Misunderstandings – deism, deism vs theism, and revealed vs non-revealed religion.

Deism is a simple but often misunderstood term that needs to be defined alongside of theism to be accurately defined. Both deists and theists believe in God and in the western world almost always in one God, rejecting pantheism. Theism, in its most basic definition, is the belief in a God who is active in our earthly lives. Theism would therefore include religions as different as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Deism, in its most basic definition, is the belief in a God who is not active in our earthly lives and would include religions or pseudo religious groups as diverse as Unitarians, classic deists, and Religious Deists.

However, there are other elements or characteristics that one can and should attribute to theism and deism that help us distinguish these two groups. All or almost all other western

theistic religions are monotheistic that attribute their legitimacy to God-revealed sources and, with the possible exception of Judaism, believe in an afterlife. Meanwhile, deistic religions are monotheistic (or perhaps more accurately “monodeistic”) that by definition do not assign any legitimacy for their religion or other religions to God-revealed sources. Some deists believe in God more as an unidentifiable entity or as nature itself and do not believe absolutely in the afterlife. Other deists groups believe in a traditional “monodeistic” God and hope for the afterlife. Religious Deists, and no other deists, hold that there must be an afterlife based on the fact that God’s benevolence and our special place in His plans. And, even though RDs do not believe that God is active in this life, they nonetheless believe in an afterlife with a present and active God – that He is purposefully deistic in this life and theistic in the next life.

For centuries, all forms of deism have been wrongly described by Biblical Christians as some form of de facto atheism and by atheists as just a softer side of some kind of revealed religious movement similar to Christianity. Part of this confusion has come from the fact that atheist and Christian alike, for centuries and still very much to this day, define “religion” wrongly as “revealed religion”. They both have come to discredit any religion based on reason and characterize it as somehow illegitimate. As a result, in the Western world (with the possible exception of Unitarianism), disillusioned Christians believe that if they walk away from Christianity this implies walking away from God and all forms of religion and into agnosticism or some kind of atheism. Likewise, many atheists and agnostics wrongly assume that if Christianity and its theology are false then anything else related to God must also be false or without merit.

It is also important to clarify that Religious Deism is a theological and effectively a “non-revealed religious” movement. When we say that RD is non-revealed, it means that it is based on reason and not on what God has supposedly revealed to us through a divinely inspired book (like the Bible), or the words and actions of a prophet or messenger of God (like Jesus or angels) speaking on behalf of God, miracles, or other divinely inspired or originated actions. As a result, Christianity would be considered a “revealed religion” since it bases its legitimacy on sources that it claims have been revealed to them by God. Religious Deism offers a more substantial and theologically tangible option than other modern non-revealed religious options like Unitarianism and modern deism, which we refer to as secular deism for reasons explained elsewhere in the site. The Religious Deism that is proposed here offers a viable, reason-based theological alternative somewhere “in the middle” between revealed Christianity and empirically-focused atheism, without falling into some kind of relativist or pragmatic, “moderate” theological compromise between the two.

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