Deism and Revealed Religions

November 2004

J. Hardwick

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There are many religions in the world with each having certain beliefs that make them unique. Overall, most have more similarities than differences. Religions can be broken down in many ways and is beyond the scope here so the simplest method will be used. The easiest way to break them down is using the terms "revealed" and "natural." A revealed religion is one that is based on Faith and Revelation. Essentially, God revealed his existence, law and will to an emissary called a prophet and then the prophet carried it to the world. On the other hand, a natural religion is one that tends to be based on Nature. This type believes that Gods existence is not revealed by direct revelation but generally by observing nature and how it functions. From these descriptions it is obvious that most religions are a combination of the two but every religion will fall more into one category more than the other.

The major revealed religions are: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Bahaíism. The major natural religions are: Buddhism, Pantheism and Deism. Of the natural religions, Deism best fits the explanation of a natural religion as it is based on nature without revelation. Deism is a belief in God based on Reason, Experience and Nature (nature of the universe) rather than the divine revelations and holy books of revealed religion. Essentially, through the use of Reason, a belief in God is determined by the observation of the order and complexity found in nature and our own personal experiences of nature. The nature of God has been a point of contention for Deism because it has been defined as a religion that acknowledges a specific nature of God but in actuality it does not and leaves it up to the individual Deist to determine what they believe that nature to be. Overall, Deism is not a hard concept to understand as Deists use Reason and rational thought to develop their view on God, morals and life.

A question that many Deists are asked is in regards to how they view the revealed religions. With so many it is impossible to say how Deists view each but it is important to generally understand how Deism views the basic tenets of the revealed religions. Each revealed religion is unique but at its core they have some of the same basic components. These components do not exist for all but are found in many. The basic components with their views versus Deist views are:

Holy Books - "sacred scriptures of a religion"

Revealed: There are many books that are said to have come from or were inspired by God. Some are the Bible, the Koran and the Gita. For the believers of these religions, the books are more than just words on paper but are the divine "word of God." Depending of the individual, they may be viewed from a literal, metaphorical or combination viewpoint. These are believed contain all of Godís law, will and history and should be honored and respected as such.

Deists: These are considered to be books written by man and should be viewed as such. Thus, since humans are make mistakes the books are errant and contain contradictions and are not the "word of God." The only evidence that they are of God is the book itself, which is not evidence to the Deist. Some argue that many of the books have been proven scientifically or by prophecy but there is no evidence to support this claim. However the Deist believes that these holy books contain wisdom and should not be discarded but viewed with Reason.

Revelations - "an act of revealing or communicating divine truth"

Revealed: This is believed how God communicates with man. He may do this directly or indirectly by messenger. Regardless, God gives his Law and will by these messages and they should be obeyed. Revelations are a rare and important event for all of humanity and should not be taken lightly.

Deists: Revelations are viewed from the perspective of secondary information. Any information given to the individual is only for the individual and cannot be shared by others as only he/she had the revelation and we cannot know what they heard. Others may take it further and say that revelations do not occur or exist. Regardless, the Deist does not view these revelations as the "word of God."

Prophets - "one who utters divinely inspired revelations"

Revealed: These are believed to be individuals that have been chosen as Godís messengers. Why he chose them is not important. What is important is that they have been chosen and should be respected and followed. They speak of Godís will and are some of the most important people in history.

Deists: As with revelations, the message cannot be proven and cannot be proven to be from God. The messenger may be an "Enlightened" individual and much wisdom may be available bu they are just human non-the less.

Sin - "an offense against religious or moral law"

Revealed: Sin is believed to be an offense against God that keeps God and us separate. Humans are born imperfect and will sin, as it is part of our very being. We can overcome sin by accepting God and following his will and living as he wants us too.

Deists: Sin simply means, "to miss the mark." This basically is saying that man is flawed and will make mistakes. Deists completely agree that man was born flawed, is flawed and will make mistakes. Thus, for the Deist, sin means that we make mistakes.

Messiahs - "an expected redeemer"

Revealed: The messiah is believed to be the one who will come to deliver us to God when the proper time arrives. God and the prophets have foretold his/her arrival and it will be a blessed time as humanity can reclaim our connection to God.

Deists: The idea of a messiah and prophet are similar. While each can be an important and wise teacher, they are non-the less human and should be viewed as such.

Afterlife - "an existence after death"

Revealed: Some believe in a Heaven and Hell and others in Reincarnation. Regardless, each carries with it the punishment of not living life as God has intended and revealed.

Deists: Deists may or may not believe in an afterlife as Reason tells us there is no way to know. However, many believe that something will occur but are not worried about it and believe we should live life to the fullest.

Nature of God - "the characteristics of God"

Revealed: God is personalized and made anthropomorphic which means that God is given human characteristics and takes on human attributes. He is given the classic human emotions and may be seen as a Father Figure that loves his creation. Furthermore, he is seen has all powerful and all knowing. God may intervene in human affairs, the world and the universe when God deems it necessary.

Deists: God is depersonalized without human characteristics. God is seen as abstract concept that we cannot comprehend at this point in time of our existence. God does not love or hate us but just "is" (thus the term abstract). Human words fail to portray God properly and should be avoided as much as possible. God may or may not be active in the world and this is left up to the Deists to decide for themselves.

Morality - "a system of conduct"

Revealed: It is believed that God has given man his laws. These laws are absolute and should not be questioned. These laws and moral codes have been given through the prophets.

Deists: This varies among Deists but overall most believe that we are born with bio-moral/bio-ethical principles. These principles are not specific but instill man with a sense of right and wrong. An example would be the Golden Rule. God may be seen as the creator of these principles through the natural laws.

Members of the revealed religions are varied and have many views into each of these categories. Some may view some parts of the holy books as metaphorical while others view all of it as literal. They will not accept the prophets of other religions but may chose to learn from them anyway. Therefore, the above explanations are important but are generalized and must be viewed as such. All members are individuals and assumptions and stereotyping should be avoided. Deistís view these religions with respect and at the same time do not agree with the basis of their beliefs. The majority of Deists have a "live and let live" attitude. Ultimately, religion and a belief in God is a subjective concept and no one can say another is wrong. Essentially, all individuals will find an avenue that best suits them for finding God. The Deist is one that uses Reason rather than Faith and will rely on using rational thought based on scientific understanding. This does not mean that no members of revealed religion use Reason, it simply means that the Deist uses Reason as the primary basis for belief as compared to the revealed religions that use Faith as the basis.