
Johann Georg Hamann Johann Georg Hamann (; ; August 27, 1730 – June 21, 1788) was a German Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Martin Luther, a 16th-century German Protestant Reformers, refor ...

Johann Georg Hamann
. Although Deism has declined in popularity over time, scholars believe that these ideas still have lingering influence on
modern society Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period (the modern era Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or a ...
. One of the major activities of the Deists,
biblical criticism Biblical criticism is the use of critical analysis to understand and explain the Bible. During the eighteenth century, when it began as ''historical-biblical criticism,'' it was based on two distinguishing characteristics: (1) the concern to a ...
, evolved into its own highly technical discipline. Deist rejection of revealed religion evolved into, and contributed to, 19th-century liberal British theology and the rise of
Unitarianism Unitarianism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republ ...
.


Contemporary Deism

Contemporary Deism attempts to integrate classical Deism with modern philosophy and the current state of scientific knowledge. This attempt has produced a wide variety of personal beliefs under the broad classification of belief of "deism." There are a number of subcategories of modern Deism, including monodeism (this being the default standard concept of deism),
pandeism Pandeism (or pan-deism), a theological doctrine first delineated in the 18th century, combines aspects of pantheism with aspects of deism. It holds that a creator deity became the universe and ceased to exist as a separate and conscious ...
, panendeism, spiritual deism, process deism,
Christian deism Christian deism is a standpoint in the philosophy of religion stemming from Christianity. It refers to a deist who believes in the moral teachings—but not divinity—of Jesus. Corbett and Corbett (1999) cite John Adams and Thomas Jefferson as ex ...
, polydeism, scientific deism, and humanistic deism. Some deists see design in nature and purpose in the universe and in their lives. Others see God and the universe in a co-creative process. Some deists view God in classical terms and see God as observing humanity but not directly intervening in our lives, while others see God as a subtle and persuasive spirit who created the world and then stepped back to observe.


Recent philosophical discussions of Deism

In the 1960s, theologian
Charles Hartshorne Charles Hartshorne (; June 5, 1897 – October 9, 2000) was an American philosopher who concentrated primarily on the philosophy of religion Philosophy of religion is "the philosophical examination of the central themes and concepts invo ...
scrupulously examined and rejected both deism and
pandeism Pandeism (or pan-deism), a theological doctrine first delineated in the 18th century, combines aspects of pantheism with aspects of deism. It holds that a creator deity became the universe and ceased to exist as a separate and conscious ...
(as well as
pantheism Pantheism is the belief that reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only imaginary Imaginary may refer to: * Imaginary (sociology), a concept in sociology * The ...

pantheism
) in favor of a conception of God whose characteristics included "absolute perfection in some respects, relative perfection in all others" or "AR", writing that this theory "is able consistently to embrace all that is positive in either deism or pandeism", concluding that "panentheistic doctrine contains all of deism and pandeism except their arbitrary negations". , in his 2007 book ''
A Secular Age ''A Secular Age'' is a book written by the philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wisdom'. The coining of the t ...
'', showed the historical role of Deism, leading to what he calls an exclusive humanism. This humanism invokes a moral order, whose ontic commitment is wholly intra-human, with no reference to transcendence. One of the special achievements of such deism-based humanism is that it discloses new, anthropocentrism, anthropocentric moral sources by which human beings are motivated and empowered to accomplish acts of mutual benefit. This is the province of a buffered, disengaged self, which is the locus of dignity, freedom and discipline, and is endowed with a sense of human capability. According to Taylor, by the early 19th century this Deism-mediated exclusive humanism developed as an alternative to Christian faith in a personal God and an order of miracles and mystery. Some critics of Deism have accused adherents of facilitating the rise of nihilism.


Deism in contemporary America

The 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) report estimated that between 1990 and 2001 the number of self-identifying deists grew from 6,000 to 49,000, representing about 0.02% of the US population at the time. The 2008 ARIS survey found, based on their stated beliefs rather than their religious identification, that 70% of Americans believe in a personalThe ARIS report notes that, while "[n]o definition was offered of the terms, [they] are usually associated with a 'personal relationship' with Jesus Christ together with a certain view of salvation, scripture, and missionary work" (p. 11). God, roughly 12% are atheist or agnostic, and 12% believe in "a deist or paganistic concept of the Divine as a higher power" rather than a personal God. The term "ceremonial deism" was coined in 1962 and has been used since 1984 by the Supreme Court of the United States to assess exemptions from the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, thought to be expressions of cultural tradition and not earnest invocations of a deity. It has been noted that the term does not describe any school of thought within deism itself.Martha Nussbaum
Under God: The Pledge, Present and Future
/ref>


See also

* American Enlightenment * Ceremonial deism * Deism in England and France in the 18th century * Ietsism * Infinitism * List of deists * Moralistic therapeutic deism * Nicodemite * Non-physical entity * Nontheism * Philosophical theism * Religious affiliations of presidents of the United States * "Spiritual but not religious" * Theistic evolution * Theistic rationalism * Transcendentalism * Unitarian Universalism


References


Notes


Citations


Bibliography


Histories

* Betts, C. J. ''Early Deism in France: From the so-called 'deistes' of Lyon (1564) to Voltaire's 'Lettres philosophiques' (1734)'' (Martinus Nijhoff, 1984) * Craig, William Lane. ''The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus During the Deist Controversy'' (Edwin Mellen, 1985) * Hazard, Paul. ''European thought in the eighteenth century from Montesquieu to Lessing'' (1954). pp 393–434. * * Hudson, Wayne. ''Enlightenment and modernity: The English deists and reform'' (Routledge, 2015). * Israel, Jonathan I. ''Enlightenment contested: philosophy, modernity, and the emancipation of man 1670-1752'' (Oxford UP, 2006). * Lemay, J. A. Leo, ed.''Deism, Masonry, and the Enlightenment. Essays Honoring Alfred Owen Aldridge''. (U of Delaware Press, 1987). * Lucci, Diego. ''Scripture and deism: The biblical criticism of the eighteenth-century British deists'' (Peter Lang, 2008). * McKee, David Rice. ''Simon Tyssot de Patot and the Seventeenth-Century Background of Critical Deism'' (Johns Hopkins Press, 1941) * Orr, John. ''English Deism: Its Roots and Its Fruits'' (1934) * Schlereth, Eric R. ''An Age of Infidels: The Politics of Religious Controversy in the Early United States'' (U of Pennsylvania Press; 2013) 295 pages; on conflicts between deists and their opponents. * Willey, Basil. ''The Eighteenth Century Background: Studies on the Idea of Nature in the Thought of the Period'' (1940) * Yoder, Timothy S. ''Hume on God: Irony, deism and genuine theism'' (Bloomsbury, 2008).


Primary sources

* * * ''Deism: An Anthology'' by Peter Gay (Van Nostrand, 1968) * ''Deism and Natural Religion: A Source Book'' by E. Graham Waring (Frederick Ungar, 1967) * ''The American Deists: Voices of Reason & Dissent in the Early Republic'' by Kerry S. Walters (University of Kansas Press, 1992), which includes an extensive bibliographic essay * by Bob Johnson, founder of the World Union of Deists * by Bob Johnson * by Bob Johnson


Secondary sources

* * * * * * * * *


External links

* * * {{Authority control Deism, Theism Monotheism Philosophy of religion