Friday, April 10, 2009

Absolutely Deism

In English grammar there are words called "absolute terms". These are words that cannot be compared or used with a modifier. Words like dead, pregnant, infinite and unique. You don't get a little pregnant, nor is something more infinite. One of the most abused absolute terms is "saturated". You see it all the time in weather reports when the forecaster says "The ground is extremely saturated." No, no, it's either saturated or it's not.

I've felt for some time that Deism should be taken in the same context - as an absolute term. Deism seems so fundamental in nature that we shouldn't add modifiers to the name. We openly have the latitude to apply our own individual beliefs within its broad parameters, but if we apply our own parameters, aren't we changing Deism to our own belief system, requiring a different name?

Let me give you an example - "Christian Deism". This must be the greatest oxymoron in Deism. I have read some descriptions of this school of thought, but am not convinced their nomenclature is proper nor accurate. A Christian is someone who "accepts the divinity of Jesus as Savior and follows his teachings." Most of the Christian Deists say they believe God is active in the world, and they believe in the teachings of Jesus. Deists don't have many tenets, but one of our core beliefs is that God is not active in the Universe; and, generally Deists also reject revelation. So, "Christian Deism" in its very foundation is not Deism at all. (And I dare say, not Christian either.) Obviously they can call it what they like, but it doesn't benefit the cause of Deism in any way whatsoever. It would be nice if folks are going to make up their own religion, that they would make up their own name too.

As a Deist I encourage all of us to use our tremendous gift of Reason to learn from the wisdom of the past. To use our mind is to fully realize God's blessing to humanity. Just because we follow some of the teachings of Buddha does not make us Buddhist Deists. If we are comfortable with a few of the lessons of Zoroaster it doesn't mean we are Zoroastrian Deists. Using Plato as our philosophical compass doesn't make us Platonian Deists. As Deists we should acknowledge the brilliance of great people. We're free, not only to explore all of the sages, but to apply their wisdom to our lives while discarding the outdated notion that they were divine. We are simply being great Deists!

To me, modifying the name of Deism is kind of fatal.

One Deist Φ


Chuck said...

I like to say that Deism is a pretty big tent. I didn't "get" Christian Deism either till I met John Lindell. We spend time together regularly now. A Christian Deist is a Deist first, but they find wisdom and very Deistic thoughts and expressions in the words attributed to the human called Jesus. Christian Deists also reject revelation. Take a look at before pronouncing final judgment.

Have you spent any time looking at Pagan Deists or Heathen Deists? Check out the Spiritual-Deism group on Yahoo! The only thing I find absolute about Deism is that it is absolutely individualistic. There are as many forms of Deism as there are Deists, all facets in the spectacular jewel that is Deism.

OneDeist said...

Thank you for the comment, Chuck. I understand your idea, but it actually brings home the point I was trying to make.

If my first contact with Deism were to have been Christian Deism or Pagan Deism or Heathen Deism, I would not be a Deist today. Thankfully, what I initially learned were just the basic principles of Deism, without any additional baggage. I then realized that it would be foolish to discard the rational wisdom of philosophical works and of holy texts like the Christian Bible. It's irrational to believe in dragons or unicorns, or that a man lived in the belly of a fish for several days. But it makes perfect sense to honor your parents, to save up for emergencies, to be forgiving, not to steal, and not to kill.

As a Deist, knowing that God's greatest gift to humanity is Reason, I recognize the importance of these lessons from the past. We should not still associate ourselves with the past by using their antiquated names, nor, in using these names, narrow our field of knowledge. We should embrace all of this wisdom. All of it is important to us. The following statement has almost nothing to do with "Christian", "pagan", or "heathen":

I am a Deist. I no longer believe in the mythology, superstitions and Gods from our past. I do recognize the struggles of man throughout history and want to learn from them. I willingly accept the rational teachings, logical lessons, and reasonable philosophy from the history of humanity. I believe in a single God who created the Universe. I believe man is unique within the Universe. I believe Reason is unique within man.

One Deist Φ

Dan Mesmer said...

Chuck, calling a dandelion a rose does not make the dandelion a rose.

Keith said...

Why is it that for most people, not including Deists, do not require tangible evidence for the basis of their beliefs. In today's evidence required society, you would think that this would be the most important aspect of ones life where tangible evidence is required. This is the one thing I love about Deism, we base our beliefs on what we can touch, feel, see and taste, not blind faith. Even the term "blind faith" is negative.

Lewis Loflin said...

You said, "Deists don’t have many tenets, but one of our core beliefs is that God is not active in the Universe;"

Who defined it as that? Give me a specific name.

Jarm said...

Regarding your definition of 'Christian', I submit the following: There is no consensus on what the "correct" definition of "Christian" is. There is only a near consensus within individual faith groups. Therefore questions like "Are you a Christian?" or "How many Christians are there in the U.S." are only meaningful within a single denomination, or among a group of similarly-minded denominations.
I admit, the above are not my original words and they were 'lifted' from the other webpages. However, I could not have said it better so thought it best to share them as they are presented. I don't mean to sound critical and, in fact, I'm impressed with your comments in 'Absolutely Deism'. My point is that you began giving examples of absolutes and then present a definition of a Christian in the third paragraph which which in itself presents an 'absolute', i.e., '...someone who accepts the divinity of Jesus...'. There were those who followed Jesus during his time on earth as there are some who follow his teaching today who believe he was a great teacher, but did not/do not accept claims of his divinity. Too, Jesus never claimed to be divine, instead gave honor to God as the One Supreme God, thus subjugating himself as servant to the Creator. Examine closely what Jesus said and how he said it and you will find a great deal of deistic thought and structure in his teaching, including references to nature. Bottom line is an individual can very well be absolutely Deist and adhere to Jesus' teachings. Now, in regard to whether he actually said what we read in the scripture or whether it has been altered from the original--well, that's another matter.

OneDeist said...

Thank you for your comments, Jarm.

Yes, I do tend to oversimplify things, I know. Both Christianity and Deism are filled with definitions and beliefs. It's nearly certain if you were to ask any (self acclaimed) Christian, "How Christian is a Christian Deist?" they would look down their nose with a curt "Not so much." I personally, although respectful to the faith of Christianity and honoring many of its values, am put off a bit by the nomenclature when applied to Deism.

The crux is how I wish we could simply call ourselves Deists, with the understanding that each of us might put more emphasis on a particular school of thought than another. We are still all Deists.

One Deist Φ

julie said...

I think what you wrote makes so much sense and is a refreshing point of view.Iam new to
Deism and when I found Christian Deism I thought also it made no sense at all to me!

Anonymous said...

Deism has never classically been defined as having a God who doesn't intervene, in any sense, into the universe. I am certain that it is viewed that God doesn't break the universe's laws. Thomas Paine, on multiple occasions, called God by the title of Providence. Thomas Jefferson, who remained Deist, began even saying prayers toward the end of his life. Deism merely requires that we arrive at our position by reason and personal experience, not requiring revelation to come to our position. Someone could believe in a continuously intervening God and still qualify as a Deist. Christian Deists wouldn't see the Bible as revelation, but they would take inspiration from some of the actions and statements attributed to Jesus. This is the same as taking information from Aristotle, Plato, or even Lao Tzu. I get tired of the radicals who really don't know what they are talking about.

One Deist Φ said...

Thank you for you comments, "Anonymous"

Not really certain as to your referral to uninformed radicals. If myself, I can assure you I am fairly knowledgeable on the subject and not radical in the least.

Since you have not provided any new data in which I might respond, I stand by my original post and subsequent comments.

Best wishes,
One Deist Φ

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a Christian Deist, you are either one or the other.

Christians accept Christ as their savior, a part of the God head. True Christians believe Jesus was born of a virgin, got baptized in water and spirit, healed the sick, raised the dead, hung on the cross and died for all sins, and rose again.

Deists believe a god exists but that he does not partake in the affairs of man.

Again you cannot be a Christian whatsoever whilst denying Christ's divinity.

One Deist Φ said...

I agree with you, Anonymous, and is the basis for the original post. But there are those who would debate your points fervently.

Your truth is not their truth, or even mine. Have you seen another post I made:

One Deist Φ