Deism is the conclusion that God likely exists based on reason, experience, and observation of the natural universe. Deists reject special revelation as a credible source for God’s existence. The term deism is derived from the Latin word deus, which means god.
Taken from World Religions at Your Fingertips, Dr. McDowell and Mr. Brown present the following as core deistic concepts:
- Belief in a single Creator based on reason.
- The order and complexity of nature and the universe make God self-evident.
- God’s full nature is incomprehensible due to limitations of the human mind and language.
- God gave humanity reason and conscience so we could develop our own moral and ethical principles.
- Human beings should be free to find, know, and worship God in their own way. All views of God should be respected, so long as they do not cause harm or oppress the views of others.
- All human beings are created equal under God, with the same natural rights.
Subcategories of Deism
There is no universal deistic definition of God because God’s full nature is incomprehensible to humanity. There is, in fact, a diversity of definitions for God, but they all, basically, stem from three core ideas.
- Classical Deism views God as separate and distinct from the natural universe. This view of deism is most associated with the watchmaker analogy of the Creator, who no longer intervenes or interacts with the natural universe. Another way of looking at the relationship between God and the universe would be that of an artisan to clay. As conscious elements within the clay, representing the universe, we have some influence on the final product through our actions, but we are unable to interact with the Creator because God exists outside the universe.
- Pandeism, literally, means “All is God.” In practice, pandeism equates the universe, or a multiverse, with the “body” of God. Pandesim positions the Creator as the dynamic union of energy and natural laws, intentionally forming all of existence. A small subset of pandeists belief God blew itself up to become the universe, which is in the process of reassembling itself to provide God with experiential knowledge of itself.
- Panendeism holds that the universe, or multiverse, is part of God but not all of God.
Key Deistic Terms
The Creation: The natural universe we observe.
Creator: A synonym deists often use for God.
Dogma: A principle or set of principles laid down by a religious authority as incontrovertibly true, such as the trinity or the supposed inerrant work of God found in some holy books.
Natural Rights: Inalienable rights endowed on humanity by the Creator without distinction in time or space and without regard to age, gender, nationality, or race. Government cannot abrogate natural rights.
Nature’s God: A synonym deists often use for God.
Revelation: Divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world. Deists accept general revelation, which means God is “revealed” to humankind through the order and complexity of the natural universe. Deists reject special revelation, which is divine knowledge granted by God or angels to an individual or small group of human beings. Examples include the original covenant with Abraham and the angelic revelations claimed by Mohammed (Islam) and Joseph Smith (Mormonism).
Revealed Religions: A religion founded primarily on divine communication made by God or angels to select individuals.