What is the best definition of deism. Does it include the non-existence of a personal, intervening god? I recently had a discussion with someone who claimed that Deism has sub-categories and that there is such a thing as a christian-deist. I found it rather contradictory because my own thoughts regarding deism always included the idea that a god created the universe and then left it to physical laws - this god is not personal and does not intervene with its creation. Using this definition, I can't logically come to the conclusion that someone could actually be a christian-deist for the following reason:

- Being a christian, at the very least, requires a belief in Jesus Christ and that he is God. Jesus Christ is most definitely an intervening, personal god. I don't believe any rational, logical person would actually debate otherwise. Therefore, one cannot be a christian and a deist if my definition above is correct.

Any thoughts?

That being said, this stemmed from a discussion about the founding fathers of the US. Were many of them deists? How much evidence actually points to their being deist rather than christian?

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This last post of yours is making me realize our stances in the debate. You've stated all the things that fueled my initial foray into the discussion. You're right in what you are saying. I wanted to show John D there's more to the definition he presented. Admittedly, my stance is one that wasn't supposed to be followed through to this extent. We both agree that Christians will find justification and ration for their own belief/faith by any means. Since this is the case there's no way I could follow through with the ideal of using a definition to help anyone understand something Christians are unable to agree on.
Jack, I think that's right. Christians can't agree on what a Christian is, so why should non-Christians bother forcing a definition? All that would do is paint a picture that doesn't match reality by adopting a definition that only applies in, say, 80% of cases. I think atheists, of all people, should be able to recognize the messiness of empirical reality.
I'm starting to wonder what you're smoking, Dusty. We've repeatedly pointed out that there is indeed such a thing as a non-Christian. I can't figure out how you are arriving at the illogical conclusion that we disagree with that. We just think the lowest-common denominator list of Christian attributes is smaller than you do. You should try really, really hard to get over the idea that word definitions must be clear and precise and universally accepted and include all the elements that you consider essential. Sometimes we just don't get everything we want in life.
I agree with you. I wont ever be a "christian" by Dr. James Dobson's definition, but if someone else defined christianity as simply anyone generous, empathetic, and meek, then sure I could wear the moniker.
Asa Watcher: AND, if you don't believe in the divinity of Jesus then you arn't a Christian.
There are thousands of other things you could be, (surely you can make up a word), but what you arn't is a Christian.

Maybe you should read a bit of history before writing things like these. This is a good start. Fact is several Christian denominations, past and present, have rejected the divinity of Jesus.

Why do you make this so complicated?

Because it is:

Thank you, Jaume. It never ceases to amaze me that people insist on reducing complicated things to either-or simplicity.
(JBH) One of my pet peeves is the popular summary of deism, "the belief that God created the Universe and then left it to run on its own without further intervention." That may or may not have been the Deists position, but it misses their main point. Their primary message was that claims of "revelation" were utterly untrustworthy. They believed in a Creator-god based on the Argument From Design, (this being before David Hume and before Darwin), but figured that a Creator-god would have no need of human messengers; they could speak directly to whomever they wished. Also, if such a god wanted to give us a messsage, they could do it in some way that was not easily faked.

I summarize their position like this: "If a god wants me to do something, they should tell me, not you." If a god wanted mass communication, they could write the message on the face of the Moon, and teach humankind to make telescopes.

As Thomas Paine wrote, in THE AGE OF REASON:

"Revelation then, so far as the term has relation between God and
man, can only be applied to something which God reveals of his will to
man; but though the power of the Almighty to make such a communication
is necessarily admitted, because to that power all things are
possible, yet the thing so revealed (if anything ever was revealed,
and which, bye the bye, it is impossible to prove), is revelation to
the person only to whom it is made. His account of it to another
person is not revelation; and whoever puts faith in that account, puts
it in the man from whom the account comes; and that man may have been
deceived, or may have dreamed it, or he may be an impostor and may
lie. There is no possible criterion whereby to judge of the truth of
what he tells, for even the morality of it would be no proof of
revelation. In all such cases the proper answer would be, 'When it is
revealed to me, I will believe it to be a revelation; but it is not,
and cannot be incumbent upon me to believe it to be revelation before;
neither is it proper that I should take the word of a man as the word
of God, and put man in the place of God.'"

Religion has two aspects, the Bait and the Hook. There are lots of different kinds of bait. Relief from fear of death or misfortune, relief from loneliness by means of an imaginary companion, art, music, song, fellowship, emotional support and comfort, all of that.

The Hook is obedience. Humans are predisposed to learn ethics in early childhood, in the same way, and for the same reason, that they are predisposed to learn language. Both language and ethics are vitally important tools for living, for a species that survives by cooperating in groups. Because we learn it in childhood, we first learn ethics from our parents; we know what is right and wrong because our parents tell us. Morality, for a small child, equals obedience to parents. "Revealed" religion hijacks this childhood instinct, claiming to report instructions from a Cosmic Parent. The bottom line of all "revealed" religions is that everyone is morally obligated to do as the priesthood says. Their claim to authority in ethics is the source of their power. It is their method, their tool, by which they rule the Earth, as much of the Earth as believes their claim.

Priests have been allied with kings and dictators throughout history, using religion as a tool to keep exploited people quiet. "Revealed" religion has perpetrated a wholesale swindle on the human race, diverting large amounts of time, thought, and wealth to appeasing a ghost, and the ghost's local representatives. Contrary to its claim to be the source of all morality, religion has sponsored and endorsed sectarian warfare, genocide, torture, persecutions of lesser sorts, slavery, male supremacy, inquisitions and thought control; even for the obedient, it has sponsored self-censorship, self-abnegation, self-mutilation, rejection of medical care, suppression of rational inquiry and scientific education. It has perverted the field of ethics, severing it from any connection to the consequences for real people in this world, denouncing as sinful any attempt to apply human thought to moral questions.

Deism was historically important because it rejected the authority of alleged "revelation". This destroyed the authority of the priesthood, and the claimed "divine right" of kings to rule. Most governments before Deism claimed to rule by divine right; they were not always theocracies in the sense of rule by the priesthood, but all were theocracies in the sense of claiming divine favor as the source of their authority. Deism made democracy possible. It was the first theology to support separation of church and state. The American revolutionaries made the first government in history that claimed its authority came from the people, from the consent of the governed, instead of being delegated from God.

Deism could do this because it removed the Hook without denying the masses of people the Bait that they wanted so much. By various classical arguments, mostly the argument from design, Deists supported belief in a Cosmic Parent. People could hope for life after death, for cosmic justice, even for divine guidance in the form of their own intuition; they could take comfort in all the usual theistic ways. But their God would either speak directly to each person, or be silent. Nobody could claim to give divinely-ordained rules to anyone else.
(JBH) On defining "Christian"... I have two definitions to offer. (1) A "Christian" is anyone who believes in a theology that regards Jesus of Nazareth as being both unique and centrally important. (2) A "Christian" is someone who makes serious effort to actually DO all the things that Jesus is reported to have commanded his followers to do. See my essay at http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/the-ethics-of-jesus

The first one should cover everyone who considers themselves to be "Christian". The second one would get only those whom Jesus might have recognized as a "Christian".
My opinion is that what most people think of as agnosticism could really be deism. They want to believe there is some higher power but they aren't sure what form it takes. If you think there "might" be a deity of some kind you are a deist. If you don't know if there is a god then you lack belief in a god and you are an atheist.



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