The English Deists: Introduction

The beginnings of English Deism appear in the seventeenth century...(Deism) advances a theory of knowledge based upon the recognition of innate universal characteristics...and rigidly opposed to knowledge supernatural in its origin and determinable in only by strife and conflict. The "Five Articles" of the English Deists constitute the nucleus of all religions and of Christianity in its primitive, uncorrupted form.

The variations between positive religions are explained as due partly to the allegorization of nature, partly to self-deception, the workings of imagination, and priestly guile.



This is classical English Deism defined by Lord Herbert of Cherbury (d. 1648) in his book "De Veritate," (1624), he described the "Five Articles" of English Deists as;

1. belief in the existence of a single supreme God
2. humanity's duty to revere God
3. linkage of worship with practical morality
4. God will forgive us if we repent and abandon our sins
5. good works will be rewarded (and punishment for evil) both in life and after death.

It should be noted that the Age of Reason is separate from the later more radical and violent French Enlightenment and the bloody French Revolution. French Deism was anti-religious and shaded into atheism, pantheism, and skepticism and in reality was better called deistic Humanism. See French Deism, and Deism Mainpage.

As Ben Franklin noted in a letter to Ezra Stiles in 1790 ((Salisbury, Dorothy Cleaveland. "Religion: As the Leaders of this Nation Reveal It." Daughters of the American Revolution Vol.106 (1972), page 541.) what American Deism is all about:

Here is my creed. I believe in One God, the Creator of the Universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render Him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion.

This has nothing to do with "God went away." This sends many "modern" Deists into fits in their refusal to identify the transcendent God of Deism and substitute pantheism (spiritual atheism) for God, and Humanism for ethics.

English Deism