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Deism is the position that the Designer or Creator of the cosmos and life is withdrawn from creation, not involved in any supernatural way accept for the initial act of creation. It is a theological position concerning the relationship between God and the natural created world.

In the modern academic setting deism when considered in philosophy of religion sees Rene Descartes (1596-1650 AD) as a historical context. Descartes framed the natural world as a giant mechanism of matter understood by the mind.[1] Deism maintains support for what is referred to as the clockwork universe theory. The theory posits that the universe and nature are seen as a mechanism, something like a clock that has been left to tick on its own in an always predictive manner.[2] The theory is highly influential in the history of the development of the western mind. The development ultimately produced a conceptual split in not just metaphysical terms because of what it does to the ontology of God, but epistemological because how to know God changed to a dominant natural theology from revealed theology.

Theism begins with the existence of God and His supernatural activity in the world, deists maintain existence but eliminate the relational quality of God to the world. Naturalism proceeds by materialism assuming atheism or what is the non-existence of any such supernatural being like God in the first place. This is a major delineation that the Western world has grappled with ever since the time of Descartes.[1] Deism because it does not assume an active supernatural agent, arguments generally reflect theistic natural theology relying on reason and observation within the natural world rather than holy texts such as the Bible or the Koran. (See: Revealed theology) Deism rejects miracles and any other kind of divine revelation asserting that religion should be derived by reason alone. This was a common position of Enlightenment thinkers and does not place authority of the Bible within that realm of thinking.


Pre-Enlightenment Deism

Deistic thought has existed since Ancient Greek times. Many of Plato's writings describe God as the "one Workman" and that humans are God's toys.

Eighteenth-Century America

The term "Deism" is loosely used to describe the views of certain English and continental thinkers. These views attracted a following in Europe toward the latter part of the seventeenth century and gained a small but influential number of adherents in America in the late eighteenth century. Deism stressed morality and rejected the orthodox Christian view of the divinity of Christ, often viewing him as nothing more than a "sublime" teacher of morality.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are usually considered the leading American deists. There is no doubt that they subscribed to the deist credo that all religious claims were to be subjected to the scrutiny of reason. "Call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion," Jefferson advised. Other founders of the American republic, including George Washington, are frequently identified as deists, although the evidence supporting such judgments is often thin. Deists in the United States never amounted to more than a small percentage of an evangelical population.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (IVP Academic; 5th edition 2009), pg. 66
  2. Clockwork universe theory by Wikipedia