Definition, Christian, Religion
Deism, as presently defined, is acknowledging a God, or deity, through reason rather than revelation or tradition. The Deist believes decisions in life should be reached through personal reason, and not because they are dictated by a formal religion or tradition. The intelligence Deist questions the origin of the universe and world which he inhabits. Such questioning frequently leads to two major arguments; the first being the cosmological argument, or the first cause argument, which argues for a God or prime mover of the universe. There are three versions of this argument: the argument from causation, in esse, “in existence”; the argument from causation, in fieri, “pending,” and the argument from contingency. The teleological argument is the second major argument which when summarized states that X (the universe) is too complex to have occurred randomly or naturally; therefore, X (the universe) must have been created by an intelligent being. That intelligent being is called God; therefore God exists. Deism has been classically defined as the theory that God created the universe but does not interfere with its internal functioning, although this is not a fundamental premise because as shown later this logically cannot be proven.
Although some claim the cosmological argument argues for the proof of the existence of God, such a claim is wrong. The argument argues for the existence for a cause which initiated the universe; this cause can be called God, first cause, or as current described intelligent design. The Deist believes the cosmological argument proves the existence of God, but logically the argument does not prove this; all that the argument states is that the universe was caused by an external cause; the assumption that the external cause was uncaused is not proven.
Also it can be theorized that the universe has not always existed, which has yet to be proven, but the Big Bang controversy is consistent with it. Another hypothesis eliminating the need for a first cause is that the universe always existed, its creation was never causal in nature, but such a hypothesis is not consistent with current scientific findings. Both arguments fail to meet the criteria of Deism because they eliminate the need for a God even though, as it has been shown, the Deist’s existence for God cannot be proven.
The second major argument is the teleological argument; teleological is derived from Greek telos, “end” or “purpose.” Teleology is only concerned with natural phenomena, meaning it just is stating that the Egyptian pyramids exist and is distinct from the argument as to the possibility they might have built by extraterrestrials.
In summary, as previously stated, that X (the natural phenomena or universe) is too complex to have occurred randomly or naturally; therefore, X must have been created by an intelligent being, therefore, it exists. All the teleological argument does is simply state the existence of a natural phenomenon, in the case of a phenomenon such as the universe, when its complexity is considered, the argument may indicate that it X was designed by an intelligent being. However, the reason for the existence of X and the nature of its designer, except for being intelligent, are not relevant to the argument. Therefore, even though the Deism may attempt to use the teleological argument like the cosmological argument to prove the existence of God both arguments fail in the same way; a creator of the universe possessing intelligence may be proven by the existence of the universe, but there is no proof that this intelligent creator is God, this latter is reasoning and/or experience–feeling it is so.
History of Arguments:
The first leading philosopher supporting the cosmological argument was the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas, which is generally known as the “first cause” argument. In On Being and Essence (De Ente et Essentia) Aquinas wrote, “Therefore, everything the existence of which is other than its own nature has existence from another. And since everything that is through another is reduced to that which is through itself as to a first cause, there is something that is the cause of existing in all things in that this thing is existence only. Otherwise, we would have to go to infinity in causes, for everything that is not existence alone has a cause of its existence, as said above. It is clear, therefore, that the intelligences are form and existence and have existence from the first being, which is existence alone, and this is the first cause, which is God.”
Aquinas gained his first cause concept from the reading of Aristotle. Aristotle conceived that the origination and maintenance of things were supported by four causes: the material cause, the material which makes the object, the bronze or silver composing the bowl; the formal cause, the blueprint, shape, genera, or essence that mark the account (Aristotle’s term) or appearance of the object, the composition of the essential parts of the object; the efficient cause, the person who makes the object, or “unmoved movers,” gods who move nature. For example, the father propagates his child and can also initiate change within that child. And, the final cause, the telos, purpose or end for which the object or activity is to serve, and includes everything and activity required to produce the desired object or result.
Aristotle stated there are two modes of causation: proper causation and accidental causation. Within the first mode, proper causation, things take place for the sake of something, and the result is that which was intended. In accidental causation things occur not out of necessity but rather by chance/coincidence. When describing the latter causation mode many feel that coincidence is the best description of the occurrence because no intention is involved; whereas, with chance there is always the possibility that someone intended to achieve the result.
From this Aquinas drew his theological and Deist approach to the argument. Aquinas followed Aristotle’s assertion that something caused the universe, believing in its contingent, the universe could exist or not exist, necessitates that it had a cause. And that cause cannot be another contingent thing, but must be something which exists from necessity, that is, for the purpose that it was intended. In other words, even if the universe has always existed, it still owes its existence to Aristotle’s Uncaused Cause.
This Uncaused Cause for Aquinas was God, permitting him to deduce that God exists. Whether the universe always existed, or came about by a first causal event, for Aquinas this argument offers definitive proof for the existence of God.
The Aristotelian theory of causation also is found in the works of Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), especially within the latter’s discussion of physical influx, occasionalism, and pre-established harmony. According to this physical influx theory there is an inflow between the cause and effect; that is, there is an intersubstantial causation among finite (non-divine) substances. For example, when a person strums a guitar, he is really the cause of the vibrations of the strings. Interesting to note, the term “physical” notwithstanding, the theory of physical influx is not limited to material finite substances. For physical influx is occasionally invoked to explain the causal interaction between immaterial finites substances, e.g., minds, and material substances, e.g., bodies. Therefore, the term “physical” has more accurately come to mean natural rather than material.
Occasionalism completely denies causation not only among finite substances, ruling out influx between cause and effect, but also within finite substances. In other words, with regard to finite substances, there is neither intersubstantial nor intraubstantial causation. Taken individually or jointly, finite substances have literally no causal efficacy. As in the example of the strummer the guitar, the strummer is not the real cause of the vibration; and neither are his fingers wrist, or arm the real cause. Then does the occasionalist say the vibration is uncaused? No, the occasionalist would answer that there is God. In occasionalism, held by Leibniz and many of his contemporaries, God was thought to be the only infinite (i.e., divine) substance that could be considered to be the only real cause. God causes the strings of the guitar to vibrate on the occasion of the strummer’s violation-itself caused by God-to strum the guitar strings.
Like occasionalism, the theory of pre-established harmony holds that there is no intersubstantial causation among finite substances. And, as in occasionalism, the pre-established harmony theory holds that the strummer does not cause the guitar to vibrate, and neither does his fingers, wrist, nor arm. And, even God is not the real (complete) cause of the vibration. According to the pre-established harmony theory finite substances can be real causes. Due to the special harmony between the mind and body and not because of any direct causal relation, when the strummer is in a state of willing his fingers to strum the strings of the guitar, the strings are in a physical state that would result in their vibration.
It is from the analysis of Leibniz’s rejection and acceptance of these causation theories that one comprehends his views of the Divine creation of the world and its influence upon it. Leibniz, as shall be shown, did not share the view that constant Divine intervention was presence in the world. His reason for this was explained through the pre-established harmony theory after he rejected the physical influx and occasionalism theories of causation. He rejected physical influx because he ruled out any sort of causation in which one substance passes something onto another substance. “The way of influence is that of the common philosophy. But since it is impossible to conceive of material particles or of species or immaterial qualities which can pass from one of these substances into the other, the view must be rejected” (GP iv, 498f).
Here it is clear that Leibniz takes “influx” to refer to the transference of accidents (tropes or property-instances), as when the strummer’s fingers give an instance of motion to strum the guitar string. Leibniz holds that it cannot be comprehended how one finite substance could act on another finite substance. For such intersubstantial causation entails the transference or migration of an accident from one substance to another, where a trope passes from one thing to another, which then instantiates it. Such transference is inexplicable; an accident passing (or a trope transferring) from one subject to another is impossible (New Essays A vi, 6, 224).
Later it is seen that what really troubles Leibniz concerning physical influx is the loss or drain following the causation. Leibniz maintained that within the act of real causation that the cause should not lose any of its efficacy after exercising its causal power. He described the production of human thoughts, for instance, as involving emanative causation: “it is very evident that created substances depend upon God, who preserves them and who even produces them continually by a kind of emanation, just as we produce our thoughts” (Discourse on Metaphysics §14 GP iv, 439/AG 46).
In this description Leibniz seems to suggest causes are concomitant requisites and God as preserving substances continually by emanation, sort of favoring occasionalism; however, following his initial influence by occasionalism he rejected it. Leibniz rejected occasionalism because he believed a world is more perfect when substances are actively aggressive than when they are purely passive or causally inert. Within a world of the latter type God would be required to be constantly performing miracles and Leibniz believed such a world would be less praiseworthy than one that evolves natural without constant intervention of God. Here Leibniz is not saying God played no part in the creation of the world, no, what he is saying is God started the creative process that is continual, the process repeats itself. Leibniz compared this divine creative process to the human thought process; thoughts are continually being formed in the mind just as the creations of God are continually being created. The only time that man deliberately enters the thought process is when he deliberately forms a new thought or concept, likewise, God only steps into the creative process when a new creation evolves, which leads Leibniz to emphasize that man should be able to distinguish between the actions of God and the actions of created substances.
This is the reason that Leibniz said God created the world; it was here. This statement is based on his Principle of Sufficient Reason which states that every fact has a sufficient for reason being the way it is and not otherwise. This principle is at the heart of various versions of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Some philosophers, both theist and non-theist, think that the existence of God follows from the Principle. The Principle can be seen to be a generalization of the dictum ex nihilo nihil fit, “nothing comes from nothing.”
Again a counter argument can be made against the claim that this Principle proves the existence of God. The argument becomes similar to the previous one proposed against the cosmological argument which is that the argument just argues for the existence for a cause which initiated the universe; this cause can be called God, or the first cause. Likewise, Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason states that every fact has a sufficient reason for being the way it is and not otherwise. The assumption that the cosmological argument and Principle of Sufficient Reason prove the existence of God is just that, assumption, on the part of philosophers. The cosmological argument just argues for the existent of a cause that started the universe, no argument specifies the nature of that cause. The Principle of Sufficient Reason simply states every fact has a sufficient reason for being the way it is and not otherwise. Logically the reason is the nature of the fact, its composition and construction. The origination of the reason is not mentioned; this will be discussed further in the description of the teleological argument.
Finally Leibniz’s argument for pre-existed harmony is seen in his theory of monads, which he regarded as percipient beings composing the ultimate elements of the universe. Monads are centers of force, and substance is force, while space, matter, and motion are phenomenal; finally, according to Leibniz, the existence of God is inferred from the harmony between the monads. Coinciding with this is his concept of continual creation, as previously mentioned, once God creates anything it continues renewing itself thus eliminating the necessity of constant Divine intervention.
A most prominent influence to Deism was the Englishman John Locke (1632-1704) who stirred emotions following the Revolution of 1688 and the establishment of the freedom of the press in 1694 after the ousting of the Stuart partisanship in the proceeding stricter Anglicanism. In this new atmosphere of liberalism emerged the radical development for testing the contents of revelation; here Locke and fellow prominent thinkers (the British Empiricists) battled the current religious systems, customs and practices. The result of Locke’s reflections on experience was his development of a mechanical teleological metaphysics and an empirical-utilitarian ethics; this latter agrees that the ethical experience merely confirms the connection established by a teleological government of the universe between certain acts and their consequences. Even though Locke possessed supernatural tendencies he proclaimed in his Letters of Tolerance (1689-1692) that only rational demonstration, not compulsion or mere assertion, can validate revelation. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), after investigating the conception of revelation from the epistemological standpoint, he established criteria by which true revelation was to be determined as opposed to other doctrines claiming such authority.
Strict proof of the formal character of revelation must be given in example; the tradition which communicates it to us must be fully accredited by both external and internal evidence; and its content must be shown to correspond with rational metaphysics and ethics. Revelation, per se, after being stated, must be shown to be rational, that is capable of being deduced from premises of reason. Only when this is possibly is there a presumption in favor of the purely mysterious parts of revelation. It is when these safeguards of criteria are disregarded the way of excesses of sects and priesthoods of religion, the differentia of reasoning man, has often made him appear less rational than the beasts.
Locke, therefore, advances the remarkable conception of a revelation that reveals only reasonable and universally cognizable. The practical consequence of this thesis are deduced in his Reasonableness of Christianity as Delivered in the Scriptures (1695), which aimed to terminate religious strife through recovering the truths of primitive, rational Christianity. It was from the Gospels and Acts, as distinguished from the Epistles, that he elicited as the fundamental Christian truths the doctrine of the messiahship of Jesus and the kingdom of God. Inseparably connected with these are the recognition of Jesus as ruler of this kingdom, forgiveness of sins, and subjection to the moral law of the kingdom. This law is identical with the ethical portion of the law of Moses, which in its turn corresponds to the lex naturae or rationis. The Gospel is but the divine summary and exposition of the law of nature, and it is the advantage of Christianity over pagan creeds and philosophies that it offers this law of nature intelligibly, with divine authority, and free from merely ceremonial sacerdotalism. To do this it requires the aid of a supernatural revelation, whose message is attainable through reason also, but only in an imperfect way.
When reviewing the summary of Locke’s efforts one cannot help but to question his attitude and motive. His motive seems clear enough; to reduce Christianity to its bare essentials, thus eliminating much of the Church travesty, which appears admirable to some. But, the question remains, why did he try to naturalize Christianity at all? For those who have studied and/or practiced any of the pagan creeds Locke’s assumption that Christianity is superior to them seems ludicrous. This is neither the time nor place to review pagan traditions in detail, but the simple mention that several traditions have resurrection beliefs similar to Jesus will serve to amplify this objection. It causes Locke’s attitude not to seem to be objective; rather than dismissing Christianity all together as a religion fabricated by men, he just cleanses it of parts that he found objectionable. The statement “This law is identical with the ethical portion of the law of Moses, which in its turn corresponds to the lex naturae or rationis” would be objectively objectionable. All of the Mosaic Laws concerning fasting and idolatry would seem to oppose reason; the fear of committing idolatry alone was enough to keep the Jews segregated unto themselves. This is seen in the discussion of the Moabites; the Israelites were forbidden to believe in diviners and the cults of the other two nations. Another cause was the friendly relationships that the amorous young Moabite women struck up with the Israelites, which led the Israelite men to idolatrous practices and war between the two peoples. Thus, the activities of the Israelites were not governed by nature or reason, but by stern law laid down by Moses. As far as finding reason and nature within Christianity, take the messiahship of Jesus for example, can reason or nature by found in the acceptance of his virgin birth, which is also found in mythology. Certainly not, this is an acceptance of faith based on Scripture; in fact, virgin birth defies reason, and certainly nature, as proclaimed by some Gnostics. But, before being to harsh on Locke one must realize he lived in a Christian country in a very Christian era; the man, a philosopher and writer, had to make a living so he could not throw out Christianity altogether. Then there is the possibility that he was a true-believing Christian who could not discard his belief.
Matthew Tindal (d. 1733), son of a clergyman, wrote his dialogue Christianity as Old as Creation, or the Gospel a Repulication of the Religion of Nature (1730), which became the standard textbook for Deism. In it he creates a new array of arguments that supported Locke’s proposition of the identity of the truths of revelation with those of reason. Tindal’s arguments stated that the goodness of God, the vast extent of the earth, the long duration of human life on earth render it improbable that only to Jews and Christians was vouchsafed the favor of perceiving the truth. To substantiate these arguments Tindal cites the classic example of three hundred million Chinese who surely all be excluded from the truth, and Confucianism begins to be extolled against much that is repugnant and harsh in the Mosaic Law. Christianity, to be the truth, must find substance in all religions; it must be as old as creation. The doctrines of the fall and of original sin cannot stand, since it is irrational to believe in the exclusion from the truth that vast majority of humanity. Tindal’s position is orthodox to the extent that Judaism and Christianity are acknowledged as revelations, though only revelations of the lex naturae, which is identified with natural religion, the primitive, uncorrupted faith, consisting in “the practice of morality in obedience to the will of God.”
One must ask, why abort the question with only the Chinese. It would seem Tindal’s arguments serve as the litmus test for Judaism and Christianity. The claim that their God, Yahweh, is the creator of the world and all things in it is being challenged. For this claim to be true then both religions, not just Christianity, must be as old as creation. Then all pre-Jewish and pre-Christian civilizations would have indeed recognized Yahweh as their creator, no other conclusion can be drawn if the premise is that there is just one creator God. However, mythology does not bear this conclusion out; just the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman pantheons alone refute it. The Biblical narration of young Moses also refutes it. Moses was reared in an Egyptian royal family, treated as the adopted son of the Pharaoh, studied and probably participated in the Egyptian mysteries where there was no worship of Yahweh, the creator God. This seems irrational if Yahweh created humankind. This irrationality still currently prickles the mind when one views, even on television, the Vatican Museum of the Greek and Roman artifacts; the Vatican staunchly proclaiming Yahweh the Almighty God and creator while displaying artifacts of Greek and Roman gods.
The progression from the concept of Divine intervention has begins to lengthen. Other philosophers were following in suite, among the prominent was the Frenchman Voltaire (1694-1778), He argued that all phenomena are historically explained by the interaction between man and his environment, and all things are governed by God acting only in accordance to natural law. Natural morality and religion are not entirely innate ideas, but rather simple and universally prevalent conditions standing in need of development and following a course that leads through errors arising from ignorance and fear to an ultimate standard truth which is characterized as the “fruit of the cultivated reason.”
Voltaire goes on to argue that everywhere human characteristics remain the same, only customs change. The major influences of change are climate, government, and religion, and in opposition one should seek to arrive at the underlying, undiversified unity. “Dogma leads to fanaticism and strife; morality everywhere inspires harmony.” This results in fear and ignorance of the law of nature giving rise to social groups and cooperate authority. It was in China along that natural religion escaped this pernicious development. India be came the home of theological speculation, and influenced the religions of the West, of which the most important was Judaism as the parent of Christianity and Islam. Moses was a shrewd politician; the prophets were enthusiasts like the dervishes, or else epileptics; Jesus was a visionary like the founder of the Quakers, and his religion received life only through its union with Platonism. Voltaire’s thinking greatly influenced French thought laying the groundwork for the school of materialism. Deist thought is easily attributed to him since he throughout just about everything but the deity.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) presented another tendency of Deism. He combined the sentimentalism of Locke, which he accepted in the main, with the metaphysics of Clarke and Newton, after which he maintains after the manner of Shaftlebury and Diderot a belief in the inborn moral instincts which he distinguishes as “sentiments” from mere acquired ideas. He truly held this to be the true position of Deism when connecting this moral “sentiment” with a belief in God, and protested against the separation between the two. Then “sentiment” became a basis of a metaphysical system built from data experienced under the influence of Deist philosophy, but redeemed from formalism by constant reference to sentimentality and emotion sources of religion. For Rousseau the nature of religion was not dogmatic, but moralistic, practical, and emotional; its essence was not (like Voltaire) to be found within the cultured intellect, but rather in the naïve and disinterested understanding of the uncultured. Conscious, rational progress in civilization, no less the supernaturalism in the Church and State, was a result of the fall, when the will chose intellectual progress over the preference of simple felicity. Natural religion assumed a new meaning for Rousseau; “nature” no longer meat universality or rationality of a cosmic order, in contrast to supernatural and positive phenomena, but primitive simplicity and sincerity, in contrast to artificiality and studied reflection. Rousseau attempted deleting the historic creeds of the discrepancies and contradictions that he found prevailing within them. To him religion was not so much the product of ignorance and fear as the corruption of the original instinct through the selfishness of man, who erected rigid creeds that he might arrogate himself unwarranted privileges or escape the obligations of natural morality. He felt a trace of true religion was found in every faith and creed, but Christianity retained most of the original truth, and purest morality. He found the Gospel so sublime and simple that he could scarcely attribute it to men. Its irrational elements he attributed to the misconceptions of the followers of Jesus and to Paul, with who he had no personal communication. Such views made Rousseau seem an apologist for Christianity, causing him strife with the materialist party, and slight religious influence on the French. However, he exerted great influence on the rising German idealism.
Before reviewing comments concerning the teleological argument it may be prudent to summarize its contents: the argument simply states the facts that a phenomenon exists and was designed by an intelligent being. The reason for its existence and the nature of its designer, except for being intelligent, are irrelevant.
Cicero made one of the earliest teleological arguments:
When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence, when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers? (Gjertsen 1989, p. 199, quoted by Dennett 1995, p. 29)
A version of the teleological argument was the fifth of Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God in his Summa Theologiae:
“The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore, some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.”
When two incidents follow each other in succession people naturally assume that the two events are connected. This assumption was challenged by David Hume (1711-1776) in his Treatise of Human Nature and later in Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. He noted even though human beings do perceive one event following another, they do not necessarily perceive the connection between the two. And, according to his skeptical epistemology, this assumption of connection peoples only formulate from perception. From this observation Hume asserted that much of the human conception of causation is composed of human perceptions. Also in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding he writes “By the term impression, then, I mean all our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will.” He further says that such human conceptions such as God, soul, and self do not exist unless the idea from which the conception is derived can be pointed out. Thus, in his skepticism Hume states that the conception of causation is based on impression that cannot be validated unless the idea from which the impression was derived can be identified. In other words, impression is no solid validity for causation.
Hume further held that humans, as well as some other animals, have an instinctive belief in causation based on the developments of habits in the nervous system, a belief nearly impossible to eliminate, but which cannot be proven through either inductive or deductive argument, which is similar to the human belief in the external world. Therefore, many impressions surrounding causation learned in childhood and adolescence are seldom verified in later life.
Hume’s statement that the conception of causation is based on impression lead the English philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) to dismiss the notion of causation as something altogether akin to superstition. When referring to the Omphalos hypothesis, named after a book of the same title (1857) by Philip Henry Goose, Russell discussed its ramifications in his The nalysis of the Mind (1921) by stating:
There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that “remembered” a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago.
In summary Cicero compared the universe to a sundial or water-clock, designed for the purpose of telling time not by chance, which shows that the universe is not devoid of purpose and intelligence when it embraces these artifacts themselves. Aquinas adopted a fifth way from the governance of the world. This way directs all natural bodies that lack knowledge in the same, or nearly the same, way so to achieve the best results, or their ends not fortuitously, but by design. Whatever lacks knowledge cannot move by itself; therefore, some intelligent being exits to move all natural things toward their end, and this being we call God. Hume noted that human beings do perceive the procession of two events, but they do not necessarily see the connection between the events. This connection is formulated by perception. And, the conception of causation is composed of human perceptions based on impressions having little validity. Although, generally, causation cannot be proven it is an instinctive belief in humans and other animals, according to Hume, based on the developments of habits in the nervous system that cannot be proven by either inductive or deductive argument. Hume’s comments led Russell to dismiss the notion of causation as something akin to superstition. When commenting on the ramifications of the Omphalos hypothesis Russell declared, in summary, “…There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago.” In other words, the teleological argument argues for the existence of the world, or universe, displaying evidence that it was designed by an intelligent being, that is all; any speculation as to the nature of that being is pure assumption.
Even though neither the cosmological nor teleological argument can substantiate the belief of Deism as many suppose, the belief was firmly established within the founding government of the United States. Deism was enthusiastically embraced. The meaning of the founding fathers’ words speaks it clearly. In the First Amendment one reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” John Adams writing a Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787-88: “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. … It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [forming the U.S. government] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses. …Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery…are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind”
In a letter to his nephew Peter Carr, August 10, 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.” Jefferson also wrote to Jeremiah Moore, August 14, 1800, “The clergy, by getting themselves established by law, & ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man. They are still so in many countries & even in some of these United States. Even in 1783, we doubted the stability of our recent measures for reducing them to the footing of other useful callings. It now appears that our means were effectual.”
James Madison writing to Robert Walsh, March 2, 1814, said, “The Civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.”
From the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin one reads, “…Some books against Deism fell into my hands….It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quote to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations, in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.” And from The Writings of Benjamin Franklin: London, 1757-1775 comes, “If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.”
When one reads excerpts from The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine he finds, “My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
“Whenever we read the obscene stores (of the Bible), the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the Word of God.”
“(The Christian) despises the choicest gift of God to man, the Gift of Reason; and having endeavored to force upon himself the belief of a system against which reason revolts, he ungratefully calls if ‘human reason’ as if man could give reason to himself.”
The Founding Fathers of the thirteen original colonies and their ancestors did not issue these statements from irreverence, but from the knowledge of religious intolerance. They knew what religious laws could do to men; some had lived under such laws, obliterating their mental capacities till they were religious slaves. They did not want such servitude for the citizens of this new founded country so the principle of separation of Church and State was enacted to protect them. Future citizens greatly valued this protection, as will be seen.
Included is Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) American feminist and suffragist who wrote, “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
“What you should say to outsiders is that a Christian has neither more nor less rights in our Association than an atheist. When our platform becomes too narrow for people of all creeds and of no creeds, I myself shall not stand upon it.” Susan B. Anthony: A Biography, by Kathleen Barry, New York University Press, 1988, p.310
They not only include people just interested in government but in the arts and sciences as well; “It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him.” Arthur C. Clarke’s autobiography in an April 1, 1997 profile in the New York Times Clarke speaks about his new book 3001, the latest and perhaps final in the series of books beginning with 2001: In the world of 3001 Clarke envisions for the story, the writer of the piece, John F. Burns, says: “Perhaps most controversially, religions of all kinds have fallen under a strict taboo, with the citizenry looking back on the religious beliefs and practices of earlier ages as products of ignorance that caused untold strife and bloodshed. But the concept of a God, known by the Latin word Deus, survives, a legacy of man’s continuing wonder at the universe. ‘In this, Clarke is giving vent to one of the few things that seem to ruffle his equable nature.'”
“Religion is a byproduct of fear,” he says. “For much of human history, it may have been a necessary evil, but why was it more evil than necessary? Isn’t killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity?”
And Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991), creator of Star Trek, wrote: “I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will–and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain.”
“We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.”*
In modern Deism the Deist seeks to incorporate various viewpoints concerning the nature of God to form a belief. The only requirement is that this belief must be based upon Reason, Experience, and Nature. Although a definitive nature of God has not been determined and possibly never will be, modern Deism incorporates the latest ideas from the fields of the arts and sciences in order to utilize classical and present wisdom. Reason is not only the basis of personal spiritual life, but influences all other aspects of life do the Deist leads a pragmatic life. This pragmatic lifestyle coupled with Reason leads the Deist to believe that all men and women are created equal and have inherent rights under the laws of nature.
“Cosmological argument.” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argument>.
Founding Fathers, and others, <http://www.deism.org/frames.htm>.
“Intelligent design” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design>.
Leibniz, Gottfried. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Leibniz>.
“Principle of Sufficient Reason.” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_Sufficient_Reason>.
Locke, John. English Deism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/deismeng.htm#John%20Locke>.
Modern Deism. < http://www.moderndeism.com/>.
On Being and Essence. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/aquinas-esse.html>.
*Quotations of prominent people courtesy of The Universist Movement website, <http://universist.org/>.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. French Deism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. < http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/d/deismfre.htm#Rousseau>.
Voltaire. French Deism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. < http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/d/deismfre.htm#top>.