The Deceptive Use of Deism

by Lewis Loflin

There are endless websites promoting "Deism" across the internet. They all show pictures of famous people they claim were deists, they often present selective quotes trashing Christianity and other "revealed" religions. Most in reality are bitter and angry ex-Christians that want nothing to do with anything even remotely like Christianity.

They still do profess some vague notion of god, but they want something to latch onto to justify their new beliefs, so they hijack Deism. They for the most part reject anything Deism ever stood for: its transcendent God; its mainly Christian based moral values; its prohibitions against evil (and punishment for it); and the general religious tolerance it stood for.

While they like to claim the moral high ground set by such famous men as Jefferson, Franklin, and Washington, (who were properly called Unitarians or deistic Christians in Washington's case), they reject wholesale everything they believed.

To quote Ben Franklin:

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.

The vast majority of these "deists" reject this and make it very clear they want nothing to do with "classical" deism and prefer to invent their own "modern" versions. Trying to get these people to give a usable definition of Deism is nearly impossible. The following are quotes from a "deist" website:

Belief that humans have the individual capability of experiencing God, which is defined as spirituality. These spiritual experiences are multi-faceted and can include awe, epiphany, fellowship and even the transcendental. Essentially, each human is capable of having a profound experience of God and nature. (New Age religion.)

One of the most frequent questions asked of Deists is, without a God that creates absolute moral law, how can man be a moral being? Essentially, Deists answer this in two parts. The first is that humans have the ability to use Reason to develop and create ethical and moral principles.

The second is that through the application of Reason, these principles can be used to implement and institute moral behavior. This creates a Utilitarian/Humanist morality... (Humanist Society moral relativism.)

Modern Deism incorporates the latest interpretations found in the areas of physics/quantum physics, biology, evolution, philosophy, theology, psychology, mathematics and many other fields in the arts and sciences. However, the modern Deist movement is a dynamic (constantly changing sometimes by the week) concept in that it integrates classical and modern viewpoints with the wisdom of the past and the discoveries of the present. (Misuses science as a basis for religion.)

Classical Deism has tended to define God as separate from his creation (only transcendent); however, Modern Deism does not define God...

Thus since they reject classical deism, they can't be deists, so what are they? Most of this nonsense can be found at the Humanist Society, which is atheism. But mostly they seem to want atheism without calling it atheism. They still like the idea of a god as long as that god has no attributes of God. Thus they will often steer the visitor to pantheism.

Deism isn't Pantheism, the belief that nature is somehow god/divine. Pantheism is in reality atheism in that Nature is all there is. Another related belief system (or philosophy) is panentheism (what I refer to as pseudo-pantheism), defined as "Panentheism says that all is in God, somewhat as if God were the ocean and we were fish.

If one considers what is in God's body to be part of God, then we can say that God is all there is and then some."
Thus if everything "is in God" thus everything becomes divine, reducing any concept of god to relativism. This is a ancient invention that like pantheism belongs under New Age religion or perhaps broadly a pseudo-religion in itself. This is part of the continuing process of religious syncretism.

Panentheism is what Christianity is and is not monotheism such as classical Deism, Unitarianism, Judaism, etc. The Apostle Paul was a panentheist. Another recent and deceptive innovation is pandeism and panendeism, which are really just variations of pantheism and new age type mysticism.

While I have nothing against these beliefs as such, they need to end the deceptive practices of using Deism to lure people into their groups. If one rejects the transcendent God of Deism, then by definition they are not Deists. Just as Christians reject the monotheism of Judaism, they shouldn't call themselves Jews. Panentheism is the "Holy Spirit" or "Holy Ghost" of Christianity.

Why Pantheism in all its forms must be Rejected

I have very good reasons for rejecting any form of pantheism. Reducing God to rocks, trees, etc. reduces God to really nothing, or at best irrelevant. It's like "In God we trust" on the currency, just words we ignore as I pay for a pack of gum. Why not just finish going to atheism and end it? In addition it's a form of idolatry.

Again I have to look at science, evolution, and biology. There is no known way based on material science to account for the universe, the beginning of life, its transition from single cell life to us, etc. based on just chemistry and random chance. So many different things had to be just right or there would be no chance for life on this planet.

That clearly suggests beyond a reasonable doubt both purpose and an on going intervention of things we can't measure with just science. Pantheism simply brings us back to those limitations and locks us there by making God little more than some vague spirit occupying matter.

Christianity has done a lot of damage to God. I have never been a Christian and I'm not really hostile to the faith, but I do take on bigots. I had the Bible in college and went in with a blank slate knowing nothing about the faith at all. I came out concluding the Jews were right and Paul was a troubled and unhappy man looking for happiness in a troubled world. I can't begrudge anyone of happiness unless that happiness is at the expense of others.

Because that was my introduction to the Bible, I read it from the Old Testament forward instead of the New Testament backwards without reliance in what I call Gnostic and Platonist mysticism. If something seems reasonable I will use it and reject the nonsense.

The same process and thinking that invaded Judaism has also invaded classical Deism. Christians wanted the authority of the Hebrew God, they just didn't want that God or to follow His rules. The same is true of the modern "New Age" deist and their "spiritual" speculations.

Classical Deists also used to live within Christianity and even Judaism forming an often moderating voice. Jefferson attended church himself. How we live our lives does matter and I do believe in an afterlife, in fact I'm certain of it. But that afterlife is not based on just theological correctness or belief as such. It's what we do in life that counts. This Paulist/Augustine nonsense of damnation and extremist view of sin is enough to poison anyone.

Humans are not divine as pantheism implies, but perhaps are an image of God. We are supposed to be human and we have the ability to choose our own path. We aren't supposed to be perfect, but do the best we can. Reason is a gift, but can also be a curse or misused.

My purpose is to clarify this issue based on historical evidence and the beliefs of those others claim authority from, the actual Deists. Deism continues to be a misused and misunderstood term, so the reader must be very wary of any claims and do their own research.

Updated December 7, 2010.