Deism is a theological policy that supports the belief of the existence of God as the sole creator of the whole world, but disregarded the notion of divine intervention and revelations such as the existence of miracles and supernatural events similar to those described in the Bible as the end times.The concept of deism as a belief traces its origin from North America and the European region, as it developed during the Enlightenment period. The development of the religion led to the development of a group of individuals who critically reviewed Christianity as a religion and came up with various criticisms regarding the religion that had gained popularity by the end of the 17th century.The Enlightenment period, which is also known as the Century of Lights,was a knowledgeable period which led to the commencement of a movement that dominated various religions in the 18th century. The entire Enlightenment concept was centered on reason as the central source of legality and authority. The period and the movement led to the advancement of various concepts such as liberalization, tolerance, government and the constitution, and also the separation of the state and the principles of the church. According to the deist concept, the existence of God has not been disputed. However, the same concept states that the one maker is no longer in and that the world has been left to the mercies of nature.The research seeks to review deism as a religion, analyze some of the individuals who have contributed to the development of various concepts adopted by the religion, the similarities and differences between Christianity and Deism and the impact of deism on the culture of the people in the Europe and North America regions.
Deism was used as an insult by the atheistsafter the Enlightenment period.Most deists believed in the existence of God as the creator of the universe. However, the perception of God as the creator was more theoretical than personalistic.According to the deist, God was the “Great Architect,” who planned and made the world, the Providence who had good intentions for the world at the time of creation, and“the Great Watchmaker,” who introduced the concept of time and brought a sense of timely order unto the world. The effects of the descriptions for the holiness of God was that God gave the world all it needed to flourish and bear fruit, and for this reason, He no longer intervenes in the matters of the world, because the materials given are sufficient enough to restore order and balance to the world.
Deism began as a religion whose main objective was to react to Christianity, its principles, and also the cultural circle of Christianity. However, its growth superseded is original intent as it led to the development of other concepts which moved past Christianity as a religion and focused nature. The birth of the concept of nature and religion led to the advancement of the pre-existing ideas and also the formulation of new ideas regarding religion as an essential component of the human beings. The changes led to the formulation of the concept of equality, where non-religious practices and traditions received the same validity. While various deists had different convictions, majority of the deists acknowledged the existence of God as the Supreme Being (a concept which was developed through rational thinking). Deism supported the incorporation of some Christian concepts without debating on the unique nature of the religion, and also accepted Christianity as a moral guide.
Individuals who have contributed to the Deism
Deism has been associated to numerous scholars such as Jean Le Rond d’ Alembert, Denis Diderot, Jean Antoine de Condorcet, Gotthold Lessing,Jean-Jacques Rousseau Immanuel Kant, Mathew Tindal, Samuel Clark, Anthony Collins, Thomas Paine, John Toland, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin. The deists had an array of theological viewpoints,although the ideas created a clear distinction between those in Germany and England. For instance,people from England believed in the existence of God and revelations, although they emphasized more on the accessibility of Christianity and also reasonability of the concepts such as the existence of miracles. The deistsfrom Germany argued radically about issues of atheism and agnosticism. Furthermore, other rationalists of the Enlightenment period such as Lessing and Rousseau converted the deist concepts by producing writings that were romantic in nature.
John Toland (1670-1722) drafted the first deist manuscript which he called Christianity Not Mysterious (1696). In the publication, Toland used some of Locke’s concept and nature revelations, and he concluded by emphasizing that the truth was contingent from nature and not the divine revelation. He also argued out anything that the readers of the Bible could not comprehend through reason should be regarded as false teachings. Through his wide and meticulous study of the gospel and clarity of the various concepts issued by the bible, which at the time seemed more antagonistic to the sense of reason, Toland affirmed that reason was the yardstick of all matters pertaining religion. The publication of Toland’s book caused unrest in Britain and Irish region, and this led to the mass banning of the books and also the declaration of the books as anti-Christian. He has commenced the process of dejection the biblical teachings and doctrines as he stated that the bible was rather superstitious. Although his work was terminated before he could complete, his beliefs grew slowly but gradually and eventually as people stated opposing the hierarchical system of the church and the government.
Mathew Tindal (1657-1733) is also a philosophical figure who shaped the deism religion through his periodical, Christianity as Old as the Creator; this book concluded all the deist doctrines, principles, andthoughts. Unlike his predecessors, Tindal summed up all the arguments that have ever been presented about deism and Christianity and presented them in a philosophical but, comprehensible language. Similar to Toland, Tindal repudiated the concept of authority, especially the religious authority; he openly expressed his distrust for the hierarchical system which in the church. In his publication, Tindal explained that the ultimate essence of a religion was to assist human beings in harnessing their beliefs and also nurture their moral nature instead of depending on revelations. Furthermore, he emphasized that all human beings were equal before God.Thus, God gave every one the gift of reason which enables us to analyze various situations and differentiate good fromevil, without requiring God’s intervention. However, Tindal’s work provoked numerous individuals as it ended up getting over 150 responsessuch as, the Case of Reasonpublished in 1732 by William Law an Anglican divine. The main aim of the publication was to highlight some of the limitations of the sense of reason which had received mass advocacy by several philosophers who were in support of deism as a religion.
Anthony Collins (1676-1729) was another free thicker and critique of the gospel and the Christian doctrines. In a series of conversation with Samuel Clarke, Collins rejected the idea of the existence of a soul and instead, explained that human beings have a conscience which was a property of the brain. In 1713, Collins published a book which he called Discourse of Freethinking occasioned by the rise and growth of a sect of Freethinkers. In the book Collins takes Toland’s concept of rational probe further. According to Collins, the church had cultivated on fear as a way of appealing to the Christian’s moral stand. However, in the long-run, the act of appealing to their fear through the use of superstitious events led to the development of moral corruption. He further argued out that in the Bible all the moral figures taught theirdisciplesby appealing to their sense of reason and not fears. According to him, reforms on the religion should aim at eliminating the superstitious beliefs and focus more on the expansionof the moralteachings.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) concentrated on the various features of the philosophy of religion for the better part of the mid 1700’s century. Having been born and raised in a religious environment, his attention on the issue of religion and faith had a deeper meaning pertaining to his life.His advocacy and discussion of the religious concepts represented a philosophical revolution of the concepts of divinity and religion. Kant’s work follows a concise pathway which presents a demonstrative argument about the God of Metaphysics by disproving the theological concepts, and affirming the established moral of the religious belief which was based purely on the rational of the human beings. Kant’s philosophical theology can be categorized into five, which include his intention to establish a balance between Christianity and science, his relationship with pietism. Kant also sought to strike a balance between rigid modern rationalism and doubtful modern rationalism and also hos commitment to the principles introduced by the Age of Enlightenment.
Jean Le Rond d’ Alembert (1717-1783) was a French philosopher who co-edited with Denis Diderot reviewing the Encyclopédie. The Encyclopédie was a book which represented the thoughts and concepts brought about by the Enlightenment period.Its main objective was to revolutionize the people’s way of thinking.Jean le Rond d’Alembert opposed the concept of the existence of a religion, and instead, he focused on other issues such as tolerance and also the freedom of speech. Unlike Kant, Jean le Rond d’Alembert openly supported philosophies which were hostile to the Christian religion although he was too cautious to openly show his aggression towards Christianity as a religion.
Comparison between Christianity and Deism
Deism and Christianity share numerous similarities and differences despite both religions belief in the existence of the same God and also depend on the same bible as a guide of their moral actions. Most deists have criticized the Christians as those of blind faith by doing what the bible stipulated without giving any regards to their moral stand through the sense of reason. Some of the various differences have been described below.
The deists have argued out that they are only answerable to God since He is the only Supreme Being, and not to any other.There are no separate books and bibles for the deist and thus, they abide by the rules and teachings of the same bible as the Christians, yet they have a different way of doing things. Christians, on the other hand, believe in the Trinity of God the father, God the son, andGod the Holy Spirit. The concept which was taught by Jesus shaped the Christian’s doctrines and belief of God as a Supreme Being. According to the Christians, Jesus Christ is a part of the trinity and God’s son sent from heaven to liberate mankind from their sinful nature. On his mission, Jesus taught of the concept of the holy trinity and also the triune nature of God. However, the deists have challenged God’s triune nature because there are parts of the bible which quote the Lord God as one. For instance, Deuteronomy 6:4-5 states, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” In the verse, there is no mention of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and because the deists depend on reason in making judgment, they have completely disregarded the presence of the Trinity. Thus, even though they believe in the existence of Jesus, they do not hold themselves accountable to him as he was only a messenger.
The book of Genesis introduces us to the concept of creation, and how God created the universe, the birds, land and sea creatures and also human beings. All deists and Christians believe in the story of creation, God being the sole creator of both the heaven and the earth. However, the difference sets in, as according to the deists after the act of creation, God’s role was accomplished has He had bestowed to nature everything it needed to create balance and restore order in times of chaos. The Christians, on the other hand, believe that even after creation, God’s actions can be felt through the series of supernatural events and miracles taking place on a daily basis. Furthermore, Christians are hopeful that they will see Him again during the rapture which is vividly described in the book of Revelation. The deists have completely refuted the Christian’s concept of the will of God through the divine revelation of God’s manifestation through the word and other events such as the healing of the sick. To the deists, miracles are influenced by nature as it strives to restore order. Therefore, a blind person or a sick person may be healed by the acts of nature and not God.
Although Christianity and Deism has numerous differences, the two religions believe in the existence of the same God who was the creator of the heaven and the Earth, the same God who sent Jesus Christ to liberate us from our sins.Both faiths hold God as the highest form of deity to have ever existed. God is the most Supreme Being who is Omnipotent and beyond the human understanding. The two religions have put more emphasis on the greatest commandment taught by Jesus Christ and has also been mention severally in the bible. Mathew 22: 37-38 and also Mark 12:28-29 state, “Jesus said to him, you shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul and with all you mind.” These teachings of Jesus Christ have shaped the two religions and have also introduced the concept of similarity, even though they chose to perceive the teachings differently.
Impact of Deism on the culture
Although deism has lost its popularity in the 21st century due to the development of numerous religions and beliefs, the religion gained mass popularity during the 17th, the 18th and also of the 19th century. The mass recognition was sparked by the Age of Enlightenment and also strong advocacy it received from numerous philosophers in European region and also parts of North America. The development of the new religion which concentrated more on nature and less on the higher power transformed the cultural beliefs and lifestyle of the people living in England and America. To some people, the development of deism was some sort of liberation as Christianity had influenced the governmental authority and hierarchy. The members of the clergy had been given an immense power which was being used to oppress the destitute. The newly formed religion, which at first started as a critique of Christianity, gained mass support through the publication of the doctrines written by philosophers such as Anthony Collins, despite the government activities of banning them.For instance, the philosophers’criticizedthe existence of supernatural events and mystical powers. The doctrines openly advocated for the use ofthe sense of reason in passing judgment and also the importance of equality.
Before the development of deism religion, England followed a monarchy system of governance while in America the rules stipulated that only specific individual could take up leadership roles depending on the nobility and the social status of one’s family. To the people, this rule was rather oppressive and encouraged the act of inequality. Thus, the development of deism received mass support by various philosophers such as Thomas Jefferson in America and also Anthony Collins in Britain. The development revolutionized the oppressive culture where women were viewed to be weak and the poor discarded as lesser beings. Deism advocates for liberalization and equality which are dependent on the sense of reason which was a gift given to man by God during creation. Also, deism changed how human beings perceive nature. The deism religion is often termed as the “religion of nature,” due to its advocacy of nature as God’s gift to mankind. According to the deist theology, God was the sole creator and during creation, He bestowed to nature all that it required to restore balance on the Earth. Thus, according to the deists, nature is as equally important because it has the capability of restoring order in times of chaos. The development of deism led to the conservation of the natural resources such as the trees, hills, and also the vast land. The religion aided in the conservation of the trees at a time when industrial revolution had gained mass movement and was taking over the whole of Europe and other regions of the world such as Asia and America.
Collins, Anthony. A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion. ISBN 0824017668 ed. New York: Garland Publishing, 1976.
Cunningham, Joyce, Gilbert . “Deism.” Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Edited by James Hastings. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1910.
Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011. s.v “Jean Le Rond d’Alembert | French mathematician and philosopher.” Accessed November 24, 2016. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Le-Rond-dAlembert.
Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2006. s.v “The founding fathers, Deism, and Christianity | founding fathers.” Accessed November 24, 2016. https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Founding-Fathers-Deism-and-Christianity-1272214.
Livingston, James. “Deism.” August 5, 2013. Accessed November 24, 2016. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Deism.
Pomerleau, Wayne P. “Immanuel Kant: Philosophy of Religion.” Accessed November 24, 2016. https://www.iep.utm.edu/kant-rel/#H1.
Staloff, Darren. “Deism and the Founding of the United States.” January 2008. Accessed November 24, 2016. http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/eighteen/ekeyinfo/deism.htm.
Taylor, Bron. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. London and New York, 2008. https://www.religionandnature.com/ern/sample/French–Rousseau.pdf.
Tindal, Mathew. Ohn Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious. 1998th ed. Edited by Alan Harrison, Richard Kearney, and Philip McGuinness. Dublin: Lilliput Press, n.d.
Walters, Kerry S. Rational Infidels: The American Deists. Durango CAL: Longwood Academic, 1992.
“Deism and the Development of American Civil Religion.” November 29, 2010. Accessed November 24, 2016. https://attackthesystem.com/deism-and-the-development-of-american-civil-religion/.
Bron Taylor, Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, (London and New York, 2008), https://www.religionandnature.com/ern/sample/French–Rousseau.pdf.
“Deism,” New World Encyclopedia, August 5, 2013, accessed November 24, 2016, https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Deism.
Joyce Cunningham Gilbert ., “Deism.” Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1910).
Encyclopedia Britannica (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2006), s.v “The founding fathers, Deism, and Christianity | founding fathers” by The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed November 24, 2016, https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Founding-Fathers-Deism-and-Christianity-1272214.
Mathew Tindal, Ohn Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious, ed. Alan Harrison, Richard Kearney, and Philip McGuinness, 1998th ed. (Dublin: Lilliput Press, n.d.).
Anthony Collins, A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion., ISBN 0824017668 ed. (New York: Garland Publishing, 1976).
Encyclopedia Britannica (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011), s.v “Jean Le Rond d’Alembert | French mathematician and philosopher” by The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed November 24, 2016, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Le-Rond-dAlembert.
Walters Kerry S, Rational Infidels: The American Deists (Durango CAL: Longwood Academic, 1992).
Deism and the Development of American Civil Religion,” Attack the System: Pan-Anarchism Against the State, Pan-Secessionism Against the Empire, November 29, 2010, accessed November 24, 2016, https://attackthesystem.com/deism-and-the-development-of-american-civil-religion/.
 “Deism and the Founding of the United States,” Teacher Serve, January 2008, accessed November 24, 2016, http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/eighteen/ekeyinfo/deism.htm