Celestial Lands Liberal Religious Faith… and the occasional political musing.

A New Deism for a New World

It is an interesting experience for me to intentionally write an article about Deism, a bit of a “return to my roots” you might say. For the last several years I have not primarily identified as a Deist, although my understanding of God has always been a Deistic one. Deism as it has been defined by its detractors and its promoters has seemed too limited to contain all that is my theology. I am a Deist, and I’m more than that.

In the days when I was actively involved in the United Deist Church, Dynamic Deism, and the Deist Alliance, I wrote an article about labels… about how tied up we can get over what “label” we want to place upon our theology. I wrote that the word “Deism” is a shorthand for a specific category of beliefs, just as “Christianity” denotes a wide variety of beliefs and practices. Such labels get us into a general ballpark of where someone rests theologically, but can never define a whole group or even an individual. To know someone’s theology, you must be in relationship with them.

I believe that Deism rests around three core truths. Each of these is a positive statement about reality, and exists independent of any other religious tradition or idea. These three core truths are:

God Exists.
God does not act in the universe in ways that contradict natural law.
What we need to know of God can be found in the universe itself (General Revelation).

Thomas Paine saw this, as did Ethan Allen, Constantine Volney, and many others of the founders of Deism in the modern west. Shadows of this thought can be seen in every religious tradition, in Buddhism, in Christianity, in Islam, and in Sikhism… because these core ideas transcend the cultural and religious contexts they arise in.

And, no matter how much some of my Deist colleagues might argue against this, each of these is a Faith Statement. None of these truths can be proven through reason. Each can find much tangential support through human reason, however that is not the same thing as proof. This is not a bad thing… for faith does not mean to believe something to be true when it is not. Faith in this instance means to trust in a truth that transcends final proof. To trust even in the accuracy of human reason is in itself an act of faith.

We human beings are creatures of faith… because we are limited beings. We developed faith as a survival mechanism to live in a universe that we could never fully comprehend. We can never have access to all knowledge, so we have faith that such knowledge as we have is sufficient for our purposes. We can never have perfect reasoning, because human nature belies perfection. Truth can never be final, because we humans can never be final. The difference between a Deist’s faith, and faith as it is commonly conceived, is that the Deist is called to forever remember these limitations. We are called to forever test those things in which we hold faith. It is in this way that Deism is meant to be a Dynamic faith.

There is no greater patron saint of Deism today than Thomas Paine, and I give homage to him. At 20 years old, encountering Age of Reason changed the course of my life, and gave me a way through some of the deepest and darkest of times. And yet, I believe that Thomas Paine set three negative trends into motion within the movement of Deism that we have yet to recover from… and that if Deism is ever to be more than a fringe religious idea we must step away from the example of Paine.

We must step away from defining ourselves by what we are against rather than what we are for.

We must step away from understanding Deism as a private, personal religion.

We must cease defining all of Deism by our own personal and particular set of beliefs.

Paine meant well, and in his time his expression of the core ideas of Deism in terms of an individualistic and contrarian religion made sense. It was a time of rebellion against cultural norms, against political powers, and against the oppression of the individual and of the self. Paine found in Deism another expression of the rebellion against tyranny that had been the foundation of his life. Paine also found himself living in a time when the lines between the state and the church were much fuzzier than they are today, in which the churches that later became Unitarian and UCC were sponsored by tax-dollars, and had much more political influence than they do today.

I know that some might see parallels in this to today, but the reality is there are several magnitudes of difference. No matter how influential some religious denominations might be today, it is but a single strand in a gown compared to then. For Paine, the influence of the Church upon the commons was a paramount concern, and it only made sense that he would set about an attempt to deconstruct that edifice as a part of his exploration of Deism.

I am also the last person who will claim that the battle for the separation of church and state has been won… far from it. As a military chaplain candidate, I have seen the influence some more conservative Christian denominations have over aspects of my nation’s military. Part of my own call to that Chaplaincy is to address that influence by education and awareness… to remind my colleagues regularly that their role is not to promote their religious faiths, but to protect the free exercise of religion in the military. In order to be in the place to do that reminding (and to serve soldiers and their families) I have made my own compromise with being a state-sponsored clergy person. (I am a Post MFC -Candidate for the Unitarian Universalist Ministry).

I believe there are three transitions that Deism must make to become a viable religious tradition in the coming decades and centuries… and I fear that the most active Deist organizations today not only do not agree, but scoff at the ideas behind these transitions. I believe that much of today’s Deist movement is locked into unproductive patterns, inspired by Paine, that serve deep seated prejudices within the human condition rather than serving humanity as a whole. Each of these transitions that I believe Deism needs to undergo is complex, and I hope only to outline them in this article. It is my hope that they inspire thought and debate among the many adherents of Deism, in their many forms and structures.

1. I believe Deism must move completely away from defining itself in relation to any other religious tradition, and instead focus on being a religious tradition unto itself.

2. I believe Deists must develop or incorporate ways to be in religious community with one another in personal, communal forms.

3. I believe Deism must move toward a stance that seeks to be inclusive and not exclusive as to admittance to the circle of Deism.

What are we for?
Thomas Paine, in the second part of Age of Reason, set a pattern that Deists have been following for the centuries since… we are more comfortable speaking about what is “wrong” with other religious faiths (particularly Christianity, but not exclusively) then we are comfortable (or capable) of speaking about what is “right” about Deism. It has seemed a good strategy, for one of the regular commonalities among Deists has been some kind of ill-feeling toward other religions. Many Deists are ex-Christians who might have some anger, hurt, or fear in their relationship to their former faith. Many Deists are individualistic to the point that any form of corporate human power is anathema. Many Deists feel disenfranchised by a culture they perceive as being dominated by these “revealed religions”.

However we have gotten there (and I went through my own phase of being angry and fearful of Christianity), this trend has led us to defining ourselves in large part by what we are opposed to. It has been a block to creating an inspiring vision of a world, of humanity, and of God that is founded on Deistic principles. By accepting that “opposing” these “Religions of Revelation” we have placed Deism in a secondary, or even tertiary place, able to be defined primarily by our relationship to other faiths. Because of this, Deism as a modern movement has found difficulty in standing on its own. Defined in this way, without the “other” we become irrelevant… a lesson to be learned from the Universalist Church of America after 1900.

This manichean understanding of Deism also has made us a magnet for people who are seeking not the inspiring vision about God and the Universe that is at the heart of Deism, but rather are seeking any excuse to define themselves in opposition to the prevailing religious traditions. Western society has come to encompass a continuing crisis of identity, both as a whole and for individuals. The pace of societal change, the impersonal nature of modern communications, and the unattainability of many of the modern sources of authority, identity, and power have created a crisis of self that exists at all levels of our culture. In that crisis of self, one of the easiest (and least productive) ways of finding an identity is by defining oneself by what they are against.

While that may provide a basis for some short term growth in a movement, defining oneself by what one opposes either becomes dogmatic, or it is incapable of sustaining the self for an extended period of time. Either you continually shrink your acceptance of anyone who is not the “other” that you oppose, or you realize how a dynamic and complex humanity belies such easy classifications as “us vs. them”.

However, what I believe is the more sorrowful aspect of this tendency in Deism is that focusing on what we “oppose” has prevented or lessened the exploration of what we are “for”… it has lessened the search for a positive and inspiring vision of the world in tune with Deism. I believe that vision is there… I believe there is an amazing, hopeful, and inspiring worldview and theology within Deism… and we have frittered away our time worrying about Christians and Muslims, Jews and Buddhists.

That does not mean we should ignore the other world religions… far from it. We should let go of our own insecurities (one of the sources of our oppositional stance) and approach these other traditions with the spirits of seekers. We Deists have much we can learn, moving from a firm Deist Theology, into an exploration of Christianity, of Buddhism, of Sikhism, of Hinduism, of Islam, and of all the world’s traditions. There is nothing preventing us from that exploration but our own fears, our own inadequacies, and our own prejudices… and Deism would become all the richer for it.

Who Are We Together?

Of everyone who has been a part of the Modern Deist Movements over the last few decades, there are probably only a few more deeply aware of the problems in building an inclusive religious community for Deism than I… and I can name most of those names. The years of working to develop the United Deist Church ultimately failed because Deists are often too independent or too untrusting to come together into anything remotely resembling a “church”. The internet has provided enough distance that some Deists have been able to build internet communities, one of which I administered for several years. The World Union of Deists has been successful at maintaining connections between Deists, but I have long stated my concerns about its focus on understanding Deism in relation to its opposition to “Revealed Religion”, which I addressed in the previous section.

So who are we together? Is Deism just a personal religious choice, one that not only has no need of a broader religious community but is perhaps anathema to such religious community? If so, then I believe Deism has come just about as far as it can… that a series of internet connections and a few newsletters are all that will ever be achieved when it comes to building community. If so, then for those Deists (like me) who do seek that larger, intentional, and in person religious community, we will continue to find it within inclusive religious traditions such as Unitarian Universalism. Other Deists I know have found that community within other traditions, such as remaining within a liberal Christian tradition or within Buddhism or Baha’i. Others have found other outlets for that communal impulse, disconnected from their religious beliefs as Deists.

I will admit, I think it far more likely that Modern Deists can move toward defining themselves by what they are for rather than against far more readily than I believe Deists will find a way to be in religious community with one another. Until we have that community to offer, Deism will not grow significantly… because the extreme individualism represented by many of today’s Deists is in the minority among humanity. Humans need one another, and seek to be in community with one another. Until Deism develops a way to be in community; real life, vibrant community… it will remain the fringe of the fringe.

What that community will look like, I will not try to say. I know that I am biased toward the model of a church based in congregational polity, (hence my involvement with the United Deist Church effort and now the UUA). I am aware that the Deists that are seeking that kind of community now are finding their way to Unitarian Universalist Churches, but they are the minority of the declared Deists out there. Perhaps these communities could be based on the model of Emerson’s Lyceum groups. Perhaps they might be based upon the Quaker idea of a “meeting”. However they might come together, I believe the primary block to Deism becoming a significant religious presence in the world is our inability to create community.

Who is in and Who is out?

Deism is a creedal religion. At its core, that creed is very simple. To be a Deist is to believe that God exists, that God does not act outside of nature, and that nature reveals to us all we need to know about God.

How you define God, what role God plays in your life, where you see God… all of these questions and many more are not answered by this basic creed of Deism. Whether a Deist can also be a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or a Pagan is also not answered by this basic creed of Deism. This creed does not define what happens when we die, and it does not define a moral code. This creed does not specify one political party or another. This creed does not specify any social stances of sociological implications of other religions that humanity might engage in.

As Thomas Paine said… God exists… and there it lies.

Yet it is human nature to want to put in place firmer bounds on the communities we belong to than are represented in this Deistic Creed. It is also in human nature to portray our specific beliefs as if they have applicability to the larger whole. In the case of those in positions of leadership or influence in any religious tradition, including Deism, there is a tendency to forget the difference between our personal beliefs and those that represent the tradition.

So, how do we define who is a Deist and who is not? How do we craft a message and a vision that is inviting to all who accept the core aspects of Deism? How do we live and breathe in a religious community with such a broad creed? How do our leaders represent that breadth with integrity, while still giving voice to their specific beliefs, values, and principles?

How we define who is a Deist has specific applicability to the other two transformative questions raised in this essay. I lay the responsibility for this transformation specifically on anyone who claims a role of leadership or influence within the Modern Deism movement. Part of this responsibility is to hold with brutal clarity the difference between your personal beliefs about Deism and the beliefs Deism has brought forth in you as separate from the core creedal tenets of Deism. It is fine if you hold beliefs about the socially redeeming value of religions that rely on divine revelation… but these values should not be equated with Deism as a whole. It is fine if you believe that Liberty should include freedom from government control (be it of healthcare, of pot, or whatever), but these beliefs should not be equated with the core creedal tenets of Deism.

All should aspire to this clarity between our personal beliefs and these core creedal tenets… but among those who represent Deism to a larger public, this separation is a necessity. Without it, Deism is too easily dismissed within human society as a parochial concern, relating to the specific interests of specific groups, rather than a statement of religious values with near universal applicability.

I believe these three transformations are necessary if Deism is ever to move into its potential as a religious gift to the human race, and yet I do not hold high hopes of ever seeing them come to fruition. I made my choice to practice my faith within Unitarian Universalism, and I have found the religious home I was seeking. I am comfortable within this faith both theologically and politically, even if I still have some cultural discomfort from time to time.

And yet, I am still a Deist (and a bit more). I still dream of the day when there might be a National Deist Organization that lives the three core tenets of Deism: The Existence of God; the Ultimacy of Nature, and the Primacy of General Revelation… I still dream of a world where such ideas are accepted truth, promoted by Deists in community with one another.

I can still dream.

Yours in Faith,

David

21 Thoughts on “A New Deism for a New World

  1. It’s really great to see this essay from you specifically on the subject of Deism. Celestial Lands was a terrific reference for me at a time when I had just discovered Deism, and was trying to absorb as much as possible on the subject.

    I truly appreciate your positive approach in the promotion of Deism!

    One Deist Φ

  2. Hi David, quite a bit here and certain to deserve more than i can offer now. On Sunday the Humanist group at our church met and used your take on postmodernism as the basis for the discussion. Because the normal structure of the Sunday Service was altered fewer people than usual remained behind for our discussion. But because the recent bad press regarding the UUsystem has been of concern, we determined that the subject should be revisited. The main shape that came about in using your piece was the difference between open and closed systems and the nature of opposition to open systems. Our oldest attendee, into her 80s, whose art takes place working in glass, made a statement that i believe fits into your current thoughts on deism. “An artist cannot name something, to name it destroys its significance.” The unknowable totality and how to relate, may be at the heart of our UU project. ben stewart

  3. One,

    Thank you for your kind words… I write the articles here at Celestial Lands primarily because it is a spiritual practice for me… it is good to know that they touched your life in some way.

    Ben,

    I am glad to know that the group is engaging with the piece, and am thankful for the thought you shared from the glass-artist. When I read her wisdom, my immediate response was that to call something “Art” is already to name it.

    I agree that the more specific a label is, the less utility it has, and the more it detracts from the totality of the labeled item’s (thought, idea, work, etc) being. To name something fixes it as a static point in a dynamic reality. And yet we humans need those labels to make some sense and order out of a reality that is beyond our ability to comprehend without them.

    Her point is well taken as it relates to simplifying the dynamic… and naming something as “Art” already imparts a whole set of classifications upon it… just a broader one.

    Aspiring to such a broad understanding in the label of Deism is the point of the last section of my essay.

    Yours in Faith,

    David

  4. Obviously the difficulty in the label Art extends in multiples to the label God. i have spent a good part of 2009 in searching out messages of hope and promise. In particular searching for something credible in Science (alas, another label) that moves in a direction other than reductionism. At the top of the list was Stuart Kauffman’s “Reinventing the Sacred.” This book presses forward on the science of emergence in the ensuing novelty’s positive and natural message. Kauffman is very clear about the difficulty and paradoxical cul de sac when using God to express what is unknown of the totality. And as a nontheist he must still fall back upon that word, Unfortunately many the would-be fan is lost in its use. ben

  5. I’m curious whether Michael Dowd’s understanding of God in Thank God for Evolution — God as the sum-total of the universe, plus something more — or Marcus Borg’s equivalent, which Borg calls panentheism (as distinct from pantheism), are congruent with the Deist understanding of God you describe. Certainly one of Dowd’s favorite expressions, “Facts are God’s native tongue,” would fit very well with the 3rd belief statement you cite (“What we need to know of God can be found in the universe itself.”). What’s less clear to me in the Deist framework is God’s relationship to the universe — separate or in some way overlapping.

  6. Follow-up:

    I hadn’t read your earlier entry on Magical Boxes and not-Knowing until after I wrote the above question. Your comment there — “In my theology, there is nothing I encounter in the Universe that is not a part of God…” — does indeed sound Panentheistic or Dowdian (:-))… But I’m still curious…

  7. DSD,

    I am a bit of a fan of Michael Dowd (and hosted him and his wife Connie when I was with the church in Galveston), and I agree his theology could fall within a panen”deistic” understanding, moreso than Borgian Panentheism. I dont think that Michael Dowd defines his theology through the lens of Deism. (Though he might agree to the similarities).

    Here is the issue… there are many people in whose theology we can see Deism… we need to allow people to choose that particular label for their theology as they are comfortable doing so.

    The title for this article was taken from the work by John Shelby Spong “A New Christianity for a New World”. In that work he highlights the similarities between his own theology and Deism, but he does so in the negative… arguing that his theology is not as Deistic as some might say it is.

    So, my answer is to affirm the similarity you see… and to invite you to encouter such theologies as clear from labels as you can… especially one’s they have not chosen for themselves.

    Oh, and my personal theology could be described by the label Panendeist… ;)

    The lack of clarity on the relationship of God to the universe in a Deist context is intentional… as I said earlier in the article Deism simply states that God exists… and does not act in contrarance to natural law. How God relates to the universe is not specified by the core ideas of Deism. Some might believe God completely separate… some believe God is the universe. Some Deists might beleive that God exists as the force of change within the universe itself. Some (like me) believe that God is a divine reality to be expeirenced… that we can have a personal relationship with a God that is not capable of having a personal relationship with us.

    The point is that the core tenets of Deism does not state what God is… only that God exists and does not interfere with natural law… we are to discover God through our own experience of the General Revelation of the universe.

    Yours in faith,

    David

  8. Based on your last comment, including the point that “some believe God is the universe,” I sense you to be welcoming of Pandeism as a school of thought within Deism.

  9. Hi David,
    Good post. Just a few comments.

    “1. I believe Deism must move completely away from defining itself in relation to any other religious tradition, and instead focus on being a religious tradition unto itself. ”

    I think that would be great, but in this dualistic existence NOT defining things in relation to other things is for all intents and purposes impossible IMO.

    “God Exists.
    God does not act in the universe in ways that contradict natural law.
    What we need to know of God can be found in the universe itself (General Revelation).”

    When I look at Deism and “Natural Religion” from an historical and developmental perspective the thing that sticks out to me is a basis in reason based thought and a rejection of authority. I think that your deist tenants sort of obliquely cover those things but I think any definition of Deism should specifically mention reason.

    “Oh, and my personal theology could be described by the label Panendeist…”

    Welcome to the fold. :)

  10. Aaron,

    Define Reason for me… You and I have had this discussion before.

    I know that Deists have thrown around the word for years, but my position is that most Deists have almost no clue what they mean by it, other than having answers that they arrive at using their own minds to observe the universe itself (which is the third tenet). I did not use the word specifically because I believe most Deists use it as a shield against admitting that they are operating from a place of faith, just a different place of faith than many others.

    Paine used the word almost as a talisman against what he objected to among the Christians of his day. In fact, I believe that the use of this particular talisman has prevented Deism from exploring the depths of Deist theology. Deists also do not own reason. Even Christians use reason… just go read some Reinhold Neibuhr or Thomas Aquinas and you will see human reason being operated at a level to make Paine weep.

    And, my position is that Deists, like Christians like Neibuhr or Aquinas, begin from a faith stance that they then apply reason to.

    As I have said before, I dont expect many others to agree with me… but Reason (with good Deist capitalization) was left out of the tenets on purpose.

    Good to see you!

    Yours in faith,

    David

  11. A number of us have been struggling with the definition of reason. The consensus is moving towards a balance of logic, intuition, knowledge, and inference. One might also include observation, as well.

  12. David,

    You’ve obviously given this much thought, and as it is with most things, I think the answer lies between. We do reason. We do use rational processes – analysis, logic, etc. – to sort and categorize experential data. We do apply our reasoning, but most of the time we simply react as a reflexive action. David Brooks at the NYT published an extremely important and interesting article about the way we make moral choices: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/opinion/07Brooks.html . I do not see that we behave differently when making other kinds of choices. As Dave Gaddis noted, a number of things come into play. How often do we apply thorough and methodical logical analysis and critical reasoning? It depends on the individual. For some, it is not too often. For others, it is more often. Leaving out reason makes an interesting point, but I think the exercise goes one step by far by leaving our reason altogether. You may remember the acronym CPAR (Collection, Processing, Analysis and Reporting). Observation and experience are just the collection and processing parts of that process. We do need to analyze (reason) or we just have information, not actionable intelligence. Life comes at us so fast that we rely on these wonderful inference engines we have developed, so processing and analysis are sometimes almost instantaneous, but it is a type of reasoning.

    Overall, I loved the post, which is why I posted it over at PD. It’s good to hear you expound on familiar subjects. Some of us are leaning in the directions you are describing. We hope to learn from the past so that we can limit ourselves to new human blunders, but it is an adventure that I am look forward to.

    Hope all is well.

    Chuck

  13. Chuck,

    Let me see if I can clarify my position on reason…

    I believe in reason as a verb. It is an activity that human beings engage in. Each of us engages in it differently.

    I question the existance of Reason as a noun. I question whether it can represent an ideal, or something intangible that can be separated from the individual experience of a specific individual.

    Because I can not accept Reason as an ideal, or even as a noun, I did not include it in my tenets of Deism… All humans reason… not just Deists.

    Good to see you!

    Yours in Faith,

    David

  14. I like Travis Clementsmith’s take on reason as a hierarchical, developmental, emergent “vMeme”. Theistic reasoning is different from deistic reasoning much in the same way Medieval philosophy is different from Enlightenment philosophy.

    I believe that Deism arose at a time when the third person perspective was just widely emerging in popular western culture along with individualism. Theism is based on much more of a second person relationship with the cosmos and an emphasis on tradition and conformity.

    See the attached for more on what I’m getting at.
    http://panendeism.org/Documents/9%20levels%20increasing%20embrace%20update%202007.pdf

    So there is a difference between reason and Reason. Theism is based on the former and Deism is based on the latter.

  15. That’s odd. I posted a reply but it disappeared when I hit the submit button.

    In any case here’s a standard dictionary definition of reason.

    “Reason- the intellectual ability to apprehend the truth cognitively, either immediately in intuition, or by means of a process of inference. ”

    I think that get’s at it but it is ultimately insufficient in the context of this discussion.

    IMO, reason and the process of reasoning are effected by the emergent and developmental nature of consciousness. The Reason that Paine and other enlightenment thinkers referred to is not the same “reason” utilized by medieval philosophers. I’d refer to a model like “Spiral Dynamics” or Susan Cook Greuter’s “9 levels of Ego Development” for a more thorough review of what I’m talking about.

    To make a long story short deists utilize 3rd person, logical based reasoning where theists tend to lean more heavily on tradition and dogma.

  16. emotional deist on Sunday January 31, 2010 at 19:11 +0000 said:

    Keep the dream alive, please! It was worthwhile back then, but even more so today. Maybe, some day, we will be reunited. If so, I promise to return with as much wisdom as reason.

    Bravo to your three core truths! Sign me up! :)

    BTW, after all these years …… you’re still a little wordy. ;)

  17. David

    For one, I want to thank you for your amazing insight into this topic. I appreciate your acknowledgment that Deism really needs to start focusing on what its for than what its against. Its one of my main problems with Deism. I really benefited greatly from you article, and look forward to any other writing you have on this topic.

    Two, I wanted to attempt to clarify something about Deism. At least myself as a Deist, and I hope this would apply to others as well.

    I see what your getting at when describing the meaning and purpose of reason in a deistic context. But I wanted to put in my take on what my interpretation is of it as a devout Deist. For Reason is a very complicated notion I feel, ill do my best to explain it.

    Through Science we can empirically prove different aspects of the physical universe. Because of science, and the progression of it, I think it has given our reason a special ability; not only can we come to sound conclusions based on logical inference, but we can now come to correct conclusions based on empirical facts. Before the advent of science and empirical observation, humans could only rely on their logic to observe and interpret the world around them. Now, through science we can come to a correct conclusion based on scientific observation, and we can confidently attest to what we KNOW or what is FACT about the world.

    Therefore, Reason should be based on two constant sources. Logic and Fact. These nouns reflect what is subjective and what is objective respectfully.

    So when it comes to faith, and its relationship to our reason, as far as I am concerned the only bit of my reasoning that crosses into the realm of faith is my belief that there is a God, for I can not empirically prove that. According to my LOGIC(subjective) based on observable FACTS(Objective) I come to the BELIEF that God exists. So I agree, what Deists claim as using their reason to deduce the existence of God, is nothing more than a belief that he exists based on what we KNOW to be true about nature. That is our logic, not our proof.

    But other than the concept of God, when I say I am applying my “reason” to a situation, I am not relying on faith but on what I know to be fact, and based on what I know to be fact I will infer my logic as to best way to confront the situation/topic.

    All humans have the ability to reason, but its these two virtues of Logic and Fact that I believe separates Deism from other religions the most. For deistic reasoning should be based in logic and fact, and it seems most revealed religions are based in logic and superstition. Not to sound too negative, but I don’t know what else to call it.

    Anyway, thank you for your time. Great article

    Victor

  18. I haven’t finished your article yet, but I had to stop and say that I completely agree about deists needing to stop defining ourselves by what we oppose, nut by what we positively believe.

    One of the things that turned me off to paine’s book is the bible bashing. I understand the need to explain the reasons for rejecting the bible, but for me Paine goes too far.

    Okay, let me go finish your article

  19. I’m an Ordained Minister of the: Universal Life Church; An Ordained Clergy Person [OCP] of the Church of Spiritual Humanism & a Deist Pastor. I’m the Leader & Founder of the: United Deist Church {Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada}. Peace, Love, Freedom & Take Care, Rev. Doug.

  20. I consider myself a Deist by every definition pointed out in this article. And I’m sure that most deist such as myself rely upon logic, science, and common sense in order to make sense of the world we live in.
    The only problem I have with most views of Deism, is this ‘egalitarian’ we’re all one people in the world sort of non-sense!
    I would venture to say that most Deist like myself believe in ‘Evolution’. At least as a better explaination of creation over that taken as fact by the revealed religions in their holy books. This being noted. Why do so many Deist allow their liberal ideologies to blind them to what nature/ God clearly reveals to us in nature. And that’s there is no such things as ‘equality’! That life is struggle! That even ‘racism’, tribalism, and self-preservation is as ‘natural’ as the differences and struggles between the various species of animals on this planet.
    Common sense and nature should clearly reveal that their are some races of mankind more intellectually developed over that of other races. But most of you liberal Deist are in denial of this fact even as you say you believe in the natural world and what nature reveals to us.
    Deism in it’s purest sense does not allow politics to dictate our faith, but rather nature itself.

  21. I wanted to quickly revisit this topic. I came across the following piece recently published in the American Journal of Theology in 1920 and thought I would share as it seems to be making a few of the same points as I was attempting to make.

    “DEISM HISTORICALLY DEFINED
    S. G. HEFELBOWER
    Washburn College, Topeka, Kansas

    There is no accepted definition of Deism. If you try to find out what it is from the books and articles that discuss it you will be left in confusion. Scholars differ as to what should be considered characteristic of the movement; some emphasize one thing, some another. Often it is conceived wholly, or almost wholly, as a metaphysical theory, which represents God as the Creator of the world, but now as withdrawn and separate from it and its concerns; it is the absentee God of literature. There is no foundation in fact for this interpretation of Deism. With the exception of Herbert of Cherbury the Deists scarcely touched philosophical problems.

    Often Deism is presented as an undefined movement that fostered a hostile attitude toward the supernatural in religion. In one sense this is true. And frequently it is defined as a type of unbelief, as a reconstruction of Christianity that leaves little that is vitally characteristic of the Christian religion. These definitions, though they vary greatly, agree in one respect; they are almost wholly negative, they represent Deism as other than or as contrary to some accepted standard; but they fail to say what it really was.

    These more or less popular definitions of Deism are wrong or inadequate. Deism was a phase in the history of religious thought; it should therefore be defined historically with reference to the thought of the age in which it flourished. A proper definition should show how it is related to and how it is distinguished from the historical background on which it appeared…”

    More here…
    http://panendeism.web.officelive.com/DEISMHISTORICALLYDEFINED.aspx

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