See Dissecting Deism Past and Present

French Deism Road to Revolution and Murder

Richard Hooker explains the basis for French Deism and to understand the subject we must note several items:

The use of classical mechanics to explain the operation of the universe eliminated any use for God. This was a broad step to atheism in God being reduced to being a vague philosophical argument.

French philosophers applied this to Christianity further removing God from the culture. While he didn't mention Voltaire, they adopted Aristotle's Prime Mover an idea that "god" set the universe (matter) in motion and it went on it's merry way. Reason and human philosophy was all that was needed and no guidance or input from God was required - in fact any notion of revelation was strongly rejected.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Discourse on Inequality would set the goal for secular violence when the radical French Deists sought the use of government force to remake society - something Nazis, Marxists, fascists, and a lesser degree secular Progressives employ today.

They concocted the Cult of the Supreme Being to replace the Christian Church - then acted worse than the Inquisition.

The French Deists had little to nothing in common with American and English Deism that are closer to liberal Protestantism minus the Trinity. Since the 18th Century secular violence and non-Christian violence has torn Europe and the rest of the world apart.

The rest of from Hooker. Lewis Loflin

Classical Mechanics

The implications of Isaac Newton's physical theories of mechanics, which treated the universe as if it were a machine (hence the term "mechanics") built by a creating god yet running on its own principles independent of the interference of the creating god (though Newton never denied that God couldn't interfere, just that he didn't), encompassed much more than physical change and movement.

Soon other areas of experience came to be regarded as mechanistic and independent of divine interference: social structures, economics, politics, and so forth. Each of these areas could be understood and manipulated solely through rational methods, since they operated through consistent and orderly laws and principles. More on Isaac Newton here

European Enlightenment

The Philosophes

The philosophers of mid-eighteenth century France developed this mechanistic view of the universe into a radically revised version of Christianity they called deism.

Drawing on Newton's description of the universe as a great clock built by the Creator and then set in motion, the deists among the philosophes argued that everything, physical motion, human physiology, politics, society, economics, had its own set of rational principles established by God which could be understood by human beings solely by means of their reason.

This meant that the workings of the human and physical worlds could be understood without having to bring religion, mysticism, or divinity into the explanation. The Deists were not atheists; they simply asserted that everything that concerned the physical and human universes could be comprehended independently of religious concerns or explanations.

However, Deism encompassed far more than this. For the Deists believed that if God created a rational universe, a universe that could be understood by human reason alone, that must mean that God was rational as well. If God is rational, then God can be understood through the use of reason without recourse to mysticism, superstition, prayer, or even the divinity of Christ. The Deists set out to replace Christianity with its ceremonies, devices, and supernatural aspects with a religion they called "The Cult of the Supreme Being."


The Discourse on Inequality

Historically, this second aspect of Deism was almost as important as the first in the development of modern European culture. During the second revolution and reign of terror in France in 1791-1792, the radical revolutionists attempted to put these Deistic principles into practice.

They renamed Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, "The Temple of Reason," and went about the countryside attempting to transform Catholic churches into churches of the "Supreme Being."

The radical revolutionists, of course, were attempting to remake French society from the ground up, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau suggested in the Discourse on Inequality. From changing the calendar and the names of the days to rebuilding the church into a Deistic church, most of the constructive activities of the radical leaders of the second revolution and the terror aimed at this goal of rebuilding society on rational principles.

However, the conversion of the Catholic church to a "Cult of the Supreme Being" proved to be too radical for the French countryside, and reaction to this change, among other things, spelled the end of radical reform.

1996, Richard Hooker

Broad explanation of Deism.
Broad explanation of Deism.


Web site Copyright Lewis Loflin, All rights reserved.
If using this material on another site, please provide a link back to my site.