Deist Differences

29 September 2004

Joseph Hardwick

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Every religion in the history of the world has had its differences. Usually these differences are not over the core beliefs but due to minor issues. Some accept the differences and move past them but others become bitterly embroiled and forget the core beliefs that unite them. These differences have been the cause of many rifts in religion over the years. The most well known example was the reformation in Christianity that created the Protestant movement. The differences were great enough that a schism occurred and a split took place. Generally, the differences are not of major consequence but have lead to problems. One way to look at the issue is from the viewpoint of Protestant denominations.

There are many denominations that exist within the Protestant arm of the Christian faith and will serve as a good example. The most famous are the Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians. There are many more than this. The issues that separate these groups are not question(s) regarding the divinity of Jesus but in how God is seen. Each denomination has the belief that Jesus is the messiah and died for humanities sins. They also believe that the bible is the “word of God” but may disagree on whether it is to be read metaphorically or literally. However, divisions occur in the areas of heaven and hell, predestination/predetermination, sin (in general), atonement, prayer and morality. Many of these differences are based on the subjective nature of God and how God can be viewed. Deism as a religion is no different.

Deism is a religion that as best defined as a belief in God based on Reason, Experience and Nature (nature of the universe) with the rejection of special revelation(s) and “holy texts” of revealed religion. For the Deist, Reason is the primary tool in the development and maintenance in a belief in God. However, Deists accept that the nature of God is generally unknown to us at this time and that any beliefs into this nature are purely speculative. This does not stop the Deist from speculating on the possible nature of God but admit that their view into this nature is no more “correct” than any other view based on Reason. This is where the differences among Deists arise.

While this difference into the nature of God causes problems in other religions, it is generally well received in Deism. Here are a few types: Monodeist, Panendeist, Process Deist, Christian Deist, Philosophical Deist, and Scientific Deist. There are more types but these tend to be the major groups. How it is possible that these types do not break apart and start different groups all competing for the term of “real Deism.” It is because Deists are freethinkers who like to discuss differences as it causes them to think about their beliefs. Furthermore, they accept that what they are pushing is pure speculation and that each is free to speculate on their own as long as it is based on Reason.

These terms for the different types of Deism are only used around other Deists. To illustrate, I will use myself as an example. I consider myself a Panendeist while around other Deists. When around those who only know of the standard definition of Deism, I am a Modern Deist. In the company of those who know nothing of Deism, I am a Deist. I used to be a Monodeist but after an experience I had became a Panendeist. I use and have used science as my base point for my Deism so I also consider myself a Scientific Deist. Regardless of the types that I use, I am a Deist based on the fact that I use reason, experience and nature to develop my belief in God.

Many Deists will move through the types because we speculate on the possible nature of God and this can change as time goes by. Some may start in one type and then become another type as our individual beliefs are matured and modified. This is because we are constantly in the process of discovery that causes Deists to learn and grow in their beliefs. As Deists, we will never agree completely on the nature of God but will respect other viewpoints and learn from them as well. In the end Deists use Reason as the primary tool in developing our beliefs; therefore, minor differences are not a problem but become a positive attribute in the development and maturation of our beliefs.